Controlling Costs and Upgrade Cycles While Creating Flexible Infrastructure

HPE Storage

In 2016, I needed a change. I had spent 20 years focused exclusively on networking at Intel, a Fortune 500 company. Internal IT teams were incredibly siloed, and I wanted to explore other areas of IT and offer my services to smaller companies whose work aligned with my values.

I found a home at the Mortgage Finance Authority (MFA) Housing New Mexico, an organization that provides quality, affordable housing opportunities in the state. It was a good fit, and it also gave me the opportunity to manage a slew of IT solutions. Here, my role encompasses everything under the hood, which is what I’d wanted to do since the beginning of my IT career. Coming to a smaller organization gave me the chance to see how all the pieces fit together.

We Were Doing Everything Right, But Our Setup Was Obsolete

I was excited to bring my knowledge and expertise to the organization, but looking at the company’s IT infrastructure was like stepping back in time.

MFA was doing everything right, but our approach to IT was not up to date, and anything but cutting edge. I walked into our server room, and it felt like a closet. We had just purchased Dell EMC VNXe storage and Cisco UCS Mini chassis blade servers, which were a big improvement over single-stack servers, but everything was still bare metal.

None of this was wrong—IT had done the best they could with what they had—but I knew we could do better. One of my first projects was using our new hardware to transition MFA to a virtual environment, setting the stage for future growth. When we needed more storage, our IT partner, VLCM, recommended a new technology and a new procurement model, introducing us to HPE Nimble Storage arrays delivered through the HPE GreenLake edge-to-Cloud platform.

A Shift in Our Storage Approach

HPE Nimble Storage leverages AI and flash-optimized drives to offer self-managed high-speed and high-availability infrastructure. It came with HPE InfoSight and we added the Automated Infrastructure Operations (AIOps) platform, a powerful combination that gave us predictive analytics to resolve issues before they resulted in outages.

Predictive analytics helps resolve issues before they result in outages.

This new solution was a paradigm shift in storage. We adopted HPE Nimble Storage through the HPE GreenLake platform pay-per-use model, which allowed us to purchase only the storage capacity we needed, scaling up or down as we went along—essentially acquiring on-prem infrastructure with the flexibility of the cloud. I saw that I could better manage my budget knowing we wouldn’t have to make a huge upfront investment and manage what went unused until we grew into it. And instead of buying an entirely new device and going through an elaborate process to approve the expenditure, I could add storage by requesting a change to our service contract.

We were pioneers. MFA was the first HPE Greenlake customer in New Mexico, and we quickly realized the tremendous benefits of pay-per-use infrastructure. When our Dell EMC arrays and Cisco blade servers started approaching end of life, we looked at our options. If we stuck with those two companies, we would have to buy more storage and compute, repeating the costly upgrade cycle.

HPE offered a different path forward. We could apply the HPE GreenLake platform across our entire IT infrastructure and replace our outgoing servers and SANs with pay-per-use HPE products. But we didn’t stop there. We were happy with HPE Nimble Storage and looked at other services we could fold into our HPE GreenLake contract, including backups and disaster recovery. 

Gaining Control of Expenditures and Upgrade Cycles

When the time came to upgrade, we opted for HPE Alletra dHCI (disaggregated hyperconverged infrastructure) running on six HPE ProLiant servers. This combination of virtual and physical infrastructure allows us to run cloud-based apps like Microsoft 365 and on-prem workloads like our SQL databases. It can handle our proprietary systems, including our in-house invoicing app for sub-recipients, an internally hosted HUD-compliant loan application website, and our internal document management tools.

A pay-per-use hardware model eliminates the expense of buying and operating extra storage that sits unused until it’s needed.

We can also run virtual desktops for vendors and remote workers because using VMs is faster and more secure than logging into apps on our internal network via VPN. Our entire infrastructure operates faster and has the capacity to run Veeam for backups and Zerto for disaster recovery.

The HPE GreenLake platform gave us complete control of expenditures and our upgrade cycle. We plan to replace our Cisco and Dell servers and SANs with HPE technology, which we can upgrade at no cost as part of our HPE service agreement. We no longer have to wait to purchase new hardware while we amortize obsolete equipment, and can make incremental changes when new technology becomes available or as our needs evolve.

We’re in the middle of implementing this new environment and haven’t established key metrics yet, but we definitely expect our IOPS to improve. Reading and writing to our SQL database was fast with HPE Nimble Storage, but we anticipate performance gains in accessing data by moving to HPE Alletra dHCI and HPE ProLiant servers.

We hope to see improved network response and connection times, along with an ability to spin up virtual machines, clusters, and environments even faster. We are also expanding our use of HPE InfoSight and the automation software to monitor and manage all our HPE Alletra and HPE ProLiant infrastructure—not just our storage arrays, as was the case with HPE Nimble Storage. 

Working with an Attentive Local Partner

HPE is a global, world-class organization, and they have resources to meet our every need. HPE sent a team to rack our servers. Then, they sent a second team to cable our data center and a third team to set up our base configuration. Next, they’ll send a group of experts to migrate our systems. Everyone has a specialty, and this division of labor means everything is done correctly.

HPE worked hand-in-hand with VLCM. From quoting and pricing to implementation, both companies kept us informed on progress, pointed us to resources to learn about our new infrastructure, and suggested products that complement our existing and incoming technologies. It was a new experience for me. I’d worked directly with big suppliers at Intel, but we got an opportunity to lean on the expertise of VLCM as we begin to make the most of HPE technology.

Another great thing about HPE is just how much the company has to offer. It’s more than storage and servers and their vast portfolio of solutions—they take a comprehensive approach to meeting customers where we are. Instead of a monolithic way of doing business, HPE finds the best fit for organizations’ budgets and processes. We are a quasi-governmental agency, so we have to be particularly mindful of budgets and limiting our capital expenditures. HPE showed us a way to move IT infrastructure to our OpEx column.

And, like any good partner, HPE admits its limitations. They didn’t have a backup solution better than Zerto when we ordered our HPE Alletra and HPE ProLiant infrastructure, so they told us to stick with what we had rather than trying to sell us something subpar. (Ironically, they recently acquired Zetro, so we can now benefit from both companies’ wisdom.) That honesty goes a long way in building trust and establishing a fruitful long-term relationship.

A Big Lift with an Enormous Impact

HPE’s impact on MFA has been enormous. We now have the compute, storage capacity, and hybrid cloud resources to meet user needs, whether in house or remote. We can spin up new servers at the push of a button, secure and maintain our infrastructure using HPE InfoSight’s management dashboard, and incrementally add to our environment as we deploy new applications for internal and external customers. We have access to cutting-edge technology and have built a solid relationship with a vendor that can respond to any IT ask we have.

Where working with our infrastructure once felt like stepping back in time, now it’s like stepping into the future. And with the confidence that brings, we can focus on doing what matters: working to strengthen New Mexico families and communities by creating safe homes that people can afford.