Easynet opts for HP compute/storage with SSD tier for Agile Platform

Managed services provider Easynet shuns point solutions for HP compute and storage with SSD tier for Agile Platform end-to-end services

Managed service provider Easynet has opted for an end-to-end HP storage and compute environment in its Agile Platform.

HP saw off competitors, including EMC, Cisco and IBM, to win the multi-million pound contract to build a converged infrastructure environment comprising a 500 CPU server estate and 3Par storage with an SSD tier.

Easynet has 300 customers worldwide, including blue chips such as Coca Cola and Levi’s, to which it provides managed services including networking, database and application hosting, as well as integrated end-to-end services.

During the six-month project to build Easynet’s Agile Platform, HP constructed an environment that will provide full service offerings to customers.

Easynet will use the Agile Platform to provide all internal and customer-facing IT for Working Links, the back-to-work provider for the Department for Work and Pensions, comprising more than 100 applications, as well as end-to-end services for another, unnamed, customer.

Single-supplier simplicity

The adoption of an HP infrastructure based around its BladeSystem Matrix was a departure from Easynet's previous approach of building dedicated compute and storage environments specifically for customers, according to chief technology officer (CTO) Justin Fielder.

“We used to spend a lot of time bolting together discrete systems for customers that specified, for example, the storage supplier they wanted from our IAAS [infrastructure as a service] offerings. But the Agile Platform is for customers that are not IT-centric and just want to specify key metrics such as memory, CPU and network response times,” he said.

Fielder said Easynet had chosen to opt for a single supplier environment to make provisioning and management simpler, even if there were some sacrifices in terms of performance.

“We used to struggle with the sheer amount of work in bolting different suppliers' products together. We had HP compute, NetApp and EMC storage, HP storage, many point-based solutions and a multi-supplier environment. But now we have gone for a single supplier, and maybe traded a bit of underlying performance for integration,” he said.

Managing storage capacity

The HP environment consists of seven BladeSystem chassis with 500 CPUs, capable of hosting up to 2,500 virtual machines.

Storage comprises two 3Par StorServ F400s, with 60TB across two arrays at its primary London datacentre and in Slough. Disk types are split, with about 10% of the total being solid state drives (SSD) on the array and the remainder serial advanced technology attachments (SATA).

Fielder plans to implement the 3Par Adaptive Optimisation (AO) automated storage tiering functionality, so that the hottest data – “probably virtual machine operating systems and databases” – resides on flash storage.

AO has not been implemented yet, however. “It’s on the roadmap, but will depend on demand on the platform,” he said.

Easynet’s choices coincide with the bulk of IT departments surveyed by ComputerWeekly.com’s sister publication Storage magazine, which found that 67% of users that have implemented flash have put it into storage arrays alongside spinning disk hard disk drives (HDDs) as a flash tier.

Easynet has implemented thin provisioning in the 3Par arrays, which Fielder said has brought a 50% saving on storage so far. Thin provisioning sees the allocation of disk volumes to applications without the physical disk needing to be present initially. As disk capacity is used, alerts warn storage staff to install the required capacity before it is needed.  

Overall, the key benefits of the integrated HP environment are the ability to rapidly manage and provision the environment in an integrated fashion and to deliver the required service levels to customers, said Fielder.

“We used to have to throw people at the infrastructure, but now engineers get to see everything from one screen and manage application and storage performance and cost profiles and security as the customer wants them,” he said.

“It’s good to have one throat to choke," he added. "We were already very comfortable with the HP converged infrastructure story, and like being able to automate and provision things on an end-to-end basis. EMC, Cisco, IBM, etc, are not quite there yet.”

Image: Digitalvision/Thinkstock

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