Decrease Complexity for Stress-Free IT: The Impact of Hyperconvergence on a Small IT Team

HPE SimpliVity

My current job is IT Administrator at the Municipality of Merelbeke. Compared to roles in the past, this one provides more autonomy in for example managing budgets and procurement.

While it’s a different set of responsibilities than past jobs, that doesn’t mean it’s stress-free. My end users support our citizens—and our community. 

A few roadblocks however were standing in the way of the growth potential of our municipality. 

An Age-Old Problem

The underlying problem was simple: our infrastructure needed an upgrade. Our core components at Merelbeke were approaching end of life, which could cause some problems. 

Performance was an obvious issue, but it was only the start. An aging infrastructure is expensive to maintain and possible downtime and crashes could negatively impacting the productivity of everyone we support.

In our case, downtime impacts not only government employees, but also citizens waiting for various services. Think about waiting in line to pick up your new passport, only to learn that the system is down. That’s hardly the experience we want to create for the citizens we serve. 

The need for a hardware refresh also came at an interesting time. The Public Center for Social Welfare would soon be combined with the municipal administration. That meant we had different hardware and operations to consolidate—and maintain going forward.

Outdated infrastructure doesn’t just impact you today—it limits your future growth.

Even still, those were just the short-term issues. From a long-term perspective, an aging infrastructure would dramatically limit the growth potential of Merelbeke. And a lack of a cohesive disaster recovery strategy meant we weren’t prepared, should the worst happen. 

The costs—both financial and opportunity—were simply too much. A new infrastructure was our only hope. 

With the Help of a Partner

In our search for a new solution, I enlisted the help of one of our partners, IT1.   

They had a great deal of experience and expertise with other municipalities, so we trusted their guidance. Our goal was to find new infrastructure powerful enough to address our short-term needs and versatile enough to continue to grow and evolve as Merelbeke did the same.

They recommended we look at HPE SimpliVity, who quickly emerged as the front runner in our search. I saw that HPE SimpliVity could provide stability as our data and virtual machines requirement grew over the next five years—all while decreasing our hardware and maintenance needs. 

But while their hyperconverged solutions seemed like the perfect fit for Merelbeke’s needs, we still had to defend our choice to our board.

When trying to sell a hyperconverged solution internally, focus on reliability.

What pushed HPE SimpliVity over the top was its excellence in areas like backup recovery and DR. Being able to say that we will have minimal (or even no) downtime made it an easy sell to the board. They could clearly see the impact that would have on our staff and citizens. Reliability is hard to argue against. 

Less Hardware, More Peace of Mind

The process of implementing HPE SimpliVity couldn't have been more seamless or hassle-free. For end users, it was like nothing had changed at all. But for myself and my colleague, everything had changed. It created an entirely different world.

Our new setup of two server units replaced four aging server hosts, four SAN boxes, and two NAS backup units. Thanks to this new configuration, we had less cooling and energy requirements and freed up a tremendous amount of space in our server room by consolidating eight devices down to two.

HPE SimpliVity ensures all data is only saved once and only part of the disk space is used. This means that not only are we able to house VMs and active data on the device, but that backups are readily available. 

Since HPE SimpliVity’s backup solution requires little space, we can make several snapshots a day. This gives us the ability to recover from a disaster like a ransomware attack. With our previous solution, we could only go back a full 24 hours to the last recovery point. Now, we can go back 15 minutes. That means, should the worst happen, we wouldn’t be out an entire day’s work. That would be a tremendous amount of labor and productivity lost. 

In the end, we reduced the number of hardware devices but also achieved a 41:1 data reduction via inline deduplication and compression for both our primary and our backup storage. We have 7.2 TB of logical VM data and 183 TB of logical backup data only consuming 4.7 TB of physical space. That's a savings of over 185 TB of capacity and IO that we would have otherwise needed to handle.

We're no longer reacting to problems—we're anticipating them and acting on them faster than ever. These gains also allowed us to improve application performance by up to 15%. 

A Simpler Life

When major tasks are made simple, it frees up more time to work on those smaller challenges that never seem to make it to the stop of your to-do list. 

For example, managing VMware is now easy and spinning up new VMs a breeze. We also have more time to monitor the network to anticipate problems before they have a chance to do any damage. Before, we simply didn't have time. We'd wait for something to break and we'd fix it. Now, we can stop it from breaking to begin with. That means more time for those tasks that easily fall by the wayside. 

In the old days, we'd choose our day’s tasks by which fire was burning the brightest. Even then, I wouldn’t get through everything I needed to do. Now, we don't have to skip anything. 

To be honest, our initial goals of this project didn’t include making our lives easier. Sure, I wanted to create fewer headaches for our small team, but it was more about the end users. Thankfully, we’ve all benefited.