Fighting Inertia and Moving Ahead of the IT Curve with HPE SimpliVity

HPE SimpliVity

As an IT professional, you have to manage your infrastructure, but you also have to manage user expectations. Users expect instant access, one-click upgrades, and infinite capacity. You can plan all you want, allocate your bandwidth, storage, and processing power. You can set up rack after rack of servers, and still hit a wall. This is especially true in today’s demanding cloud-based environments. You can’t give everyone everything that they want, but you have to provide what they need right now, and some capacity to grow on.

This sentiment has been especially true at Tunisair Technics, where I’ve worked for a decade. We are the aeronautical  maintenance and logistics subsidiary of Tunisair, and we also provide engine, and component solutions to national, regional, and international airlines at five facilities in Tunisia.

As an IT professional, you have to manage your infrastructure AND user expectations.

Fighting Inertia

One of our biggest IT hurdles was our infrastructure. It was ancient. Our network dated back to 2000. Our servers had been installed in 2010. Adding capacity to such old equipment cost a fortune. Believe it or not, obsolete hard drives and RAM are more expensive than current hardware because they are so rare. To give you one example, when we had to add 16 gigabytes of RAM to one of our servers in 2015, we discovered that it cost four times more than current memory modules.

We were in desperate need of an upgrade. We could barely run web-based applications like Microsoft SharePoint, and it was impossible to run some manufacturer applications like AirNav, a document management system used by Airbus. At the same time, we were facing an internal obstacle, which was money. We had a small budget and this limited the changes we could make. 

During the discovery phase, we looked at several solutions and narrowed our choices to Dell EMC VxRail and HPE SimpliVity. From the perspective of Tunisair Technics, HPE SimpliVity was the better choice, but it was an uphill battle to convince upper management to make the switch. On top of this, no one else in Tunisia was using HPE SimpliVity. We couldn’t point at the success of another business here. This was uncharted territory.

Inertia is the enemy of innovation.

But the reality was that we were years behind and the status quo was no longer workable. A solution like HPE SimpliVity would help take us into the future, so we got the go-ahead to begin the transition.

More Power at Half the Price

We embarked on the process in 2016, beginning with an upgrade to our physical infrastructure. Our old network was slow, as it used obsolete Alcatel and Cisco technology. We moved to 10-gigabit fiber using HPE Aruba which would provide our team with the speedy backbone we needed. Next, we upgraded our cabling infrastructure in 2017, and third step, we had to upgrade our servers.

We built a three-node rack, consuming just 6 RU of rack space, using 2RU SimpliVity 380 all-flash servers running VMware. The next step was to  centralized our storage and then migrated some of our applications to virtual machines. The process was incredibly smooth and very fast. We moved everything over in two days.

The first thing that struck me was the efficiency of HPE SimpliVity’s inline data deduplication and compression functionality. Our migration of 3.2 terabytes of data was reduced to 500 gigabytes. We then started to migrate our databases, including our Oracle and Microsoft SQL installations. I hadn’t expected this level of performance. It was obvious we were getting more than our money’s worth.

The reaction from our users was immediate and transparent. They didn’t see what was  happening on the backend, but they noticed a significant speed boost up front.

Our developers were especially pleased with HPE SimpliVity. They need VMs on demand to code and test new applications. One of the most impressive new features is the reduction in downtime. When a VM crashes or powers down, it takes one or two seconds to boot up again. It is nearly instantaneous and, once again, is transparent to end users.

Maintaining obsolete technology is more expensive than investing in new technology.

The other major advantage of HPE SimpliVity is cost. As I said earlier, we were working with a very tight budget. When we added it all up, HPE SimpliVity cost a lot less than Dell EMC’s VxRail solution, and this included three years of technical support and software upgrades.

Moving Ahead of the Curve

To sum it all up, we went from slow servers and inadequate storage to a system that exceeds our needs, all for a fraction of what we would have paid. Our users have instant access to everything, and we have room to grow. Right now, we’re only using 30% of our storage capacity, which is more than enough for the next three years. After that, we may need two or three more nodes to satisfy all our storage and computing requirements.

Over the next two years, we’ll be boosting security and adding a disaster recovery data center. We are also moving many of our activities to the cloud to further improve speed and access. We can go ahead with all of these improvements because HPE SimpliVity is so capable and affordable.

It feels good to be ahead of the curve. Tunisair Technics spent too much time lagging behind in terms of IT. Thanks to HPE SimpliVity, we can offer users the computing power they need right now. More importantly, we have set them up for everything else they’ll need in the months and years to come, even if they don’t know what that is yet.