Better Visibility and More Intelligent Upgrades with HPE Infosight

HPE Storage

In business, keeping up with the latest advances and innovations often include adopting new functionalities that can change the way an organization operates. Without these, a company can find itself behind the curve—a dangerous proposition in such a competitive world.

Not having the capability to accurately forecast business needs can push a company behind the curve. That was our position when I first began managing IT for Takeform. At our core, Takeform is a graphic design company. We create everything from signage to environmental graphics. Our goal is to help our clients turn their vision into reality. By doing that, they can better represent themselves to the world. 

Our organization had a technology structure that had worked just fine but there was a lot of room for improvement. We didn’t have any predictive analytics, which left us operating in the moment without insight into the future. With that approach, everything works—until it doesn’t. And when something fails, all eyes turn to IT.

Our System Had Run Its Course

I arrived at Takeform with a unique perspective. I have operated in the IT space for the previous decade, but I am not formally educated in IT. My background includes design, engineering and sales, all of which contributes to my ongoing desire to bring benefits to Takeform in as many ways as possible.

Not having the capability to accurately forecast business needs can push a company behind the curve.

At the beginning of my tenure with the company, we had a typical small business setup: two servers and basic infrastructure with no extra storage capacity—but for a graphic design and signage company, storage capacity is a must. The entire operation was very manual and included no virtual components. The system was enough to keep our less than 100 employees up and running, but as we grew, the system couldn’t grow with us.

During my hiring interview, I outlined my ideal infrastructure for the company, and management liked what they saw. They were sold on both the architecture and my ability to realize the vision. So as soon as I was hired, I started searching for ways to make our system more agile and flexible.

Turning a Challenge into an Opportunity

Anyone who has worked for a small business knows that as long as existing needs are met, it’s hard to eke out space in the budget for any major upgrades. I had always planned to explore predictive analytics as part of my overall infrastructure plan. However, everything shifted into high gear the day we experienced a massive equipment failure without any warning.

When a failure happens, there are two ways to go about moving forward. The first way, or the “A Solution,” is to quickly purchase whatever hardware or software is available to get the business running again. The “B Solution” involves taking a closer look at the problem and whether or not you can put a better solution in place to prevent it from happening again.

I saw this as my big opportunity. We had to replace the equipment quickly, as every moment of downtime cost us money. But this was likely my only shot to make an improvement. I had one chance to get this new architecture right, so despite the pressures to make a quick choice, I was determined to take the time to explore the different solutions. That was how I found HPE Nimble Storage, which leverages flash storage to guarantee 99.9999% availability.

Takeform is an HPE shop, and we have used HPE equipment for years. HPE Nimble Storage, however, was new on the market. Even though I trusted HPE, my initial instincts were to select a more seasoned product. But at the end of the day, I was sold on HPE Nimble Storage because HPE InfoSight was also included. 

HPE InfoSight provides ongoing predictive analytics on system performance. Having just experienced a sudden equipment failure, I was enticed by the idea of predicting potential problems before they happen. Even better, the service offers consistent recommendations for optimization and important platform updates. Avoiding problems is one thing, but optimizing the system for increased efficiency delivers much more value to our company.

A Strong Reputation and a Smooth Implementation

As a new product, HPE Nimble Storage did not have much of a track record. But in that time, it gained a good reputation for uptime and HPE demonstrated a strong commitment to closing tickets and prioritizing support. These factors gave me the confidence to move forward.

We were one of the first deployments in the region, and we got excellent support from the HPE product specialists. I felt like they understood the position I was in, and were determined to demonstrate that I made the right choice.

After we completed the migration, we were all excited as the first numbers began to roll in. IT people love analytics, and during those first few moments when the solution went live, we were in awe. Suddenly, we could see useful system information and intuitive controls, all of which would save us a lot of time and manual effort. For the first time, I saw that Takeform was about to enter a new era of capability.

Realizing the Impacts of Our Design

We completed another upgrade in 2019, and I’m still glad I grabbed the opportunity to upgrade when I had the chance. Taking the time to find the right solution for our needs going forward was the right choice. After migrating to HPE Nimble Storage, we experienced a 90% drop in latency. We gained access to more throughput, and we no longer have to worry about storage. In addition, we saw a 30% reduction in the time it took to utilize SQL-intensive applications.

Over the past couple of years, Takeform has continued to grow as a company. As we take on more projects, the availability of storage is a huge issue. With HPE InfoSight, I can track storage capacity in a centralized location. This is a tremendous advantage over having to log into multiple devices and check each one individually. We have also experienced fairly predictable performance, and the system can predict how that performance is expected to change over time.

Mitigating a problem until there’s enough money to purchase new equipment is typically wasteful and expensive in the long run.

Using the information readouts, we can identify specific causes of any problems that arise. For example, we experienced slower-than-expected performance with the ERP server that runs our entire business operations. Based on the hardware specifications, everything should have been running a lot faster. In the old days, we probably would have done our best to mitigate the problem until we had enough money to purchase new equipment—a response that’s typically wasteful and expensive in the long run.

Using HPE InfoSight, we found the problem, which was in the server's SQL configuration. Even though we had given the server access to 24 Gbps of RAM, it was only using four of those for its databases. That level of problem detection was only possible because we had so much system information about nearly every component within our architecture. As a result, we have learned to trust the system and be more thorough in our reviews.

As our IT operation expands, more things begin to populate our HPE InfoSight panel. This simplifies our oversight process and allows us to easily share information with other teams within the organization. If we need to boost performance or space for a particular project, HPE InfoSight gives us all the information we need to proceed. Armed with this data, we have everything we need to make strategic technology decisions, and make them faster.

A Future Full of Possibilities

As we look to the future, I eagerly anticipate upgrading our servers again. Since this process can be managed through the HPE InfoSight portal, this will probably be one of the easiest upgrades in my career. We are also researching new software through HPE Nimble Storage that builds out hyperconverged infrastructure with disparate devices.

With better visibility into an environment, a company can make targeted improvements without having to upgrade everything.

HPE InfoSight gives us the power to see data trends better than any other tool I have used. I can now accurately predict future equipment purchases and demonstrate those needs to upper management using data. We can also make purchases and fixes more strategically since we can track every component on the system from the same screen.

As a relatively small enterprise, our resources are limited. That means we can't always replace everything at once. When we purchase equipment, we need to know that we are fixing the problems of today and of tomorrow, too. With better visibility into our environment, we can make targeted improvements without having to upgrade everything. Better information means smarter decisions, and everyone across the company can benefit.