What is most valuable?
It’s reliable; it works. It very rarely breaks. It's up. I think our uptime is in excess of 95 percent, which is good. They're relatively easy to support and maintain. It's relatively easy to get a hold of resources that understand and know how they work. From the personnel perspective, it's good.
How has it helped my organization?
To be perfectly honest, it hasn't made a blind bit of difference to how the organization functions. It wouldn't have made any difference whether we'd gone for HPE, Sun, IBM or anyone else. It's a platform to run the SAP environment on.
What needs improvement?
For a company like RAK Ceramics, virtualization and cloud is the obvious way to go. The problem is the cost justification for the transition; that's the difficult bit. Some help with that would be good. They spend a huge amount of money running their own data centers. It seems crazy for them to do that. Getting it all out onto the cloud would be a much more sensible way for them to go. Whether they'll go for it or not, I don't know. We're just starting the discussions at the moment.
As far as any other areas with room for improvement, it's all the usual stuff: faster, cheaper.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
It seems to be very stable. I've been in post since May this year and we have had zero outages so far.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
It is scalable. It's expensive, but it's scalable. We are looking at virtualizing it and putting virtual storage in there as well. That's all perfectly possible, so we're investigating that, because it makes better use of the resources. We've got a lot of resources in our setup that aren't accessible because they're dedicated to specific things. If you virtualize it, that frees up all of those unused resources and you can allocate to other things. It's worth doing.
How is customer service and technical support?
Technical support is good in parts. We have three centers. We have a center in the UAE, which is our biggest center. We also have one in India and one in Bangladesh. The UAE and India centers are well supported. The Bangladesh one is a nightmare. Getting support in Bangladesh is really, really difficult. It's also very, very expensive in comparison to UAE and India to buy hardware. If we want spares, if we want to add new disks, if we want to upgrade a server, or anything like that, it's very expensive to get it bought in Bangladesh. It's actually cheaper to buy it in UAE and ship it to Bangladesh, but then you have problems with support.
The support is still not where I think it should be. When it happens, it happens very well. It's just a bit patchy; that’s the problem.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We're stuck with HPE for the time being. We are not looking to switch. We could switch to IBM or someone else. The problem is the sheer cost of doing it. The business’ view is, they spent a huge amount of money implementing this solution back in 2011. To spend another huge amount of money to port it from HPE to IBM or something else, they just haven't got the stomach for that. So, no, we've got no plans at the moment to switch away from HPE.
I think, in reality, we’ll go to a virtualized environment over time. We're partially virtualized now, and it'll be fully virtualized in the next year or 18 months.
What other advice do I have?
Do a thorough study of the market and what's available out there. If HPE proves to be the solution that best fits your needs, go for it.
My specific needs are to run a huge SAP environment, and it does that job. It works fine. It suits us fine, but so would a lot of other solutions. If I was faced with having to implement what we've got now, now, I don't know whether we'd go with HPE or not. I'd have to evaluate and see, but they're certainly a contender.
We inherited them as part of an SAP installation. Whoever spec'd it, and it was before my time, decided that HPE Unix boxes would be the right thing to get. We ended up inheriting this.