NetApp and FlexPod help Harbour IT reduce admin, save storage space and scale for the future with new cloud offering

Sydney, AUSTRALIA - June 9, 2011 - Harbour IT was started in 2001 by the group of experienced business partners that were behind prominent Australian IT enterprise company, CIC Technology. Over the past ten years, Harbour IT has branched into providing leading IT solutions, IT support and cloud services from a predominantly managed services beginning.

Harbour IT has a 120-strong team of business and technical consultants servicing a range of customers across Australia in industry verticals such as financial services, retail, manufacturing and customer service based organisations. Customers include notable brands such as The Coffee Club and Australian Home Care Services.

Seeing the cloud as the next natural progression for IT, Harbour entered the IT-as-a-service market in 2009 with a small private cloud. They now run two clouds across two data centres with the primary production site based in Sydney and the disaster recovery and back up site based in Melbourne, Australia.

Harbour IT's typical customers are mid-sized enterprises but they have conducted a number of enterprise-level implementations on the back of their SME success.

Harbour IT is a NetApp Gold Partner.

The challenge
Harbour IT went to market seeking a SAN storage partner to help launch their new cloud product and upgrade the company's existing storage infrastructure.

The company was previously relying on a hybrid of technologies to deliver a single solution but this presented problems such as management overheads, maintenance and upgrade costs, and reporting requirements which reduced the overall efficiency of the infrastructure.

This prevented Harbour IT from applying a common approach to the processes and procedures to the environment they were supporting, with each customer requiring their own set of rules and checklists, causing delays.

As part of its legacy infrastructure, the Harbour IT storage environment was only 15TB in capacity, and new customers were already committing to additional storage upwards of 50TB. This required a platform that would scale with their anticipated growth, expected to be around 200 per cent over 9 months, and more specifically, provide both private and public secure cloud options to customers.

Harbour IT could not compromise on secure multi-tenancy either, as it formed the basis of providing its customers with a secure IT environment. A separate infrastructure for each customer is cost prohibitive for both providers and customers.

Adam Simpson, Cloud Manager for Harbour IT, said, "Businesses seek around a 30 percent cost saving from the cloud for it to be a feasible option for them to consider, and understandably, small and mid-size enterprises want the same equipment and advantages that the top enterprises enjoy.

"We needed a solution from a credible vendor who could back up its marketing claims with a genuine multi-tenancy solution, whilst still providing low TCO, scalability and flexibility to meet our changing business needs and those of our customers.

"Our customers need a multi-tiered storage solution that performs across multiple applications - specifically Microsoft Exchange and MS SQL - whilst at the same time providing cost-effective storage for everyday services such as file and print.

The solution
To meet its criteria of affordability, reliability and scalability at a tier-one level, Harbour IT decided to partner with NetApp, to implement NetApp and Cisco's FlexPod for VMware solution.

"The easy integration and complementary technologies of the FlexPod, as well as the security and performance offered in a multi-tenanted environment was an attractive proposition," said Simpson.

The pre-certified and validated design of FlexPod meant there was limited downtime in establishing the new infrastructure and it was up and running in three months instead of the six months that the original environment took to establish.

As part of the FlexPod design, Harbour IT selected a NetApp FAS 3140 storage system for its primary data centre based in Sydney, and implemented a NetApp FAS 2040 storage system into its secondary data centre in Melbourne. Harbour IT runs the NetApp Enterprise Software suite of applications to enable site-to-site replication of client data on these systems.

The NetApp FAS 3140 acts as raw storage capacity, while the NetApp FAS 2040 performs the disaster recovery function. This means that in the event of a customer fail over, Harbour IT replicates everything to the Melbourne site using enterprise tools such as NetApp SnapShot and NetApp SnapVault.

"NetApp's deduplication and compression were far better than anything offered by its key competitors. When we started our data analysis it became evident we didn't need as large a link between Sydney and Melbourne as we had planned originally, making the implementation not only cost effective but easier and far more efficient," Simpson said.

As the links between its two data centres were smaller than originally estimated, this equated into real dollar savings of tens of thousands per month for Harbour IT.

Simpson was also attracted to the native technology of NetApp which speaks to non-NetApp SANs, its IP connectivity and other significant technological advantages over the offerings from other SAN providers. As a result, the NetApp products seamlessly integrate not only with Cisco and VMware through FlexPod, but also Harbour IT's reporting and management products from BMC and other tools from Microsoft.

Business Benefits
Harbour IT found its initial cloud offering sold out quickly despite only limited internal marketing to its existing managed services customers.

"In terms of where we started, we initially planned for three times the disk storage capacity of the old solution," said Simpson. "That requirement basically doubled by the time we went into production, and our customer pipeline doubled again over the next three months."

Harbour IT's success, coupled with customer disk requirements growing at 10-15 per cent per month, required a scalable solution able to meet ongoing and future growth.

"As a result, the conversations we're currently having with NetApp are quite exponential," said Simpson. "This gives our business the flexibility to meet market demand and the ability to respond quickly to the changing needs of our customers.

"A lot of potential customers are on the front foot about bringing true cost savings back to the business and they see the cloud as the option to do it.

"The FlexPod environment has a lower cost of ownership per terabyte compared to other providers which has allowed us to pass on the savings to our customers but also invest in other technologies that benefit our customer experience."

With FlexPod, Harbour IT is saving between 15 and 20 percent on power, 30 percent in storage, and backups are now down to a couple of hours per night. Administration has also benefited.

Simpson said, "We are now in a position where the reports are generated automatically, and then checked for accuracy and content, saving us one week a month in report generation alone!"

As a result, the business has been able to invest those savings into automation tools and online provisioning.

Customer behaviour has also changed. Through NetApp SnapShot technology customers are able to use the services they require in the cloud seamlessly and on demand.

"This is where the genuine business flexibility comes in," said Simpson.

"We can take a snapshot of an environment or provide a terabyte of disk space immediately without any concerns of over-provisioning and there are zero time or performance issues for the customers."

The average customer also receives the benefit of a tier-one disaster recovery solution, providing customer peace-of-mind and additional marketability for Harbour IT.

"FlexPod is secure, it's tried and tested, and best of breed, so it gives customers the comfort that we've invested in the technology so they don't have to," said Simpson.

Additionally, the implementation of FlexPod has allowed for a range of non-technology related benefits.

Harbour IT's technical teams have been unlocked from once repetitive tasks that involved highly skilled, dedicated staff, to an environment that can be managed by other non-dedicated teams through a single, secure console. This has allowed the business to deploy staff to more customer specific tasks related to Harbour IT's core business, providing greater end-user results, and ultimately, increased customer satisfaction.

"As we grew our customer base we would have needed to add additional staff to the management and reporting teams, as well as experienced issues around integration and performance due to the complexity of the environment. We avoided both of these problems and built a platform that would scale and perform to our customers' requirements, with NetApp."

Next steps
With its business built on NetApp, Harbour IT is seeing a growing number of wins in its infrastructure-as-a-service space, which they anticipate to continue. One area of growth enabled by FlexPod has been the ability to white box parts of their environment, allowing Harbour IT to segregate solutions to software developers and other niche players.

"For anyone in IT this has been one of the most innovative periods we have seen, and it's going to be interesting to see those that haven't adopted the technology and how they survive," Simpson concluded.

Solution components

  • NetApp and Cisco's FlexPod for VMware
  • NetApp FAS 3140 storage system
  • NetApp FAS 2040 storage system
  • NetApp Enterprise tools including Snapshot and SnapVault

Media Contact:
Rachel York
Max Australia
+61 29469 5740