Transitioning Customers to Cloud-Ready Environments with Powerful Hybrid Infrastructure
Equipping or updating a datacenter is sometimes like buying a car. Features are often bundled, and you have to buy the entire package—complete with a souped-up engine and detailed trim—for one component.
The same is true of traditional hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solutions. Vendors frequently require you to buy more compute than you want to get the storage you need. But it doesn’t have to be that way. New developments in datacenter architecture offer flexible choices to IT professionals seeking to maximize their infrastructure spend while optimizing and scaling their resources.
Taking Infrastructure Plans from Ideation to Activation
I’m a senior solution architect for SHI Customer Innovation Center (CIC) at our New Jersey headquarters. We act as a technology concierge, supporting businesses’ organizational growth and employee experience goals. SHI's 6,000-person team has the focus, agility, and expertise to meet our customers’ unique business and IT needs.
The CIC is an 8,000-square-foot datacenter providing on-demand access to IT technology to help customers develop sound business strategies and take their infrastructure designs from ideation to activation. The space is divided into four labs:
- The first is our showcase lab, where we have products from various vendors and do demos and proofs of concept.
- The second is our end-user lab, where customers can see how their end-users are going to use the solution they’ll be installing in their datacenters.
- The third lab is where customers can install their own equipment for in-depth testing and piloting new hardware and software solutions. We offer rack space to trial physical equipment because their datacenters are often at capacity.
- The fourth is the multi-cloud lab that allows us to be more agile and spin things up quicker in cloud services.
I help customers transition to efficient cloud-ready environments that allow them to rapidly deploy new applications, increase productivity, and lower costs while managing and monitoring enterprise environments from anywhere. With the right tools, their administrators can be more proactive and spend more time on the things that matter most to their business. Our labs help me show customers what our products can do instead of telling them, and we offer insights into custom configurations that delve deeper than traditional demos.
Showcasing HPE Alletra dHCI Technology
SHI is an Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) partner, so our CIC uses HPE storage and compute, highlighting the company’s cutting-edge solutions at the forefront of today’s datcenter architecture. We want to show customers (and potential customers) how HPE technology can optimize their applications and workloads.
We currently host a pair of two-node clusters, both based on HPE Nimble Storage/HPE Alletra solid-state drive arrays. One of these employs HPE Alletra disaggregated hyperconverged infrastructure (dHCI), which combines HPE Alletra with HPE ProLiant servers to provide data-first modernization and unlocks the IT agility for mixed virtualized workloads at scale. We control both clusters with a single VMware vCenter instance using a native plug-in.
When we demo HPE Alletra dHCI and its HCI functionality, people see that they aren’t locked into fixed building blocks of compute and storage. Instead of starting with a cluster of overprovisioned compute and storage due to the fixed building blocks, we can right size storage and compute resources independently to create a better fit. Plus, resources can be easily added on demand. It disaggregates storage and compute, removing the need to purchase CPUs when you need more drives, reducing VMware and other software license fees and only paying for what’s used. They can also use HPE’s vCenter plug-in to create a data store and make it available to all the servers in a cluster. Adding a server to a cluster only requires an IP address—vCenter does the heavy lifting.
Streamlining Cluster Management with HPE InfoSight
Additionally, we use HPE InfoSight to streamline HPE Alletra array updates. We get alerts when updates are available and machine learning creates deny and accept lists. For example, if an update conflicts with applications on a particular server, the automation will prevent anyone from completing those upgrades until they resolve the issue. When a server is ready, the administrator performs the array upgrade.
The HPE InfoSight dashboard also offers a bird’s eye view of all clusters, enabling users to see all the servers and storage in our environment and a weeklong performance history on a single screen. Administrators can view usage peaks and valleys and zoom in to quickly identify performance anomalies. Using telemetry data from arrays, it’s easy to predict and resolve issues before they impact infrastructure. It’s better to know about a problem on Tuesday and fix it instead of waiting for it to cripple servers on Friday. This empowers our customers to become more proactive instead of reactive.
To further simplify and streamline the process, we can perform OS upgrades and firmware patches simultaneously with dHCI vCenter Plugin. Instead of updating ESXi one machine at a time and then going back and performing other patches sequentially, HPE dHCI Plugin checks for service packs, OS updates, and array firmware upgrades, bundling it all into one-button upgrade. It's intelligent, non-disruptive, full-stack lifecycle management to automate operations.
Introducing our Customers to the HPE GreenLake Edge-to-Cloud Platform
When we demo HPE Alletra dHCI for customers, we like to share the big picture, which means introducing them to the HPE GreenLake platform. It’s like the National Mall in Washington D.C. in that it puts everyone in the heart of the action, and everything they want to see is within walking distance. The portal enables our customers to manage their clusters while allowing the flexibility to transition to cloud-ready infrastructure. It comprises a suite of applications that give them complete control over on-prem hardware, virtual storage and compute, and cloud-based resources, all within a centralized console for self-service operations.
The first of these is HPE Aruba Central, which provides full remote management, automation, and security for Aruba Switches. Next is HPE GreenLake for Compute Ops Management, a cloud-native console that automates compute lifecycle management, improving efficiency and reducing manual effort. HPE GreenLake Data Services Cloud Console delivers the cloud experience on HPE Alletra dHCI. It allows you to provision SLA-driven storage, deploy, manage, and monitor cloud-native infrastructure, simplify hybrid cloud provisioning and protection, and instantly backup and recover on-prem and cloud storage and compute. All of these are available via the HPE GreenLake platform alongside HPE InfoSight and the vCenter plug-in for VMware.
Simplicity is the key to managing a datacenter, whether on-prem, hybrid or fully in the cloud. HPE GreenLake platform offers a simple and intuitive platform interface that allows administrators to monitor, secure, and optimize their HPE infrastructure to suit their applications and workloads. It even includes the HPE iLO (Integrated Lights Out) tool that manages the ultra-reliable HPE ProLiant servers that form the core of our Labs’ datacenter architecture.
The Right Datacenter Technology Pushes Companies Forward
We use HPE Alletra dHCI to highlight how our customers can simplify and accelerate their datacenter management. I prove this to our customers by adding a server to our cluster during a demo. I start by walking them through the procedure at the beginning of the session. I then proceed with a comprehensive demonstration of every other feature, which takes about 15 minutes. At the conclusion, I show them the mounted server in our cluster. People are always impressed at how fast and easy it is. And let’s face it, saving time and effort is up there with saving money when customers choose a solution.
HPE GreenLake Data Services Cloud Console policy-based automation strategically provisions storage, which means admins can assign a specific array to a particular application without manually verifying the capacity of all existing arrays. It looks at an environment and basically says, “Based on what you want to do, HPE suggests using this particular array at this particular time.”
HPE is at the forefront of datacenter technology, developing intuitive solutions that allow administrators to monitor and manage infrastructure from anywhere using a single pane of glass. HPE’s streamlined workflows free IT professionals from repetitive tasks like spinning up servers and adding storage so they can focus on meaningful projects that contribute to their employers’ bottom lines. I take great pride in showing our customers everything they can accomplish with HPE GreenLake and HPE Alletra dHCI.
If you would like to learn more about the CIC at SHI you can visit www.shi.com/cic.