Moving from Mainframe to Web-Scale with Nutanix


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An Interview with Jeff Babcock, IT Technical Infrastructure Manager at Empire Life

Background: Empire Life helps Canadians build wealth and protect their financial security with competitive individual and group life and health insurance as well as a variety of investment and retirement products. Jeff Babcock manages the IT Infrastructure team and datacenters for Empire Life. We recently asked Jeff to share some of the details of his company’s recent move from mainframe to web-scale and Nutanix. Here are the highlights of our conversation.

Q. What were some the key IT and business challenges you were facing prior to Nutanix?
A. We were using a mainframe for all of our critical financial data and daily investment transactions. The equipment and annual maintenance contracts for this system were becoming prohibitively expensive. We wanted to find a more cost-effective solution that could provide enough performance for our mission-critical applications and also enable us to launch new solutions, including hybrid cloud, VDI, and more.

Q. Why did you choose Nutanix?
A. In partnership with one of our vendors, we tested and compared Nutanix to a number of different solutions. Nutanix performed as well as – or far better than – all of the other systems measured almost unilaterally on every data point, which was way beyond our expectations. The Nutanix appliances also delivered four times the IOPS at four times lower latency compared to our existing SAN. In a word—stunning!

Q. Did you obtain any footprint or power savings by moving to Nutanix?
A. The space efficiency of the Nutanix appliances and the density of virtual machines per node is amazing. We have achieved a 16:1 reduction in footprint, literally re-shaping our datacenter. Additionally we intend to migrate a large number of servers from our Unified Communications environment to Nutanix, which will further improve our reduction ratio.

Q. Can you tell me about the Nutanix installation experience?
A. It took less than half a day to deploy the entire Nutanix environment. That was quite surprising, considering that we started with 13 nodes and over 100TB of storage. It was an order of magnitude faster than installing anything in our previous environment. Migrating workloads to Nutanix has been extremely smooth and straightforward, without requiring system outages.

Q. Did you obtain any OpEx or CapEx improvements by moving to Nutanix?
A. Our mainframe environment was prohibitively expensive. We anticipate we will be able to avoid significant costs over the course of the project by transitioning from our mainframe to the Nutanix web-scale environment. Our projected cost reductions are in the order of 50-65%. As you can imagine, this makes our CTO and CEO very happy. We expect significant additional savings via VDI and elimination of traditional SAN in our environment very soon.

Q. Can you tell me about your DR environment?
A. We were relying on tape-based Disaster Recovery before we switched to Nutanix. Whenever there was a recovery scenario, we would rebuild our systems from scratch on rental contract hardware using the backup tapes, which is a slow, manual process. Nutanix has opened the door to completely re-engineer our DR plan. With Nutanix replication, recovery can take just minutes. And by moving to a hyperconverged system, we no longer have to keep a large amount of expensive and sometimes proprietary hardware and services on contract with a hosted DR facility – we can easily manage this ourselves. Our team loves this, as it frees them to work on more interesting and strategic projects.

Q. Do you have any plans for expanding your use of Nutanix?
A. Nutanix is now being used for five different use cases here at Empire Life, split across two clusters – one for our production server, unified communications, and mainframe application environments, and the other for development/testing and our virtual desktop environments. The versatility of the Nutanix solution makes it ideal for a wide range of applications in our production environment. In fact, we have decided to use Nutanix as our default platform for everything X86-based going forward. We couldn’t be happier…

Q. I was told that you will be speaking at the Nutanix .NEXT user conference in June. What will your session cover?
A. Yes, I will be co-presenting a session with Jonathan Kohler, one of Nutanix’s consulting architects. Our session will cover some of the tips and tricks for migrating server workloads to Nutanix. I hope you can attend!

.NEXT is the only conference dedicated to the latest in enterprise datacenter technologies and architectures. Space is limited, so register today and find out what’s .NEXT for you.

.NEXT Session Abstract: Migrating Server Workloads to Nutanix
Co-presented by Jonathan Kohler, Consulting Architect at Nutanix, and Jeff Babcock, IT Technical Infrastructure Manager at Empire Life

In this technical session, a Nutanix consultant and an experienced virtualization expert from Empire Life will share real-world best practices for efficiently and easily migrating all types of server workloads to Nutanix. You will hear in-depth and practical information on migration assessments and platform sizing considerations, and learn how to pick the right conversion tools and leverage storage migration facilities. The session will conclude by providing valuable insights for making migrations successful and painless for your organization.

This session will cover:

  • How to develop success criteria for large or complex migrations
  • The basics of cross-hypervisor migrations, and how Nutanix in-path migrations work
  • Tips and tricks for ingesting large amounts of data in short periods of time