How HPE SimpliVity Is Helping a Systems Analyst Do the Work He Cares About

HPE SimpliVity

At Guelph Hydro, all of our infrastructure equipment was coming to the end of its life. We scoped out what it would take to replace all the SANs, ESX hosts and rebuild the environment. We were moving to a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment—thin clients on the desks that in the backend go to centralized servers. For three years, we were trying to get it to the point where people didn’t know if they had a desktop or thin client on their desk.

We were trying to find the product that could help us get to that point, but also save us money and space in the server room. 

We needed to make this switch because of the impact it was having on our end users. They would complain about the unresponsiveness of the environment. Users would try to open Outlook or try to put in call notes and the PC would just hang. They would have to wait two to three minutes at a time, and this would happen 20 times a day. That adds up to a lot of time lost. Not only is it frustrating, but it’s time taken away from doing their jobs. 

Small time losses for your end users add up to big time losses. Find ways to make their lives easier.

On the cost savings side, being in the industry that we’re in, we’re heavily regulated. We have finite budgets to work with. If we go over budget, then we’re penalized by the regulating body. It’s important to be able to save that money because that’s less money we have to pass on to our customers. People don’t want to feel like their rates are going up because we decided to buy more equipment. 

But moving to this VDI environment would also mean having less equipment, resulting in a smaller environmental footprint. 

The Search Begins

Considering all of those factors, we needed to think long term when purchasing anything. We needed to think about what was going to cost us the least amount of money over time. 

In our search for the right solution, we looked at another environment that was exactly the same as what we had, just with newer boxes. It was having the network SAN by the network switch, that connected to your ESX host to the SAN and the newer ESX boxes. We looked at that option, but the price was rather extravagant. 

At the time, the buzz word in our industry was hyperconvergence: everything all in one box. This would allow everything to be managed as a single system, which was attractive to us. We looked at two hyperconvergence solutions: Nutanix and HPE SimpliVity. The issue with Nutanix was that it couldn't support the NVIDIA GRID GPU card, which is what we were trying to use for our VDI environment since we have a lot of users that use AutoCAD. That meant that Nutanix wasn’t even an option for us. 

We had HPE SimpliVity come in and it just worked. It was a night and day difference from what we had before. We had them set up a proof of concept, which was so crucial because we could see it physically working in front of us. We weren’t talking to a sales guy who says he could give us the sun, moon, and stars; I was seeing it for myself—and it was actually true. It really helped me make the decision. 

After the purchase, the roll out phase was pretty seamless for us, because HPE SimpliVity did a pre-setup. We only had to rack it and turn it on, with just a minor configuration. We started at 9 a.m. and by noon we were live with the new boxes. 

We thought this process was going to take at least a week, maybe two, so it was pretty incredible to have it done in less than one day. For us, that meant that we could hit the ground running with our new system.

Peace of Mind

Now that we are using HPE SimpliVity, we are finally able to backup our VMs, which is something we’ve never done before. Without proper backups, if something happened it meant taking three to four hours to clean up the PC, or even scrapping it and having to build a brand new PC for the end user, which would cost us an entire day. 

With the backups, it’s as simple as going back to earlier in the morning and right-clicking Restore from Backup. And within five minutes, the user is up and running.

Being prepared with backups means if the worst happens, it’s an inconvenience, not a disaster.

Last year, we got hit with CryptoLocker and those backups really saved us. It happened at 1 p.m., but I was able to revert to the 11 a.m. backups HPE SimpliVity had stored. That meant the amount of work we had lost was only a couple of hours. Our senior leadership team was thoroughly impressed with how quickly we were able to get everything back up and running, and helped to strengthen their trust in HPE SimpliVity. 

Obviously, losing everyone’s work would have been a huge issue. That would have been hours of lost work and productivity. But having these backups meant that we weren’t left helpless. We could get our users back to work quickly. For other companies, this could have been a disaster. For us, it was an inconvenience. It speaks to the importance of making sure you’re backed up properly because these situations do happen. 

Keeping Our Site Up

We’re an integral part of our customer’s lives. When there’s an outage, everyone wants to know when they’re going to get their power back on. That means that any time we have an outage, our website gets hit with a lot of traffic. We have 20,000–30,000 people coming to the website, which can crash the server. Now, not only is their power out, but our site is down, too.

With HPE SimpliVity, whenever we detect that the server is getting overburdened, we can easily shut it down and auto-scale the resources that we need. We can quickly give it 30GB of RAM instead of the 12GB it initially had. 

That makes our customers happier because they know what’s going on. You can’t do a lot of important things in your life if your power is out, so when it is out, we want to be there to let them know it’s being worked on.

Work-Life Balance

Resizing storage is another task that had taken way too long before HPE SimpliVity. I’d actually have to come in on the weekend. Now, I can do it in ten minutes at home. Before, it meant that a Saturday felt like a regular weekday because I’d be getting up early to go into work. I didn’t have to spend a long time doing it, but I'd have to get into my car, go to work and spend those few hours at the office. 

Having that time back helps me achieve work-life balance. It’s about happiness. Before, I would lose out on that family time by having to go into work. This happened about once a month, but now, I have my Saturdays back. Since our entire infrastructure is virtualized, it’s just a couple of clicks. 

What I’ve Learned

My first piece of advice to anyone considering a complete environment overhaul is to look at hyperconvergence right off the bat. Figure out what you’re trying to do with the resources you have, then cut that time in half with HPE SimpliVity. 

Also, expand what you want to do. I’ve talked to other local utilities who will say, “We want it to do A, B, and C for us.” And it can do that. But it can also do D, E, and F. There’s so much more you can do with HPE SimpliVity than just hosting virtual machines. 

There's a backup feature, which is built in and dramatically better, because you can do file level restores straight from the console. If you have another HPE SimpliVity box in a different environment, you can send backups straight to it. Now you have a full functioning DR without the DR cost. It's a DR environment in production. 

Spending less time putting out fires means more time for work that makes an impact. @HPE_SimpliVity

But what I’ve been most surprised by is the simplicity of it all. If we are running out of space, on the server, I can just right-click and add a terabyte on the fly. Within five minutes it recognizes it and I can walk away. Now, nothing slows us down.

We are running more efficiently and we’ve reduced our server sizes—saving us money and helping our team focus on their jobs.

Before, most of my time was spent on supporting our end users. But now, my day is down to about 30% end user issues and 70% working on what matters. For our end users, that means they’re enabled to do their jobs more efficiently and serve our customers better. For me, that means I can work on things that I enjoy. I can focus on the things that drew me to Guelph Hydro to begin with. I can finally be more impactful with my work.