At SimpliVity, we are always happy to hear about the success our customers experience after deploying hyperconverged infrastructure. One such customer is Brigham Young University’s College of Life Sciences (BYU). Below is a blog by Danny Yeo, the university’s Computer Systems Administrator, who wrote a blog on Upshot about the BYU data center before and after deploying SimpliVity. In his own words, Yeo describes the benefits he is seeing with SimpliVity and why he chose hyperconverged infrastructure.
Read his full story below, or read on Upshot.
Recently, I was asked the question, “How did you make the case for Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) in your organization?” After extensive research, I determined our small IT team needed an HCI. My goals were to reduce the number of man hours required to run and maintain the traditional server/storage stack, save time and money by consolidating vendors and implement an offsite DR setup. When it was time to refresh our servers, we selected SimpliVity because it offered an incredible all-in-one solution.
I’ve worked as an IT professional at Brigham Young University (BYU) for almost two decades. When I started, I ran a small service desk at the College of Biology and Agriculture. I was the only full-time employee and had two student assistants. That same college is now the College of Life Sciences.
We’ve evolved over the years to include a development and engineering team, which I manage. My team now consists of 4 full-time and about 20 part-time employees who provide desktop support, web and application programing as well as server engineering for the college. It’s my responsibility to ensure our IT department operates as efficiently as possible, which begins by implementing a simple and reliable IT infrastructure.
When it was time to refresh our servers, I set out to find an affordable solution that would minimize our downtime and operational expenditures. I wanted an IT infrastructure framework that would reduce the man hours required to run our traditional server/storage stack setup, vendor accountability, easy implementation and if possible an offsite disaster recovery setup.
Selecting an HCI
Several years ago, I started researching hyperconvergence infrastructure technology. Naturally, I looked at the industries top HCIs, but they were not fully integrated at the time. I wanted an all-in-one solution powered by one vendor. It took me a while to find, but at a VMware user group conference in 2014, I met the folks from SimpliVity. After watching a demo and chatting with their team, I was immediately sold on their product. It reminded me of VMware when I first saw it in 2006, specifically VMotion. This to me was a game changer. We invested in SimpliVity later that year and were fully integrated at the beginning of 2015.
We did a proof of concept (POC) with SimpliVity before we invested. We purchased three OmniCubes. Shortly after we were up and running, I was approached by a competitor of SimpliVity and asked to do another POC. It was a great opportunity to test two industry leading technologies side by side.
During this POC, we had a hare-brained idea to simulate a drive failure in the production environment and the result was incredible. We pulled drives in both technologies. After pulling two drives, both boxes were still operating as expected. After we pulled the third drive, the competitor’s box popped red flags and experienced issues, while SimpliVity only sent out warnings. On the fourth drive failure, the competitor’s box shut down and we could not revive anything. I would’ve needed to send their equipment to a data recovery center in order to recover our data. On the other hand, SimpliVity’s was still running strong. We received alerts to let us know there were issues, but at no time did it shut down or did we lose any data. I validated my purchase and the experiment solidified our commitment to SimpliVity.
Top IT priorities
When we were looking to refresh our servers. The mindset was to find something to save us time, provide painless implementation, consolidate the vendors and ideally find a solution that addressed our backup needs. We were able to meet all of our requirements with SimpliVity’s HCI solution.
- Time Management and Efficiency
At BYU Provo campus, we have a central IT group and about a dozen academic colleges/schools and a couple administrative areas with their own IT staff. I don’t have nearly as many people on my team as our central IT group. My chief concern was to simplify our environment so that my systems architect and engineer can complete their work in a timely manner and don’t have to worry and work after hours to take care of issues and monitor the servers. SimpliVity monitors the equipment and scheduled maintenances perfectly.
- Easy Implementation
SimpliVity’s engineer said initial service setup would be two hours. Typically, the process takes two or three days, if you’re lucky. I couldn’t believe we were up and running in a half of day. We had a network switch that was misconfigured on our end, which is why it took four hours instead of two. Their engineer was true to his word. He had their box up and running in two hours and resolved our configuration issue within two. Everything has worked like a charm since implementation.
- Vendor Consolidation
Single vendor support was a high-priority. We don’t have time to call multiple vendors and spend time troubleshooting and determining ownership of the issue. I’ve experienced the frustration of finger pointing. By eliminating this pain point, we’re saving time and money.
- Hot DR Box
SimpliVity’s technology allows me to have a live DR box offsite. I actually purchased a fourth OmniCube that is housed in our server facility with our Salt Lake City folks. It replicates our productions servers in Provo. In the event of a disaster, I can run everything from that facility.
At the college, back up was also an issue. We needed to move away from tape. Today we have daily backups. Everything is backed up in the same environment, but I am replicating it to the other server 40 miles away in Salt Lake City. I essentially have a backup that is online.
I’m impressed with SimpliVity to say the least. It’s transformed our department. I’ve even invited my colleagues from other colleges to take a look at our new setup. As a result, three other colleges at BYU have made the switch. We’ve grown from my three boxes to having 13 boxes on campus. Switching to an HCI was incredible. In our environment now, we can be working in production during normal business hours and go home knowing that all of our data is being monitored and protected. It was certainly worth the investment.