News Source: hotelnewsresource.com
Three Key Lessons Learned from One Hotel's IT Infrastructure Journey
News Source/Courtesy: hotelnewsresource.com

As any IT professional in the hospitality industry understands all too well, we are constantly just trying to keep our heads above water. The question always seems to be: how can we do more with less? Prior to the pandemic, our entire IT staff could be assembled around a boardroom table. As the pandemic forced people to cancel their travel plans, we, like so many others, were forced to reduce our staff by a third. By Jose Solis, Senior Systems and Network Engineer, Classic Hotels, originally published in Hotel Technology News

In the classic novel The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, the author is counseled by a wise gas station attendant named Socrates that, “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” This insight is sound guidance for anyone who is on their own personal journey. It’s also good advice for those of us working in IT – though we often have little choice but to spend some of our time battling against the legacy technology
that all too often feels like an anchor being dragged behind us.

As the IT leader for Classic Hotels & Resorts, a small chain of six luxury properties operating across Arizona and California that caters to a mix of business and leisure travelers, our small team is tasked with managing the IT infrastructure across all properties with the goal of ensuring that the applications and the data that our business relies upon are always available and performing at the highest level.

And as any IT professional in the hospitality industry understands all too well, we are constantly just trying to keep our heads above water. The question always seems to be: how can we do more with less? Prior to the pandemic, our entire IT staff could be assembled around a boardroom table. As the pandemic forced people to cancel their travel plans, we, like so many others, were forced to reduce our staff by a third.

Compounding these challenges, our aging infrastructure was in dire need of an overhaul. But selling management on a modernization initiative in the midst of an economic downturn wouldn’t be easy. For the past five years I had heard a lot of chatter about Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) which promised to significantly reduce the cost and complexity of IT and wondered: is HCI ready for primetime?

HCI in a Nutshell

If you’re not familiar with the concept of hyperconvergence, it simply refers to the idea of consolidating all of the separate systems you need to manage storage, network and compute to a single integrated system. Think of it like when Apple introduced the original iPhone – by integrating a camera, GPS, and other common functions into a single device we no longer needed to carry around separate devices that often didn’t play well with one another.

While public cloud services like AWS and Azure serve an invaluable role in bridging the IT gap, it’s not a cure-all as we still need to maintain certain applications, workloads, and customer data on-site. Hyperconverged systems were appealing for a number of reasons:

Simplified Management: With only myself and two others running the entire IT operation, we needed to spend less time focused on tasks that just keep the lights on and dedicate more of our time to leverage IT to change the business.
Business Resilience: If our Point of Sales system goes down, we not only lose revenue but the guest experience also suffers – neither of these outcomes is acceptable. Any upgrade to our IT infrastructure should have deep redundancy and automated failover capabilities to ensure business continuity.

Hardened Security: A ransomware attack can be a truly devastating event. We know this from direct experience. In the event of another attack, an agile infrastructure should be able to restore data from wherever it might be located and do so in a manner of minutes or hours versus days or weeks.

Futureproof IT: Ripping and replacing servers without sustaining any downtime is a tall order. The ability of a hyperconverged solution to quickly add or remove nodes from a cluster as warranted by demand would both extend the utility and responsiveness of our infrastructure.

Finding the Right Solution

While the hyperconvergence market is still young, there are a multitude of vendors offering mature solutions. From the largest IT vendors such as HP and Dell to smaller, pure-play providers like Nutanix and Scale Computing, there’s no shortage of options. Following an in- depth evaluation, we decided to go with a three node cluster from Scale Computing.

Prior to hyperconvergence, we used a combination of solutions for backing up our systems but bringing that environment back online could be a tedious and time-consuming process. I was also surprised by how easy it was to deploy the solution – in less than two hours we were able to unpack, mount and deploy each site. This was a markedly different experience than we had with previous VMWare migrations which required significant planning and consequently, unscheduled downtime.

Virtualization of course is its own type of double-edged sword. While on the one hand, it enables you to maximize the utility of system resources, it can also be a brittle beast of complexity. In our prior environment, if we needed to change something in our virtual infrastructure, it had to go through me. As the pandemic was just beginning to spread, this represented a real risk to our daily operations.

Hotel Technology News, published by Starfleet Media, is the hospitality industry's premier source of information and insights related to technology innovation at top-performing hotels.

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News Source: hotelnewsresource.com

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