An interview with Justin Mason, ITM Operations Manager, University of Canberra
Background: Based in Australia’s capital city, University of Canberra (UC) strives to provide education that offers high quality transformative experiences to everyone suitably qualified, whatever their stage of life and irrespective of their origins. Justin Mason, ITM Operations Manager at UC manages the strategic and technical aspects of UC’s IT systems. We recently spoke with Justin regarding UC’s IT consolidation project through which it moved to a Nutanix environment for greater reliability and higher availability for the University’s key workloads. Here are the highlights:
Q: What challenges did UC face with its previous IT infrastructure?
We faced many of the typical challenges presented by a traditional infrastructure stack, for example, segregated servers and storage. We found we had a lot of hardware, but portions of it was not efficiently utilised. On occasion, we experienced significant failures and outages with our former storage platforms. When these incidents occurred, it would cause disruption to key IT systems used by students, academics and professional staff.
Q: Why did you upgrade to Nutanix?
We were specifically looking for a natively converged platform that would increase agility, improve consolidation ratios, and lower capacity and interoperability risks. Our goal was to adopt a scale-out approach whereby local node resources were woven into a global resource fabric for presentation and consumption.
Q: Can you describe the transition to Nutanix?
Our ongoing transition started in September 2013 when we purchased our first Nutanix cluster; we used it to host Microsoft Hyper-V virtual server workloads for our test and development environment. Upon completion of the successful pilot of the Nutanix platform for our test and development workloads, we purchased a second cluster in November that year to be used to host production workloads. In July 2014, we procured a third cluster for our disaster recovery (DR) requirements. The data protection capabilities offered on the Nutanix platform gave us the ability to automatically synchronise virtual servers onto the DR infrastructure in a secondary location. Late last year we purchased a fourth cluster specifically for University researchers. This new cluster will provide our researchers with resources to assist in their computational and data storage requirements. Introducing a new cluster or new node into existing clusters is a seamless experience, and requires minimal resourcing from our IT staff, due to the intelligent setup and configuration options offered on the platform.
Q: What is your favourite Nutanix feature?
The web-scale capability is critical for us, and one of the main reasons for adopting the platform. We are also very excited about the Acropolis hypervisor. We have made substantial investments in licensing both VMware ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V, and are now planning to move all of our Nutanix clusters from these platforms to Acropolis to help reduce our operational expenditure.
While it’s not a feature per se, we have also enjoyed the ongoing support from Nutanix and its local partner, Qirx. Over the years we have worked directly with certified engineers who aided our adoption and helped us maximise the value we receive from the technology.
Q: What benefits have students and teachers experienced since the implementation of Nutanix?
UC has a number of key systems hosted on the platform that are relied upon each day; everything from a critical student lecture recording and streaming system, to business intelligence, a Campus Mobile App, the student ID card system, staff directory and the staff email anti-spam and malware system. Nutanix has delivered the necessary reliability and scalability to ensure none of those systems are ever interrupted. We want to ensure that all of our critical systems have a high degree of availability for all of our staff and students, and the Nutanix platform is providing that level of service.
Q: What improvements are you seeing in your data centre?
We have calculated that migrating to the Nutanix platform has saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars that has been reinvested into aging infrastructure.
Of the legacy hardware that was end of life in 2015, 85 per cent has been migrated to Nutanix, including 90 virtual servers. In 2015 our physical infrastructure footprint decreased by 36 per cent. All the systems migrated to Nutanix now have a greater degree of reliability and redundancy due to the technology’s built-in high availability and data protection capabilities. We now also have scale-out options, which were limited with our previous infrastructure.
The improved reliability, performance and upgradability of the Nutanix platform also means our IT department can spend more time on important project initiatives rather than traditional business as usual and break fix tasks. We are now more aligned to UC’s overarching objectives as the Nutanix platform has become such an important business enabler for the University.