HPE GreenLake Flex Capacity Review

Keeps the firmware up-to-date and at the right levels


What is our primary use case?

We use it for our Epic environment.

The IT service that we have is compute. It supports our Citrix environment, HyperSpace environment, and our Epic products for both primary and secondary data centers, which we run actively together. We have the HPE Synergy blades and HPE 3PAR, and we're still running off Gen9s. Eventually, we will be going to the Synergy blades completely.

How has it helped my organization?

If you pick any Epic upgrade, the faster that it can be done than the sooner you can turnaround the environment to your end users. This means less downtime and paperwork with better service to our customers, who happen to be patients.

When planning to build the service with the HPE GreenLake team, we knew what our minimum requirements were. We laid that out, then there will always be a statistical anomaly where you're going to be above or below. So, the fact that we can put in what we need and have added capacity that we are not paying for eliminates any overprovisioning.

Our IT team is more productive. There is more engineering work, because it takes a lot of the planning out of the picture since it has already been done. It allows the engineers to do their job rather than the added stuff that is above and beyond. 

It has made the security and compliance of our IT operations better. We are able to stay up to date with everything. In our organization, we don't want to see emails from compliance saying that we are behind on a report which came out, that we need XYZ firmware update, or a Windows update. When you have that added capacity, you can upgrade as you go with with very little downtime, if any.

What is most valuable?

The cost is the most valuable feature. My accounting group loves that the spend is constant. We are not spending five million dollars, and 18 months later spending it again. Financially, it works out well. 

The flexibility: We have servers onsite that we are not paying for. If for some reason we need a ramp up, we can ramp up immediately. We have that added storage, servers, and capacity on demand right there when we need it. If we happen to go over our committed thresholds, it is signed paperwork and more is on the way.

What needs improvement?

I would like to have more detail in the monitoring.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have had it over two and a half years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is extremely good. We haven't had any issues.

It has made our organization's capacity management efforts so much better. Usually, engineers need to take time to worry about firmware updates and and getting that stuff done. However, that falls to the wayside, knowing with GreenLake's data center management and data center support that all the firmware has been tested for all the equipment that you have. When you apply the updates, nothing should go wrong, because it has already been fully tested.

It keeps the firmware up-to-date and at the right levels that we need to be at, because you can get burned by not having the right firmware levels.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability has been very good. When you can plan ahead of time for expansion, like putting in four enclosures with half of it open, then all you need to do is say, "Send me more blades." It is so much better.

How are customer service and technical support?

We have been fortunate you not to need to have to call support a lot. Mainly, it's coordinating with the former update team to get things installed. However, we have been impressed with their support center, which we visited one time. It is nice to know if we do have an issue, we can call one number, and unlike the competition, they don't push us around. They can handle the issue all the way up their levels of support.

If you previously used a different solution, which one did you use and why did you switch?

We switched because Epic told us to do so. Epic laid out their roadmap and told us when the Gen9 blades would be going off their roadmap. They do a great job in testing and telling you what you need to implement to make the service run properly, much like Apple does. While this is good, as an IT professional, it drives you crazy because things constantly change.

With our first implementation of Epic, it was 15,000 users. It was a large environment, so by the time we implemented everything, it took two years to reimplement again. Then, we were already two revisions behind. When you looked at the cost, we were pretty much doing what we had just done, then doing it again. 

We talked with BlueAlly and HPE about the cost of a capital purchase. BlueAlly recommended looking at GreenLake to help with our costs and TCO. When we looked at it, the yearly costs for us with GreenLake far outweighed the one-time capital cost.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was pretty straightforward. Though, it was a little more complex for us because we hadn't gone through it yet. The difficult part was working with Epic and their solutions providers, then working with HPE engineers who know Epic and finding that right design. Once we got that design together, which was the most difficult thing, the implementation was a piece of cake. Roll in, hook up the power and fiber, then we were done.

The service has decreased the time it takes to deploy IT projects by half. With our latest upgrade, when you have extra capacity on hand, it just needed to be spun up and turned on. We did not have to worry about ordering, building, and preparing, then implementing. 

What about the implementation team?

We used BlueAlly for the deployment. They have been awesome. We have worked with them for more than 20 years.

What was our ROI?

I could estimate the service has saved our organization at least five million dollars over the last two years.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Our first year costs were approximately $1.2 million instead of spending five to six million dollars. We have had GreenLake two year now, and Epic says, "By the way, by April of 2020 you will have to replace that hardware again." 

In six years, that would have been three major purchases. So, GreenLake has given us the ability to say, "New technology, go ahead and roll it in." You pay for it as you go. 

It's a small cost per month compared to that one-time purchase. The big thing is if you get your one-time purchase wrong, then you are buying a lot more. With GreenLake, if we miss estimate (which with all the planning, you usually don't), we sign a piece of paper, and then they send more equipment in.

If you're used to buying HPE servers, it's less expensive than that. I don't really compare competitor servers because HPE has never given me any reason to look otherwise. However, if you get good pricing on HPE servers, you get better pricing on GreenLake.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at Dell EMC VxBlock and HPE.

I have been using HPE servers since they were Compaq. So, the list was pretty much HPE. We looked at the competition, but to me, there was no doubt that we were using HPE.

What other advice do I have?

Give it a real good look. I was skeptical until I sat down and thought about what HPE was offering and delivering. It truly is pay for what you use.

HPE has delivered on all their promises for this service.

If you talk to anybody in healthcare who knows Epic, that is where your complications come in because their requirements can pretty much change quarterly. So, you have to be ready to move very quickly because it can make the process complex. However, I don't think that is in HPE's control.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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