The mere mention of regulatory compliance brings to mind huge stacks of paper and a baffling series of acronyms for many people. But that’s not the case for the teams at MasterControl, a company in the business of making compliance easier to understand and achieve. Based in Salt Lake City, with offices in the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia, MasterControl develops enterprise software solutions that help life science and other regulated companies document and meet global regulatory standards.
It also delivers training and consulting services to customers who need help streamlining their process workflows so they can effectively use MasterControl’s suite of scalable solutions for document management, quality management, electronic batch record management, supplier management, and clinical and regulatory information management. These solutions increase internal efficiencies and reduce the required staff and paper burden of processes like document control, change control, training control, auditing, and corrective and preventive action (CAPA) event management by combining them in a web interface that outlines the steps needed to comply, then tracks and measures efforts.
MasterControl currently uses vSphere across the enterprise, and Mirage to deliver desktop training for customers. Recently the IT organization added a 5-node, all-flash vSAN cluster to provide speed and scalability as well as RAID-5-level failover security. The vSAN supports over 300 VMs and 50 terabytes of storage backed by HP hardware. An additional 150 servers are virtualized with VMware on Dell 710 and 720 servers that are not hyper-converged.
Managing internal compliance while developing products to help customers do the same thing is part of the challenge for MasterControl. As customers struggle to keep up with increasing regulation, MasterControl needs to set an example. “Our pharmaceutical and life science customers face more scrutiny every year, so our software has to evolve to meet continually tougher standards,” says Bryce Catten, Senior Systems Engineer at MasterControl.
To support a more agile development environment, the company’s team of about 100 software developers needs quick access to storage and computing resources that are easy to manage.
Benefits of vSAN
In the past, MasterControl dealt with bottlenecks as they planned and budgeted separately for IT support for each department. With local storage, there was also no simple way to load-balance or share resources. IT was already running VMware virtualized servers for external customers, but the internal IT group supporting developers, QA, and technical support primarily used local storage—putting development timelines at the mercy of budgeting processes and broader company priorities.
Implementing vSAN solved these problems. Now QA, technical support, and development each occupy a node in a shared vSAN cluster, a configuration that allows shared resources and a reduced hardware footprint. vSAN combines computing and storage, eliminating the need for separate purchase cycles and enabling MasterControl to easily add nodes and clusters without additional hardware. “It's a simple procedure. We can instantly see how much compute and how much storage we’re using,” says Bryce. “And when we add a node to the cluster, automatically everybody benefits.”
The same easy scalability and simple management interface directly benefit the development and QA teams, who can get the environments they need without delay. “It's straightforward to monitor and manage vSAN storage,” says Bryce. “Now any of our system engineers can help out when it’s time to add or maintain storage.”
Adopting vSAN also increased performance. Compared to local instances and powerful laptops running product instances, vSAN is noticeably faster. SQL programmers in particular have experienced phenomenal operational speeds with vSAN. In addition, when a storage controller failed, MasterControl realized the benefit of all-Flash drives in supporting recovery.
MasterControl’s IT department has been so impressed with vSAN that it’s considering expanding management and automation through NSX with vRealize. Adding NSX would enable developers to directly create and maintain their own environments, and the expanded automation toolkit would reduce human error, another bonus for a company that is all about compliance.