Monday September 21, 2020

Converging the simple choice

ProCloud is leveraging HPE’s SimpliVity hyper-converged technology to simplify the data centre, writes Jason Walsh

9th August, 2020
Niall O’Donohoe, managing director, ProCloud

Enterprise IT is undergoing a quiet revolution – and ProCloud is a leading force in this transformation.

Ireland’s only specialist HPE hyper-converged partner, ProCloud is working to transform legacy IT infrastructure for major businesses in critical sectors such as pharma, construction, distribution and local government.

“Typically, we work with customers with 250-plus staff who have complexity around applications and specific pain points that need to be addressed,” Niall O’Donohoe, ProCloud’s managing director, said.

What it brings to these customers is radical simplification.

ProCloud is a specialist in hyper-converged infrastructure, a means of radically simplifying data centre operations with the deployment of HPE SimpliVity, a flexible, software-defined, unified system that brings together all of the elements of a traditional data centre, such as storage, compute, networking and management under a single pane of glass.

Rather than data centres being complex hardware-centred setups that then support business, hyper-convergence has a laser-like focus on deploying systems for software and transactions.

The upshot is the massive flexibility and simplicity of the cloud with all of the control benefits of private infrastructure – yet without the cost overheads and headaches of the legacy data centre.

O’Donohoe explained hyper-convergence by way of analogy: “Hyper-convergence is an industry in its own right; it’s the iPhone for the data centre in that it does everything. Just as the smartphone has replaced your phone, your camera, your audio player and more, hyper-convergence does the same in the data centre,” he said.

“Consequently, the skills are combined, too, so you see management and overhead savings.”

ProCloud has gone on to deliver solutions for customers including NCT testers Applus+, Astellas Pharma, Chanelle Pharma, food co-op Aurivo, Graham Group construction and multiple local authorities.

A diverse range of customers, then, but what they all have in common is a desire to cut complexity while engaging with digital transformation.

O’Donohoe said that HPE’s SimpliVity technology answers the questions that data centre operators are asking.

“The reality is that, with the data centre, it has become so complex over the years that the IT guys are struggling to keep pace. They’re looking to simplify their IT.

“We came across this technology, SimpliVity, three and a half years ago, and it really hits the mark,” he said.

Why hyper-convergence?

With enterprise IT, the underlying question is always: why fix what isn’t broken?

The problem is that the data centre of today is struggling to enable and support real digital transformation.

HPE has noted that IT is coming under intense pressure to keep up with the demands of the digital enterprise. Indeed, 80 per cent of existing time, energy and budgets are spent supporting the existing IT footprint with little or no time to support digital transformation with value-add initiatives.

Since debuting over a decade ago, hyper-converged infrastructure remains a popular choice for IT transformation. IDC estimates that sales of hyper-converged systems grew 70 per cent in 2018 to nearly US$6.6 billion in total value and are poised to grow at a 25.2 per cent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) through 2022.

Indeed, according to Gartner, the hyper-converged appliance market is expected to reach US$8.5 billion in revenue by 2023.

HPE SimpliVity is about simplifying the software-defined IT experience by streamlining IT operations, enabling virtual machine (VM) management and mobility, and providing built-in data efficiency and data protection.

HPE wants to go further, though, arguing that today we’re entering a new era for hyper-converged infrastructure – one that shifts the focus from software-defined infrastructure to AI-driven operations so that, with machine learning, these systems predict and prevent problems before you know there is an issue. With ground-breaking capabilities and the introduction of HPE InfoSight for HPE SimpliVity, hyper-converged infrastructure has risen to a new level of performance, it said. One that is key to creating an intelligent foundation for your private cloud.

Clear skies ahead

After a shaky start, public cloud has come to be seen by many as the answer to all IT problems. But the cloud brings problems of its own, two of which stand out in particular.

One is regulation: many businesses simply aren’t in a position to move key data to the public cloud as they operate in highly regulated sectors.

The other is control: when you move to public cloud, you lose control of your data – particularly control of costs.

ProCloud’s goal with hyper-converged infrastructure is to create what are, in effect, private clouds, offering the flexibility and simplicity of cloud computing, but maintaining strict control.

“This is software-defined. You’ve all the benefits of a private cloud behind your firewall. Businesses that have been operating for decades are not going to take their IP built up over many years and migrate 100 per cent to the cloud; they’re not going to take all of their IT and put it up in the public cloud,” said O’Donohoe.

For a start, costs soon spiral with the public cloud.

“The single biggest issue we see with going all in on public cloud is control. Control is huge. If you’re in Amazon [AWS], or the Microsoft Azure cloud, it’s like a utility, whereas hyper-converged as part of a hybrid cloud strategy affords you security and control, but still has the flexibility you want,” he said.

Public cloud is perfect for certain use cases such as offsite backup, data archiving and disaster recovery, e-mail and so on. Indeed, public cloud can complement hyper-converged infrastructure for business continuity or offsite data protection where there is only a single data centre.

“It’s a journey,” said O’Donohoe. “The initial reaction is ‘this is too good to be true’, so it’s a real consultative sell.”

ProCloud engages with customers by building the business case to bring the customer on the journey and working with them in labs to demonstrate how the technology works. Typically, the process can last six to nine months.

SimpliVity stands out, he said, because it is the total package, but it is just the beginning of a radical change in the data centre.

“Uniquely, it integrates backup and disaster recovery. This is an all-in-one solution,” he said.

Indeed, backup speed itself is shockingly fast, so much so that HPE guarantees that it can back up a 1TB virtual machine in less than 60 seconds.

“The tech industry needs to educate the marketplace on this,” he said.

The revolution is under way, though, because it puts business, not technology, at the heart of IT.

“It’s the future of the data centre. Frankly, if you’re looking at modernising your datacentre or a technology refresh, you have to evaluate hyper-converged,” he said.

For details, contact: [email protected]

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