Manutan claws back 25% of storage admin time in switch to Pure

Industrial and office supply giant needed to replace 3Par arrays then made a rapid switch to Pure Storage FlashArray flash storage when the ageing HPE hardware crashed during POC

European equipment distributor Manutan has regained 25% of the time it previously spent managing storage in a move from HPE 3Par to Pure Storage that also saw rackspace cut by 6x and power usage slashed 10x.

The company is based to the north-east of Paris and supplies equipment and furniture – from an inventory of more than 600,000 products – to organisations across the public and private sectors from more than a quarter of a million square meters of distribution centre space across Europe.

Its need was not just for faster flash storage arrays but for a wider solution that could free up its IT teams.

“Our culture is based on quality of service,” said Manutan group CIO Sylvain Coquio. “Three indicators guide our strategic direction, and these are the rates of satisfaction of customers, partners and our workforce. As an organisation we have existed since the 1960s, but have been totally transformed by the growing importance of the web to the point that today it comprises 70% of our sales.”

“That brings the need to have IT that is agile, but at the same time avoids placing stress on our IT teams,” he adds.

Recent times have brought some stress to Manutan. In February the organisation was victim of a cyber-attack that took out its principal activities for eight hours and some business systems for three weeks.

“Those events focused minds, and brought home to all involved in the organisation the key role of IT in our activities,” the CIO, with the memory of large-scale restoration of IT systems still fresh enough in his memory.

Range of products

Manutan has 25 European subsidiaries and turns over €800 million annually from sales of products that range from office, industrial and hospital equipment to school, sports club and plumbing and electrical trade supplies.

Manutan’s two main datacentres are hosted by Equinix at sites in the Paris region. Core to the organisation’s IT are are its e-commerce applications, plus ERP and supply chain systems. Altogether the IT teams support around 1,200 virtual servers, 80% of which run Windows for business applications and 20% Linux for web sites. These two datacentres are connected to subsidiary sites via MPLS networks, until a planned transition to software-defined networking.

A thorny technical challenge for Manutan has been storage of data that is growing in volume by 5% a year. Another is to ensure that website transactions never last more than five second so customers don’t cancel purchases due to time taken.

“We evaluated the market to replace our HPE 3Par arrays with more modern equipment,” said Coquio. “Among the likely candidates, Pure Storage rapidly seduced us with the offer of a free proof-of-concept. They deployed the hardware, we used it for a period of time, and the deal was that they would take it back if it did not meet our needs.”

In a company like Manutan everything is measured meticulously. That approach was applied to the Pure arrays and their effect on the work of teams in the organisation.

A big gain measured was that a quarter of the time previously spent managing storage was saved. “To gain 25% of your time back is precious,” said Coquio. “Because that allows our teams to push on more quickly with projects the business is waiting for, such as the deployment of virtual offices on VDI from our datacentres to subsidiaries.”

In technical terms the Pure Storage arrays brought a number of advantages over the HPE 3Par hardware, which had been in place since 2013. For example, each 3Par array takes up 36U of rack space, runs 32 power supplies of 700w and by their end-of-life held 193TB of useable capacity (from 63TB at initial deployment).

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Now, each of the two Pure Storage FlashArray//X50 arrays occupies just 5U, with four 500w power supplies, to provide 250TB of useable storage at the outset, recently increased to 360TB.

Latency on business intelligence and ERP applications was 3 to 5 milliseconds on the 3Par arrays, but that’s down to less than 1 millisecond on Pure. Throughput, measured from Rubrik backup software, was 2.5GBps for 3Par but is now 6.8GBps on FlashArray.

While carrying out testing in 2017 the 3Par hardware crashed. “That was a trial by fire,” said Coquio. “To restore 3Par would have taken too long. So we took the decision to move all non-critical applications and data, such as development servers, to FlashArray to take pressure off 3Par.”

“We were surprised by the efficiency. With only a weekend to play with, we regained normal functionality. So, we signed up with Pure Storage. Three months later, at the start of 2018, all our production was migrated to FlashArray.”

Manutan was so satisfied with Pure that it plans to buy pairs of FlashArray//X10 nodes for each of its seven warehouses.

“With Pure Storage we don’t worry any more about whether our storage infrastructure will support our growth,” said Coquio. “Our contract stipulates that Pure will regularly upgrade to the most recent SSDs and controller hardware and that’s what has happened since 2018. We meet Pure regularly and they present what’s new. If we want to make changes it is planned for and costs us no time.”

Quicker to react

Coquio adds that Pure’s support is also quicker to react than HPE’s.

Since the cyber attack in February, Manutan has taken the step of building two new and more secure datacentres. Ageing servers have been replaced with the latest Nutanix hyper-converged infrastructure. Only the Pure Storage arrays have been retained from the previous hardware stack because they are the only elements that could keep pace with the organisation’s needs.

“We have a project to switch our business intelligence to a Cloudera cluster. Our technical choices are still not decided but it is highly likely we will go for Pure Storage again for storage for this cluster,” said Coquio, who adds that it would likely be Pure’s FlashBlade NAS and object storage product for this use case rather than FlashArray.

“In reality, the difficulty isn’t the choice of storage infrastructure, but rather scoping out the project, and for that we have to wait for our data scientists.”  

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