HPE Simplivity & edgemo Consulting Services
Stable Connection Between Ports
Written March of 2021
The tale of Royal Artic Line’s large datacenter project in which Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Simplivity line is a central character is about so much more than simply replacing something old with something new. It is also a tale about how changing a system changes the IT reality and gears up an entire organization for the future. For Morten Talgård, IT-Infrastructure Architect at Royal Arctic Line, it was all about what matters most, ensuring a secure and continuous operation. “Our main office is in Nuuk and Royal Arctic Line operates 12 ports in Greenland and one in Denmark. Our IT department is divided between several employees, two datacenters in Nuuk and its employees as well as one datacenter in Aalborg.” Morten explains.
In order to understand the requirements of their datacenters, you have to know the reality that lies behind them. “We have between 650 and 750 employees in our company and we have 12 ships that sail between Denmark, Greenland, and Iceland, among other places. Royal Arctic Line is a 24/7 business that never sleeps. It may look gruff and simple from a distance, when the large containers are packed and loaded, but behind it lies an extremely complex infrastructure. We have our line and terminal systems that combined ensure that the ports and the ships can handle the containers. Each year, we handle more than 60,000 TEU (one TEU is approximately one standard 20-foot container) and if just one of those is misplaced in the stack or even worse, in a wrong stack, the price to pay is hefty. They must be loaded correctly.”
Morten explains the severity and the cause which naturally is that the entire society in Greenland – everything from retail to medical care – requires that the items are delivered timely. “When we say we dock at 10:00 am, we dock at 10:00 am. And for that to happen, packing and loading must be exact. Our operation is critical, each delivery plays a key role to society in Greenland” Morten states.
On Coasts and in Clouds Far Away
Being based in Greenland creates operation conditions that are different from most companies, but it does not change the basic conditions. “As a company, we are like everybody else which means we need to install patches and updates, but we have no use for downtime or other interruptions. Therefore, we decided that we wanted to modernize our server infrastructure. This included both our server and storage platform which were both located on an older IBM system.” Morten explains and goes on to say: ”We started looking at our needs and possible solutions. The key is that because our headquarter is based in Greenland, we cannot run backup in the cloud for instance. As such, we needed to create a secure solution On-Premises that would work into the future. What system will ensure that our operation continues to run if something breaks? We looked into many scenarios and delved deeper into several, but it quickly became apparent that Simplivity was the best choice”.
Morten explains that Royal Arctic Line’s setup now spans across three server rooms and several time zones, but with this new solution, that is no problem at all. ”Now, we can handle all our physical and virtual servers in one central view,” he says.
Hyper Modern – Hyper Efficient
The trend surrounding Hyper Converged Infrastructure solutions has brought HPE’s Simplivity solutions at the forefront of the development. And, Morten can see why: “With this technology, we are very well secured in terms of continued operation in the event of a power outage for instance or in the event of a cyber attack. On a regular day of the week, Simplivity just goes right in and supports daily operations. We do not notice it in our daily operation. It is invisible – but it just keeps going. When technology goes unnoticed, that is when you know it is working.” Morten explains and elaborates: ”As an example, we were able to cut down 75% of our response time alone by using Simplivity. One day, a co-worker called up to ask about the ERP system and asked: “Is it just me, or did the system get faster. We did not get a new one, did we? But no, it was not just his perception because it did get faster. When the system is being utilized to its full capacity, you truly notice a difference.”
The switch to Simplivity marks more than just a shift in technology, Morten explains. “We have moved WAY into the modern IT world with HCI, but we can still manage it ourselves. This works well with the fact that we have started to move up in the layers in the IT arena so today, it is more business than technology. With the new system, we do not need external technicians to the same extent we did before: and that is a positive change that helps bring down costs. It also frees up resources that we can then use to develop our business.”
Times Have Changed
Time can shrink or disappear all together. Morten and Royal Arctic Line got to experience this as well. “We have complete control of our backups and restore with Simplivity. We can now have one global snapshot in a few seconds. In the past, this would take 30 minutes or even hours” he says. “We had also tried to move a virtual server from one room to another. That endeavor took a week. With Simplivity, we can actually ask the system to move one server from one location to another in a matter of minutes”.
Together at a Distance
Just as the project was ready to commence, the Covid-19 pandemic arose. “We had just received the servers, physically speaking. However, Covid-19 created a huge challenge in that we are located in Greenland. We needed to get Thomas Laursen from edgemo up here, but that was impossible. Therefore, we decided to handle everything remotely.” Morten explains and goes on to say: “Our own IT department got everything ready. Everything was set up and patched and our Aalborg office became our remote location. When we got everything online, there was no stopping us. Thomas was very bright and we went step by step. It only took about three days and we were done. Thereafter, we started to move the servers around ourselves. In total, it took three weeks. It went really well.
Precious Metal Support
The ability to ”phone a friend” has often been beneficial in large IT projects. HPE’s Simplivity is only permitted to be installed by Platinum certified HPE partners and in Denmark, edgemo is one of only three. With the certification comes top level support. “During the remote installation, we experienced a complicated bug, but Thomas was quickly able to reach out to the backend at HPE because edgemo has a high-level partner status. This offers us another type of support. If a technician hits a dead end, we can reach out to the highest ranking support at HPE and then off we go again. Had this been another supplier with a lower ranking status, it would have cost us time. And the price is also crucial.” Morten confirms that edgemo’s status as a Platinum Partner no doubt helped ensure a good price.
When Things Just Work
The Simplivity solution for Royal Arctic Line has been running for almost a year and it is running without a hitch. “We have had no challenges so far” Morten states. We can disconnect and do as we please, it all keeps running”. The same goes for the teamwork with edgemo, a relationship which has had a longer lifespan than the solution outlined above. “We have worked with edgemo from when they first started with both Citrix and our network. They are solution-minded and we are experiencing a very proactive approach to things. There is a great ability to stay in contact with their business relationship managers and they have extremely talented and competent technicians AND you can actually just reach out to them directly. We do not need to go through a helpdesk, the business relationship managers or something else, as you do so many other places. It is all very personal. We also had that same experience in their efforts to get this remote installation set up”. Morten Talgård, IT Infrastructure Architect at Royal Arctic Line, concludes.
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