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SimpliVity OmniCube helps medical supplier jump into HCI

Hyper-convergence was a bit of a leap of faith for Neil Medical Group, but SimpliVity OmniCubes brought the organization better backup and simpler management.

Neil Medical Group switched to hyper-convergence from a SAN, because it provided more features for the same price, built-in data protection and a single platform for its small IT team to manage.

When it came time to replace aging servers and storage, Neil Medical Group IT director Chad Benfield wanted to reduce complexity and improve data protection. Instead of putting in a new SAN system, he took a chance on hyper-convergence, with SimpliVity OmniCube appliances.

Neil Medical Group, based in Kinston, N.C., is a pharmaceutical and medical supply distributor for long-term care and home health. Its two data centers in eastern and western North Carolina were operating on outdated Dell EqualLogic SANs, as well as IBM servers that were nearly 12 years old.

The environment was partially virtualized using VMware, but most tier-one applications ran on servers physically attached to a SAN. In addition, one data center was used for backup and lacked compute resources. This made data protection a cumbersome process.

"If I were to have something catastrophic happen at one of my data centers, I would have been down for days, because I would have had to find servers, hook them up to my other environment, hope the tapes would restore and try to piece together as much as I could," Benfield said.

Benfield said when he purchased the OmniCubes almost two years ago, he took a leap of faith, because hyper-convergence was still a new technology, but the outcome has been positive. Today, Neil Medical Group is running the majority of its applications on the SimpliVity OmniCubes. The two data centers in western and eastern North Carolina replicate to each other for data protection.

Facing the expiration of extended warranties for Neil Medical Group's existing storage and servers, Benfield said he evaluated more traditional options, including NetApp-Cisco FlexPod and Dell Compellent. Ultimately, the features and price point of hyper-convergence resulted in the purchase of five SimpliVity OmniCube CN-3000s.

SimpliVity OmniCubes package VMware virtualization, hard disk drives, flash acceleration cards, networking and Cisco UCS servers in 2U systems. All management is performed through VMware vCenter. SimpliVity's OmniStack software performs deduplication and compression. Customers can set policies for deduplicated data to be replicated to OmniCube nodes at separate data center sites.

"With the other two [SAN] solutions, I would have spent the same money, but had fewer features. I would have been where I was before, which was protecting the data in a decent fashion, but not fully leveraging the fact that I had two data centers geographically spaced," Benfield said.

Ease of use was another reason hyper-convergence beat out the competition for Neil Medical Group. With a small IT staff, Benfield said he was wary of replacing his existing infrastructure with something like FlexPod, because the task of learning how to manage something multipiece was daunting.

"I have a somewhat midtier tech, who I never would have been able to allow him to administer the virtual environment. But now, he is the one who takes care of it just because of the ease of use. One pane of glass really is true," Benfield said.

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