Making infrastructure future ready with Cisco UCS X-Series servers and Cisco Intersight
Construction leader Interstates has modernized its data center, accelerated its IT operations, and laid the foundation for a hybrid cloud model with Cisco UCS X-Series servers and Cisco Intersight.
Location: Sioux Center, Iowa
Size: 825 employees
Faced with yet another major overhaul of their server infrastructure, the lean IT team at Interstates decided they had had enough.
"We kept being forced into chassis replacements or major upgrades involving midplanes and backplanes, just to leverage the newer blades," says Nathan Bullock, IT operations manager at Interstates. "It was too disruptive and costly for the business, and it was happening too often."
The company's former servers were also difficult to manage and scale, he adds, and a lack of visibility turned troubleshooting efforts into complex and time-consuming puzzles involving multiple domain-specific tools. With only two systems administrators managing two data centers, nearly 200 business applications, and roughly 700 virtual machines, Interstates wanted to simplify its IT operations and establish a server environment that would stand the test of time.
The company did so with the combination of Cisco UCS X-Series servers and the cloud-based Cisco Intersight operations platform.
"Deploying UCS and Intersight has been a revelation for us," Bullock says. "A huge win."
Interstates' senior systems administrator is an IT veteran who evaluates newer technologies with a shrewd and critical eye. According to Bullock, the administrator's first experience configuring and deploying a Cisco UCS X-Series server with Cisco Intersight went so smoothly that the task was met with astonishment and disbelief.
"He came to me and said, 'Is it really this easy? It can't be this easy,'" Bullock says with a chuckle. "That's all I needed to hear."
The team is now spinning up physical hosts 75 percent faster than they could with their former infrastructure. Virtual machine deployments that used to take a half day or more now take less than an hour. And Interstates has reduced its reliance on—and cost outlay for—its IT services provider.
"Because of the simplicity of the platform, we can do more on our own than ever before," Bullock says. "And we can do it all through a single pane of glass."
That includes automating routine processes using the profiles and templates in Cisco Intersight.
"Configuring [virtual machines] is now a fully automated, hands-off process," Bullock says.
“I think Cisco UCS X-Series is the first platform that truly delivers on the promise of next-gen computing, where you can upgrade on the fly and continually tailor the environment to meet the needs of the business.”Nathan Bullock, IT Operations Manager
The performance and density of Cisco UCS X-Series modular systems allowed Interstates to consolidate its server footprint across two data centers by more than 50 percent. And the modularity of the platform gives the company exceptional flexibility in addition to a lifespan that is expected to last more than a decade.
"We want to be more sustainable, and Cisco UCS is certainly helping," Bullock says. "We've significantly reduced our rack space, we're using less power and cooling, and we can upgrade components over time instead of full rip-and-replace overhauls."
With Cisco UCS X-series servers, Interstates can independently scale memory, storage, CPUs, and even GPUs on a server-by-server basis.
"Some of our workloads are more memory intensive than CPU intensive," Bullock explains. "With this new platform, we can tune each box for our specific needs instead of constantly overprovisioning or buying new ones."
Interstates is utilizing GPU acceleration blades to supercharge its VDI environment and eliminate the expense and hassle of providing high-performance workstations for users that routinely use CAD and 3D modeling applications.
"It's easier, less costly, and more secure to manage a few blades centrally than forty-plus distributed workstations," Bullock says. "We can update our entire VDI environment in minutes instead of tracking down each workstation and patching them manually."
Interstates will soon extend its new computing environment to the cloud with the help of Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (Cisco ACI), the world's leading software-defined networking solution.
"We're going to take advantage of Cisco integrations to align our internal cloud and data center network with the public cloud and manage it all as a single environment," Bullock says. "It will give us more flexibility, enable more automation, and further increase our agility and operating efficiency."
The company's hybrid cloud plans for the future are made possible, in part, by a computing infrastructure that can evolve and scale over an extended period of time.
"I think Cisco UCS X-Series is the first platform that truly delivers on the promise of next-gen computing, where you can upgrade on the fly and continually tailor the environment to meet the needs of the business," Bullock says. "And the longevity of the platform has really hit home with our finance, procurement, and executive teams."