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VMblog Expert Interview: US Federal Senate Credit Union Talks VMware vSAN Deployment, Benefits and Security

 

As VMblog looks to further explore VMware vSAN, we reached out to Mark Fournier, Director of IT, Infrastructure, at US Senate Federal Credit Union.  Fournier and his team were looking to migrate their environment to a converged storage infrastructure and settled on VMware vSAN.  VMblog spoke with Fournier to learn about his findings and experiences doing so.

VMblog:  Tell me a bit more about the US Federal Senate Credit Union and your role there.

Mark Fournier:  The United States Senate Federal Credit Union (USSFCU) is a financial cooperative (Credit Union) with the mission to help our members achieve financial success. Our organization was originally chartered in 1935, by nine U.S. Senate employees looking to provide quality financial services to workers throughout the Senate. Today, we serve roughly 40,000 members, and manage total membership assets of approximately $1 billion USD.

As the Director of IT for the organization, I'm part of the team that chose to implement VMware and provides ongoing management of our VMware stack. We're responsible for all operations around server and systems architecture, application design, and our networking and security practices.

VMblog:  I understand you've deployed VMware vSAN.  Can you walk me through your decision to deploy it?  When was this And what was happening internally in your organization that sparked this change?

Fournier:  Customers' expectations of financial services organizations have changed dramatically in recent years. They are looking for everything from hybrid branches with coffee bars to dynamic person-to-person mobile lending and account management. Given this evolving and disruptive demand, we wanted to accelerate the introduction of new products and services. However, we were running into problems with the constraints of an aging, legacy environment architecture. Standalone storage silos were providing all the resources to our internal staff and customer-facing operations, which made it difficult to scale without similarly growing our team and buying more storage silos. We examined multiple options and decided that a converged storage infrastructure would allow us to deliver new applications and services more securely, efficiently and rapidly - all without adding headcount to our team. 

VMblog:  Which features or aspects of vSAN led you to choose VMware as a partner?

Fournier:  We deployed vSAN specifically for its management capability and simplicity. Don't get me wrong, vSAN is crazy fast which is a strong motivator, but the ease of management is key to our smaller sized team. Flexibility was also crucial; vSAN enables us to pick up any amount of hardware, from nearly any type of server system we could want, and put new storage nodes into production quickly. Additionally, at our size, we can leverage vSAN ROBO to cover all of our branch office sites under a single license acquisition. This last part has allowed for growth to become very predictable.

We were drawn to VMware overall because of the possibilities that the broader portfolio of products offers. With DellEMC PowerEdge blade servers running vSphere Platinum, in conjunction with vSAN, NSX-T, vRealize Operations, and vRealize Network Insight, we can easily manage and troubleshoot our entire network. vSphere Platinum licensing includes VMware AppDefense to protect business critical applications through coordination with VMware NSX,    automating security responses. So, VMware has us covered from a wholistic environment standpoint.

VMblog:  And can you describe the specific benefits that you've seen since deploying vSAN?

Fournier:  The biggest benefit we've seen is the ability to scale operations more efficiently with vSAN's core integration within vSphere. We can manage remote branches with little to no on-site IT, democratize oversight and management of storage across the team through policy-based storage, and scale up or out whenever/however we want - all while achieving incredible speeds.

All in all, using vSAN licensing allowed us to implement best-in-class hyper-converged architecture; actually, for a lot less money than we would have otherwise expected. In our branches, for example, we cut our anticipated hyperconverged infrastructure costs from $350,000 down to less than $120,000 (a 66 percent savings!).

VMblog:  Finally, talk about how vSAN helps your organization approach infrastructure security.

Fournier:  Moving to software-defined infrastructure has been essential to transforming our customer security. We're a financial institution serving high-profile customers such as U.S. senators and their families, so we just assume we're under attack all the time. As a result, we're constantly working to improve our security posture and stay ahead of the bad guys. vSAN is key to this infrastructure, allowing us to maintain agility in our operations and performance, while simplifying the overall management. By providing one centralized location for our virtualization management, we are able to achieve consistent security even as we scale and run more applications. When we add this in with VMware vSphere Platinum with AppDefense, NSX-T, and the full suite of vRealize Operational components, we feel we achieve a level of confidence that we never thought possible.

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Published Tuesday, January 07, 2020 7:30 AM by David Marshall
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