Free Your IT Team: Add Business Value By Simplifying and Consolidating Storage

HPE Storage

IT professionals are fascinated by how things work and the underlying systems that power the world. And, having seen the possibilities, we always want more hardware, more storage, and more processing power to make our environments the best they can be. But as systems become more complex, we can also become overwhelmed by the need to maintain multiple types of equipment and hardware. This pulls us away from more meaningful tasks.

The key is to strike the right balance between getting powerful equipment and simplifying the environment so there’s little maintenance. Alf Mizzi and Sons Marketing, Ltd. (AMSM) has come a long way in simplifying our IT infrastructure, specifically in our storage capabilities.

The best IT strategy strikes the right balance between power and simplicity.

Founded more than 100 years ago, AMSM's main line of business is import and distribution of fast-moving consumer goods to the retail grocery and supermarket sector. Over the years, our focus on business development led to the acquisition of major international brands, strengthening our market position in ambient, chilled, and frozen products. In 1996, the organisation ventured in the food service sector and within the next decade included ice cream and very short shelf life products into our already rich product portfolio. After a century in business, AMSM holds onto its' place as a leader in an increasingly competitive market by investing in business and staff development, technology and quality standards.

I have been with AMSM for more than 20 years, starting out in network and security systems administration. At the time, the entire IT team consisted of three people. A few years down the line, I moved to database administration and business intelligence (BI), both of which intrigued me as a student. Today, I manage a growing department, which consists of a fantastic 10-member team of dedicated professionals, with plans of further investment in human capital. Our IT is split into infrastructure, business applications, and business intelligence. We work flexibly, both remotely and onsite, at AMSM's newly refurbished head office in the town of Marsa, Malta.

Dynamic Storage for a Pandemic Budget

We're a dynamic company with a diversified business model. Staying dynamic in a competitive market requires an extremely agile and fast IT infrastructure that always works. My team is on the ball and reliable, always on the go. I want them to provide business value and support AMSM's dominant market position through digital transformation, rather than spending time managing the infrastructure. 

Staying dynamic in a competitive market requires an extremely agile, fast IT infrastructure that always works.

Throughout my time here, our server room has always run on HPE products for servers, storage, and network equipment. When it comes to storage, over the last two decades, we transitioned from MSA to EVA to HPE 3PAR arrays. When it came time to replace our existing storage, we wanted a next-gen product to improve our computing power. Incidentally, the AMSM Ltd. group of companies includes EWORLD Ltd., a leading HPE partner and IT solutions provider in Malta. 

EWORLD's team is like an extension of our department. We explained to EWORLD our requirements: flexibility, but also a reasonable price for performance; advances in technology from HPE 3PAR arrays; SAN storage with redundant controllers, connectivity, power, and cost; and usable storage capacity and throughput. They quickly suggested HPE Nimble Storage, a technology we were already familiar with through a recent acquisition for a sister company in Cyprus. HPE Nimble Storage had been the best choice to bring that company’s storage up to scratch, and it looked like the best choice for my team as well. 

HPE Nimble Storage met our performance and storage requirements, and crucially, it met our budget. The unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic made 2020 a difficult year for everyone. Luckily, some of the industries we operate in, like food, are necessities, but certain sales channels, such as hospitality, were negatively affected.

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, we instituted a group-wide position to keep all our employees employed and paid throughout the pandemic. To do this, we had to be more cautious overall in our investments. In times like these, I recommend searching for a solution that can meet your budgetary concerns and make life simpler for your team. It can be a hard balance to strike, but we've discovered it's possible. 

We have a longstanding relationship with EWORLD, frequently working together. My team coordinated with EWORLD’s team onsite and offsite to implement HPE Nimble Storage. Despite this happening during the pandemic, the deployment went safely and seamlessly. 

High Performance and Low Maintenance Frees My Team to Focus on Innovation

We chose HPE Nimble Storage for its simplicity, high level of data protection, and integration capabilities. We use this as a shared storage for our VMware infrastructure, and HPE Nimble Storage integrates with VMware perfectly. We also have the same data deduplication as on HPE 3PAR, so we have not lost that advantage. 

Evan, our technical lead, required storage primarily to replace an MSA, which was used exclusively for our Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). There were no measurable metrics before, and due to the urgency during the pandemic, our VDI usage grew exponentially. HPE Nimble Storage enabled us to cope with this growth. We have very low latency with an average of 0.89 ms Read and 0.1 ms Write.

Our goal with this project was to consolidate our environment and simplify our lives. We have reduced a number of devices and we’re planning to integrate another set of devices soon. This is very practical for us, both in terms of the internal expertise required to support devices and in making the whole setup more efficient. By consolidating, we can focus on maintaining one product rather than having bits and pieces on different systems. 

The more you use set-it-and-forget-it solutions, the more time you have to focus on innovations that directly impact the business.

The advantage of simpler infrastructure is that it's easy to scale and keep up to date without consuming our engineers' time, which means a lot, given that the tech team always has a full plate of projects. 

My team is all about automation. The more we can use these set-it-and-forget-it solutions, the more time we have to focus on innovations that directly impact the business. This not only makes us more efficient, but we can provide improved services to all our colleagues. This efficiency and automation results in increased effort on our digital transformation strategy, such as digitalisation and collaboration initiatives.

HPE Nimble Storage has given AMSM some breathing room and a simplified way to move into the next generation of storage.