Sanity Music Makes In-Store Searches Fast with Virtual Desktops Running on Nutanix
A high-performance server and storage infrastructure to host VMware View VDI deployment. Must have compact footprint and fast implementation.
The Nutanix NX-2000 Complete Cluster.
- Supports 350 virtual desktops on Nutanix Complete Cluster
- Fully implemented in time for the holiday shopping season
- Faster Internet searches and improved customer satisfaction
- Significant reduction in datacenter foot print and power requirements compared to traditional servers and SAN
- VDI investment expected to pay off in internet connectivity and desktop hardware savings
Sanity Music is one of Australia’s largest retailers of specialty music and video with 160 stores across the country.
When customers visit a Sanity Music store, they often need help identifying an artist, album or video. According to Bill Dixon, IT Manager, “Customers approach us and say, ‘Look, I have a line out of a song and I want to know who sings it. I want to buy the album.’ ” Understanding their customers, Sanity has search facilities to support those queries via the store internet. At some regional stores, Internet speeds are not as fast as they could be due to aging technologies and the locality of the gateway to the store. This meant that customers occasionally had to wait up to several minutes for search results. When Sanity Music’s general manager visited one of the stores, he found that his 3G based iPhone browser performed searches faster than the store search facilities. Customer satisfaction is a key aspect of revenue for Sanity and the company executives considered the wait too long. The IT department was tasked to find a solution to this performance issue and deliver a superior experience to the customer that would result in repeat business in this unique offering.
Adding expensive bandwidth to upgrade each store’s connection would adversely impact operational cost and was not the preffered option. Thinking creatively, the IT staff looked at VDI as a way to use existing bandwidth but significantly reduce data across the Internet connections, thereby improving responsiveness to the customer query. The team used existing hardware to create a VMware View proof of concept and found the performance of the VDI solution to be superior to the existing physical desktop solution.
“The project was executed on time and under budget and we are extremely happy with what we have. We feel very strongly about the product and this is the first time ever we have agreed to talk about any IT solution that we use.”
– Shane Vaughan, IT Network Administrator
Nutanix – Big Performance, Small Package
Having decided on a VDI solution, the retailer needed to secure a high-performance server and storage infrastructure to support the deployment. Sanity were considering a Blade and SAN solution, an older architecture, when Shane Vaughan, IT Network Administrator for Sanity Music, heard about the Nutanix converged storage and compute platform from their local reseller BEarena. The Nutanix Complete Cluster includes four full nodes in only 2U of rack space and is more power-efficient than the legacy non-converged approach. This was a major benefit for the retailer due to the power and space constraints in its collocation datacenter. The exceptional IOPS performance Nutanix delivers by integrating Fusion-io solid-state drives and SATA disk drives using automated data tiering also appealed to them.
Another factor tipping the scales in favour of Nutanix was the fast implementation time. The Christmas season was approaching, and store executives wanted the VDI system in place before the peak shopping season. A Nutanix system can be set up rapidly and configured in a matter of minutes. “With other solutions, SANs and blades, it would have taken us a month or more to deploy,” said Vaughan.
“With other solutions, SANs and blades, it would have taken us a month or more to deploy.”
– Shane Vaughan, IT Network Administrator
Just in Time for the Holidays
Sanity Music felt confident in the Nutanix system and team and decided to go forward with the project during the peak holiday season. They deployed VMware View on a Nutanix Complete Cluster and set up 350 virtual desktops running a web browser for their stores. “Management tasked us with getting this in before Christmas, and that left us very little time to do testing. It was kind of on a wing and a prayer. But everything turned out well and we are very happy with what we have,” noted Dixon. The entire process from purchase, installation to rolling out the VDI solution to all the stores took only six weeks from start to finish.
Feedback from the stores about the new virtual desktops showed significant improvement across the board. The time to open a web page dropped from 30 seconds to only 1 or 2 seconds. The download time for 11 MB monthly catalogues went from several minutes to a few seconds. For customers this translates into a better shopping experience at Sanity Music stores.
The Nutanix solution enabled a near 75% reduction in datacenter footprint over alternative VDI solutions. Combined with the system’s energy efficiency, Nutanix helped reduce datacenter operating expenses compared to traditional servers and SAN. Sanity Music also expects its investment in VDI will pay off over time in savings from Internet connectivity and less-frequent desktop hardware upgrades.
The retailer is now looking at ways to use VDI more broadly. They want to deploy the VMware Horizon Suite on Nutanix to extend virtual desktops to remote workers and other devices. There are also plans to transition the head office from physical to virtual desktops in the future.