Seeing Is Believing: HPE SimpliVity Reduces Complexity, Increases Efficiency, and Keeps Things Small
I work for W. R. Grace & Co., a global leader in high-performance specialty chemicals and materials that improve the products and processes of our customers around the world. We are the global leader for several industry segments including FCC catalysts, polyolefin catalysts, and specialty silica gel.
We operate in 30 countries with 22 manufacturing facilities and sell to customers in more than 70 countries.
Before we undertook our hyperconvergence project, from an IT management and administration perspective, everyone within the company was doing their own thing based on the equipment and applications they had onsite. Support was a headache and there was no easy way to ensure that our various locations were following best practices or even meeting our minimum standards. Something needed to change.
Two years ago, our CFO challenged us to transition our IT to the cloud. My team and I looked at our options and realized that we couldn't move everything because of latency and isolation requirements, and because our software stack didn’t match the cloud platform stack. But we could get creative with the cost effectiveness of the on-prem solution until the next software generation.
SAP offered its ERP as a cloud-based SaaS, which meant we were no longer constrained to using the most expensive physical infrastructure for our virtualization platform. That freed us to consider an entirely different type of IT infrastructure. Hyperconvergence was the logical next step for us, and after comparing several major market contenders, HPE SimpliVity became the obvious choice.
We went with HPE SimpliVity because it was easy to configure and perfectly sized for our remote data centers. I could power each of our remote sites with two HPE SimpliVity nodes without the need for separate 10-Gigabit networking. This approach was far less complicated than taking months to design and upgrade all our servers, switches, and storage arrays to run the latest version of VMware.
A One-Month Proof of Concept
We started with a one-month proof of concept at our head office. I was expecting to see some improvement, but I was thrilled by what I encountered. HPE SimpliVity was far more powerful and far more efficient than I’d ever imagined.
The first thing I did was run a script to deploy virtual machines. In less than seven minutes, I spun up 50 servers. No boot storm, not even a hiccup. Then the deduplication ratios surpassed my expectations. Then the restore completes within seconds. All impressive.
This speed of deployment far surpassed anything I'd experienced with even the fastest equipment. HPE 3PAR is one of the best SAN I've used during my 20-year IT career, but cloning or restoring a server takes 40 minutes or more for the same server size. With HPE SimpliVity, I can duplicate a server in a few seconds, and then configure and deploy it in about five minutes. When you scale that company-wide, the savings in time are significant.
A 24-Hour Migration
That initial deployment in production in the pilot site at West Virginia took less than 24 hours. We took the data center offline on Friday afternoon, and the IT team then backed up all the physical and virtual servers to tape as a failsafe. By 6 p.m. on Saturday, I was able to migrate our old physical infrastructure to HPE SimpliVity.
I automated the process, and was able to migrate 70 servers at the push of a button. In the past, this would have taken at least several days. We would have had to restore and mount each server individually, and then configure the network and the firewall to securely reconnect the data center to our headquarters.
Our successful pilot led to a bigger deployment. We now have four nodes set up at our headquarters. We have also installed two nodes each at our plant in Canada and at one of our Louisiana plants. In the next year, I budgeted to migrate two more of our North American data centers to HPE SimpliVity, and after that, I plan to start deploying it in Europe and Asia. In total, I am planning to move seven of our data centers around the world to HPE SimpliVity.
HPE SimpliVity paid for itself within a year. The initial savings in deployment and migration time certainly accelerated ROI. HPE SimpliVity's advanced data deduplication and compression features also reduced our bandwidth and storage consumption by a factor of 10:1 or more, helping us maximize our IT budget.
HPE SimpliVity's hyperconverged architecture reduces complexity, which leads to additional savings in equipment and management costs. I can set up a two-node HPE SimpliVity data center in a matter of hours, and I no longer have to install and configure chassis, server blades, SAN, or switches.
Once everything is up and running, my IT teams spend about 20 percent less time on maintenance and administration tasks, and this allows them to focus on helping users make the most of our new equipment.
As a final consideration, HPE SimpliVity is energy efficient. We are using far less electricity to power and cool our twin-node deployments than traditional infrastructure consumes.
From Skeptic to Believer
When I embarked on our HPE SimpliVity journey, I was skeptical. I understood that hyperconverged architecture was more efficient than a traditional infrastructure, but I hadn't realized the full potential of the technology.
Also, when I was first exploring possible solutions, I didn't believe other HPE SimpliVity users when they told me about the incredible performance improvements they'd experienced. I thought they were overly enthusiastic and that they were exaggerating.
Fortunately, I was wrong. HPE SimpliVity delivers on its promises, and I am happy to add my voice to the chorus of satisfied customers.