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Dell cuts data center redundancy for SMC Corporation

SMC Corporation eliminates data center redundancy using Dell Technologies storage and HCI products to develop a private cloud for the global company.

LAS VEGAS -- SMC Corporation wants to connect its dozens of IT departments across more than 50 countries to a single data center that supports a private hybrid cloud and company buildings across the globe.

The company tasked Jon St. Arnaud, global infrastructure manager at SMC Corporation of America, with bringing this data center plan to life, and St. Arnaud ultimately found his answer with Dell Technologies.

"Everything [else] we looked at required manual intervention," St. Arnaud said from Dell Technologies World 2022. "Dell brought the entire suitcase."

SMC Corp.'s Jon St. ArnaudJon St. Arnaud

For St. Arnaud, Dell's suitcase included VxRail hyper-converged systems to build out company technology infrastructure while relying on PowerScale scale-out NAS for storage along with Dell Ransomware Defender security tools for cyber resiliency and air-gapping data.

Since initiating the contract with Dell, the company has reduced 85 IT departments worldwide to 12 data centers in the past year with redundant services and off-site backups. Those IT departments varied in size from just a handful of support staff with some on-premises hardware to more nuanced operations with local automation of services.

Automating automation

SMC Corporation engineers and manufactures pneumatic technology such as air cylinders and valves and associated industrial automation technology. The company, which has subsidiaries and joint ventures around the world and an extensive global sales network, is based in Japan with its U.S. subsidiary office located in Noblesville, Ind.

Previously, the SMC IT departments across the world operated independently of each other, relying on disconnected on-premises data centers that complicated how engineering teams collaborated on new CAD designs.

"Engineers around the planet all need access to those files," said St. Arnaud, a three-year SMC employee and a 30-year IT veteran.

The process couldn't be solved overnight with a lift and shift into a cloud hyperscaler such as AWS, especially as company policy prioritized protecting trade secrets.

You can't move 85 functional IT departments into the clouds overnight.
Jon St. ArnaudGlobal infrastructure manager, SMC Corporation of America

"You can't move 85 functional IT departments into the clouds overnight," St. Arnaud said.

He's since assisted the company in creating new, more centralized data center locations every month for the past year, steering away from 85 separate IT stacks into the current 12 data centers.

When choosing how to break down its IT and data silos, SMC considered vendors beyond Dell Technologies such as NetApp, but ultimately selected Dell as its storage products enabled easy installation of additional storage nodes.

"If we have to expand storage or go deep, we can just drop [another node] in," St. Arnaud said. "We want a stack of SSDs as deep as we can. We can look at the storage [of] a [single] object rather than break down those components."

Future production

Dell's Ransomware Defender software and capabilities aligns with St. Arnaud's own cyber-resilience strategies for anticipating and recovering from cyber attacks.

He advised organizations not to run through a litany of "what if" scenarios and build around those assumptions, but instead build for generalized disaster vectors, such as a fire or ransomware attack.

"We look at all the ways we can restore data and what's the most granular way to do that," he said.

The PowerFlex line enables creation and movement of data backups without needing to physically write and remove tapes, St. Arnaud added.

"It's much better than carrying a suitcase of tape offsite," he said.

The move to centralized data centers will also help SMC cut down on redundant software purchases, a significant cost savings when engineering software packages can cost thousands of dollars.

"We're buying the maximum number of licenses, not the [maximum] number of users," he said.

For hybrid cloud organization transformations, St. Arnaud said developing a strategy and plan early on for your technology stack needs can help get executive buy-in, which is essential for the project to succeed. From there, he suggests making sure you can source and replace on-premises parts quickly should anything fail.

"It becomes a jigsaw of technologies and finding out what works well together," he said. "Do your discovery and know the spectrum of tools and applications that's out there. We got lucky -- it's all in one vendor.

Tim McCarthy is a journalist living on the North Shore of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.

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