The typical number of employees and guests at the Disneyland® Resort on any given day puts it on par with that of a sizeable American town. The big difference? All the residents of Nampa, Idaho, and Wichita Falls, Texas, aren't clamoring to hop on attractions and have their pictures snapped with their favorite costumed characters.
"We want to ensure that every guest has a seamless experience—from check-in at their Disneyland® Resort hotel, to entering the parks, to using Genie+," says Brian Curnow, senior technology manager for Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products.
Guest expectations are high at Disneyland® Resort, and as such, management of the operations is a massive technological undertaking. A busy collection of systems are used for all of the resort's key operational activities, including ticketing, shopping operations, dining cash registers, call center operations, and other back-office capabilities. Disneyland® Resort goes to great lengths to make all of that effort invisible to its guests. Guests want to have a good time and not have to think about whether the virtual machines running the Disney Genie recommendations service are being overly taxed or whether the cash registers at Bengal Barbecue are in operation.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise is an Official Technology Sponsor of the Disneyland® Resort, and for more than 10 years, Disneyland® Resort has relied on an on-premises VMware solution running on HPE hardware to manage all of this. "We use this system for everything from costume management to scheduling and more," says Curnow. But like all tech systems do, this one was reaching its end of life and in need of a refresh. Curnow says his goals for the upgrade were to ensure it would not just maintain the same high level of performance after it was implemented but also avoid any extended outages during the transition. Summing it up, Curnow says, "We need to provide highly available, secure, and scalable hosting services to support Disneyland® Resort operations on prem while also controlling the costs of the solution."
Cloud, on prem, or both?
Conventional wisdom might suggest that Disneyland® Resort should pursue a pure cloud solution, where upfront capital expenses are minimal and performance is generally quite high. But for Disneyland® Resort, a pure cloud solution hasn't been appealing to date. "The primary challenge with pure cloud is the cost of the migration," says Curnow. "When Disneyland® Resort moves applications to the public cloud, we typically take the time to review the architecture and make changes that align the application with our cloud approach." In a typical cloud environment, that kind of flexibility is virtually nonexistent.
The solution? Disneyland® Resort quickly identified HPE GreenLake as an ideal option, combining the power of the cloud with the flexibility of an on-prem solution. It had the added bonus of also being a natural evolution of the existing on-prem platform at Disneyland® Resort, which was built on HPE hardware. "With HPE GreenLake, we're able to avoid application changes and the cost involved and simply migrate to the new solution," says Curnow. "This allows us to continue to focus on business solution innovation rather than migration activities."
Why not stick with an on-prem model, then? "Classic on-prem data center hosting requires a lot of knowledge and experience selecting the various components—servers, storage, networking—as well as experience with the configuration and integration of those components," says Curnow. Upgrading its existing on-prem system would have essentially required a forklift upgrade to all new hardware components while ensuring compatibility with its existing software, a daunting task that felt fraught with risk.
He adds, "The model HPE presented allowed us to move to an operations expense model based on our usage of the system. Because HPE GreenLake is built on VMware technology, migration could be achieved using VMware NSX and vMotion technologies."
"A solution like HPE GreenLake allows us to leverage the knowledge and expertise of HPE to build on an integrated stack and support it into the future," Curnow says. "In the short term, HPE allows us to save on a hardware refresh architecture. In the long term, we expect to see savings from the ability to both grow and shrink the HPE GreenLake environment without a large capital expenditure."
"We're excited to get to work behind the scenes to help create the Disney magic," says Alison Chrisman, an HPE enterprise account executive who works with the company. "With guest-facing applications, we understand how critical it is to get things right, from both a performance and security standpoint. Having GreenLake hardware on premises helps reduce latency, for example, and the tools available through GreenLake Central help Disneyland® Resort manage the system capacity to keep pace with business changes."
Moving to HPE GreenLake also addresses a range of challenges that Curnow says Disneyland® Resort has been facing, including:
- HPE GreenLake supports a wide variety of systems, not just VMware, giving Disneyland® Resort the flexibility to build new services, optimize existing ones, and continuously improve the guest experience.
- HPE GreenLake's integrated architecture gives Disneyland® Resort the ability to focus its resources less on traditional IT maintenance work and more on solving traditional business challenges. This integration allows Disneyland® Resort to more easily leverage the knowledge from experts in the compute, storage, and virtualization space.
- Like a traditional cloud service offering, monitoring and support services are available to ensure that the platform meets the availability and security requirements of Disneyland® Resort.
- And finally, as Curnow stresses, the HPE GreenLake cost model allows Disneyland® Resort to move away from recurring capital investments and leverage an operations-based expense model—all while ensuring hardware is upgraded at pace with the industry and with the scale of Disneyland® Resort's operations.
At press time, Disneyland® Resort was in the early stages of its migration to HPE GreenLake, with a planned switchover date of October 2022, to have active workloads migrated to and running on the new system.
"I'm very impressed with how this solution has come together," says Curnow. "The HPE team has been amazing in helping us understand the GreenLake offering and ensuring that we're set up for success. I'm very excited to get this new environment operational and our workloads migrated."