High Performance, Security, and High Availability Keep Customers Happy

HPE Compute

As the co-founder of a successful business, I have learned that there are two hallmarks of a great company. The first is to listen to your customers. These people are your customers because they trust your expertise and need you to help them accomplish a goal or solve a problem. Successful enterprises, therefore, must stay attuned to customer needs, even as they change.

The second hallmark of a great company is keeping pace with technology. The last thing a business wants is to be caught using outdated tools in a competitive market. The key is to be aware of the technology and anticipate how it can help you better prepare for the future.

If you can stay in touch with your customers’ needs and be abreast of the latest technology, you’ve found the sweet spot, and your clients will never want to leave.

Changing Technology for a Stable Client Base

My business partner and I co-founded Blackbox Hosting Limited in 2014. We had each worked for several service providers and gained experience setting up cloud environments. Together, we believed that we could create a better platform for customers by taking advantage of what was then HP blade technology. We started by renting a rack and using the first-generation C7000 Chassis.

The last thing a business wants is to be caught using outdated tools in a competitive market.

Our customer base hasn’t changed since we started. We primarily serve software providers, but our clients come from many industries. Financial institutions, energy companies, and educational academies in the UK all count on our platform.

Although the companies may seem to have very little in common, they all come to us because they need the same things: a cloud environment with high performance, high availability, and low latency. In that way, we are somewhat of a niche provider.

Our customer base has stayed consistent, but the market has changed dramatically since our beginning. That change was what forced us to adapt our infrastructure.

Weighing Private vs Public Cloud Environments

In many ways, our story is the story of the cloud environment. In the beginning, the idea of the cloud was a fascination. As always, early adopters rushed to try things out while others waited and weighed the risks. But as things continued to develop, our tastes and distinctions became more sophisticated.

One of the most significant evolutions came in the form of the public vs private cloud argument. Public cloud offerings, such as Azure, AWS, and Google, are shared between multiple organisations. The company creates a single cloud structure, and customers essentially agree to share computing services—and, of course, each client’s data is hidden from others. Private clouds, on the other hand, generally serve only one entity.

Due in part to marketing and name recognition, many newcomers to the cloud begin their experience by adopting one of the public cloud environments. While these options can be great for some uses, they are not a good fit for everyone. For starters, public cloud charges according to the scale of use. For small data operations, that may be cost-effective. However, larger structures may quickly find costs growing out of control.

Compute-heavy organisations may find that the costs of public cloud can quickly spin out of control.

Public clouds also don’t always grant the flexibility that many people assume is available. Because major companies operate them, there is often a belief that there is an unlimited amount of space available. The truth is that organisations running high-performance operations may find the service provider unable to accommodate requests for more resources. In light of these and other factors, many companies have opted for a hybrid cloud model. In this version, data or software companies draw on both public and private clouds.

Developing Our Private Cloud

At Blackbox, we use a pricing model developed especially to compete with public cloud providers. Public clouds often charge clients for every single operation that exchanges data, which can get very expensive. We opted for a fixed-price hosting model with unlimited IOP/CPU resources. Since we always design architecture with a focus on high performance, our customers get a lot of bang for the buck.

We know this model works because we’ve seen the growth firsthand. We went from five servers in 2014 to well over 1,000 now. That number jumps to over 2,000 if you include disaster recovery (DR) resources. Throughout it all, we have remained dedicated to HPE blade technology, and we’ve been pleased with its performance.

That said, technology doesn’t stop forging ahead just because we’re comfortable. We have to stay current to stay competitive. We are now using 9th Generation HPE Blade Servers, but HPE plans to discontinue them. That meant it was time to wade back into the waters of possibility to find a solution that would carry us into the future.

Choosing Greater Speed and Energy Efficiency

If we’re being honest with ourselves, some industries can afford to be a little behind the times. If you sell pizza for a living, for example, you can probably get away with using an oven from 20 years ago. But Blackbox is purely a technical company, so having the latest and greatest matters to our customers and us. We always have to choose the best solutions available, and our customers trust us to strive for the top so that they can depend on our decisions.

After scouring the market, we chose HPE Synergy because we were looking to the future. HPE Synergy can be scaled as high as 100GB and maintains the high performance and low latency that our clients have come to expect. In fact, based on the specifications, we expect our CPU performance to move five to six times faster.

But this decision was not just about speed. Our customers were already content with our current setup, and they might not even need even faster performance at the moment. We also chose to move to HPE Synergy because of the greater energy efficiency.

We adopted blades at the beginning of our enterprise because they were much more energy-efficient than standalone servers. For many years, server manufacturers were only concerned with more power, regardless of the energy costs. This approach led to the familiar “pizza box” server structures. Public clouds are usually built using this format, which means they provide great processing power—with an even greater electric bill.

Using blade technology can improve energy efficiency, lowering costs and demonstrating corporate responsibility to the environment.

We calculated that moving to HPE Synergy would reduce our data centre footprint by half. That means much lower energy bills for us. But perhaps more than that, the move to HPE Synergy also demonstrates greater corporate responsibility to our community. We have a goal of becoming carbon-neutral by the end of 2022. That means our data centre would be powered entirely by carbon-neutral sources, which is much easier to do with a smaller electricity requirement.

At this point, we expect delivery of HPE Synergy in November and plan to migrate all our customers by the end of 2021. After this is complete, we will move on to updating our storage systems. We currently use HPE 3PAR storage but plan to deploy HPE Primera next year to take advantage of more intelligent storage operations.

Unparalleled Service for Us and Our Clients

Everything we do as a company revolves around keeping our customers happy. I am proud to say that Blackbox has never lost a customer to a competitor, and we don’t want to start now. The key to maintaining that streak is to offer our clients a platform they simply cannot get elsewhere.

Listening to our clients and watching technological advances led to us choosing HPE seven years ago. Blade servers allowed us to provide unparalleled service to clients that demanded the highest possible performance. HPE has continued to deliver a very fast storage environment and processing that is second to none. We are confident that HPE Synergy will continue this tradition and increase our performance.

Our clients deserve nothing less.