What is most valuable?
Being able to immediately look at my data. See the sizing, where I'm at on different virtual machines.
Also, the most important thing, is IOPS. We have people - we support their applications - that are all the time complaining about slowness. So we can go in and say, "Oh, you need to moved over to this node or this node". OCI is perfect for that.
OCI has grown a lot over the last few years and we didn't realize until a few weeks ago, when we had our workshop, how powerful it really is, that it can actually automate and move stuff around for you in some ways.
The biggest thing though, is just being able to get a visual, overall view of your environment to see if this node is being hammered or if this storage is filling up really fast. Just being able see it at a glance, when I come in in the morning, I'm drinking my coffee and say, "Oh, this place is about to fill up I need to move this." That's key. That makes sure there are no "gotchas."
In addition, I get emails - I guarantee I have emails right now from OCI - that say, "Hey, we had a node that got over subscribed." Then, "Oh, its cleared now," that kind of thing. That's really nice because I'm never surprised, in the middle of the night if I get a call, I can look down at my email and say, "Oh, yeah there's a reason you're calling me, because that node is down or we're having issues with that."
How has it helped my organization?
We do a lot of databases within that app and we had a problem with a lot of our databases running slowly. Once we got OCI, we started seeing where the IOPS were really failing us. We actually found that we had built some machines too big.
Everything's got to be scaled to size and we actually found that out by making some of the machines smaller; and some of them did better on SATA instead of SaaS. But all that we found from OCI. It helped us improve the application side for what we call our customer, basically another Navy employee who is running, say, a database for time clocks. They would say, "I'm having people that are complaining, when people are punching in they're not able to go to work because it's not coming back as fast."
So we were able to improve those kind of speeds and help people service our Navy personnel faster, better, and more efficiently.
What needs improvement?
Maybe a little bit more graphical interface. Right now - and this is going to sound really weird - but whatever the biggest server is, the one that is utilizing the most storage space, instead of showing me that server and how much storage space, it just shows it to you in a big font. Literally in a big font. That's it. So if your server is named Max and you've got another server named Sue, and Max is taking up most of your space, all it's going to show is just Max is big, Sue is little. That's is really weird, because I really want to see more than that. You can click on Max, drill down in and see the stuff. But I would rather, on my front interface, say, "Oh, gosh, Max is using 10 terabytes. Sue is only using one. She's fixing to choke. Let me move some of this over."
You can build those out, but initially when you bring up the dashboard, that was one thing they couldn't take away. They couldn't change that. It just looks kind of kludgy. I'd like it to look a lot more clean when I first login.
It would help if it could be a little more user friendly at the beginning. Show me a little bit more that I need to see, that I find more relevant, without me having to build out templates. Maybe even have a drop-down that says you've already got the data there. But it would be a lot easier if I could just build the template out myself and, right now, I don't feel like we're comfortable doing that. We had to bring somebody in to do it.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
I've never ever had a problem with OCI. It's never gone down, it's never crashed. As far as stability, we've never taxed it. It's a workhorse.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
Again, it's a workhorse. When we started out, we had a very small virtual environment, maybe a 100-150 servers. We're up to about 700 now. OCI has just kept growing with it. It's been able to keep up. It's never once said, "Oh, I can't handle that many."
About the only thing we run into a problem with is licensing, sometimes. You may get too many things talking to it and they'll say, "Hey, you didn't really pay for that many licenses." But, at the end of the day NetApp will do whatever it takes to keep you up and running. They're not going to shut you down. So scalability is awesome.
How are customer service and technical support?
I have used it for OCI. We had a couple of issues when we were setting it up, from the database perspective. We called into help desk. We opened a ticket with OCI. They actually sent a guy out to help us with it, which was amazing. To not charge us for Professional Services, but send a technician onsite to help us fix it was awesome.
I can't say enough about NetApp support. They're fantastic.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
Our sales guy that came in, a wonderful guy, told us OCI was the greatest thing since sliced bread. He has an SE, he and I just hit it off. It was really his interpretation of OCI that sold us on it. It was the SE more so than the sales guy. It was more or less just a one-on-one with that guy that made me understand that it's not a lot of bull, that it was the real deal. So that's what sold us on it.
How was the initial setup?
I was involved in the initial setup.
OCI, three and a half years ago was in its infancy, or for us it was. According to the guys who built it, they had a lot of problems at the beginning. There were a lot of templates that we needed within OCI that we didn't get. When we would go into OCI, we weren't seeing a lot of the data that we needed to see. It went on and on and on. They sent the same technician out every time and he just didn't seem to quite grasp what we needed.
About a year ago, they sent another technician out. He sat down with us. We drew out everything we wanted. Bada-bing bada-boom, literally within just a few hours he had all the templates impemented.
But a lot of it, as he said, was because it's a lot easier now to implement OCI than it was back then. Back then it was a lot more hands-on, command line stuff. Now, it's a drag and drop type of deal. If I want to see the IOPS on a server I can drag it over, drop it, and then it works. Whereas before, you had to build a template out for some of the stuff.
Our initial experience with OCI wasn't good. But, we stayed with it. Eventually it became something we use every day. We love it, we absolutely love it.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We didn't know that there was anything else out there. Balance was their predecessor. We used the heck out of Balance. Balance was free but it became an unsupported product. OCI we bought, but we couldn't, like I said, at the beginning, get OCI working. So we were relying a lot on Balance. One day they pulled the rug out from under Balance and said, "We're done." That's when we really started looking at OCI hot and heavy.
What other advice do I have?
When I look at a vendor, generally I look to see if I feel like I'm being fed a lot of bull or are they really talking to me. I look for a vendor that genuinely takes interest in what we're doing and sells you something you need. That was one of the things that impressed us about our sales guy. When he came in, we were looking at a much bigger NetApp environment. He told us,"I would love to sell you that, but you don't need it." It's those kind of people. When you come in and you actually tell me what you think I need and I say, "Oh, but I want to buy this widget," and it's real expensive, and they say, "But you don't need it," that's when I know you're trying to help me out, size it up, make it more functional for me.
But also, I want to make sure I can grow with it. So, I look for honesty in a vendor, if that's the right word. But you usually have to sit and talk to him for a while before you finally figure out if they're here just selling me a load or they're actually telling me what I need to hear.
If you'd asked me three years ago, I would have given it a one out of 10. Today I give an eight. I love it. They need to change the GUI interface at the very beginning, but I love it. I think it's a great product. I'm completely turned around. I'm 100% on board with OCI now.
I would say that if you've got a large virtual environment with a NetApp storage - OCI is written by NetApp - it would almost be silly to look elsewhere. You can look at other storage solutions like EMC, but if you're pure NetApp like we are, there is no other tool like OCI. It does everything. It has all the hooks because the people that built the product are the people that make OCI. It's going to do more for you than an EMC or something like that.