FP McCann deploys Nutanix to Deliver Dual-Site failover and ensure continuity
Headquartered near Magherafelt in Northern Ireland, pre-cast concrete solutions firm FP McCann operates its own quarries across the UK. The company also offers draining and water management, tunnels and shafts, rail, power and infrastructure and related heavy building products across the UK and Ireland, together with end-to-end construction projects. The 1,600-person company is unusual in its sector in that it very much leans on technology to differentiate itself from rivals. The firm has invested in IT both in-house and through core partners. The result is an outstanding platform that enables its users to be optimally productive and supports its strategy of running a Lean manufacturing operation. As part of this thinking, it needed to build in a stronger business continuity contingency and therefore began to examine its options.
- Streamlined failover capability for business continuity
- Simplified IT management
- Faster SQL back-end application performance
- Consolidation of server estate
- Ransomware protection
- Automated updates
- Nutanix Clusters on core and failover datacentre sites
- Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV)
- Nutanix Cloud Services
- Autodesk AutoCAD
- Trimble mechanical, engineering and plumbing software
- Microsoft Office and Exchange
- Sage financial software
- Cisco WebEx
To not have IT at the convenience of users is no longer an inconvenience but a catastrophe. We have 800 users accessing our systems at any one time and it’s simply impossible for them to be productive without access to our IT systems. We’ve always had disaster recovery but we were looking for true business continuity with near-instantaneous failover to three clusters.Brian Law – IT Manager, FP McCann
FP McCann’s IT team had issues with its previous three-tier architecture solution for business-critical applications that ran on Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualisation hypervisor software. In particular, users were frustrated with performance issues relating to back-end SQL-dependent applications. Moreover, there was a requirement for a failover solution to ensure business continuity in the event of an outage or other disastrous event. And, operating with a fairly small IT team of about 18, with two-thirds of those developers, FP McCann needed a solution that was highly automated and efficient.
“We had more backups than we knew what to do with but time-to-restore was key and that was where we were principally worried,” said Brian Law, FP McCann IT manager.
“We weren’t just buying new hardware or software but moving our crown jewels across into a new provider so, as with any blind date, we were nervous. Would it be all pre-sales bluster, sign on the dotted line and face the consequences good or bad? But Nutanix and its partner Advatek ICT Solutions went the extra yard to make us happy, pre-sales and post-sales. Anecdotal evidence and Gartner analysis gave us the sense that this was a partner we could rely on, and these turned out to be correct.”
With the decision to implement an automated business continuity solution made, FP McCann’s IT leaders looked at vendor options and, having come across Nutanix at trade shows and heard strong word-of-mouth recommendations, it began to talk to the company.
After a series of meetings and a technical briefing day, FP McCann’s Law’s only fear was that promises were too good to be true. An onsite proof-of-concept was set up to show a highly-automated business continuity solution in action and to answer other client needs including server consolidation, simplified management and ransomware protection.
In production, Nutanix was able to demonstrate automation through its portfolio of cloud services. It also simulated a DR outage at the production site on one of FP McCann’s mission-critical applications and showed that this caused no end-user impact.
Technology demonstrations helped to give it the lead over a Microsoft Azure Stack solution that FP McCann was also considering but the human factor also played a large part.
“One thing shone out with Nutanix was the personal approach,” Law said. “Nutanix offered a fresh and engaged approach. Technology sales staff were very much on the ground and came to see us on a number of occasions and that edged the business relationship. Every aspect of every concern was addressed and they engaged with us at a time when that was very difficult under lockdown.
“We still place a lot of emphasis on that and that’s how we want our supply chain to be. We often gravitate to smaller suppliers that are more agile and we see Nutanix as offering a simplification of the architecture that has provided three identical clusters here and on the DR site, all manageable by a single pane of glass.”
FP McCann was delighted by the smoothness of the transition to Nutanix and has been equally happy with operations since. Even a minor integration wrinkle in making the Avaya telephony system operate under Nutanix’s Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV) was quickly and efficiently sorted out.
The company now benefits from near-instantaneous failover and feels that the regular snapshots and backups being conducted will give it protection to mitigate the effects of a ransomware or other cybersecurity attack.
“I couldn’t speak highly enough of Nutanix,” Law said. “We saw minimal disruption in moving from a three-tier approach to a single pane of glass and in the months since the installation, help has always been there when we’ve needed it. Today, we’re fully in bed with Nutanix and have converted our virtualisation model from Hyper-V to AHV.”
FP McCann has a distinct way of managing IT, undertaking to write its own applications and services where it feels this represents a better fit for its needs than off-the-shelf software. However, it says that it invests heavily in premium brands for core infrastructure as it sees excellent return on investment from having a strong technology culture.
“We pride ourselves on our ability to build but Nutanix delivered a great, personalised service,” Law said.