Adopting a Hyperconverged Enterprise Platform to Drive Revenues and Reduce Disaster Recovery Wait Times

HPE SimpliVity

It’s easy to become complacent when you’ve been in business for over 50 years. You may start to think, “We’re number one in our field. Where can we go from here?” Here’s the thing: You can always do better. At Promesa, we strive to be that innovate, long-established company.

Promesa is Ecuador’s premier hardware store. We are the country’s leading importer of automotive and home improvement tools. If you need a hammer and nails to put up a picture frame, you can buy them from us. If you’re looking for a socket wrench so you can work on your car, we’ve got you covered, too. We supply hobbyists, homeowners, and professionals alike.

You might think that a company like ours would be very traditional, and even a little boring, but that’s hardly the case. Promesa is all about innovation. Our CEO constantly looks for the next big thing in IT. In fact, he travels the world seeking out cutting-edge solutions, and if we want to try something new in IT, he always approves our budget.

Promesa has always been ahead of the IT curve in Ecuador. For example, we were the first company to move our email servers to the cloud. But we don’t just adopt new technology because it’s the next big thing—we only invest in solutions that will boost revenues. As a result, the IT department plays a leadership role within the company and is a major contributor to our overall profitability.

When innovation is ingrained in your IT department, the rest of the company feels the benefits.

Our IT department is more than a technical support team. We are consultants. We help our colleagues use technology to achieve their objectives. We travel to trade shows here and abroad to look at the latest tools, and to network with suppliers who can help us create better, smarter workflows. Our department seeks out and evaluates new technologies based on our users’ needs, and then we train them in how they work.

For example, a few months ago, we were asked to find an expense tracking solution for the company. We have about 400 people here, and that means a mountain of invoices to input and expense. We looked at everything and selected a technology tool that streamlined the entire process. Our CEO didn’t just care about the cost. He wanted the most practical and most effective solution.

A Hyperconverged Enterprise Platform

A couple of years ago, we started hearing about hyperconvergence. It was like a wave that hit the IT community in Ecuador. Everyone was talking about spinning up virtual machines, setting up weekly restore points, replicating nodes and clusters, and moving archives to secondary data centers. We realized this new technology was the right solution for our storage, backup, and disaster recovery (DR) strategies.

To be perfectly honest, our backup tools and our storage media were prone to failure. Our disaster recovery protocols were a nightmare, and our DR simulations were stressful. For example, we had to back up and recover our SAP HANA database separately. We couldn’t back up an entire server that included an operating system and a fully configured SAP installation. If we had a crash—any kind of crash—I couldn’t restore the entire server at once. I had to prepare a new server, with a fresh OS, and I had to reconfigure SAP from the start. Only then could I mount a backup of the SAP HANA database.

This was not high-availability architecture by any stretch of the imagination. Our entire SAP HANA environment production resided on a single, aging server, and it was awful.

Adopting a hyperconverged enterprise platform would have resolved all of these problems. There was just one catch. SAP was not yet certified to run on this type of infrastructure, and so we ended up moving everything but our SAP production environment to HPE SimpliVity.

We virtualized a total of 40 physical boxes, including our mail and LDAP servers. We even moved our SAP HANA development and sandbox servers to HPE SimpliVity. We then tested and determined that SAP production environment would work on the platform, but since it wasn’t officially supported, we couldn’t virtualize our most important tool.

Having our core system not under a hyperconverged infrastructure meant that all of the benefits we saw using HPE SimpliVity weren’t being realized on our most vital systems. It was a major headache for us. Our messy backups and lack of a true DR solution for our most mission-critical process didn’t sit well with me. 

Fast and Effective Disaster Recovery

Then, a few months ago, SAP HANA was finally certified for hyperconvergence, and so we made the switch. We knew that everything would work, but we hadn’t realized how much more efficient everything would become. Our primary data center is now 100% hyperconverged, and it makes a tremendous difference.

Now, I can create a new SAP HANA test environment from a backup of our production system in just three seconds, and then start configuring it. Tools like RapidDR can also be used to orchestrate not only recovery, but also cloning entire production environments to dev and test, and vice-versa. Before we started using HPE SimpliVity, it would take eight hours. We had to spin up a virtual machine, load an OS, install SAP, mount a backup of the database, and then tune the setup.

This same lengthy process had hampered our past disaster recovery exercises, but last week, we ran a DR simulation and everything was ready to go in about 10 minutes. As I mentioned, it took three seconds to spin up a new virtual server, and another eight or nine minutes to start up the database. In fact, booting up the SAP HANA database was the longest part of the process. We’d eliminated all the extra steps that used to take hours.

Frequent backups mean less productivity loss in the event of a disaster. How much work would be lost if your system went down?

In the event of an actual system failure, our recovery point objective—or RPO—is now 10 minutes. At the same time, HPE SimpliVity is so fast, we can also back up our entire 500GB SAP HANA server every 10 minutes. As a result, we’ll never lose more than 10 minutes of productivity in the event of a crash. Compare that to taking an entire day to recover from a week-old backup.

Obvious and Subtle Speed Improvements

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about speed improvements behind the scenes, but what about the end-user experience? When we switched everything else to HPE SimpliVity two years ago, we virtualized 40 Windows servers, and so everything ran much faster. Apps that used to take 10 or 20 seconds to open on a physical machine would launch in an instant. Everyone at Promesa noticed the difference.

The hardware on which HANA was previously running was much heftier in terms of available CPU and memory, however, there was no noticeable difference when we moved SAP HANA to HPE SimpliVity because it is already optimized, and one of the fastest applications out there. The difference was a matter of milliseconds, and so the migration was invisible to users. We made the switch over a weekend, and if we hadn’t told our staff that we were moving SAP to HPE SimpliVity, no one would have been aware of the transition.

HPE SimpliVity’s deduplication and compression features have also reduced our memory usage from 900GB to 600GB. This extra capacity allows us to run batch processes during business hours instead of overnight. This is a huge improvement for the back office, but once again, it is invisible to end users.

When I look back at the last two years, and Promesa’s HPE SimpliVity journey, I can’t help but think about the future. You can’t stay in business if you’re living in the past. To move forward, you have to invest in IT.

Investing in the Future, Now

If you’re trying to save money by maintaining aging architecture, you won’t make it to tomorrow. You have to start thinking of IT as a driver of your business. You have to invest in technologies that will move your company forward. It can be as simple as getting your sales reps to “scan” their invoices with their smartphones, or as complex as switching your entire infrastructure to a hyperconverged solution.

IT should be a driver of your business—not an afterthought.

Keep up with the latest developments, go to conferences, network with other IT professionals, and read everything you can. You may not have a problem that needs a solution, but perhaps you’ll find a solution that will fix a problem you didn’t even know you had.