A Q&A with the Director of IT at the largest law firm in Utah

HPE recently launched a new line of offerings specifically designed to help small and midsize businesses increase their IT performance. In this article, David Clark, Director of Information Technology at Salt Lake City-based law firm Kirton McConkie, discusses how HPE products, including the HPE Simplivity 380, impact the firm.

Q: Tell us about Kirton McConkie.

A: We are a full-service law firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah with 150 attorneys and about 125 additional employees. The firm has been serving the region for about 50 years.

Q: How long have you been an HPE customer?

A: (laughs) How far can I go back? Does Compaq count? I started out my career selling Compaq servers over 30 years ago.

Q: Describe your IT team.

A: All in all, we are very similar to other legal IT groups. Including myself, we have five total employees: a network administrator, hardware solutions expert, a trainer/librarian/help desk and a help desk guru. As IT Director, I make the final decisions about purchasing technology and what direction to go. But I would say that every member of my team has their hands on the technology every single day.

Q: What is the key decision criteria that you use when making decisions about buying and deploying IT infrastructure components?

A: I’ve been an HP fan—whether it be HP or HPE, for quite some time. It’s actually funny to me that we are even having this conversation, because the main reason I went with SimpliVity was that we could install it on a ProLiant server.

Whenever possible, I purchase all HPE infrastructure and products. I’m not a fan of Dell from a service perspective. And actually, I’m not a fan of any other company besides HPE. I trust HPE completely. With all of the HPE purchases I have made over the past three decades, I have had almost no problems with the technology.

I actually even paid more to have SimpliVity on an HPE platform. That is how much I want all of our infrastructure to be on HPE.

Q: Tell me about your IT environment and what you are running.

A: In addition to HPE ProLiant servers, we currently have two SimpliVity that we are using for VDI with approximately eight terabytes of usable disk space. Everything is virtualized except for two physical servers that we can’t virtualize. We have about 100 VDI users on it and plan to have 150 users within a month as we migrate employees off the older technology. With remote desktops, employees can access all of the apps that they would use if they were physically in the office. I’m on VDI 24/7. I’m actually looking at my remote desktop right now—it’s all I use.

Q: What is your backup strategy?

A: We aren’t real happy with our backup strategy right now. One of our projects for 2018 is looking at our backup and recovery strategy. SimpliVity is going to be a big part of that discussion.

Q: Are you planning on moving your backup to SimpliVity?

A: Absolutely. We would be crazy not to. Because of the way SimpliVity backs up virtual desktops, there is no reason not to use it to back up virtual servers as well as hypervisors.

Q: Tell me about your cloud strategy today, and where do you see that going?

A: We've got a number of products that we use that are cloud-based today, so we're already in the Cloud—who's not? Everybody is, in one form or another. Whether we move some of our local unstructured data into the cloud or some data-based computer is still up in the air. I don’t know if the cost justifies the means of migrating everything to the cloud with the kind of technology availability today. One of reasons we went with SimpliVity is that we aren’t looking to put more on the cloud.

Q: How are you using SimpliVity?

A: Right now, we are allowing our users to use a secure internally-hosted virtual desktop, where they can do everything that they could if they were sitting in the office. I’ve been working on showing some of our high power users the advantages of using VDI.

Well, pretty much, they can do anything on it, just as if they were sitting in the office. And what I'm trying to do is show some of the higher power users the advantage to virtual desktop—the speed. I can make the virtual desktop as fast as your real desktop. You can now disconnect from the office, go home and reconnect to your VDI. You are right back where you left off in terms of applications.

When we were talking about purchasing SimpliVity, I sold it to the attorneys by explaining that if they lose their desktop or laptop that they would have all of their data protected in their VDI. They could get back to work right away.

I’m actually the perfect example. I have a 10-year-old laptop sitting at my feet, and I’m running VDI on it. If the desktop were to fail, all I have to do is pull out my laptop, hook it into the monitor, and I’m right back to where I was. It would only take a few minutes of my time at most, and I would lose absolutely no data.

Q: What features are you using with SimpliVity?

A: As I mentioned before, we are strictly using it for the virtual desktop at this point. I also use some of the dashboard solutions to tell me where we are at from a storage and utilization standpoint. We are just learning the technology, and I know we will start using more of the features in the near future.

I’m currently using 300 GBs of space, so I’m going to start migrating a couple more servers onto the SimpliVity infrastructure.

Q: What feedback have you gotten from employees?

A: You know, it’s funny. With law firms, it really is “no news is good news.” Attorneys struggle to verbalize the positive and are very good at verbalizing the negative. We always hear when there is a problem. If we don’t hear anything, then that means that we are going good.

Q: Do you have any plans for any other HP products or other opportunities to work with HP that you see in the near or far future?

A: Yes, I plan to look at adding a couple more nodes of SimpliVity. That gets back to the backup. Right now, we don’t have any servers using it, but I plan on putting our servers on SimpliVity.

Q: How would you describe the impact of HPE on Kirton McConkie?

A: Well, everything is pretty much running on HPE, so I’d have to say that the impact is really big.

When it comes to HPE servers, the one thing I appreciate more than anything else is, frankly, I never have to worry about them. They just run. It’s literally been years since I’ve had to call the support center for any issue at all.

We have a non-HP SAN system, and I’ve probably replaced a hard drive in there once a month. I can’t remember the last time I’ve replaced a piece of hardware on an HPE ProLliant server. And that is the main reason why every time I find myself looking to buy new technology, my number one criteria is that the product be from HPE.