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Love, Honesty, and Appreciation for Nutanix Disaster Recovery

A Candid chat with WD-40’s own Jeff Longley.

By Ed Collins

Paranoia Is Good, They Say

Leading Nutanix’s marketing for our Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR) solutions means establishing a position in the market, creating and disseminating appropriate messaging both internally and externally, and then running campaigns to drive business. A day in the life of a marketing executive is simultaneously exhilarating and frightening. It’s this latter part that is most interesting because the fright stems from a healthy dose of paranoia. Former Intel CEO Andy Grove actually wrote a book titled, Only the Paranoid Survive. I figured if I’m going to introduce you to my perspective, I might as well write honestly. With that said, I beg your pardon if my transparency makes you uncomfortable. On the flip side, if you can relate, by all means keep reading.

Meet Jeff, Paranoia Killer

I was introduced to Jeff Longley after a Nutanix TAB (Technical Advisory Board) meeting, which is a by-invitation-only event reserved for some of our longest-standing customers. The goal of these events is to generate an open dialogue where our customers are encouraged to provide our product management and marketing teams feedback on current and future products and features. When asked if we could have a one on one with him, Jeff answered immediately, “I always, always have time for you guys at Nutanix!” It turns out that Jeff, a principal systems administrator at WD-40 in the United Kingdom, loves Nutanix. While the sentiment is often shared (our average NPS score for the last 7 years is 90), having a really smart, insightful IT practitioner take the time to intimate his thoughts on a breadth of real problems Nutanix was able to solve for him is nothing short of a blessing.

When I met and thanked Jeff, personally, for his time, he reiterated, “I always have time for Nutanix.” As he sighed, I sensed a wellspring of gratitude from him, as if what I was about to learn would be a marketing exec’s dream. It was. Truly. My paranoia was squashed inside of the ensuing forty-five minutes of dialogue.

DR was no fun!

Jeff Longley

These are Jeff’s exact words when I asked him to share his experiences in his current position, from the very beginning. “Did we have a DR plan? Yes. Could we recover? Yes. Was it quick, reliable, and painless? No!” When asked to elaborate, he stated, “While we had a very good process around our planning, the tool sets available to us at the time weren’t so good.” It wasn’t until he attended the DR Tech preview at a Nutanix .NEXT event that he realized that salvation was just over the horizon. “I need that, like right now,” he said when he first learned about the Nutanix DR solution. At the time, WD-40 used the Microsoft® Hyper-V hypervisor, but has since migrated to the Nutanix AHV hypervisor, which is bundled into their existing Nutanix software stack at no extra cost.

The Beauty of Simple Failover Testing

Jeff describes failover testing as a key to their DR success. He and his team call the isolated failover sandbox their friendly “DR bubble” because it allows them to do failover testing to their secondary datacenter without disrupting their normal production operations. He describes former alternatives as a major burden; but concedes that that’s just the way it was for many years. In 2017, it took 5 days to perform a test, 9 hours in 2018, and today, a mere 15 minutes with Nutanix DR. It was at this point during the interview that Jeff’s voice betrayed his incredible excitement about his new solution.

Much of Jeff’s exuberance comes from the fact that his team must prove at least once per year, as part of SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley), that WD-40 has a viable DR plan in place. In reality, his team tests their DR solution once per quarter, minimally. Given the vast improvements in DR failover testing, the exercise no longer causes stress or anxiety. In fact, their failover testing is so easy, they have found new ways to utilize it – ways that I’ve not thought to market, even, until now.

WD-40’s New Patch Install Insurance Policy

WD-40 loves their new DR solution so much that they’ve found new ways to leverage it. For example, they are using it for patch testing. The process is both simple and ingenious - they identify the production VMs to be patched, create a failover policy, perform a test failover, and install the patch on the VMs in the “DR bubble”. If the patch is a success, they roll it into production; if not, they simply delete the “DR bubble” and try something different. No harm, no foul.

This newfangled way of utilizing their failover testing capabilities has been used for upgrade testing, as well. As Jeff states, “The beauty of Nutanix DR failover testing is that it snapshots your live environment.” Apparently, the new DR solution continues to impress Jeff’s extended team, as he has received an increasing number of requests to leverage it. The sky is the limit.

DR Tiering in the Future

At the end of our conversation, I asked Jeff what his plans were for the future. I was truly in a state of anticipation. He and his team are so positive and grateful, and as it turns out, creative users of the Nutanix DR solution. WD-40 is currently investigating a tiered DR model, where they’d keep their existing private cloud DR in place using their secondary datacenter as their first DR target. For additional protection, they are considering using Nutanix’s Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solution, namely Nutanix® Xi Leap™ offering, as their tertiary DR target. We had some time to discuss what this means, architecturally. Suffice to say that, with a tiered DR solution, one has to begin scratching their chins, wondering if the line between DR and traditional backup solutions has begun to blur (hint-hint:  it has, according to the 3-2-1 rule). Application availability is the end goal for WD-40, regardless of how it is achieved – the simpler the better!

A Whole New World

For WD-40, Nutanix’s DR solution has removed a lot of the complexity typically associated with keeping their business up and running while weathering attacks on IT uptime. It’s even simplified their overall BCDR plan by mitigating much of the pressure that used to be placed square on the shoulders of IT practitioners and placing it on the DR solution itself. No longer does recovery from a negative IT event depend upon humans following strict protocols (e.g., Jeff mentioned, “Take this train at this station, then do this…”) – that level of stress has been completely removed. WD-40 is now able to virtually lift and shift their primary datacenter with just a few clicks. The solution has been nothing short of transformational. Furthermore, not only is this pressure of maintaining a proper, testable, provable DR plan alleviated, but new ways of streamlining testing of business systems have been adopted. For this happy customer, and yours truly, it’s love and appreciation that rules the day!

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