Francis Drilling Fluids, Ltd.
A drilling fluids and shipping firm deploys SimpliVity’s OmniStack™ hyperconverged infrastructure platform to relieve VM server sprawl, improve DR and streamline its virtualized data center.
Francis Drilling Fluids, Ltd. (FDF) is one of the oldest drilling fluids companies on the Gulf Coast and is a true American success story. The company started with one truck in 1977 and has grown into the largest drilling fluids supplier on the Gulf Coast and a leader in logistics operations for the fracking industry. Now 23 plants strong, FDF offers a full range of high qualityfluid products and services, including liquid mud storage, specialized mixing, water-based chemicals, completion fluids, completion fluids chemicals, casing scrubs, and corrosion inhibitors. The company is based in Lafayette, Louisiana.
BUSINESS CHALLENGE: Technology Refresh, Data Protection, and Data Consolidation
FDF virtualized its environment more than eight years ago and had been using an IBM BladeCenter infrastructure, IBM SAN storage, DLT tape solutions, and Veeam for VM backup protection. Over time, the company saw more demand for new applications and experienced significant growth in VM servers, which put significant strain on the existing legacy infrastructure and the small IT team. The added complexity from the VM server “sprawl” coupled with initiatives to improve data protection, DR, and co-location hosting, the company’s IT department decided to take a closer look at converged infrastructure.
The company works hard to ensure alignment between business strategy and IT strategy, according to Steve Schaaf, Chief Information Officer for FDF. However, with a small IT shop, executing on that vision can be challenging. Schaaf knows that to keep up with business strategy, he and his team need to focus on deploying and maintaining the applications that power the business, and find ways to reduce the time spent on managing infrastructure. “I need an infrastructure that doesn’t require a lot of time or effort. Initially, virtualizing our environment helped out tremendously, but over time, we ended up building up a large, complex infrastructure that became unwieldy to manage,” Schaaf explained.
For FDF, Schaaf highlighted an IT-driven key differentiator—the company manages all the billing and paperwork for its customers. Customers can log into an Internet portal and drill down to see detailed information including inventory levels, scale tickets, and waybills for individual loads. This functionality requires a high performance database, something that the company was looking for specifically.
Schaaf explained that FDF also runs a variety of different mission critical applications including Microsoft Exchange, Kronos time and attendance, Kofax/Axacore for document imaging, and NetTraQ for GPS fleet tracking, along with custom inventory tracking and logistics software. Its document imaging and SQL data, in particular, account for its nearly 30 percent data growth rate per year.
“We’re in South Louisiana, and understand the need for solid backup and disaster recovery,” Schaaf said. “We had been using Veeam for backups and replicating some of our data to a SAN but we really needed to improve our ability to fully recover from a disaster encompassing both applications and data recovery.” There was also the need for DR mobility—to be able to move DR to a co-location facility—which highlighted the importance of global management and visibility.
Schaaf said that FDF had a new application requirement to deploy Microsoft Dynamics NAV for enterprise resource planning. The legacy infrastructure required expansion including disk space and the purchase of additional gear. After initially considering several alternatives, the company discovered SimpliVity’s modern hyperconverged infrastructure, OmniStack with Cisco UCS C-Series Rack-Mount Server. FDF decided to deploy two Cisco C240 M3 systems in its Lafayette, Louisiana data center and another pair of Cisco C240 M3 systems, consisting of a space efficient, 2U x86 platform, in a co-location facility in Dallas for disaster recovery.
FDF required a full set of functionality, including:
- Flexible Cisco UCS C-series 2U x86 platforms with pooling and sharing of all resources
- Simple, cost-effective, incremental scale-out in the future
- Ease of use and unified global management from one interface with a VM/application-centric approach
- Fully-integrated data efficiency with inline deduplication and policy-based data protection for improved business continuity
- Management and visibility that is VM-application-centric
- Support quick and simple deployment
“We looked at a lot of other converged infrastructure solutions and to be honest, many of them are ‘one-trick ponies’ that didn’t deliver the inline deduplication, scalability, built-in data protection capabilities, or superior architecture of SimpliVity with Cisco,” Schaaf noted. “In the beginning, I thought that SimpliVity seemed too good be true. It really was inconceivable that we could deploy a 2U solution and gain all the server, storage and data protection functionality, along with the data deduplication, replication and WAN optimization we needed. Scalability was a huge factor as well, as was ease of use and management all integrated from within vCenter.”
Since installing SimpliVity, FDF has been able to reduce its data center footprint from 20U to 4U by eliminating its BladeCenter unit, tape backup solution, SAN and expansion cabinets. In addition, Schaaf said that the company was able to save a considerable sum on its Veeam license and maintenance, and support costs on its legacy equipment.
“We looked at the total cost of ownership on the whole project and it was easy to justify SimpliVity to management because we were able to eliminate much of our existing infrastructure,” Schaaf said. “It significantly reduced our ongoing maintenance costs. Also, we’re planning to move our disaster recovery units to a colocation center and we’ll save considerably on power, cooling and footprint.”
Schaaf said that SimpliVity’s data deduplication and compression now enables FDF to operate much more efficientlywhile meeting key application performance levels. “We previously had a 30TB environment and I was initially seeking a solution capable of handling 60TB. However, SimpliVity’s inline data deduplication and compression of all application data at inception, is so effective that we were able to purchase a 30TB unit but we’re only using a fraction of the capacity,” he said.
Schaaf said that it took only about three hours to install the SimpliVity systems himself—a big improvement over the three days it took him to install and configure the company’s previous infrastructure. Looking ahead, OmniStack with Cisco C-series scale-out architecture will enable FDF to easily add capacity. “SimpliVity is a very easy system to install and to manage. One of the things that stood out for us was SimpliVity’s modular scalability leveraging a horizontal, scale-out design. We’re confident that when it’s time to scale up, we’ll be able to purchase additional modular units, plug them in, and forty-five minutes later, we’ll be up and running with more processing, performance, and capacity,” he said.
“SimpliVity is a game changer and it really does represent the future of convergence. I love the data center-in-a-box concept and it’s backed by solid hardware and all the functionality needed, including data deduplication, replication, and WAN optimization,” Schaaf continued. “Also, working with the SimpliVity team has been a pleasure. Support has been top notch–responsive and knowledgeable. I have a lot of confidence in OmniStack with Cisco and it’s really enabled us to streamline our data center and improve our ability to rapidly recover from a disaster.”
FDF’s selection of SimpliVity clearly shows that the OmniStack with Cisco hyperconverged modern architecture includes the broadest scope of functionality and sharing of resources for the full IT infrastructure stack. SimpliVity is setting a new standard for convergence. Included with SimpliVity’s convergence offer is an entirely new data architecture, one that deduplicates and compresses data, once and for all, at inception. FDF is benefiting daily from SimpliVity’s built-in cross-site data protection and disaster recovery capabilities that are VM-centric, policy-based, and automated. The entire solution, spanning the Lafayette and co-lo data centers, is managed by one person centrally through VMware vCenter. FDF’s IT team can more efficiently manage the infrastructure and respond to new business initiatives. The full benefits of convergence, including dramatic cost savings and ongoing management, have been realized.