We were running HP servers and an HP storage area network (SAN), but with the business’s growth we were coming to a point where we either needed to upgrade the CPU and buy additional disks for the SAN, or replace everything – we considered both possibilities.
The application provider did have a version running on Windows, but we wanted the proven stability of UNIX, and in particular of HP’s HP-UX. MomentumPro is business-critical, and runs all our inventory and financial systems. We considered systems based on other UNIX platforms, but that would have involved bringing in a completely new operating system, which would add additional risk. If we had a year for the project we might have looked at other UNIX versions, but our business’s rapid expansion meant we had tight timescales– so we stayed on HP-UX to simplify the migration.
Once we had decided on HP-UX, we looked at the blades, storage and chassis available from HP. The blade system had the benefit that, as well as handling the expansion of the ERP, we could consolidate Windows environments and other servers onto the new infrastructure.
We chose an infrastructure housed in an HP BladeSystem c7000 enclosure, and it selected an HP Integrity BL870c i4 Server Blade featuring HP-UX 11i v3. For storage, we selected HP 3PAR StoreServ 7450 Storage system with thirty-two 480GB solid state disks (SSDs). The system includes HP FlexFabric interconnects.
Had we upgraded, we would have had perhaps just a year before we had to upgrade again. Also, with an upgrade, maintenance costs are increasing each year – but the replacement system included support, so we are ahead on operating expenditure.When we did a comparison, the replacement was lower in cost than the upgrade, with a fifteen month payback period on the hardware. By replacing the system, we could build everything and get it up and running without interfering with the current operation. If we had done an upgrade, there would have been significant downtime, even if there were no problems – but with a replacement we could build it all in parallel, do comprehensive testing and make sure everything was working.
The implementation went extremely well, and the engineering support people at HP were excellent – everything was here on time or early, and it all went smoothly. We built the new system and got the operating system loaded, the disks up and database restored, and were able to run tests till satisfied to give us a comfort factor. Then we took the users off the system and started the migration of data at 6pm, and had everything up and running by 11pm that night.
With the new infrastructure, the biggest single benefit is improved performance, not least due to the system’s solid state storage.The 3PAR storage was worth it for the performance advantage. We knew we had to speed up the processing, if we expand into Western Australia we would lose three hours from the overnight window, due to the time difference. We had to do the same tasks in a smaller timeframe.
The old system would already have been unable to cope – we would have been on about 99 per cent CPU, but at the moment we’re sitting at 15 per cent CPU. It’s a massive change – we would have been happy with a 50 per cent improvement, but we’ve got almost an 80 per cent increase. While the store rollout is the priority, we’re also going to look at adding extra functionality in the ERP application. In the past we were constrained by hardware performance, but the new system is giving us the opportunity to add more modules.
By moving from a rack-based server system to blades, we will be able to shrink infrastructure from eight cabinets to only two. HP’s de-duplication features will also save us money, as we will need to buy fewer disks to migrate our existing external servers onto Hyper-V virtual machines on the blades. We were at full storage capacity on the old system, but now with the 3PAR we will be at around 70 per cent after we have migrated Exchange onto the infrastructure – and that’s even before we add in the benefits of de-duplication.
This was a deliberate choice – we wanted a system with the flexibility to grow, without having to buy hardware now that we wouldn’t use for six or twelve months. The project has gone very well and exceeded my expectations, and I was surprised at the ease of deployment– all the different components integrated well together.
Overall, the biggest benefits for us were performance, simplicity of implementation and cost. Due to this positive experience with HP, we’re now looking at working with them in other areas of our business, and we’re already rolling out HP thin clients at some of our stores.