Blue Chip, a managed service partner (MSP) that looks after IT infrastructure for more than 700 businesses, is building a new data centre using software-defined storage, to increase its use of automation and analytics while reducing on-boarding time.
Although the company has a significant infrastructure of servers and storage, it could take up to 12 weeks to bring a new client on board, largely due to the legacy nature of siloed storage; each section used its own management tools and organisation. Data management consultant Marcus Witts said, “We had multiple islands in our infrastructure, and that made it hard to achieve the targeted economies of scale.”
By switching to SDS, Blue Chip hopes to lower on boarding time by up to 99 per cent. Strategy director Douglas Greenwell said, “We needed to modernise our data centre to bring it in line with the demands our clients face now and in the future. Moving to a software-defined data centre promised the ability to decouple the underlying physical resources from the management logic, enabling us to move more quickly to address our clients’ changing requirements.”
The ‘software-defined-everything’ approach will also enable greater use of automation for low-level tasks, lowering costs. Blue Chip’s data management technical architect, Narendhar Tangella said, “As more clients move into the software-defined environment, we’ll be able to automate low-level administration and focus more on growth opportunities.”
To provide a range of services, Blue Chip – a Gold level IBM MSP – decided to use the IBM Spectrum Storage Suite, which features multiple solutions for data backup and protection. Because the storage is largely virtualised, Blue Chip can scale up as necessary to meet spikes in usage.
Although it considered other vendors, Tangella, said, “IBM offered everything we needed from the functional perspective as well as enabling us to leverage the deep skills we have built up over a number of years.”
The company is using an IBM FlashSystem A9000 grid storage array as it moves towards an all-flash future. “Not every client is ready to put everything on flash today, but that is where the most critical production data will go. As the price of flash continues to drop, the economics of an all-flash approach are becoming more and more attractive,” Tangella added.
The partnership with IBM has enabled Blue Chip to kick-start its migration to SDS, without needing to commit all of the budget up-front; it is paying the investment off over 36 months.
“Managed services providers are traditionally required to make large speculative investments in new technology, taking on the risk of not being able to resell all of the new capacity to clients,” said Greenwell. “Thanks to the IBM Global Financing deal, we were able to make this investment without over-committing our capital. We also gained the ability to synchronise the costs with the benefits.”
Although IBM says that the most significant benefits of the migration won’t be seen for at least a year and a half, Blue Chip has already started to move clients to the new FlashSystem. One of these is luxury department store chain Harvey Nichols. By using the flash storage system, the firm has extended the cut-off time for next day orders, giving customers longer shopping hours.
Improvements have also been made in the back-end, using IBM Spectrum Control. This software alerts administrators when a storage pool is approaching capacity, and also highlights input/output imbalances that are affecting network performance.
In the future, Blue Chip aims to raise its use of automation and data analytics to help its customers gain more value from their storage.
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