Hyundai Australia recently commissioned Sydney integrator BEarena to work on several projects encompassing mobility, data management and compute-and-storage appliances. CRN met with Hyundai’s general manager of ICT Bala Kothandaraman, infrastructure assistant manager Kawa Farid and BEarena managing director Darren Ashley at the motoring giant’s headquarters
How did the latest relationship come about?
Kawa Farid: We were working on a backup product with BEarena. After that was successfully completed, we realised BEarena was already aware of our challenges, the issues we were facing with performance and other projects we wanted to take on.
Darren Ashley: We engaged initially around a discrete piece of services work. And then, I think as normal in the IT world, you see familiar faces around the various industry events and Kawa popped up at a number of those. We had conversations at every event and started to build that relationship on the success of the initial engagement. We were well placed when Hyundai went to market again. We were fortunate enough to win that business and the relationship has gone from strength to strength since then.
The most recent projects involved RES Software and Nutanix. What does the RES technology do?
Darren: It was a virtual desktop implementation. We were looking for a technology that would allow us to automate the way in which users’ profiles and data were dealt with in that platform and deliver the maximum flexibility to Hyundai in the VDI implementation.
Working with Kawa and the Hyundai team, we evaluated not only how successful the product was in actually achieving the goal, but had in mind that Hyundai has a reasonably small IT team here so doesn’t need a complex product. We wanted to have something that’s reliable, easy to manage, cost effective but also meets all the requirements, and RES Software really came out at the top.
Kawa: We found that RES Software was the easiest to deploy. It didn’t take much time to deploy and is easy to use. It also gave our users the capability for follow-my-desktop software scenarios. Wherever the users were – on a virtual desktop, on a physical laptop or end point – they would get the same seamless user desktop experience.
How many Hyundai employees are mobile?
Bala Kothandaraman: More than 50 percent of our staff are mobile staff. While this is the head office in Sydney, we have five regional offices. All the area sales managers and all the service managers need to spend time with the dealerships – where the business is. This technology extends their functionality and especially their productivity. Whether they’re in the office or out at the sites, they are productive as can be.
How did the Nutanix project come about?
Darren: The same ethos: simplicity, reliability and very cost effective. Hyundai had some very specific requirements for the platform to not only deliver performance and availability to its business intelligence applications, but also be able to host the desktop services to enable users to consume those services from wherever they were.
There are not many infrastructure platforms that can really achieve that. We’re fortunate to deal with a product called Nutanix and it’s what we believe to be the next stage of virtualisation. It’s well equipped to deal with mixed workloads – a very reliable platform that also delivers a huge amount of performance.
As part of the proof-of-concept (POC), we proved that we could deliver the performance Hyundai needed. But equally as important is that the platform’s scale-out approach really delivered to Hyundai what we believe to be infrastructure that can change and react to whatever the needs of the company are tomorrow.
Hyundai is a very dynamic company and it’s always bringing new initiatives to the market. And that’s the same in technology, so whatever’s around the corner for Hyundai in terms of their hosting requirements, Nutanix can actually scale to meet that demand, and scale on a predictable and linear basis.
Kawa: We piloted many different vendors across the market. When Bala and I looked at Nutanix, we knew from day one. I remember having a meeting with Darren and the Nutanix pre-sales engineers, and that day we knew this was something special.
The POC went very well and from then on we’ve really embraced Nutanix. We’ve enabled it for different types of technology. Our email system has changed. We’ve thrown SQL at it, we’re running SharePoint and VDI on it, and it’s handling it very well.
Bala: Instead of looking at different brands and different solutions for each of the deployments, this was a one-stop shop where we could put everything into Nutanix. The time that was required to bring it up and running was really remarkable, especially with the amount of stuff that we migrated across. It was done in record time and seamlessly. The end user didn’t even realise that there were these massive changes going on behind the scenes.
Kawa: The POC was only a couple of weeks, but once we bought the product, actually deploying the solution itself I think only took a couple of hours. Sometimes I joke that it took us longer to open the cartons than to deploy the boxes in production.
Darren: Nutanix wants to be the iPhone of the data centre. That’s their goal – that app store kind of experience where you can go and choose what you want and get it there and then.
Bala: From my side, as our applications development has been continuously expanding and every second day we develop new things, it has been a real game changer. I request a server and Kawa just gives me one, then another and another.
Kawa: With our previous architecture where we had compute, storage and networking, deployment of servers would have taken us days and sometimes weeks. We are now producing servers within hours or even minutes sometimes.
Did you always look at appliance as the type of architecture?
Kawa: The words ‘converged infrastructure’ get thrown around and it really depends on how you interpret it. It could be just a rack where somebody is stacking some compute and storage together then calling it ‘converged infrastructure’.
We really wanted something that would take us to a software-defined data centre future. Back in 2001, VMware virtualised the computer layer; soon afterwards everyone is virtualising the storage layer, and now networking is next. We wanted to be in that flexible stage where we are set for the future. That was one of Bala’s visions as well, to make sure that we look at a solution that’s for the next five or 10 years.
For both projects, what were the challenges?
Darren: For BEarena, although we’d dealt with Hyundai on that initial backup requirement, this was really the first time we got down into the nuts and bolts of Hyundai’s network. So we had to come to terms with the existing implementation and make sure that whatever we brought to the infrastructure complemented what was already there. And if it didn’t complement it, we had to justify why it needed changing.
So that was really our biggest challenge: to understand what had gone on before. Hyundai has got quite an elegant implementation of distributed vSwitches from VMware. That was a learning experience for us. The benefit now is that we’re pretty much across Hyundai’s infrastructure end-to-end, so for any future projects that we’re working on, we’re really well positioned – time to value will be almost zero.
What’s next for Hyundai, VDI and the software-defined data centre?
Bala: With the VDI, initially we started the project by first replacing the existing PCs. But once the business saw the flexibility and the power of the technology, they asked me to extend it to the mobile staff. And we didn’t have to sell it. A couple of people realised it, requested it and then there was more demand on IT: “He has it, why not me?”
So what was initially 80 or 90 seats has now extended to 200 seats. And the rollout priority has changed. Now we’re giving priority to the people in the field so they can benefit from it, while those in the head office are still making their way through. In due course, we will finish it off.
Kawa: Security is a big focus for Hyundai. It always has been and hopefully it always will be. We wanted to put a solution out here that’s easy to use but secure. With all the best practice provided by VMware, as well as the expertise that was provided by BEarena, we are looking at trialling two-factor authentication. That’s something we may look to implement later on.
What did the different teams offer?
Darren: There are always going to be areas of expertise. Among the BEarena staff, there’s a high degree of technical capability on Nutanix, VDI and VMware products. Having the Nutanix guys in the team allows us to access not only their local people, but the staff from head office in the US very quickly. In the early stages of the project when we had some design challenges, the same day we had an engineer on the phone advising us the best way to implement. The Hyundai guys know everything there is to know about what they need in the infrastructure but, equally as important, also who their users are and what their users’ expectations are. So all three things came together in the one virtual team – that’s how we delivered the project.
Kawa: We have churned up a lot of different technologies in a very short time and it has been successful because we have been able to use partners like BEarena as subject matter experts. We have a small [IT] team and can’t be an expert in every area. The strategy from Bala has always been to use the right people at the right time for the right project.
Darren, describe your relationships with Nutanix and RES.
Darren: BEarena, much like Hyundai’s IT team, is not the largest team on the planet compared with our competitors, but we’ve taken a route that sees us as the experts in our field. Because of that we can’t cover a huge number of vendors – so we tend to go to market in a particular area of technology that we want to focus on, and we’ll evaluate which vendors we believe to be the leaders for that technology. Then we’ll partner heavily with them. We’re not a company that will switch allegiances at the last minute to try and win a deal.
We believe that Nutanix is firmly the market leader in that hyper-converged infrastructure space, and RES in terms of that personalisation and automation space. We were the first partner in ANZ for Nutanix, and we’re pretty much the leading partner for RES.
We are seen as extensions of their teams. We’ve got the highest number of certifications, the most certified engineers, and the highest partnership level, and we’re working exclusively with those guys. That brings benefits in a number of ways because not only are we representing the solution as well as the vendor would, but for our customers we’re never overselling a solution.
Is it a deliberate strategy to be one of the first resellers in the region?
Darren: There’s a lot of luck. If I said we knew partnering with Nutanix two years ago would put us in the position we’re in today, I think that would be untrue. There certainly would have been hope and a lot of conviction but with anything you bring to the market, it’s all about timing. We’ve partnered with Nutanix at exactly the right time. The market was ready for that technology and we’ve had a lot of success with it.
With RES, you’ve also seen the wave break in terms of VDI and lots of organisations are now deploying VDI. So again we’ve been very lucky in terms of timing, but yes – for a company of our size – if we can find a vendor that’s new to the market, that is going to be successful, and we can develop a relationship with them before they become ‘mainstream’, then absolutely we have a competitive advantage.
Any last words?
Kawa: The thing we liked about BEarena initially is that they didn’t oversell. They will always tell you where their strengths are and where they’re not. We could have gone with a lot of other projects with BEarena but they were upfront and honest in saying, “This is not what we do, so you’re better off looking in some other area.” That honesty has worked really well.