Proven Long Term Scalability, Management, Cost And Availability Benefits Validate Decision To Go With Nutanix At Cranfield University
As a leader in teaching and research in the fields of science, technology and management, Cranfield University is heavily dependent on its IT, with a rolling four-year program to, not only cope with the IT needs of a demanding user base, but keep its infrastructure ahead of the curve where Cloud and other new technologies are concerned.
|Right size||Right place||Future ready|
|On-demand scalability for continuous rightsizing of infrastructure for performance and availability whilst minimising management overheads||Latest refresh further consolidates infrastructure stack ready for imminent move to purpose-built new datacentre||IT team all set to progress plans to replace hypervisor and embrace hybrid-cloud and other new technologies
Over the last 4 years our Nutanix Cloud Platform has enabled us to build the scalable, reliable and easy to manage IT infrastructure we need. So, when time came for a refresh, it was more of the same, but adding performance, capacity and resilience whilst further consolidating our datacentre footprint ready for a move to new premises. It’s proven itself a winning formula, so why change?
Recognised globally as a centre of excellence, Cranfield University has a mission to foster postgraduate teaching and research in the fields of science, technology and management. A mission which, in 2019, was being hampered by end of life IT infrastructure that was proving increasingly difficult to scale, time consuming to support and costly to maintain. Plans to re-locate the on-campus data centre further added to the pressure, making it clear that a totally new approach was required, as Edward Poll, Head of IT Infrastructure, explains:
“The usual like-for-like upgrade just wouldn’t have been viable. We needed to replace our entire infrastructure stack with a more compact yet scalable solution which, because the existing datacentre was scheduled for re-purposing, we could just pick up and take to a new location. Nutanix was the only vendor able to meet all those needs while also delivering cost savings and the completeness of vision to allow us to embrace other, public cloud, investments going forward.”
After a lot of research, the IT team at Cranfield decided that migration to a hyper converged infrastructure (HCI) platform was the best way of turning its IT around, choosing the Nutanix Cloud Platform following a competitive tender process.
“The Nutanix solution simply ticked all the boxes,” remembers Poll, “particularly when it came to consolidation, enabling us to slim down from five racks to just 8U for our main cluster whilst delivering the performance, scalability and ease of management we needed at a price we could afford.”
Other advantages included being able to continue with the VMware hypervisor and preferred Horizon View virtual desktop product plus close integration with Rubrik Polaris, the SaaS platform then used for cloud based backup. That just left disaster recovery (DR), for which the University opted to deploy a second Nutanix Cloud cluster configured to provide on-premise replication and fast failover for key applications.
At the time the University was also considering eventual replacement of its VMware hypervisor as well as moves towards hybrid cloud working, both of which it believed would be easier with the Nutanix infrastructure in place.
The initial migration, at the end of 2019, was both straightforward and rapid, requiring just five days to move 500+ VMs to the new platform, test, and go live. Moreover, alongside a much smaller rack footprint, there were immediate performance benefits, added to which the team have found the Nutanix infrastructure much easier to maintain and scale.
“With just the one integrated Prism console, management has proved itself to be a lot easier to manage and automate,” commented Matthew Verrier, Systems Manager at Cranfield. “It’s also highly reliable with exceptional levels of support that make any issues that do arise quick and easy to resolve. So much so that we’ve had no breaks in service since day one.”
More of the same
Having deployed the new infrastructure, Poll, Matthew and the team were looking to move forward with relocation to a new purpose-built datacentre as well as both replace the hypervisor and embrace hybrid cloud working. Unfortunately those plans had to be put on hold during the Covid-19 pandemic and, before long, it was time for another four-yearly infrastructure review. At which point the IT team decided to stick with the Nutanix solution but refresh the hardware with the aim of boosting performance and capacity whilst, at the same time, further reducing the on-premise footprint and operational overheads.
“It wasn’t broken, so we saw no reason to fix it. But we could make it better,” explains Verrier. “And not just in terms of the performance and capacity gains to be had from faster processors and the latest storage technologies, but by extending our DR capabilities using tools in the Nutanix Cloud Platform to give a greater number of applications rapid failover protection rather than slower backup recovery.”
To minimise disruption, the University decided to keep the VMware hypervisor for the time being but take the opportunity to bring it up to date as part of the upgrade. A process which, as Verrier explains, was made quicker and easier using Nutanix Move.
“In order to start with a clean slate we installed the new clusters complete with the latest supported versions of VMware and other software, alongside our existing stack. Once we were happy it was working we just had to point Nutanix Move at the virtual workloads, sit back and wait for them to be migrated. It was very easy, very quick and saved an awful lot of effort, time and expense.”
As for the future, a switch from VMware to the Nutanix AHV hypervisor is looking ever closer, with only a handful of dependencies still to iron out. Similarly, with the University a big user of Microsoft Azure there is growing interest in ways of integrating public and private clouds to build a more dynamic hybrid infrastructure. Something the team at Cranfield University see as a key strength of the Nutanix Cloud Platform and one which has put them on a firm footing to achieve that aim moving forward.