Supercharging Cross-Team Collaboration and Efficiency with Predictive Flash Storage
There isn’t a company out there that doesn’t thrive on collaboration. It’s common for employees to work on projects with their colleagues—often partnering and sharing big ideas across countries. Great ideas aren’t born in a vacuum, and they certainly aren’t spread in isolation.
The right people working on the right projects at the right time can change the trajectory of a business. Employees’ ability to connect and work together is essential for every organization’s long-term success. This is where IT comes in. We establish, secure, and maintain the infrastructure necessary to facilitate this type of teamwork. Without it, global teams would be disconnected and fragmented.
That was one area where we struggled at Storax. We have teams all over Europe that sell to a global customer base. Our dispersed teams would collaborate on technical design projects in programs such as AutoCAD, and team members needed the files to be up to date when it was their turn to work. Unfortunately, sometimes it could take two or three hours before the system registered the file as fully updated at all locations. That was a massive blow to our teams’ productivity.
Storax is a world leader in density storage systems. The Ramada division (formerly Ramada Investimentos), where I worked, was originally founded in northern Portugal in 1935. The business started out manufacturing saws and tools, but progressively developed into other areas of engineering activity, and strategically acquired new cold storage specialists while creating new divisions all across Europe.
Today, we continue to grow. In May 2018, Averys, a leading European industrial racking solutions provider acquired the Ramada part of the business, which created the Storax-Group. That’s when I was called upon to move from Ramada to head up IT as Systems Manager at Storax. This big change gave us a fresh opportunity to rethink our approach to storage and collaboration, and we wasted no time getting started.
Facilitating Collaboration Across Dispersed Teams
Our issues with storage centered around size and availability. When teams were working on a project, the file needed to be available to everyone involved—no matter if they were located in Portugal, Spain, Belgium, France, or the UK. We had to create a structure that would send copies of the projects’ changes across our dispersed staff.
Plus, we also had to save the baseline version and each iterative version for backup purposes. As anyone who’s worked with AutoCAD knows, many of these files were quite large, which, combined with our programs that run calculations on them, contributed heavily to our massive storage needs. In essence, we needed to reconcile these large, complex files quickly between sites while also backing them up to ensure we never lost any data.
Our IT partner recommended we explore HPE Nimble Storage as a solution to our storage capacity issues. At first, I thought the product offering sounded too good to be true. I was also a little unsure because they told us we would be one of the first companies in Portugal to adopt this technology.
Going into this experience, I was more familiar with 3PAR technology with SAS disks, which I understood to have better performance. With the deduplication offered through HPE Nimble Storage, I was under the impression that it would reduce the performance, making 3PAR a better choice for us. The deduplication offering sounded like a nice feature, but I also thought we would need to buy more storage after a few months as our business continued to grow.
Nimble Storage Solution, Agile Company, Effective Teams
Despite that minor hesitation, we went ahead and purchased HPE Nimble Storage in May 2018. We started the implementation and migration immediately. It was no small task. The timing almost entirely aligned with our acquisition, so we ended up building all IT infrastructure, systems, and networks here in Portugal from scratch while we migrated a portion of an existing business over to this new IT infrastructure.
We were migrating from an existing infrastructure built upon 3PAR storage to a HPE Nimble Storage solution, and we were able to communicate directly with our former head company IT team to copy all files from one database to the other. That was the first step. Then, we had to create user IDs, file servers, and other necessary changes. Three months after we began, we completed the entire system migration and were officially up and running independently. At the same time, we increased our network bandwidth to the branches and acquired a new firewall, speeding up our connections between all our offices across Europe. It’s safe to say that we executed the migration stage very quickly.
We immediately noticed a difference when our users started working over the new storage system and network configurations. We’ve gotten positive feedback from our users across different locations, with teams telling us that accessing files is much smoother and easier. They certainly seem much happier now. We still have a few small things left to do, but we are optimistic about implementing these changes in the near future.
The users’ previous experiences—waiting hours for files to reconcile between sites—almost immediately became a distant memory. With this technology, any file changes reconcile automatically—our users don't have to do anything after making updates to the file. This has streamlined both the project workflow and individual performance. There’s no more wasting time, checking for emails to see if you’ve been notified that the file has been updated.
The speed in which a file is updated in all locations has truly transformed how our teams work together. Before HPE Nimble Storage and new external network configurations, a 20MB file, for example, would have taken between 30 minutes to one hour to reconcile at all our different sites across several countries. Now, it only takes one minute. The file is fully reconciled in every location and our teams can continue working without delay and without worrying that they’re missing any information.
At first, our users couldn’t believe it. They asked us whether something went wrong because the file reconciliation was too fast. They started joking that they would finally be able to get home to eat dinner with their families on time. Not only are our employees happier about this infrastructure update, but it’s also elicited a positive response from our customers, too. We’re able to respond more effectively and promptly to their needs because we can collaborate drastically faster.
By the Numbers: Fewer Clicks and Powerful Compression
I was initially skeptical because I didn’t have full confidence in the features HPE Nimble Storage promised. But my skepticism was unwarranted. Nimble’s deduplication has had a major impact on our storage needs. We’ve compressed our storage use by 4.5x, which saves us 12.5TB of space on our disks. We’re also using StoreOnce for our backups, which also saves a tremendous amount of space. We have 60TB of backups that are only taking up 7TB of space.
We currently have full storage implemented and have only occupied 40% of the storage capacity. We have 60% free that we expect will take several more years to fill up before we need to upgrade. Considering I initially thought we’d need to upgrade after a few months, you can say I’m pleasantly surprised.
On the administration side, Nimble is very easy to manage. For instance, I can create a storage volume in just five or six clicks. While we’re fully integrated right now, we’re expecting to expand our operations within the next year or two to additional teams on other sites. But our surplus of storage means we won’t have to worry about our growing needs.
That’s especially useful as we store all of our enterprise applications on Nimble, including Infor LN, our ERP system, and Microsoft Exchange, in addition to all our files from applications like AutoCAD. This also means that many of our core business processes are now much faster than ever before.
All of these abilities and features make our lives much smoother and help our company streamline its operations. But we never lose sight of the fact that implementing Nimble was always about one thing: the users. With critical project files updating in almost real time, our teams are able to communicate better, collaborate effectively, and, ultimately, achieve more.
Great ideas flourish when the right people are collaborating and sharing. And leveraging the benefits of Nimble is one good idea that will evolve with this company now, and into the future.