What is our primary use case?
Our use case is virtualization of hardware infrastructure, for return on investment cases. We have done pretty well with it. I'm really happy with it.
The mission-critical apps we run on them include SQL; there is a lot of file sharing; there are a lot of websites and web servers running on them. There's some big data stuff for big science. We have to be able to digest lots of data and then pull analytics on it at a high-level, and be able to show big data in useful ways.
How has it helped my organization?
With the current compliance options that I have to go through, it's very nice to have a lot of the encryption built in. It checks a lot of boxes for the federal level so I don't have to either bolt something on or have something on top of it. Having it native and integrated into the system makes things much easier.
Also, being able to manage a lot of servers in one pane of glass makes things a lot simpler. Basically, a lot of things just happen in one area. You can roll things over, move things around more dynamically, without having to hit multiple systems. Being able to manage it, in its entirety, is easier and better for us.
What is most valuable?
- Redundancy, failover, any DR situation
- Reducing the overall physical footprint for electrical needs, heating, cooling
- Money-saving, in general
What needs improvement?
In terms of management, it's getting better. There were recent changes with the infrastructure and the architecture, going from a physical vSphere vCenter client to the web interface. That has slowed things down a little bit, to be honest. It's getting better. With the 5.7 release they've optimized it, the menus are a little snappier, and it isn't as cumbersome to manage through as it was on the previous website or vSphere Web Client instance.
Also, reading some of the sensors in the hardware itself, that's where VMware does a really great job in the digital infrastructure and being able to scale things and knowing what's going on in vSphere. But not having to buy something from a third-party to scan the actual hardware components, like the hard drives and the port containers and fan speeds; not having to bolt something on and go through another vendor, would be helpful.
For how long have I used the solution?
More than five years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
Stability has always been really well done with VMware. I have always been very happy with the stability of the system. You can set it up, you can check your optimizations there. But as far as weird issues with being able to convert things from physical to virtual, I've really had no big problems in switching that over. It's been really seamless to the end-user as well, just doing standardized conversions. It's been very stable and easy to manage.
I haven't had any loss of data in quite some time. Data is the key to everything. Downtime and loss of data are almost unacceptable in my current position.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
I can always go horizontal, vertical is a little problematic sometimes. Horizontally, being able to add storage on the fly - even hot ad-hoc remove, if we do have some higher workloads or the like - we can always scale that without re-booting, with the newer operating systems. So the scalability portion is always on key.
How are customer service and technical support?
Technical support is pretty good. I've had to use them a couple times for smaller issues. They've always been very helpful and we've always come to a solution.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
The backup solution we were using at the time was Dell's version of IBM's Tape Library with Symantec Backup Exec. We were doing tape backups at the file level, not really any virtual snaps, so incrementals every day, fulls on the weekends.
As data gets bigger it's harder and harder to back up and that's where virtualization comes in, because you can start doing analysis on data changes and deltas a little bit better. Tracking and things that are tied into VMware assist digital backup solutions to be faster, more resilient, and have less downtime in a restore situation.
How was the initial setup?
In my previous job, I was a Senior Systems Administrator for a credit union. We were running VMware 3.0, 12 years ago, and having that experience - and being bleeding edge at that time - helped me really be a catalyst in getting over to virtualization. That knowledge that I had in the past has always helped me, because I've seen VMware grow and do the things that it has done. Having that knowledge was helpful in setting it up from fresh, again: making the redundancies, knowing some of the pitfalls you have when first setting it up, and seeing a lot of the capital that you can lose if you don't understand what you're doing at that time.
I set it up myself. I can get technical support, but I can't have on-prem or anyone else.
What was our ROI?
Performance is somewhat relative, but an overall return on investment comes from not having multiple physical servers and from helping to aggregate a lot of the processors and RAM, and being able to use them more efficiently. We're not really worried about speed but about more efficiency.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
I've been with them for so long, I never looked to much else. I've always been happy with vSphere and seeing what they've done for VMware itself. Intel products weren't really there, and I still don't feel they're there.
I've really enjoyed the Dell partnership because I do Dell on the back-end. The hand-holding between Dell and VMware works relatively well, with their hardware control lists and being sure they stay compatible for long periods of time, without having to spend money on new hardware. You can stay in your swim lane. That partnership is really a key to success.
What other advice do I have?
My advice is "do it".
I rate vSphere at nine out of 10 because the HTML version of things needs to get a little bit better. The vSphere side of things gets a little difficult to manage; right-click, in some browsers, doesn't work as well as it used to. I'm seeing a little bit of general latency that we didn't used to get with the thick client. It's getting there.
Version 6.71 brought some of those performance metrics back, but it's just hard to get from one end to the other. With the ever-changing federal requirements, we need to really strip down and minimize what can be done in the browsers. It is getting more and more difficult, Java being the key thing. Going to HTML 5, that's a great thing because Java is going to be pay-to-play next year. And you don't have the vulnerabilities with HTML 5. It works symbiotically. We're seeing that progress. There are some growing pains, but it's getting there.