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Saving $800,000 Through Hyperconvergence and HPE SimpliVity



Saving $800,000+ Through Hyperconvergence and HPE SimpliVity


FEBRUARY 13, 2018

One in five people face some kind of mental illness. This statistic hits home with us at The Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD), where we’re trying to create a stronger community through mental well-being. We’re an amazing regional mental health organization that offers outreach, crisis, prevention, and treatment services to over 60,000 people. We have roughly 900 employees who work hard to support our inpatients and outpatients. We provide services varying from financial help to suicide prevention support, and we even keep a stocked warehouse of free clothes and home furnishing for our patients.

It's very satisfying to know I'm part of an organization that makes such a huge positive impact in our community. I love the people here, I love my job as Director of IT, and it’s especially remarkable for an IT guy to work alongside a CEO & CIO with the mission to make MHCD the most technologically advanced mental health organization in the country.

When I started working at MHCD, there were a lot of changes already underway in my department. They had already migrated away from a managed-hosting provider that was not getting the job done, but we were a long way from where we needed to be. I will never forget the first time I saw the hosting provider bill and how nauseated I got as I looked at the dollar figure at the bottom. I couldn’t believe how much we spent every month. The bill was far too high for an organization of our size and one where every dollar counts. 

Introducing Hyperconvergence

I knew there had to be a better solution, so I immediately started looking for ways to reduce our costs. I did some SQL server consolidation and brought us down to 45 or 50 servers from 65, which was a pretty good reduction. But expenses were still too high. Also, our process of spinning up servers was slow and inefficient. We would first submit a request and then go through a process of approving costs before we could spin up a server, which would typically take a week and a half to two weeks. This was far too long to wait for such a simple task.

My sister, who is also an IT manager, introduced me to the idea of hyperconvergence when I told her about the exorbitant bill we were paying. I had never actually heard of hyperconvergence before, but as soon as I started looking into it, I knew this was going to be the best solution for MHCD. 

I also realized I would need to have all my ducks in a row before I presented the idea to my boss because I would be telling him that in order to reduce costs, we had to bolster our IT staff to manage hyperconvergence in-house. We’d be migrating from the hosting data center back to private cloud on-premises. I took a couple of months to research and do cost analysis and found the two market leaders that best served our needs were SimpliVity (now HPE SimpliVity) and Nutanix. Even with a strong recommendation for HPE SimpliVity from my sister, I dove into a full evaluation of both.

We had two or three dog-and-pony shows from HPE SimpliVity and Nutanix and did a two-week PoC where we got to remote into systems and play around to get to know the management software. What I wanted to test was our SQL databases, which weren’t huge but needed to be fast. So our SQL DBA ran some tests on both HPE SimpliVity and Nutanix. We also ran those same tests on our existing equipment to build a baseline on what our systems looked like then and how they were going to look in the future.

Building Fast Servers, and Transferable Skills

Between the two companies, I was more impressed with HPE SimpliVity’s dedication during the selection process. They did a much more thorough job in evaluating our systems. The HPE SimpliVity engineers came in and completed a full scan of our system and a deep packet analysis of our network for an entire week. In fact, they did it twice, on their own accord, which impressed me. 

Another consideration I had, this time as manager, was capacity building. I wanted to make sure my employees were gaining knowledge and skills that would make them employable not just with the IT department at MHCD, but at any company or organization. I believe it’s my job as a manager to help my employees grow their capabilities. The Nutanix interface had their own proprietary management software, unlike HPE SimpliVity which integrated into vCenter. This meant working with HPE SimpliVity would let my employees acquire more practical—and widely usable—skills. 

It was clear that HPE SimpliVity was the winner, but I still had to convince my boss. Thankfully, within 15 minutes of me explaining the path I wanted to lead us down, he was on board. The case for HPE SimpliVity, compared to our old system, was clear. Hyperconvergence would be the first step in turning MHCD into the IT organization we all dreamed it could be. 

The New World 

Since we’ve made the switch to HPE SimpliVity, every aspect of our IT operations has become better. When we need to spin up a new server, we no longer have to submit a request and go through a process of approving costs. We can spin up servers in three to four minutes versus two weeks, and we have full control over everything. This means my team doesn’t hinder our employees’ job performance when a server goes down—it’s now a non-issue. 

Now that we have everything over to our own instance of HPE SimpliVity on all-flash, we've got tons of RAM. There have been zero complaints about the network being slow, which is fantastic. The server deployment, patching, and rebooting is significantly faster with HPE SimpliVity. Our ability to add space to a drive, if needed, takes a matter of minutes.

But this move to the new solution was about saving MHCD money. And I’m proud to say it has. By modernizing our IT with HPE SimpliVity and migrating from the hosting data center back to hosting it on premises, we have saved $800,000 to $1,000,000 per year. Some organizations throw money around, but with an organization like ours, every dollar counts.  

I love working here, and I love what our team does. When I saw those giant, nauseating checks going out every month, I knew that money could be better spent reinvested back into our people and community. But we now have almost a million dollars a year more to spend on services for our patients, and to help create more job security for our employees. We have a lot of lives to touch, and it’s satisfying to know I’m saving us money to have a bigger impact. 


Chris Walker

Director of Information Technology at the Mental Health Center of Denver

I bring over 22 years of IT experience with a solid mix of technical leadership and organizational management. I have a proven track record of delivering projects on time and within budget. My experience spans the gamut of IT infrastructure including operations, delivery and architecture. I believe in running IT as a business with fiscal responsibility and a focus on delivering value to the business. My most recent accomplishment at the Mental Health Center of Denver was conceiving, planning and executing two concurrent projects. One was to migrate our servers back from a managed private cloud to a self-managed hyper-converged infrastructure and the other was to migrate our users to a new virtual desktop environment. Both were completed on time with little downtime for the end users. The overall result was better performance and service delivery for our users, more control for our IT department, and a savings of over $1 million a year for the organization. I am a strong information technology professional with a B.S focused in Business; Accounting from San Francisco State University.


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