Customers

UK University Minds its Own Business with Nutanix

Buckinghamshire New University Migrates From Managed Service to On-premises Nutanix Cloud

Concerned about the performance, agility and value for money of its existing managed IT service, Bucks New University had already begun to consider possible in-house alternatives. But then fate intervened, with the unexpected closure of the provider’s data centre, adding a new impetus to those deliberations.

INDUSTRY

Higher Education

Benefits

  • Low management overheads through centralised management of all physical and virtual resources from a single interface
  • Enhanced agility through on-demand resource scaling plus integrated application orchestration and automation tools
  • Immediate performance improvement particularly for I/O intensive apps
  • High availability through use of integrated replication and disaster recovery tools
  • Cloud-native ready infrastructure to accommodate future development plans

SOLUTIONS

  • Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Platform
  • Prism management plane
  • VMware and AHV hypervisors

Applications

  • File and Print services
  • Oracle and other SQL databases
  • Specialist teaching/learning applications
  • Parallels RAS
  • VMware Horizon View

We realised that we needed to bring our IT back in house but, for that to happen, it had to be simple and easy to manage. Nutanix met those requirements, and has given us the performance, scalability and agility we were looking for plus tools and technologies to deploy new applications and services which we wouldn’t have even considered before.

- David Rickard, Infrastructure Architect, Buckinghamshire New University

CHALLENGES

Midway into a five-year managed IT service contract, Buckinghamshire New University had begun the process of considering possible alternatives. But then fate took a hand with the imminent closure of one of the service provider’s data centres.

Should it stick with the service provider and go through the upheaval of moving its workloads to another location? Or should it take the opportunity to migrate to a self-managed platform to address shortcomings already identified in the managed service approach?

“Along with performance, scalability and latency we were concerned about a lack of agility and value for money from our managed service,” explains David Rickard, Infrastructure Architect at Buckinghamshire New University. “Most of the things we wanted to do were outside the scope of our contract making it more costly than expected as well as resulting in long delays getting even simple requests approved and actioned. We knew we had to do something; the closure of the data centre simply concentrated our minds.”

SOLUTION

Charged with this new sense of urgency, the decision was quickly taken to migrate from a managed service to a self-run on campus infrastructure. Three possible solutions were proposed in response to a formal tender process, with the university eventually choosing the Nutanix Cloud Platform bid submitted by Nutanix partner XMA.

“Because we’re a small team we decided that to bring our IT back in house it had to be both simple and easy to manage,” said Rickard. “In that respect Nutanix was a clear winner plus it offered additional tools and technologies that would enable us to further develop services to students and staff moving forward.”

As well as integrated Prism Central management tools, enabling staff to manage physical and virtual resources together from a single interface, the ability to support existing VMware workloads would also help accelerate and simplify migration. Built-in replication technologies were yet another advantage with the university opting to deploy the Nutanix platform at both its High Wycombe and Aylesbury sites to provide high availability and disaster recovery capabilities.

Against the odds

The first cluster was quickly up and running in the High Wycombe data centre and migration started when fate added yet another complication. This time it was the Covid-19 pandemic, despite which Rickard and the team managed to complete the migration project on schedule.

“Despite the Covid-19 restrictions, Nutanix and XMA worked even harder to get the second cluster installed, after which we could do everything remotely,” he said. “We knew then that we’d made the right choice and haven’t looked back since.”

CUSTOMER OUTCOMES

With the new infrastructure in place the existing 200+ VMs were copied over and brought online with very few issues making the shift from managed to on-premises working almost seamless. Moreover, as well as simpler management there have been numerous other benefits. Not least the ability to fix problems, deploy new VMs, and scale resources on-demand instead of having to wait days or sometimes even weeks to get requests actioned.

Software updates are also far less daunting, as Rickard has discovered. “We, literally, just have to press the big red update button and go - anyone can do it!” he commented. “Better still, we’ve done several updates now, all with no downtime or disruption of any kind.”

Capacity and performance have also been enhanced, Rickard highlighting a key Oracle database which, previously, needed a dedicated server but can now be comfortably hosted on the Nutanix infrastructure. Likewise, students running 3D animation and other I/O intensive applications are able to use shared network storage rather than costly direct attached devices.

Available and scalable

Another key benefit of going with Nutanix is availability that more than matches that of the previous managed service. To this end application workloads and data are routinely replicated between the two campuses, enabling data to be quickly recovered, workloads balanced to meet changes in demand, and for rapid failover in the event of more serious problems. Beyond this, integrated support for Rubrik backup enables the University to further protect its on-premises data using the Microsoft Azure cloud. 

NEXT STEPS

With a growing need to support remote learning, Rickard and the team are in the process of deploying a third Nutanix cluster to support a new EUC (End User Computing) project. This will be based on Parallels’ VDI software hosted by the Nutanix AHV hypervisor. There are plans also to migrate an existing VMware Horizon solution to the Nutanix platform plus look at migrating other workloads to the license free AHV hypervisor as a way of saving money without compromising on performance or manageability.

Longer term, the University is also interested in making more use of the public cloud, to quickly expand capacity, perform disaster recovery, and balance workloads. Something that simply wasn’t possible with their old managed service.

“At present we only use the public cloud for backup,” commented Rickard, “but armed with Nutanix tools and technologies we’re set to do a lot more, even build a hybrid infrastructure mixing public services like Azure with our own private Nutanix cloud.”

PARTNER

The recipient of Nutanix’s 2020 Global Momentum Partner of the year award, XMA has extensive experience of the higher education market enabling it to help Buckinghamshire New University select, specify and size its recent Nutanix deployment and provide valuable services and support throughout the migration process.