SofiaITC Mission Critical Solutions AMI | SofiaITC

AMI

AMERICAN MEDIA, INC.

Dear Mr. Quilty,

We recently upgraded to VMware 6.5 Update 1 with the help of James Quilty and Martin Brink at Sofia Information Technology Consulting.  This was performed flawlessly by SofiaITC.  This involved not only them having an expert knowledge in VMware, but also having expert knowledge in the hardware and other areas.

The business challenges we face at American Media are similar to other companies in our industry, including these:

  • Limited time to have systems down or offline for maintenance or issues.
  • Limited staff and resources to get this project done in a very fast turnaround of only one weekend.
  • We have critical proprietary software that uses virtual dongle keys for licensing, this unfortunately requires us to lock these critical VMs to the hosts and not allow vMotion. This also limits the amount of reboots and downtime we can have on the hosts that these critical VMs run.  SofiaITC was able to prepare for and mitigate the amount of downtime involved for these critical systems.  This allowed us to meet our CIOs requirements.
  • With the EOL for 5.5 Update 3 coming, this posed an issue with continuing support with VMware.
  • Veeam (our backup solution) was still having issues preventing us from going to 6.5 Update 2, but the team at SofiaITC was able to adjust to this and not cause any hiccups in our backups.
  • Patched the internal vulnerabilities that we discovered in 5.5, some of these were only addressable by upgrading the 6.5 or later.
  • Being prepared for a disaster recovery scenario with the most active time of hurricane season approaching.

All of these had a very positive impact on the company.

Some of the hurdles that constantly arise here at AMI (and at other companies) are downtime for maintenance/issues, managing very expensive storage (to be sure you are getting the most from your storage appliances), cybersecurity, and disaster recovery. SofiaITC helped us realize several benefits in these areas outlined below.

Downtime is not tolerated by this company at all, mainly because we are a publishing company with deadlines to our vendors who print our magazines.  Almost daily we have a closing of a magazine which requires staff to be in the offices and on our systems (our company could be charged expensive penalties by our vendors if we are not on-time).  This was a major worry for our company that SofiaITC delivered on.  They were not only able to meet our expectations, but were able to work with us on unforeseen issues and still meet the maintenance window.

For disaster recovery, we do not have the ability to maintain just a DR site that is ready to go at all times, so we have to use our different locations as DR sites.  Our Boca Raton, FL site needed to be beefed up to handle the increased load on our NYC systems in case of a disaster.  Therefore, if we have to failover to Florida from our NYC site (both sites have been affected by hurricanes in the past), we have enough resources to do so.  SofiaITC helped us get faster, stronger Cisco UCS servers deployed and into our virtual environment without downtime.

For our EMC arrays in both sites, we use PowerPath/VE Multipathing plugin to VMware for redundancy and speed.  This is critical when doing VNX code upgrades to be sure you pass EMC’s prechecks and don’t have any issues that would cause downtime during EMC array code updates.  SofiaITC was able to quickly resolve issues presented by this plug-in by knowing exactly how every part of our VMware environment works.  They were able to replace the VIB files causing the issue and move on to meet our maintenance window.

Another, feature important to American Media in 6.5 was reclamation of free space (UNMAP operation.)  This should help the company when we start building out newer VMFS 6 datastores soon and since you can manually run this VMFS 5 datastore, we can realize some of the benefits now on these older datastores.  This was not available in our older VMware 5.5 environment.

For cybersecurity, our company has been focusing on this in the last year.  ESXi 5.5 presented several vulnerabilities that were fixed by the upgrade. Additionally, SofiaITC identified, made us aware of and fixed other vulnerabilities within our environment that weren’t aware of.  On our next internal vulnerability scan we will be able to show these are resolved.

We had a very positive experience with Sofia Information Technology Consulting and are grateful for their help.

 

Sincerely,

Tom Salvant