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A Tale of Two Data Centers: How UCS Saved the Day

- July 27, 2010 - 1 Comment

William Hurley knows his stuff. Not only is he CIO of the Westcon Group, but he is also CTO. So when Westcon made the decision to move to Cisco’s Unified Computing System for Westcon’s data center virtualization migration, it was something you can bet Hurley thought long and hard about.

Not only did Westcon become one of the first distributors to ship Cisco’s Unified Computing System, but last fall, the company decided to adopt the innovative platform as a customer, too.

“We had two data centers that were functioning, but their role as backups for each other has gone by the wayside,” said Hurley. He said that the investments the company made in one data center were not consistent with the other and the equipment was getting tired.

Rewind to April 2008, when Hurley was just starting out as CIO/CTO and Westcon had just sunk its teeth into virtualization. “The organizations had gone down the path of using virtualization as a method of letting IT people get sleep at night.” But that was it.

The company had an inconsistent data center recovery plan and the specialists quoted the company a couple million dollars (USD) in storage alone to keep the two data centers functioning. At the time, Westcon was an HP shop, and about one third of the equipment they had was too old to survive an upgrade.

“It would cost over $1 million (USD) to get just the data center chassis and equipment from HP to provide the computing power,” recalls Hurley. “This was cheaper than original plan, but it didn’t give us anything special.”

 But literally as Hurley and Westcon were about ready to sign the deal, Cisco was just launching the Cisco Unified Computing System -– that piqued Hurley’s interest.

 “We could do our entire data center [with Cisco] for what we would spend on one third of a data center without virtualization,” said Hurley. He presented his idea to go with UCS to the management team and they asked, “why wouldn’t we do this?”

As a result of going with Cisco’s Unified Computing System, “Westcon has consolidated some 175 physical servers into 24 Cisco Unified Computing System  B-series blades, and saved Westcon some $1.1 million in operational savings already,” according to a recent article on ChannelWeb.

Not all Smooth Sailing

The one hiccup was that the Cisco Unified Computing System was so new that Cisco didn’t have part numbers yet.

“It was black boxes on a diagram, it would just say ‘fabric extender.’ There were a lot of areas where details were not played out or quantified,” Hurley said. “But we kept going forward. Cisco was willing to open the kimono and told us to come along for the ride.”

Though Hurley tempers the good news by saying they’re not done yet, they’ve already migrated and shut down their North American data center and are continuing the migration.

Hurley just flew to London to begin setting up for the big move on August 13. (Westcon bought two sets of EMC backup storage and will be moving all of their HP production data onto the new backups.)

Words of Wisdom

As with any early adoption, this story is one that changes daily. We’ll bring you updates on Westcon’s progress. Until then, check out Hurley’s blog on CRN and his Westcon blog.

Hurley notes that his experiences as a Cisco Unified Computing System customer means that Westcon is better equipped as a distributor.

“Being able to walk customers and partners through the bugs we ran into, the real problems, gives an end layer of confidence that this does work,” said Hurley. “Westcon is running their business on it, and they can start to materialize in their head how it would run in their operation by talking to us. It has helped us gain our customers’ trust in terms of considering UCS.”

What have been your experiences with UCS? What about your customers? Share your comments and you could be the subject of our next blog entry on this topic.


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  1. A success case like this is the better marketing any enterprise can ask for, savings in the case of millions are really impressive for any kind of business.