Moving IT to the Forefront of the Business with a Move to HPE Compute
It sometimes seems that running a successful business requires leaders to predict the future. How much inventory is needed for summer? Do we buy an existing solution or build one in house? What kind of products will customers need a year from now? What technology will we need a year from now? These and other questions require leaders to adopt a forward-thinking mentality for the best chance of continued success.
Focusing on the culture also makes it easier to create the kind of product and service innovations necessary to keep clients excited and engaged. Whether you dominate a particular market or you’re a startup trying to make your way, you need ongoing new developments and technologies to beat competitors.
It's not enough to simply have a future-forward management team. Your IT needs to operate the same way, which became our need when I first joined PiSA Farmacéutica in 2017.
Running Behind the Business
PiSA runs a large and complex organization that includes more than 1,500 pharmaceutical brands and 17 specialty lines. These products are created through 14 production plants located throughout Mexico. At nearly 80 years old, we are one of the most successful large corporations in the country, and we have around 22,000 employees across North America.
Since we have such a large operation and customer base, our manufacturing facilities must operate continuously. No matter the time of day or night, products continue to roll through our factories. From an IT perspective, that means any downtime is a nightmare, leading to delayed shipments and increased costs. In addition to that constant demand, our ongoing growth created an even larger headache.
PiSA was growing quickly, and our infrastructure was perpetually behind the business environment. Our 105-person IT staff spent a lot of time creating temporary fixes and updating systems as needed. Because we lagged behind the business, we couldn’t create as much value as we wanted.
Most IT offices can only dream of operating with a staff of more than a hundred. However, even with a team that large, it was increasingly difficult to keep up with the operational burden. Since we service the entire company, just monitoring ongoing server activity was an increasingly time-consuming activity. Solving problems and adjusting to the needs of separate business units regularly stretched staff to the limits.
I came to PiSA with many years of experience as an IT Director at different organizations. From the moment I arrived, it was understood that the IT department needed to become much more proactive. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. Because we support the entire business, any drastic changes would have to be well coordinated and guaranteed to work the first time.
A Powerful Combination of Next-Generation Solutions
Like most technology investments, our old HPE infrastructure was a great option at the time of purchase and served us for many years. With continued growth, however, it became clear that we had to choose the next upgrade with the innovations of the future in mind. PiSA needed more from IT, and that meant finding a system with greater speed, flexibility, and higher availability.
PiSA is a satisfied, long-standing HPE customer, so when it was time for our infrastructure refresh, we were certain it was the right choice to stay with them. Sure enough, they had next-generation technology that suited our requirements. Eventually, we decided to move to HPE Synergy, a composable, software-defined infrastructure for hybrid cloud environments in addition to the HPE Superdome Flex server, and HPE Primera for storage. We also added HPE StoreOnce for backup and data recovery.
We examined options from other vendors. Of course, other infrastructure options work, but we found HPE solutions offered a greater level of scalability and security.
PiSA Farmacéutica has had HPE Synergy since 2019, which replaced HPE BladeSystem. We implemented HPE Synergy with three frames, six HPE Synergy 480 servers, two 660 servers and three HPE Superdome Flex. This upgrade enabled us to reduce costs and dramatically increase energy efficiency.
Today, HPE Synergy and HPE Superdome Flex support a wide variety of PiSA operations. We have SAP workloads, and 90–95% of them are based on virtualized environments and mission-critical applications are hosted on HPE Superdome Flex. Non-SAP applications run on virtualized and non-virtualized environments, where we have satellite systems around our ERP to support operations. Everything from our administrative workloads to logistics, manufacturing, and production runs on the ERP, which runs on HPE Synergy and HPE Superdome Flex. On the technical side, we've been able to launch and create parallel environments (without touching production) much faster, and the ability to duplicate and create sandboxes allows us to have more elasticity to manipulate our IT environment.
HPE Synergy has been a critical tool as we develop PiSA innovation projects. It helps us deploy new systems and meet developing needs with urgency, all much easier and faster than we could before. HPE Synergy also contributes to smooth network integrations, facilitating the easy use of technology from other vendors.
As a mission-critical compute solution, HPE Superdome Flex also offered the perfect combination of flexibility, performance, and reliability. The system operates intelligently, including automatically bypassing problems to keep things running smoothly. In addition, we have around 9TB of memory with the HPE Superdome Flex, while some other systems only offered a maximum of 6 TB. All this is set against HPE Primera’s 100% uptime guarantee—unmatched by anyone else in the industry. The solutions from HPE were most in line with expected costs, and had the experience of their great support services, both of which made the decision easier.
Partners Make It Possible
HPE local partner organizations were largely responsible for helping us make the right decisions. We connected with HPE partner Computación Interactiva, causing all the pieces to fall into place.
Computación Interactiva also had a deep knowledge of HPE solutions. While we had some ideas about what we wanted, they helped us identify the servers and storage solutions that best suited our needs for flexibility and speed. Computación Interactiva was instrumental during the design and implementation phase, ensuring the integrations were set up correctly. With their assistance, we found an architecture that was easier to manage and much more powerful. And because they are a local company, it was much easier for them to get to know our systems and directly help with the migration and deployment. The speed of deployment was vital, and it had a positive impact throughout the organization.
Thanks to the skills, knowledge, and support from the teams at Computación Interactiva (especially Rodrigo Garcia, Account Manager; Chuy Guizar, Engineering Manager; and Julio Enrique Leon, General Commercial Manager), we completed the migration to our new infrastructure without disruption or downtime.
Getting Ahead of the Game
Since the implementation, we have experienced some of the anticipated positive results. One of these is having greater operational control, and we can attribute that to HPE OneView.
As an infrastructure management tool, HPE OneView makes it possible to control the entire system from a single console. With thousands of employees located in more than a dozen sites, the ability to monitor everything from a centralized location gives us greater visibility and reduces the burden on IT’s shoulders. It’s now much simpler to solve problems and analyze the flow of resources because we only have to check one place.
HPE Superdome and HPE Primera guarantee us hardware with higher availability than we had previously, boosting our key performance indicators for infrastructure availability. And even though we didn’t change anything regarding our software availability, we have seen a tremendous increase with additional components from HPE Superdome.
We have also noticed more consistent performance. With our previous infrastructure, we saw noticeable drops in speed during certain times of the month when transactions increased. That was a recipe for disaster. The last thing you want is things moving slower when more people need the resources, but we didn’t have time to address the issue. Under our new architecture, transactions happen blazingly fast, regardless of the time of month or other activity.
Behind the scenes, we can better shape PiSA’s operations depending on emerging needs. Our new infrastructure allows us to create and deploy virtual machines much faster. Perhaps more importantly, we are confident that those machines will remain stable and operational as long as needed. There is great comfort in knowing that the infrastructure can be modified as needed without sacrificing the power to get things done.
One of the marquee projects we're extremely proud of is SAFE, a homegrown software solution that serves the healthcare market by helping manage service shipments to pharmacies and allowing them to create medical mixtures. Our customers contract SAFE to make the medical mixtures that a doctor prescribes for a specific patient—essentially customized medications. These mixtures are delivered to hospitals in huge volumes, so the mixtures undergo many medical and chemical validations to avoid adverse reactions. From the moment the doctor orders the mixture until it is delivered to the patient's bedside takes just four hours. This speed wouldn’t be possible at this volume without our new servers supporting all these transactions. It's crucial that the databases, web applications, and storage all work without issues, disruptions, or downtime, and we achieve this running SAFE + SAP on HPE Superdome Flex. HPE Synergy and HPE Primera support the internal processes for SAFE.
Refreshed IT Opens the Door for New Opportunities
Perhaps the best test of our new system is emerging right now. We are looking to expand our analytics capabilities, which will be rooted in High-Performance Analytic Appliance (HANA) technologies.
When you’re dealing with copious amounts of data, there’s what we call hot information and cold information. Hot information is the data—tables, fields, etc.—retrieved many times a day, every day. HANA is smart, identifying this hot information and keeping it within active memory. When there’s another, similar kind of transaction, that information is retrieved in near-real time.
This action makes a big difference for users. Because these databases run on active memory, they have the potential to offer much higher speeds. Where a report within a more traditional system may take 30 minutes, HANA may accomplish the same task in less than four minutes. It is a powerful tool for real-time analytical operations. Our new HPE infrastructure allows us to establish an integrated platform for HANA and realize the possibilities that come with it.
Fast growth is part of PiSA’s DNA, and it pushes all units within the organization to continue innovating and finding ways to positively impact the population through the products and medicines we manufacture. As a result, we have been able to increase productivity while being more efficient, as a result we are able to aim to bigger market share. PiSA faces emerging trends like HANA with the comfort of knowing that we have the power to succeed and the freedom to adjust workloads depending on new technology. With this upgrade, we are ready for changes at a moment's notice.
Technologies should always adapt to business needs, and PiSA is very happy the way HPE technology and support have delivered. With our new infrastructure, we have won a lot of flexibility and speed for business operations. We are more agile when it comes to deploying new features, tools, or systems in our environment while remaining compliant with business needs and requirements. We have better visibility and management of all our infrastructure which helps us efficiently manage our work teams. These have become key differentiators for our business.