NetApp HCI Review

brought power and simplicity, Everything we've moved over runs two times faster


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What is our primary use case?

Our primary use case for HCI is two-fold. First, HCI allowed me to provide the production engineering group with the performance they needed, pull my people out of chasing their performance and allow them to move the product on. Second, because for good or bad NetApp stuff lasts. We had aging infrastructure, an eight-year-old array, and some Hyper-V servers that were ten, eight, and five years old and they all just needed to be replaced. We needed to also do some security and updates of the underlying operating systems on the hosts. Both of those really came together with the HCI; on two separate HCIs, but they came together for us on both of them. 

How has it helped my organization?

If my people are chasing issues on old hardware, and in the weeds, we're not doing anything that management sees as value. They don't see any value in email being up, they expect email to be up. This solution has brought power and simplicity. Everything we've moved over runs two times faster and in some cases, a lot faster, far more than twice, which our users noticed. That's an immediate productivity boost. We've been able to bring a dead project up like a phoenix to start moving again. This also allowed our managers and our executives that had put their names and show as money behind that project, to save some face. It's allowed me to consolidate our infrastructure, saving electricity in the server room, and even saving heat, so I was able to use this project toward our environmental objectives.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features that the HCI brought was power, simplicity, and flexibility. I don't have a staff of hundreds, I have a staff of seven. We're providing support for three companies across North America on a corporate level, and then providing all IT support for American show spread across five facilities in the US.

What needs improvement?

I would like to see higher level graphics support because we are going to be doing some virtual desktop for our CAD software, and I want to be able to support AutoCAD and Cantillo on remote desktop machines.

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability is one of the things we absolutely have to have, because if the HCI is down, our assembly lines are down, and that could potentially lead to our customer being down. If our customer is down, that's $10,000 a minute; and any time the assembly line is down, that could potentially lead to overtime. We don't get to charge one and a half times for something we billed just because we happened to build it on overtime. Any technology we bring in, has to be built for what I call "three in the morning." It can't be built for whenever everybody's in the plant, everybody can watch it, and everybody can babysit. It has to be built for three a.m. when we've got a skeletal staff there, and we just have to know that it's just running. As I stand here, right now, I don't have to check my phone, I don't have to check my email. I know it's running. Period.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It's scalable by design. We put in a compute unit, we've got leftover chassis, we need another one, we stick it in another compute unit. We need a bigger one, we pull the old one out, put a new one in.

How is customer service and technical support?

Technical support has been good so far although we haven't used it much, which is very good. 

Which solutions did we use previously?

We had a project that was overdue by about two years, that couldn't get the performance that it needed. The vendor couldn't spec what we needed. The most valuable feature would be the performance. We kept chasing it. If we give it a little more RAM it would perform and then it wouldn't. Based on the goals that they put forward we got to the point that it was just never going to get there. Instead of a six second cycle time, they had originally said that it needed one second but it was taking somewhere around 40. We got it down to 20 and eventually down to one but that was using hardware that was completely stripped down with no backup or anything. It was not something we wanted. I needed performance, flexibility, and simplicity. I'd lost a lot of my own department's resources to chasing performance.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We also looked into Nutanix, Cisco, and NetApp. We chose this NetApp because one, we already had a relationship with NetApp and I know the quality of their work. Two, the unit was built from the ground up to work as a single unit. It wasn't things that were developed separately that happened to work together very well, they were actually designed to work as a single unit. Finally, the price point fit to where our budget was.

What other advice do I have?

I would rate this solution an eight. We've only had it since March so I don't have much experience with it but I have no doubt that moving forward it will move up to a nine or ten. 

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