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Maxta hyper-converged MxSP helps services firm fuel growth

Maxta MxSP was deemed the most cost efficient hyper-converged product to help services provider Trusource Labs to add call centers amid rapid growth.

When Larry Chapman arrived at Trusource Labs as IT manager, the technical support services provider was in the...

hyper-growth stage, while its IT infrastructure was stuck in neutral.

The IT infrastructure consisted of no shared storage and a server with a single point of failure. Chapman decided to upgrade it in one shot with hyper-convergence. Trusource installed Maxta MxSP software-based hyper-convergence running on Dell PowerEdge servers last April when it opened a new call center.

The company started in 2013 with a call center in Austin, Texas, and added one in Limerick, Ireland, in the past year. It has since built a second call center in Austin, a 450-seat facility called "Austin North" to deal with the company's rapid customer growth and for redundancy. Trusource plans further expansion with another call center set to open in Alpine, Texas, in 2018.

In four years, Trusource has grown to 600 employees and around $30 million in annual revenue.

"We were in hyper-growth mode from when we started until I got here," said Chapman, who joined Trusource in mid-2016. He said when he arrived at Trusource the network consisted of "one big HP server with 40 VMs and 40 cores. Obviously, that's a single point of failure; there was no shared storage and no additional servers."

Chapman considered building his IT infrastructure out the traditional way, adding a dedicated storage array and more servers. But that would require adding at least one engineer to his small IT staff.

Forty minutes, start to finish, and boom, I was running hyper-converged infrastructure.
Larry ChapmanIT manager, Trusource Labs

"I wasn't sure I wanted to hire a storage engineer to calculate LUNs and do all the storage stuff," he said. "Over the course of years, there's a lot of salary involved there. So I started looking at new next-generation things."

That led him to hyper-converged infrastructure, which requires no storage specialists. He checked out HCI players Nutanix, SimpliVity and Maxta's MxSP.

Chapman ruled out SimpliVity after Hewlett Packard Enterprise bought the startup in January 2017. He worried SimpliVity OmniStack software would no longer be hardware-agnostic after the deal closed.

"I like the option to be hardware-agnostic," he said. "I will buy my server from whoever can give me the best deal at the time. At the time I looked at SimpliVity; it was hardware agnostic, but I didn't think it would be in the future."

He liked Nutanix's appliance, but its initial cost scared him off. The price seemed especially steep compared to Maxta. Chapman chose Maxta's freemium license option, which provides software for free and charges for maintenance. He said the Maxta hyper-converged MxSP price tag came to $54,000 for four three-node clusters. After the initial three years, he will pay $3,000 per server for support.

"I had to look at the quote a couple of times. I thought they left something off," he said. He said a comparable set up with Nutanix would have cost around $150,000 just for the HCI appliances.

After selecting the Maxta hyper-converged software, Chapman priced servers, picking three Dell PowerEdge R530 models with 24-core processors, 120 GB of RAM and four 10 GigE interfaces for a total of $24,000. Each server has 800 GB solid-state drives for cache and six 1 TB hard disk drives in a hybrid setup.

Throw in switching and cabling, and Chapman said he ended up with his entire infrastructure for a 450-seat call center based on the Maxta hyper-converged MxSP software for $125,000.

Chapman said he was a bit leery of installing do-it-yourself software, but he followed Maxta's  checklist and did it himself anyway. Installation went smoothly.

"Forty minutes, start to finish, and boom, I was running hyper-converged infrastructure," he said.

As part of the setup process, Maxta hyper-converged MxSP asks how many copies of data to keep on the virtual machines. Chapman said he selected three copies across his three nodes, "so no matter what combination of things I lose, as long as I have two of the servers up, the VMs will run like nothing happened."

That bailed him out when a parity error brought down a server, but no one even noticed until an alert went out. "Everything was still chugging along," Chapman said. A firmware upgrade fixed the problem.

Trusource now runs its production workload on the Maxta MxSP HCI appliances.

He said Trusource does not use dedicated backup software for the Maxta hyper-converged cluster but replicates between data centers.

Chapman said his setup allows easy upgrades at no additional software cost because of the Maxta perpetual license.

"I will just take the server off line, shut it down, put a new server in, turn it on and repeat the process for each new server," he said. "If I need bigger drives, I can just swap out drives while the system's running. If I need more processing power, I just add another node in the cluster, another $8,000 server and I'm done."

Next Steps

Hyper-convergence's impact on staffing

Type of workload determines best HCI option

Get the most from hyper-converged infrastructure

Dig Deeper on Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Implementation

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