Optimized Expenses and Enterprise-Level IT for SMEs

HPE GreenLake

Nearly 80% of American businesses are small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), but you wouldn’t know it listening to many IT vendors talk about their customers. When tech companies launch something new or celebrate the success of a product, they often showcase enterprise clients: A Fortune 100 company that deployed a solution across its global operations. But these companies rarely talk about their SMEs.

It can sometimes feel like the most powerful technology is only available to the top 1% of companies.  

It can sometimes feel like the most powerful technology is only available to the top 1% of companies.

centrexIT is a Southern California-based MSP that offers the other 99% of companies technology traditionally unavailable to them because they lack the scale or the funds. As our VP of IT and CISO, I oversee centrexIT’s internal systems, cybersecurity, and the technologies we sell to customers. Because we are also an SME, our goal as we mature as an organization is to be educators and help our clients grow the same way. We don't just say, “Here’s the latest and greatest. Give it a shot.” We also consume the technology we recommend. 

We Did Private Cloud Before It Was Called Private Cloud

We are a private cloud provider, and we’ve been offering the service since 2008, before it was even called cloud or private cloud. Back then, it was just servers in a data center with a massive footprint running independent systems for our customers. We couldn’t manage everything centrally because we had to keep customers’ infrastructure physically separated. 

We needed to consolidate these disparate systems to reduce our management burden while securely segmenting everything. Around 2010, we moved to HPE 3PAR storage, which ran alongside a reference compute architecture from a Fortune 500 vendor. This setup allowed us to consolidate storage but still be able to segment things in a secure manner. IT transformed us into an SME with enterprise architecture and started offering the same to our customers. 

The Flexibility to Allocate Resources and Costs

At that point, we still couldn't really forecast how quickly a client might grow, and it was tough to fulfill any unexpected requests for more hardware in the middle of a budget cycle. 

When our customers needed new storage, I’d go to the finance department and say, “Hey, I need another $92k for a few hard drives.” That’s a big ask for something that wasn’t originally in the budget. At that point, the inability to scale efficiently was taking a toll on our time and stressing our finances. We needed a way to add capacity when our customers asked for it without the burden of huge expenditures we weren’t prepared to spend.

In 2019, I was at the HPE Discover conference and asked our reps if they were coming out with an infrastructure-as-a-service model. At that event, HPE announced the HPE GreenLake edge-to-cloud platform, and it was exactly what we needed. The HPE GreenLake platform runs on a consumption-based model that combines the flexibility of the cloud with the security of on-prem solutions. It’s scalable and billed monthly, and we only pay for what our customers use. 

Democratizing Enterprise IT as an Operational Expense

With the HPE GreenLake platform, adding capacity became a monthly operational expense instead of a one-time capital outlay. We have more control over spending because we know what’s coming in and going out, and when. It’s the perfect solution for a company with a recurring monthly revenue base like ours.

The HPE GreenLake platform allowed us to build a new, state-of-the-art private cloud data center and offer it to our customers at a lower price. Our customers get better performance. They can see where their data lives, and we can point them to their servers and failovers. They have all the benefits of the public cloud in a private, very secure, local physical space we can build on.

Because we’re an HPE GreenLake customer, we can leverage the public cloud for applications like backups and disaster recovery whenever we need it. We’re using the same IT model and equipment as a company like Disney, but it’s all scaled for centrexIT and our customers. It truly is the democratization of enterprise-level IT.

Moving infrastructure spend from the capital to the operational expense column can reduce annual IT expenditure.

Moving our infrastructure spend from the capital to the operational expense column reduced our annual IT expenditure by 50%. It is also preventing sticker shock. Instead of spending $100,000 on a storage array for a customer who won’t reach that capacity for six months, we’re paying $2,500 a month for the capacity they need today. And we’re passing on those savings to our customers.

We’re using a combination of HPE solutions in our data center, too. These include HPE Synergy composable software infrastructure, which enables us to double our capacity while reducing our rack space by 50%. It’s an excellent solution from an environmental and customer perspective because it provides storage and compute for standard workloads and off-the-shelf software, like ERPs, CRMs, and EMRs, with fewer resources. These are mostly straightforward but mission-critical applications. We also have a petabyte of HPE Nimble Storage for production environment data and disaster recovery and HPE Alletra 6000 series storage for high-performance databases and apps that need the highest storage tier. Since switching to HPE GreenLake in 2019, we’ve had 100% uptime. 

Real Examples of Customer Wins

A few months ago, we saw the power of HPE Synergy, HPE Nimble Storage, and HPE Alletra in action. One of our customers’ systems was breached, and their servers were compromised. We shut down their entire environment and rebuilt it from the most recent HPE Nimble Storage backup without impacting our other customers in the data center. We restored 50 terabytes of data and 60 servers in 28 hours and brought them back online, leveraging HPE Nimble Storage’s snapshot capabilities. It would have taken two weeks to restore a bare metal environment, and our customer shared that every day of downtime cost their company $1 million. It was a big win instead of a catastrophic failure.

A couple of years ago, the local Humane Society became one of our customers. It wasn’t your typical acquisition story: One of our employees found a lost dog and took it down to them. When he got there, he saw a sign that read, “Our email is down. Please reach out to us on Facebook.” He told them he worked for an IT company and asked if we could come in and look at their mail server. A couple of us went down on a Saturday and realized we couldn’t repair it on-site, so we brought it back to our data center, backed it up on our HPE infrastructure, and restored it in a day. It had been down for over a week, so they greatly appreciated our help.

That initial encounter led to a long-term contract as their full-time IT department. It’s one of the biggest Humane Society chapters in the country, with more than 1,000 employees and volunteers who handle everything from cat and dog adoptions to wildlife rescues. Without increasing their budget, we refreshed their aging on-prem gear with storage and compute at our data center. We’re proud to help them protect animal welfare in our community and reduce their IT burden.

We also started working with California Commercial Security (CCS) in California and the Southwest. They run 24/7 access control systems, the card readers people use to enter doors in office buildings and other secure facilities along with video surveillance, alarm, and fire protection services. CCS experienced steady growth in their managed services over the last few years, securing hundreds of buildings via more than 5,000 card readers for spaces including commercial buildings, high-tech research companies, pharmaceutical lab-space, and biotechnology and life sciences research centers. Using HPE technology, we managed this incredible growth seamlessly. It’s incredible to think about what our customers are achieving with the infrastructure we supply.  

We Gave Up Owning Infrastructure to Own Our Business 

The HPE GreenLake platform transformed how centrexIT does business by changing the payment structure of our infrastructure. Instead of massive capital expenditures every time we need to add capacity, we simply adjust our monthly spend to meet our customers’ needs, offering them enterprise-level IT on SME budgets.

Choosing infrastructure-as-a-service through HPE GreenLake, we gave up ownership of physical equipment for ownership of our business and the ability to best serve our customers. It was a wise investment, and I urge my colleagues to take a serious look and see what the platform can do the same for them.