Wednesday, 25 September 2019 13:04

Local customers praise Pure Storage

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Daniel Ricciardo at the 2018 Melbourne Grand Prix Daniel Ricciardo at the 2018 Melbourne Grand Prix Steven Penton (see below for full credit)

iTWire had the opportunity to talk to some of Pure Storage's Australian customers during the Pure Accelerate conference last week, and they reported consistently positive experiences.

Australian Grand Prix Corporation head of technology Clint Watson adopted Pure Storage two years ago as part of an overall technology refresh. AGPC's primary hardware is located at its head office in Melbourne, with a disaster recovery site in the control tower at the Albert Park circuit.

Pure was selected because Watson was looking for a modern storage system and didn't want to spend any of his budget on spinning disks. Visibility and manageability were very important considerations because he is a one-person IT department.

"I was nervous when we did the migration," Watson told iTWire. The job was scheduled for the four days (Saturday to Tuesday) of the Melbourne Cup weekend, but it was finished by the Saturday afternoon.

[Note for non-Australian readers: The Melbourne Cup is a prestigious horse race held on the first Tuesday in November, and marked by a public holiday in Victoria.]

The performance benefits were obvious, and "made me think 'I've made a very good decision,'" he added.

Around a dozen virtual machines run on the servers, mostly for file storage, ERP and CRM, plus SQL Server.

Key requirements include the operation of the accreditation system in the lead-up to each event, and provision of a high-performance environment for race weekends (Australian Grand Prix and Australian MotoGP).

An important aspect of the latter function is file sharing for AGPC's digital team (graphic designers, videographers, etc), and the performance of this part of the operation has significantly improved since Pure Storage was installed.

These digital workloads involve significant amounts of data, and Watson expects an upgrade will be needed after the 2020 Australian Grand Prix.

Keeping historical data is important to the organisation. The next race will be Melbourne's 25th – "a big deal," he observed – and the archives are being scoured for materials that can be used to help promote the event.

The integrations with Cisco UCS and VMware have been valuable, and Pure's support operation has been "very responsive" on the few occasions it has been needed.

Another thing on Watson's agenda is to see how Pure Service Orchestrator – a feature introduced last year – could be applied to assist with the task of maintaining systems performance over race weekends.

"The whole Pure environment has made my life so much easier," Watson told iTWire.

 Fletcher Building IT operations manager Dale Field said the company inherited a mixed bag of technologies from the businesses it had acquired. So around 18 months ago a decision was made to consolidate data from 28 different systems onto a one Pure Storage system at each of its four locations (Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland and Hamilton).

"That's gone very well," he told iTWire, noting that it was one of the few times in his 25 year career that a product actually delivered on the claims made in the brochure.

The benefits of consolidation were alone enough to justify the cost, and the visibility of storage has "completely changed" for the better.

Fletcher serves around 2000 virtual machines and a Solaris system from a Pure array. Workloads include ERP (SAP, JD Edwards), business intelligence, and around 500 other applications.

While the company was sceptical of Pure's Evergreen promise (added capacity through firmware improvements, guaranteed effective capacity, and the ability to upgrade without re-buying capacity), it has already seen the benefits of upgrading. An important aspect is that it allows the purchase of additional capacity when required, bringing the expenditure occurs closer to the time of use.

Fletcher was initially "very resistant" to the idea of using thin provisioning, but the experience with Pure Storage has "shifted our mindset" concerning this technology, he said.

"We've never dealt with support like [Pure's]," he said, which delivers even when the underlying problem is with another vendor's equipment.

 Pronto Cloud general manager Chris Dickinson told iTWire that the company purchased its first all-flash array around six years ago, but it didn't come from Pure. Pronto Cloud operates around the clock, and "minutes of downtime are catastrophic" for customers such as retailers, he said. In addition, 24/7 operation is crucial for Pronto's digital consultancy operation Woven.

After "one too many outages," Pronto decided to look for a new supplier, and after an evaluation it was "almost a no-brainer" to go with Pure Storage on reliability grounds alone.

While reliability and stability were key issues, the Pure hardware reduced latency from 60ms to 0.6ms even though deduplication and encryption were on by default, Dickinson told iTWire.

"It's almost set and forget," he said, and when performance issues do arise the team always looks at areas other than storage for explanations.

There's now "no fear" regarding storage, he said, even during controller upgrades. New firmware increases performance and effective capacity (Pronto currently achieves 5.8:1 compression), with no interruption to service.

And a recent data centre relocation prompted the retirement of some old equipment. Four racks of storage were replaced with just half a rack of Pure hardware. Despite the smaller footprint, the new equipment provides higher performance and increased capacity.

"Our business is all about data," he said. For example, the company is investing in AI using IBM Watson, and Pure provides a simple path for the data required for that project.

Disclosure: the writer attended Pure Accelerate as a guest of the company.

Image: Steven Penton via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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