With more than 100 developments throughout the UK in its portfolio, Weston Homes Plc is a property developer providing quality new homes – new houses and new apartments – for sale in London and the South East. As an ideal candidate for server consolidation through virtualisation, Weston Homes was researching alternatives in the market when the economy began to decline. As with the rest of the industry, the impact of the economic downturn caused Weston to cut back in several areas in the company, including their IT spending and overall budget.
Fast approaching the end of a five-year server refresh cycle, John Sibley, IT Manager of Weston Homes, saw an opportunity to virtualise his infrastructure and add value to the organisation. “We told ourselves to not rush out to buy new servers; we wanted to consider alternatives out there that could add overall value to the business,” said Sibley.
According to Sibley, “We realised that users don’t care what the servers look like, they care about whether or not they can get to their email and whether or not they can open a particular file.” While a move to “The Cloud” was a consideration, ultimately Sibley was focused on an on-premise solution that would provide the control he wanted over Weston’s data. “There is a level of apprehension about putting your data in The Cloud,” said Sibley. “It is a tough sell to the rest of the organisation.”
Weston evaluated several do-it-yourself virtualisation alternatives and strongly considered implementing VMware’s hypervisor with NetApp shared storage. They found the complexity required for high availability as overwhelming. “It was all overly complicated. On top of the not-insubstantial hardware and software outlays, we would also have had to invest in VMware and NetApp courses just to gain enough knowledge to be able to support it,” said Sibley. The design necessitated a number of clustered host servers and complex storage protocols to be configured and managed in order to provide high availability in the environment. “It was the direction we wanted to go in, but it was a lot of money and time spent without any real advantage to the business day-to-day,” recalls Sibley.
In addition to the complexity of the proposed solution, Weston also faced budget restrictions from the economic downturn. According to Sibley, “The cost of the storage device [NetApp] alone was £40-50,000.” With that price tag, the virtualisation roll out would need to be spread out over three years to stay within budget. “We would have to start with just the shared storage in year one in order to afford the solution,” said Sibley.
Weston finally discovered Scale Computing’s HC3, a hyper-converged architecture that combines servers, storage and virtualisation in one easy-to-use system. According to Sibley, “It was one of those light bulb moments when you realise that you can manage your storage and virtualisation through a single solution.” Sibley continued, “We want to focus on our applications and users, not our servers.”
HC3 was built with the availability of a virtualised server and SAN, the scalability of a clustered infrastructure and the simplicity of a single server. By deploying HC3, Weston was able to realise the benefits of a fully virtualised environment without the complexity that existed in their other alternatives – all at a fraction of the cost.
The impact of the broader economy forced Weston to step back and challenge the standard cyclical refresh of servers that typically add marginal value. “A lot of what goes on in the industry is about rebuilding what you already have,” said Sibley. “It doesn’t really change the game much where it matters though, which is end user productivity and efficiency.” In today’s environment, IT departments are looking to add overall value to the organisation and not just make incremental gains in resiliency and performance. “HC3 provides a company like ours with a whole new opportunity to take a massive step forward, allowing us to virtualise without any of the hassles of a traditional virtualisation deployment. There isn’t anything else on the market that can do this,” Sibley concluded.
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