Downtime Got You Down? See Why a Communications Provider Chose HPE SimpliVity Over Nutanix

HPE SimpliVity

At my company, our IT is on a mission to transform. We have been working hard to consolidate, improve efficiencies, move faster, and be more agile to our ever-changing demands. But then, what IT company isn’t these days? Whether you’re a family or a business, our aim for our customers is the same: better, faster service. But we only get there by being better and faster ourselves.

Our company is a leading provider of advanced network communications and technology solutions for home, business, and enterprise. We offer all the services you would expect, from broadband and security, to voice and digital TV. 

My work here is in corporate IT, managing and architecting the internal infrastructure that runs our business. A lot of our focus is about consolidation, moving faster and smarter to better support our company as a whole—and ultimately our customers. But we always have the opportunity to do better.

The Expense of Aging Infrastructure

Until recently, too much of the IT team’s time was taken up with our aging IT infrastructure. Servers, storage arrays, and SAN fabric, were all approaching end of life and began giving us fits over performance and outages. There were a few SAN outages that really did us in, basically taking down clusters or even partial data centers at a time. The worst one crippled around 1000 VMs for several hours. The lingering effects cost days of work for many teams.

Some of these outages came about as part of a disaster recovery (DR) initiative. The real culprit, though, was that we needed a full hardware refresh: servers, SANs, fabric, core network—everything. We wanted a new system that would simplify it all and allow us to take control of the solution end to end.

We were in the middle of a DR expansion/improvement project when we realized that continuing down this path would be astronomically expensive. Our DR plan also wasn’t all that practical. Initially, we used a 3rd party colocation with leased equipment. If ever a disaster struck, we would recover everything over there. But the recovery time might be days, or even weeks or months. I couldn’t imagine having to go through such an extended exercise. We needed a new plan, while also solving the problem of our aging infrastructure.

Finding a Solution—and Building Buy-In

The IT team knew for quite a while that hyperconvergence was the best way forward, rather than just updating our outdated SANs. We wanted the control and simplicity hyperconvergence would give us, with full automation and no more relapses on the backups. The problem was that when we first started looking at hyperconvergence, the technology was just too new. We couldn’t get buy-in from all the teams involved as a result.

But as time went on, the tides began to shift. In the intervening years since we first broached the topic, hyperconvergence had become an established solution to exactly the problems we faced. It also helped that the timing of the management switch coincided with the schedule for a hardware refresh

Looking to make the case for a move to hyperconvergence? Your next IT refresh might be the best time to pitch.

We looked at several options, including VxRail, Nutanix, and HPE SimpliVity. The native built-in DR and backups was a big selling feature for HPE SimpliVity, as was the overall simple management all from within vCenter. Cost was another big factor from our perspective. Since everything was built-in, with HPE SimpliVity we wouldn’t have ongoing operating expenses the way we would with the other solutions. The lower TCO, was key to getting buy-in from the rest of the organization.

Hyperconvergence: Big Impact

We implement HPE SimpliVity on six nodes, two of which were in a DR site. We began by migrating a bunch of simple workloads, since we have hundreds of automation-type robots. To start, we didn’t move the production environments over, but we did replicate the development environments, and saw immediate results. Jobs that took the traditional environments 10 to 12 hours, now take 2 hours. We looked at several of these jobs and noticed that the disk performance was 5–10 times better.

That performance can have a real impact on how our company functions. One of those jobs that runs every weeknight, for example, relates to creating reports from a marketing database. The job starts at the end of the day so the report will be ready for the marketing team the next morning. Or, at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work, because in reality we started to see some creep in that time when the reports were completed, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., and so on. If you work in marketing, receiving that report later in the morning affects your capacity to effectively plan your day.

Now, with HPE SimpliVity, running that report takes just a couple hours, meaning the marketing team can count on it being ready first thing in the morning. And producing that report is just one of 100s of jobs we run at a time, all of them with this new efficiency. Since implementing HPE SimpliVity, we’ve seen up to 32.9:1 Efficiency thanks to HPE SimpliVity’s compression and deduplication. 

As for the built-in DR, which was one of the reasons we chose HPE SimpliVity, we’ve run several successful DR tests, though thankfully we have yet to experience an actual disaster event. We’ve seen at least one positive knock-on effect of the built-in backup: Because we no longer have the need for that vast array of storage and backup devices, HPE SimpliVity enabled us to significantly consolidate our data center footprint. We’ve projected roughly 25% reduction in overall footprint today.

Simplifying your backups with hyperconvergence can have a massive impact on your data center footprint.

I now have so much more control because of storage provisioning and automated backups. I’ll give you an example of that in action. Shortly after we implemented HPE SimpliVity, I received a call from our VP about some patch that had created problems the night before. 

Before HPE SimpliVity, resolving the issue would have been a big process: opening multiple tickets with various groups to load the backup, stage it, and restore it. That process would have taken anywhere between hours to a full day. But with HPE SimpliVity Restore, it took two minutes to be back in business. I restored the system and had it up and running while I was still on the phone with the VP. That’s not a bad look in front of my boss.

Looking to the Future with Composable Fabric

With all our success with HPE SimpliVity, we were still seeing problems with extreme latency. At peak times, some of our Cisco Nexus 5Ks were being overloaded at 100% CPU. That would impact our HPE SimpliVity environment, so we looked at HPE Composable Fabric to remediate the problem in that environment first.

We chose HPE Composable Fabric because its simplicity meant one person could maintain it. It’s not full control of the network, but let’s say you want to perform a task like adding a node. It used to be that adding a node involved a network team running cables and it could take weeks. With HPE Composable Fabric, it’s as simple as unboxing the install kit, the system admin enabling the ports through a GUI, and that’s it. One person can turn it around in a day rather than multiple teams spending weeks.

And once HPE Composable Fabric is installed, it’s incredibly easy to manage. It enables the admin to monitor the system, turn up ports, and deploy machines without having to go through other teams. That translates into much better performance. HPE Composable Fabric is relatively new for us, but it’s remediated those network latency issues that were impacting HPE SimpliVity’s effectiveness. One admin can provision everything.

So far, we’ve used HPE SimpliVity with Composable Fabric just for general workloads, web applications, Citrix servers, ITSM, automation bots, and some SQL, but our next big move will be migrating four new HPE SimpliVity nodes that will be licensed for Oracle. We’re consolidating roughly 30 physical Solaris boxes onto those. Then we’ll be migrating our databases.

HPE SimpliVity has made life easier. Everything’s simpler, and it’s freed up a lot of resources, including my time, to focus on proactive tasks. If I were to do it all again, the only thing I’d change is to implement it sooner.

The fact that everything is protected, even our development boxes, gives us peace of mind. Our engineers put a lot of work into the development machines. In the past if something happened, those machines might not have been backed up, and then there’s no way to get it restored. We’ve lost a lot of work that way, but no longer. With HPE SimpliVity, of course there’s a backup. Everything’s backed up.

Everyone’s in love with our implementation, all the way to the top. IT loves it because we can now focus our resources where we should. We’re no longer putting out fires, and the people at the data center have a lot more time on their hands for other projects. End-user requests are now fulfilled faster, because the ticket isn’t bouncing from team to team. And the higher-ups love it because we no longer have outages. Now that we’ve pleased everyone internally, we can get back to pleasing our customers.