In 2015, Discovery was listed 17th out of 51 companies on Fortune Magazine’s inaugural Change the World List – a list which denotes companies that have addressed core social problems as part of their business strategy. As a global insurance company and authorized financial services provider, they offer employers and clients with health, life, and short-term insurance as well as saving and investment products. They are headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, and serve more than 5.1 million customers across 5 different continents. With such an international, widespread customer base, it was imperative that Discovery’s data center was the most efficient it could be.

The Challenge of Traditional Infrastructure

Discovery’s inflexible infrastructure was causing a lack of control, visibility, and stability. “After encountering a series of infrastructure outages that we identified were due to hardware instability, we embarked on a process to identify and discover better technologies to help improve our virtual infrastructure stack,” claims John Marais, Virtualization Manager at Discovery. Discovery set out on a three year plan to upgrade their storage environment, and decrease dependencies on third party suppliers and costly disk arrays.

Modernizing Discovery’s Infrastructure with vSAN

Discovery has a fully virtualized VMware environment so it made sense for the company to completely virtualize their storage as well, so long as it could meet the following requirements:

  • Reduce the VMware environment reliance on external hardware
  • Provide visibility into the environment
  • Reduce complexity as well as enable the company to deploy a more scalable infrastructure stack for its VMware environment
  • Reduce the total cost of ownership through applications dependent on storage

While exploring all storage options, Marais noted “Our goal was to get away from third party dependences in the environment, so we began looking at a number of the market leaders in the area. While the technology fit was in many cases right, it didn’t make sense to veer away from a VMware solution, so we look at vSAN as a solution”.

As an active member of the VMware Customer Technical Advisory Board, Discovery first decided to participate in an initial vSAN Beta testing and it successfully completed a test VDI cluster for part of its Citrix environment, and then quickly incorporated it into its storage solution as it became commercially available. Today 50% of the head office is currently running on vSAN and 100% of US and UK operations are running on it. As part of their three-year plan to reduce the size of their SAN footprint, the rest of the head office plans to be completely migrated to vSAN.

vSAN Simplifies Integration and Automation and Lowers Cost

With a seamless rollout, from an integration perspective, and a dramatically decreased storage I/O latency, the company has been pleased with the benefits. In addition, the ease of integration with vRealize Automation simplifies the storage management process.

“VSAN has given us fantastic visibility into our storage I/O patterns for every application and this management function now sits in the virtualization team. What also makes a huge difference is that we are experiencing space savings because vSAN is thin provisioned; this assists us greatly in keeping the storage footprint smaller as well as reducing the unit cost of supplying a virtual server” says Marais.

Scaling to Tomorrow with vSAN

Discovery is very excited for the feature-intensive future vSAN roadmap and all of the benefits it will bring for the company. In the future, Discovery would like to utilize stretched clusters, all flash arrays, deduplication and compression to help reduce Discovery’s resource footprint.

“As a business we have to evolve and make IT more accessible to our customers. We intend to be innovative and bold by using newer technologies, and stay relevant in the business we are in,” ends Marais.

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