Darrell Williams, Director Information Systems for Katz, Sapper & Miller, spoke with Virtually Speaking about his organization's use of Cisco's UCS servers combined with NetApp's Flexpod
Please introduce yourself and your organization
Darrell Williams, Director Information Systems for Katz, Sapper & Miller, recognized as one of the nation’s 50 most efficient and fiscally successful accounting firms by INSIDE Public Accounting. I am responsible for key IT initiatives for the firm, along with technology strategic planning, oversight of the IT budget, information security, and management and leadership of the department.
What are you doing that needed this type of technology?
In the tax and accounting business, maximizing time spent on productive billing is a major priority. Every hour of downtime can cost the firm thousands in billings. To continually enhance customer service and achieve higher levels of billable time, KSM requires an IT infrastructure with superior performance, scalability, flexibility, and reliability to support a constantly growing business. With a lean IT staff of only two people supporting our data center infrastructure, we also have a strong need for a streamlined technology infrastructure that is easy to manage and deploy.
We were outgrowing our 5-year-old IT infrastructure, an existing storage array that lacked the advanced functions that we required. Our data footprint was growing at roughly 25 percent each year, so capacity was becoming an issue and our existing storage array was under-performing yet consuming more space and power each year. Our data footprint and IT requirements had escalated to the point where we needed better, more advanced technology to improve both Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO).
What products did you consider before making a selection?
Working with Logicalis, international IT solutions and managed services provider, the initial goal was to replace the incumbent storage vendor, strategically combine physical servers with virtualized machines based on VMware vSphere, and move to more flexible Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) blade servers. Logicalis recommended VMware vSphere built on FlexPod, a pre-validated data center solution from NetApp and Cisco built on a flexible shared infrastructure.
Why did you select this product?
I was most impressed with the simplicity, performance, and cost-effectiveness of the FlexPod solution. With FlexPod you get best-in-class technologies with integrated components that help us to centrally manage all our datacenter requirements. What we’ve seen is reduced risk because Cisco, VMware, and NetApp work so closely together. It’s genuinely the simplest, most future-ready data center infrastructure solution out there.
What tangible benefits have you gotten through the use of this product?
FlexPod has paid off with fast return on investment and greatly enhanced customer service. Data can now be uploaded quickly and then associated with a particular client in a fast, efficient manner. Incremental data searches now take less than three seconds compared to two to three hours with the previous systems—a 95% reduction in the time required to obtain customer information. What we’ve seen is that delays and downtime are no longer an issue. Previously, it was not possible to replicate all of the company’s data without downtime, creating potential risks and loss of data from using tape. But today, RTO and RPO times have reduced exponentially by more than 90%. Previous RTOs are down from 48 to two to four hours. RPOs have been reduced from 24 hours to less than one hour. The ability to maintain non-disruptive operations is essential to our business.
What advice would you offer others facing similar challenges?
IT serves as the foundation to fuel business success. For KSM, a company that prides itself on staying on the cutting-edge, it was critical to implement a solution that could support current and future business growth and streamline IT operations. I encourage others who are looking to update their data center to work with solution providers such as Logicalis and consider a multiple vendor approach with best of breed technologies. Integration among components is key; we are amazed how clean, powerful, and efficient FlexPod based on NetApp and Cisco is in our data center.