Thursday, June 06, 2019

How HCI Forms a Simple Foundation for Hybrid Cloud and Composable Infrastructure

https://www.hpe.com/us/en/home.html

A discussion on how IT operators are seeking increased automation, built-in intelligence, and robust security as they look for turnkey hyperconverged appliance approaches for both cloud and traditional workloads.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.


Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the next edition of the BriefingsDirect Voice of the Innovator podcast series. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host and moderator for this ongoing discussion on the latest insights into hybrid cloud and hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) strategies.

Gardner
Speed to business value and simplicity in deployments have been top drivers of the steady growth around HCI solutions. IT operators are now looking to increased automation, built-in intelligence, and robust security as they seek such turnkey appliance approaches for both cloud and traditional workloads.

Stay with us now as we examine the rapidly evolving HCI innovation landscape, which is being shaped just as much by composability, partnerships, and economics, as it is new technology.

Here to help us learn more about the next chapter of automated and integrated IT infrastructure solutions is Thomas Goepel, Chief Technologist for Hyperconverged Infrastructure at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). Welcome, Thomas.
 

Thomas Goepel: Thank you for having me.

Gardner: Thomas, what are the top drivers now for HCI as a business tool? What’s driving the market now, and how has that changed from a few years ago?

Goepel
Goepel: HCI has gone through a really big transformation in the last few years. When I look at how it originally started, it was literally people looking for a better way of building virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions. They wanted to combine servers and storage in a single device and make it easier to operate.

What I am seeing now is HCI spreading throughout datacenters and becoming one of the core elements of a lot of the datacenters around the world. The use cases have significantly been expanded. It started out with VDI, but now people are running all kinds of business applications on HCI -- all the way to critical databases like SAP HANA.

Gardner: People are using HCI in new ways. They are innovating in the market, and that often means they do things with HCI that were not necessarily anticipated. Do you see that happening with HCI?

Ease of use encourages HCI expansion

Goepel: Yes, it’s happened with HCI quite a bit. The original use cases were very much focused on VDI and end-user computing. It was just a convenient way of having a platform for all of your virtual desktops and an easy way of managing them.

But people saw that ease of management can actually be expanded into other use cases. They then began to bring in some core business applications, such as Microsoft Exchange or SharePoint, logged onto the platform and saw there are more and more things they can put on there, and gain the entire simplicity that hyperconverged brings to operating in this environment.
How Hyperconverged Infrastructure Delivers
Unexpected Results for VDI Users
You no longer had to build a separate server farm, separate storage farm, or even manage your network independently. You could now do all of that from a single interface, a single-entry point, and gain a single point of management. Then people said, “Well, this ease makes it so beneficial for me, why don’t we bring the other things in here?” And then we saw it spread out in the data centers.

What we now have is people saying, “Hey, let me take this a step further. If I have remote offices, branch offices, or edge use-cases where I also need compute resources, why not try to take HCI there? Because typically on the edge I don’t even have system administrators, so I can take this entire simplicity down to this point, too.”

And the nice thing with hyperconvergence is that -- at least in the HPE version of hyperconvergence, which is HPE SimpliVity -- it’s not only simple to manage, it has also built in all of the enterprise features such as high availability and data efficiency, so it makes it really a robust solution. It has come a very long way on this journey.

Gardner: Thomas, you mentioned the role of HCI at the edge gaining traction and innovation. What’s a typical use case for this sort of micro datacenter at the edge? How does that work?

Losing weight with HCI wins the race

Goepel: Let me give you a really good example of a super-fast-paced industry: Formula One car racing. It really illustrates how edge is having an impact -- and also how this has a business impact.

One of our customers, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, has been very successful in Formula One racing. The rules of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), the governing board of Formula One racing, say that each race team can only bring a certain amount of weight to a racetrack during the races.

This is obviously a high-tech race. They are adjusting the car during the race, lap by lap, making adjustments based on the real-time performance of the car to get the last inch possible out of the car to win that race. All of these cars are very close to each other from a performance perspective.

Traditionally, they shipped racks and racks of IT gear to the racetrack to calculate the performance of the car and make adjustments during the race. They have now replaced all of these racks with HPE SimpliVity HCI gear and significantly reduced the amount of gear. It means having significantly less weight to bring to the racetrack.
How Hyperconvergence Plays
A Pivotal Role at Red Bull
There are two benefits. First, reducing the weight of the IT gear allows them to bring additional things to the racetrack because what counts is the total weight – and that includes the car, spare parts, people, equipment -- everything. There is a certain mandated limit.

By taking that weight out, having less IT equipment on the racetrack, the HCI allows them to bring extra personnel and spare parts. They can perform better in the races.

The other benefit is that HCI performs significantly better than traditional IT infrastructure. They can now make adjustments within one lap of the race versus before, when it took them three laps before they could make adjustments to the car.

This is a huge competitive advantage. When you look at the results, they are doing great when it comes to Formula One racing, especially for being a smaller team compared to the big teams out there.

From that perspective, at the edge, HCI is making some big improvements, not only in a high-end industry like Formula One racing, but in all kinds of other industries, including manufacturing and retail. They are seeing similar benefits.

Gardner: I wrote a research paper about four years ago, Thomas, that laid out the case that HCI will become a popular on-ramp to private clouds and ultimately hybrid cloud. Was I ahead of my time?

HCI on-ramp to the clouds

Goepel: Yes, I think you were a little bit ahead of your time. But you were also a visionary to lay out that groundwork. When you look at the industry, hyperconvergence is a fast-growing industry segment. When it comes to server and data center infrastructure, HCI has the highest growth rate across the entire IT industry.
I don't see an end anytime soon. HCI continues to grow as people discover new use cases. The edge is one new element, but we are just scratching the surface.

What you were foreseeing four years ago is exactly what we now have, and I don’t see an end anytime soon. HCI continues to grow as people discover new use cases. The edge is one new element, but we are just scratching the surface.

Edge use cases are a fascinating new world in general -- from such distributed environments as smart cities and smart manufacturing. We are just starting to get into this world. There’s a huge opportunity for innovation and this will become an attractive area for hyperconvergence.

Gardner: How does HCI innovation align with other innovations at HPE around automation, composability, and intelligence derived to make IT behave as total solutions? Is there a sense that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts?

HCI innovations prevent problems

Goepel: Absolutely there is. We have leveraged a lot of innovation in the broader HPE ecosystem, including the latest generation of the ProLiant DL380 Server, the most secure server in the industry. All of these elements flew into the HPE SimpliVity HCI platform, too.

But we are not stopping there. A lot of other innovations in the HPE ecosystem are being brought into hyperconvergence. A perfect example is HPE InfoSight, a management platform that allows you to operate your infrastructure better by understanding what’s going on in a very efficient way. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect when something is going wrong in your IT environment so you can proactively take action and don’t end up with a disaster.
How to Tell if Your Network
Is Really Aware of Your Infrastructure
HPE InfoSight originally started out in storage, but we are now taking it into the full HPE SimpliVity HCI ecosystem. It’s not just a support portal, it gives you intelligence to understand what’s going on before you run into problems. Those problems can be solved so your environment keeps running at top performance. You’ll have what you need to run any mission-critical business on HCI.

More and more of these innovations in our ecosystem will be brought into the hyperconverged world. Another example is around composability. We have been developing a lot of platform capabilities around composability and we are now bringing HPE SimpliVity and composability together. This allows customers to actually change the infrastructure’s personality depending on the workload, including bringing on HPE SimpliVity. You can get the best of these two worlds.

https://www.hpe.com/us/en/home.html
This leads to building a private cloud environment that can be easily connected to a public cloud or clouds. You will ultimately build out a hybrid IT environment in such a way that your private cloud environment, or your on-premise environment, runs in the most optimized way for your business and for your specific needs as a company.

Gardner: You are also opening up that HCI ecosystem with new partners. Tell us how innovation around hyperconverged is broadening and making it more ecumenical for the IT operations consumer.

Welcome to the hybrid world

Goepel: HPE has always been an open player. We never believed in locking down an environment or making it proprietary and basically locking out everyone else. We have always been a company that listens to what our customers want, what our customers need, and then give them the best solution.

Now, customers are looking to run their HCI environment on HPE equipment and infrastructure because they know that this is reliable infrastructure. It is working, and they feel comfortable with it, and they trust it. But we also have customers who say, “Hey, you know, I want to run this piece of software or that solution on this HPE environment. Can you make sure this runs and works perfectly?”


We are in a hybrid world. And in a hybrid world there is not a single vendor that can cover the entire hybrid market. We need to innovate in such a way that we allow an ecosystem of partners to all come together and work collaboratively and jointly to provide new solutions.

We have recently announced new partnerships with other software vendors, and that includes HPE GreenLake Flex Capacity. With that, instead of doing big, upfront investments on equipment, you can do it in a more innovative way financially. It brings about the solution that solves the customers’ real problems, rather than locking the customer into some certain infrastructure.

Flexibility improves performance 

Gardner: You are broadening the idea of making something consumable when you innovate, not only around the technology and the partnerships, but also the economic model, the consumption model. Tell us more about how HPE GreenLake Flex Capacity and acquiring a turnkey HPE SimpliVity HCI solution can accelerate value when you consume it, not as a capital expense, but as an operating cost affair.

Goepel: No industry is 100 percent predictable, at least I haven’t seen it, and I haven’t found it. Not even the most conservative government institution that has a five-year plan is predictable. There are always factors that will disrupt that predictability plan, and you have to react to that.
How Hyperconverged Infrastructure
 Solves Unique Challenges
For Datacenters at the Edge
Traditionally, what we have done in the industry is oversized our environments to calculate for anticipated growth over five years -- and then add another 25 percent on top of it, and then another 10 percent cover on top of that. Hopefully we did not undersize the environment once we get to the end of the life of the equipment.

That is a lot of capital you are investing into something that just sits there and has no value, no use, and just basically stands around, and you take off of your books in the financial perspective.

Now, HPE GreenLake gives you a flexible-capacity model. You only pay literally for what you consume. If you grow faster than you anticipated, you just use more. If you grow slower, you use less. If you have an extremely successful business -- but then something in the economic model changes and your business doesn’t perform as you have anticipated -- then you can reduce your spending. That flexibility better supports your business.
IT shouldn't be a burden that slows you down, it should be an accelerator. By having a flexible financial model, you get exactly that.You can scale up and down based on your business needs.

We are ultimately doing IT to help our businesses to perform better. IT shouldn't be a burden that slows you down, it should be an accelerator. By having a flexible financial model, you get exactly that. HPE GreenLake allows you to scale up and scale down your environment based on your business needs with the right financial benefits behind it.

Gardner: There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. And I suppose that also applies to innovation. If you are doing so many new and interesting things -- allowing for hybrid models to accelerate and employing new economic models -- sometimes things can spin out of control.

But you can also innovate around management to prevent that from happening. How does management innovation fit into these other aspects of a solution, to keep it from getting out of control?

Checks and balances extend manageability

Goepel: You bring up a really good point. One of the things we have learned as an industry is that things can spin out of control very quickly. And for me, the best example is when I go back two years when people said, “I need to go to the cloud because that is going to save my world. It’s going to reduce my costs, and it's going to be the perfect solution for me.”

What happened is people went all-in for the cloud and every developer and IT person heard, “Hey, if you need a virtual machine just get it on whatever your favorite cloud provider is. Go for it.” People very quickly learned that this means exploding their costs. There was no control, no checks and balances.

On both the HCI and general IT side, we have learned from that initial mistake in the public cloud and have put the right checks and balances in place. HPE OneView is our infrastructure management platform that allows the system administrator to operate the infrastructure from a single-entry point or single point of view.
How Hyperconverged Infrastructure
 Helps Trim IT Complexity
Without Sacrificing Quality
That gives you a very simple way of managing and plays along with the way HCI is operated -- from a single point of view. You don't have five consoles or five screens, you literally have one screen you operate from.

You need to have a common way of managing checks and balances in any environment. You don't want the end user or every developer to go in there and just randomly create virtual machines, because then your HCI environment quickly runs out of resources, too. You need to have the right access controls so that only people that have the right justification can do that, but it still needs to happen quickly. We are in a world where a developer doesn’t want to wait three days to get a virtual machine. If he is working on something, he needs the virtual machine now -- not in a week or in two days.

Similarly, when it comes to a hybrid environment -- when we bring together the private cloud and the public cloud -- we want a consistent view across both worlds. So this is where HPE OneSphere comes in. HPE OneSphere is a cloud management platform that manages hybrid clouds, so private and public clouds.

https://www.hpe.com/us/en/home.html
It allows you to gain a holistic view of what resources you are consuming, what's the cost of these resources, and how you can best distribute workloads between the public and private clouds in the most efficient way. It is about managing performance, availability, and cost. You can put in place the right control mechanisms to curb rogue spending, and control how much is being consumed and where.

Gardner: From all of these advancements, Thomas, have you made any personal observations about the nature of innovation? What is it about innovation that works? What do you need to put in place to prevent it from becoming a negative? What is it about innovation that is a force-multiplier from your vantage point?

Faster is better 

Goepel: The biggest observation I have is that innovation is happening faster and faster. In the past, it took quite a while to get innovation out there. Now it is happening so fast that one innovation comes, then the next one just basically runs over it, and we are taking advantage of it, too. This is just the nature of the world we are living in; everything is moving much faster.

There are obviously some really great benefits from the innovation we are seeing. We have talked about a few of them, like AI and how HCI is being used in edge use-cases. In manufacturing, hospitals, and these kinds of environments, you can now do things in better and more efficient ways. That's also helping on the business side.
How One Business
Took Control of their Hybrid Cloud 
But there’s also the human factor, because innovation makes things easier for us or makes it better for us to operate. A perfect example is in hospitals, where we can provide the right compute power and intelligence to make sure patients get the right medication. It is controlled in a good way, rather than just somebody writing on a piece of paper and hoping the next person can read it. You can now do all of these things electronically, with the right digital intelligence to ensure that you are actually curing the patient.

I think we will see more and more of these types of examples happening and bringing compute power to the edge. That is a huge opportunity, and there is a lot of innovation in the next two to three years, specifically in this segment, and that will impact everyone’s life in a positive way.

Gardner: Speaking of impacting people's lives, I have observed that the IT operator is being greatly impacted by innovation. The very nature of their job is changing. For example, I recently spoke with Gary Thome, CTO for Composable Cloud at HPE, and he said that composability allows for the actual consumers of applications to compose their own supporting infrastructure.

Because of ease, automation, and intelligence, we don’t necessarily need to go to IT to say, “Set up XYZ infrastructure with these requirements.” Using composablity, we can move innovation to the very people who are in the most advantageous position to define what it is they need.

Thomas, how do you see innovation impacting the very definition of what IT people do?

No more mundane tasks 

Goepel: This is a very positive impact, and I will give you a really good example. I spend a lot of time talking to customers and to a lot of IT people out there. And I have never encountered a single systems administrator in this industry who comes to work in the morning and says, “You know, I am so happy that I am here this morning so I can do a backup of my environment. It’s going to take me four hours, and I am going to be the happiest person in the world if the backup goes through.” Nobody wants to do this.

Nobody goes to work in the morning and says, “You know, I really hope I get a hard problem to solve, like my network crashes and I am going to be the hero in solving the problem, or by making a configuration change in my virtual environment.”

These are boring tasks that nobody is looking for, but we have to do it because we don't have the right automation in our environments. We don't have the right management tools in our environment. We put a lot of boring tasks to our administrators and let them do them. They are mundane and they don't really look forward to them.
How Hyperconverged Infrastructure
Gives You 54 Minutes Back Every Hour
Innovation takes these burdens away from the systems administrator and frees up their time to do things that are not only more interesting, but also add to the bottom line of the company. They can better help drive the businesses and spend IT resources on something that makes the difference for the company’s bottom line.

Ultimately, you don’t want to be the one watching backups going through or restoring files. You want this to be automatic, with a couple of clicks, and then you spend your time on something more interesting.

Every systems administrator I talk to really likes the new ways. I haven't seen anyone coming back to me and saying, “Hey, can you take this automation away and all this hyperconvergence away? I want to go back to the old way and do things manually so I know how to spend my eight hours of the day.” People have much more to do with the hours they have. This is just freeing them up to focus on the things that add value.

HCI to make IT life easier and easier 

Gardner: Before we close out, Thomas, how about some forward-looking thoughts about what innovation is going to bring next to HCI? We talked about the edge and intelligence, but is there more? What are we going to be talking about when it comes to innovation in two years in the HCI space?

Goepel: I touched on the edge. I think there will be a lot of things happening across the entire edge space, where HCI will clearly be able to make a difference. We will take advantage of the capabilities that HCI brings in all these segments -- and it will actually drive innovation outside of the hyperconverged world, but by being enabled by HCI.

But there are a couple of other things to look at. Self-healing using AI in IT troubleshooting, I think, will become a big innovation point in the HCI industry. What we are doing with HPE InfoSight is a start, but there is much more to come. This will continue to make the life of the systems administrator easier.
We want HCI as a platform to be almost invisible to the end user because they shouldn't care about the infrastructure. It will behave like a cloud, but just be on-premises and private, and in a better, more controlled way.

Ideally, we want HCI as a platform to be almost invisible to the end user because they shouldn't care about the infrastructure. It will behave like a cloud, but just be on-premises and private, and in a better, more controlled way.

The next element of innovation you will see is HCI acting very similar to a cloud environment. And some of the first steps with that are what we are doing around composability. This will drive forward to where you change the personality of the infrastructure depending on the workload needed. It becomes a huge pool of resources. And if you need to look like a bare-metal server, or a virtual server -- a big one or a small one -- you can just change it and this will be all software controlled. I think that innovation element will then enable a lot of other innovations on top of it.

If you take these three elements -- AI, composability of the infrastructure, and driving that into the edge use cases -- that will enable a lot of business innovation. It’s like the three legs of a stool. And that will help us drive even further innovation.

Gardner: I’m afraid we will have to leave it there. You have been exploring the speed to business value and simplicity benefits from the latest HCI solutions. And we have learned how built-in intelligence, flexible economic models, and a drive to the edge are advancing the nature and value of composable IT infrastructure and hyperconvergence as well.
How to Achieve Composability
Across Your Datacenter
So please join me in thanking our guest, Thomas Goepel, Chief Technologist for Hyperconverged Infrastructure at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Thank you so much, Thomas.

And a big thank you as well to our audience for joining this sponsored BriefingsDirect Voice of the Innovator hybrid IT and composable infrastructure strategies interview.


I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this ongoing series of Hewlett Packard Enterprise-sponsored discussions. Thanks again for listening. Please pass this along to your IT community, and do come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

A discussion on how IT operators are seeking increased automation, built-in intelligence, and robust security as they seek turnkey appliance approaches for both cloud and traditional workloads. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2019. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Ferrara Candy’s IT Modernization Journey Uses Automated Intelligence to Support Rapid Business Growth


Transcript of a discussion on how a global candy maker unlocks end-to-end process and economic efficiency through increased actionable insight and optimization of servers and storage.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the next edition of the BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer podcast series. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host and moderator for this ongoing discussion on bringing intelligence to IT infrastructure.

Gardner
Our next IT modernization journey interview explores how a global candy maker depends on increased insight for deploying and optimizing servers and storage. We’ll now learn how Ferrara Candy Company boosts its agility as a manufacturer by expanding the use of analysis and proactive refinement in its data center operations.

Stay with us to hear about unlocking the potential for end-to-end process and economic efficiency with our guest, Stefan Floyhar, Senior Manager of IT Infrastructure at Ferrara Candy Co. in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois. Welcome, Stefan.

Floyhar: Thank you for having me.

Gardner: What are the major reasons Ferrara Candy took a new approach in bringing added intelligence to your servers and storage operations?

Floyhar: The driving force behind utilizing intelligence at the infrastructure level specifically was to alleviate the firefighting operations that we were constantly undergoing with the old infrastructure.

Gardner: And what sort of issues did that entail? What was the nature of the firefighting?

https://www.ferrarausa.com/
Floyhar: We were constantly addressing infrastructure-related hardware failures, firmware issues, and not having visibility into true growth factors. That included not knowing what’s happening on the backend during an outage or from a problem with performance. We had a lack of visibility into true real-time performance data and fully scalable performance data.

Gardner: There’s nothing worse than being caught up in reactive firefighting mode when you’re also trying to be innovative, re-architect, and adjust to things like mergers and growth. What were some of the business pressures that you were facing even as you were trying to keep up with that old-fashioned mode of operations?

IT meets expanded candy demands

Floyhar
Floyhar: We have undergone a significant amount of growth in the last seven years -- going from 125 virtual machines to 452, as of this morning. Those 452 virtual machines are all application-driven and application-specific. As we continued to grow, as we continued to merge and acquire other candy companies, that growth exploded exponentially.

The merger with Ferrara Pan Candy, and Farley’s and Sathers in 2012, for example, saw an initial growth explosion. More recently, in 2017 and 2018, we were acquired by Ferrero. We also acquired NestlĂ© Confections USA, which has essentially doubled the business overnight. The growth is continuing at an exponential rate.

Gardner: The old mode of IT operations just couldn’t keep up with that dynamic environment?

Floyhar: That is correct, yes.

Gardner: Ferrara Candy might not roll off the tongue for many people, but I bet they have heard a lot of your major candy brands. Could you help people understand how big and global you are as a confectionery manufacturer by letting us know some of your major brands?

Floyhar: We are the producers of Now and Later, Lemonheads, Boston Baked Beans, Atomic Fireballs, Bob’s Candy Canes, and Trolli Gummies, which is one of our major brands. We also recently acquired Crunch Bar, Butterfinger, 100 Grand, Laffy Taffy, and Willy Wonka brands, among others.

We produce a little over 1 million pounds of gummies per week, and we are currently utilizing 2.5 million square feet of warehousing.
Learn More About Intelligent,
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Gardner: Wow! Some of those brands bring me way back. I mean, I was eating those when I was a kid, so those are some age-old and favorite brands.

Let’s get back to the IT that supports that volume and diversity of favorite confections. What were some of the major drivers that brought you to a higher level of automation, intelligence, and therefore being able to get on top of operations rather than trying to play catch up?

https://www.ferrarausa.com/
Floyhar: We have a very lean staff of engineers. That forced us to seek the next generation of product, specifically around artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). We absolutely needed that because we’re growing at this exponential rate. We needed to take the focus off of infrastructure-related tasks and leverage technology to manage and operate the application stack and get it up to snuff. And so that was the major driving force for seeking AI [in our operations and management].

Gardner: And when you refer to AI you are not talking about helping your marketers better factor which candy to bring into a region. You are talking about intelligence inside of your IT operations, so AIOps, right?

Floyhar: Yes, absolutely. So things like Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) InfoSight and some of the other providers with cloud-type operations for failure metrics and growth perspectives. We needed somebody with proven metrics. Proven technology was a huge factor in product determination.

Gardner: How about storage specifically? Was that something you targeted? It seems a lot of people need to reinvent and modernize their storage and server infrastructure in tandem and coordination.

Floyhar: Storage was actually the driving factor for us. It’s what started the whole renovation of IT within Ferrara. With our older storage, we were constantly suffering bottlenecks with administrative tasks and in not having visibility into what was going on.
During that discovery process and research, HPE InfoSight really jumped off the page at us. That level of AI, the proven track record, and being able to produce data around my work loads.

Storage drove that need for change. We looked at a lot of different storage area networks (SANs) and providers, everything from HPE Nimble to Pure, VNX, Unity, Hitachi, … insert major SAN provider here. We probably did six or so months’ worth of research working with those vendors, doing proof of concepts (POCs) and looking at different products to truly determine what was the best storage solution for Ferrara.

During that discovery process, during that research, HPE InfoSight really jumped off the page at us. That level of AI, the proven track record, being able to produce data around my actual work loads. I needed real-life examples, not a sales and marketing pitch.

By having a demo and seeing that data being given that on the fly and on request was absolutely paramount in making our decision.

Gardner: And, of course, InfoSight, was a part of Nimble Storage and Nimble became acquired by HPE. Now we are even seeing InfoSight technology being distributed and integrated across HPE’s broad infrastructure offerings. Is InfoSight something that you are happy to see extended to other areas of IT infrastructure?

Floyhar: Yes, ever since we adopted the Nimble Storage solution I have been waiting for InfoSight to be adopted elsewhere. Finally it’s been added across the ProLiant series of servers. We are an HPE ProLiant DL560 shop.

I am ultra-excited to see what that level of AI brings for predictive failures monitoring, which is essentially going to alleviate any downtime. Any time we can predict a failure, it’s obviously better than being reactive, with a retroactive approach where something fails and then we have to replace it.

Gardner: Stefan, how do you consume that proactive insight? What does InfoSight bring in terms of an operations interface? Or have you crafted a new process in your operations? How have you changed your culture to accommodate such a proactive stance? As you point out, being proactive is a fairly new way of avoiding failures and degraded performance.

Proactivity improves productivity

Floyhar: A lot of things have changed with that proactivity. First, the support model, with the automatic opening and closure of tickets with HPE support. The Nimble support is absolutely fantastic. I don’t have to wait for something reactive at 2 am, and then call HPE support. The SAN does it for me; InfoSight does it for me. It automatically opens the ticket and an engineer calls me at the beginning of my workday.

No longer are we getting interrupted with those 2, 3, 4 am emergency calls because our monitoring platform has notified us that, “Hey, a disk failed or looks like it’s going to fail.” That, in turn, has led to a complete culture change within my team. It takes us away from that firefighting, the constant, reactive methodologies of maintaining traditional three-tier infrastructure and truly into leveraging AI and the support behind it.
Learn More About Intelligent,
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We are now able to turn the corner from reactive to proactive, including on applications redesign or re-work, or on tweaking performance improvements. We are taking that proactive approach with the applications themselves, which has rolled even further downhill to our end users and improved their productivity.

In the last six months, we have received significant praise for the applications performance, based on where it was three years ago compared with today. And, yes, part of that is because of the back-end upgrades in the infrastructure platform, but also because as we’ve been able to focus more on the applications administration tasks and truly making it a more pleasant experience for our end users -- less pain, less latency, just less issues.

Gardner: You are a big SAP shop, so that improvement extends across all of your operations, to your logistics and supply chain, for example. How does having a stronger sense of confidence in your IT operations give you benefits on business-level innovation?

Floyhar: As you mentioned, we are a large SAP shop. We run any number of SAP-insert-acronym-here systems. Being proactive on addressing some of the application issues has honestly caused less downtime for the applications. We have seen into the four- and five-9s (99.99-9 percent) uptime from an application availability perspective.

https://www.ferrarausa.com/

We have been able to proactively catch a number of issues, whether using HPE InfoSight or standard notifications. We have been able to proactively catch a number of issues that would have caused downtime, even as minimal as 30 minutes. But when you start talking about an operation that runs 24x7, 360 days a year, and truly depends on SAP to be the backbone, it’s the lifeblood of what we do on a business operations basis.

So 30 minutes makes all the difference on the production floor. Being able to turn that support corner has absolutely been critical in our success.

Gardner: Let’s go back to data. When it comes to having storage confidence, you can extend that confidence across your data lifecycle. It's not just storage and accommodating key mission-critical apps. You can start to modernize and gain efficiencies through backup and recovery, and to making the right cache and de-dupe decisions.

What’s it been like to extend your InfoSight-based intelligence culture into the full data lifecycle?

Sweet, simplified data backup and recovery

Floyhar: Our backup and recovery has gotten significantly less complex -- and significantly faster -- using Veeam with the storage API and Nimble snapshots. Our backup window went from about 22.5 hours a day, which was less than ideal, obviously, down to less than 30 minutes for a lot of our mission-critical systems.

We are talking about 8-10 terabytes of Microsoft Exchange data, 8-10 terabytes of SAP data -- all being backed up, full backups, in less than 60 minutes, using Veeam with the storage API. Again, it’s transformed how much time and how much effort we put into managing our backups.

Again, we have turned the corner on managing our backups on an exception-basis. So now it’s only upon failure. We have gained that much trust in the product and the back-end infrastructure.
We specifically watch for failure, and any time something comes up that's what we address as opposed to watching everything 100 percent of the time to make sure it's working.

We specifically watch for failure, and any time something comes up that’s what we address as opposed to watching everything 100 percent of the time to make sure that it’s all working. Outside of the backups, just every application has seen significant performance increases.

Gardner: Thinking about the future, a lot of organizations are experimenting more with hybrid cloud models and hybrid IT models. One of the things that holds them up from adoption is not feeling confident about having insight, clarity, and transparency across these different types of systems and architectures.

Does what HPE InfoSight and similar technologies bring to the table give you more confidence to start moving toward a hybrid model, or at least experimenting in that direction for better performance in price and economic payback?

Headed to hybrid, invested in IoT

Floyhar: Yes, absolutely, it does. We started to dabble into the cloud, and a mixed-hybrid infrastructure a few years before Nimble came into play. We now have a significantly larger cloud presence. And we were able to scale that cloud presence easily specifically because of the data. With our growth trending, all of the pieces involved with InfoSight, we were able to use that data to scale out and know what it looks like from a storage perspective on Amazon Web Services (AWS).


We started with SAP HANA out in the cloud, and now we’re utilizing some of that data on the back end. We are able to size and scale significantly better than we ever could have in the past, so it has actually opened up the door to adopting a bit more cloud architecture for our infrastructure.

Gardner: And looking to the other end from cloud, core, and data center, increasingly manufacturers like yourselves -- and in large warehouse environments like you have described -- the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming much more in demand. You can place sensors and measure things in ways we didn’t dream of before.

Even though IoT generates massive amounts of data -- and it’s even processing at the edge – have you gained confidence to take these platform technologies in that direction, out to the edge, and hope that you can gain end-to-end insights, from edge to core?

Floyhar: The executives at our company have deemed that data is a necessity. We are a very data-driven company. Manufacturers of our size are truly benefiting from IoT and that data. For us, people say “big data” or insert-common-acronym-here. People process big data, but nobody truly understands what that term means.
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With our executives, we have gone through the entire process and said, “Hey, you know what? We have actually defined what big data means to Ferrara. We are going to utilize this data to help drive leaner manufacturing processes, to help drive higher-quality products out the door every single time to achieve an industry standard of quality that quite frankly has never been met before.”

We have very lofty goals for utilizing this data to drive the manufacturing process. We are working with a very large industrial automation company to assist us in utilizing IoT, not quite edge computing yet, but we might get there in the next couple of years. Right now we are truly adopting the IoT mentality around manufacturing.

And that is, as you mentioned, a huge amount of data. But it is also a very exciting opportunity for Ferrara. We make candy, right? We are not making cars, or tanks, or very expansive computer systems. We are not doing that level of intricacy. We are just making candy.

But to be able to leverage the machine data at almost every inch of the factory floor? If we could get that and utilize it to drive end-to-end process, efficiency, and manufacturing efficiencies? It not only helps us produce a better-quality product faster, it’s also environmentally conscious, because there will be less waste, if any waste at all.

The list of wonderful things that comes out of this goes on and on. It really is an exciting opportunity. We are trying to leverage that. The intelligent back-end storage and computer systems are ultra-imperative to us for meeting those objectives.

Gardner: Any words of advice for other organizations that are not as far ahead as you are when it comes to going to all-flash and highly intelligent storage -- and then extending that intelligence into an AIOps culture? With 20/20 hindsight, for those organizations that would like to use more AIOps, who would like to get more intelligence through something like HPE InfoSight, what advice can you give them?

Floyhar: First things first -- use it. For even small organizations, all the way up to the largest of organizations, it may almost seem like, “Well, what is that data really going to be used for?” I promise, if you use it, it is greatly beneficial to your IT operations.

Historically we would constantly be fighting infrastructure-related issues -- outages, performance bottlenecks, and so on. With the AI behind HPE InfoSight, the AI makes all the difference. You don't have to fight that fight when it becomes a problem because you nip it in the bud.
If you don't have it -- get it. It’s very important. This is the future of technology. Using AI to predictively analyze all of the data -- not just from your environment -- but being able to take a conglomerate view of customer data and keep it together and use predictive analytics – that truly does allow IT organizations to turn the corner from reactive to proactive.

Historically we would constantly be fighting infrastructure-related issues -- outages, performance bottlenecks, and so on. With the AI behind HPE InfoSight, and other providers, including cloud platforms, the AI makes all the difference. You don’t have to fight that fight when it becomes a problem because you get to nip it in the bud.

Gardner: I’m afraid we’ll have to leave it there. We have been exploring how a global candy maker has increased its resources insights for best deploying and optimizing service and storage. We have heard how they have also moved toward an AIOps culture and had great benefits as a result in boosting their agility as a manufacturer. Ferrara Candy has also been managing growth by expanding its use of analysis and proactive refinement of its data center infrastructure.


So please join me in thanking our guest, Stefan Floyhar, Senior Manager of IT Infrastructure at Ferrara Candy Co. in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois. Thank you, Stefan.

Floyhar: Thank you very much, Dana.

Gardner: And a big thank you to our audience as well for joining this special BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer IT modernization interview. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this ongoing series of Hewlett Packard Enterprise-sponsored discussions.

Thanks again for listening. Pass this along to your IT community, if you would, and do come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Transcript of a discussion on how a global candy maker unlocks end-to-end process and economic efficiency through increased actionable insight and optimization of servers and storage. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2019. All rights reserved.

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