In order to stay on track with its five year plan for migration to the Cloud the support team at Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust needed a strategy for replacing end of life infrastructure which would help rather than hinder that process. Despite being a last minute choice, Nutanix quickly proved it could fully meet that brief and at a significantly lower price point compared to the competition.
We were on the verge of going with one of the big name vendors when we came across Nutanix which pulled out all the stops to show us what it could do and at a price that made us look again at who to use. It was the right choice, enabling us to deliver the services patients and staff need now while helping for eventual migration to the cloud.Jack Ciezak, Infrastructure Manager, Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust
- Immediate improvement in application/storage performance and capacity 75% reduction in rack footprint with lower power/cooling requirements
- Rapid and seamless VM migration courtesy of Nutanix hypervisor neutral architecture
- Enhanced resilience with Nutanix Metro
- Availability supporting Microsoft Hyper-V disaster recovery
- Cloud-native ready infrastructure to accommodate long term cloud first plans
- Nutanix Cloud Platform
- Prism management plane
- Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor
- Nutanix Metro Availability
- Windows infrastructure services
- Electronic Patient Records (EPR)
- Radiology, Pharmacy, Chemotherapy and 260+ other specialist apps
With its on-premise IT infrastructure nearing end of life, Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust was keen to find a replacement. As well as scalability and ease of management requirements, however, that replacement would also need to fit with the Trust’s long term plans to migrate its IT to the cloud, currently timed to coincide with a move to a purpose built new site in five years’ time.
But that wasn’t the only consideration, as Jack Ciezak, Infrastructure Manager explains.
“The Trust is fully committed to using Microsoft, including Hyper-V for virtualisation and when, we do migrate to the cloud, Azure. Our staff are also fully trained and very experienced on Microsoft so any interim solution needed to support rather than require us to modify that approach. Plus, of course, we had a very strict budget which, with some vendors, would mean having to make compromises to meet rapidly escalating processing and storage requirements.”
Jack admits to having little knowledge of Nutanix at that time, only coming across the company and its products by accident, through a LinkedIn contact.
“It definitely piqued our interests,” he said, “but with only a few weeks before the decision had to be made I doubted Nutanix would figure in the final deliberations. In the event, Nutanix pulled out all the stops and not only proved it had products to meet our needs but an NHS reference site we could talk to and a price that made me question the value proposition of its competitors.”
In the end the Trust chose to go with Nutanix, with two 8-node HPE DX clusters ordered and installed, one in the main hospital data centre the other in a separate building for data replication and disaster recovery. Linked by a high-bandwidth network, these have also been configured to use Nutanix Metro Availability which provides full support for a single stretched Hyper-V cluster.
As part of the project the Trust also specified additional processing and storage capacity to handle a future Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) deployment. In line with its Cloud First plans, however, it has since decided to provide for this through Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure, enabling those resources to be released for use by other workloads.
Rapid and trouble free deployment
Installation and setup of the Nutanix platform took just four days, leaving Jack and the team with the task of migrating over 350 Hyper-V VMs to the new environment with as little disruption as possible to hospital workloads and patient care.
“I was expecting it to take a while and was all set for problems,” commented Jack, “but after just 48 hours we’d successfully migrated 97% of our VMs enabling us to make the switch from old to new infrastructure. Moreover, it went through without a single issue and hardly any comment from users.”
Along with a welcome 75% reduction in the data centre rack footprint, there has been a significant impact on performance both in terms of processing power and memory and storage. Response times are much faster and available RAM has been more than doubled to 16TB. Moreover, whereas the old storage topped out at around 5K IOPs (I/O operations per second) each new cluster can deliver over 7K – a welcome 40% improvement, with overall capacity also enhanced.
“Storage had been an issue for some time,” explained Jack. “Not only were we constantly running at over 95% capacity but adding more to support new apps was complex, costly and time consuming. With Nutanix we have enough capacity to cope without adding more for some time and when we do it's just a matter of purchasing extra nodes and sliding them into the clusters.”
Support to learn from
Although the migration went very smoothly and was completed on time there have, inevitably, been times when support was needed with Jack having nothing but praise for Nutanix staff and the level of service provided.
“Nutanix support is simply the best I’ve ever experienced,” he said. “The others could learn a lot from them, especially the way they not only take ownership of issues raised but are fully prepared to work with us through to resolution no matter how long it takes. I used to think the big name vendors were good, but Nutanix is in another league.”
With the number of VMs hosted by the Nutanix infrastructure having risen already to over 400, the Trust is continuing to deploy new clinical and administrative applications as well as extend IT access to a wider population of users and devices.
Long term it continues to work on plans for the new hospital site as well as cloud migration with a new EPR (Electronic Patient Records) application, for example, set to be rolled out soon on Microsoft Azure. In the meantime the Nutanix infrastructure continues to cope well with anything and everything thrown at it enabling the Trust to provide a high level of service to its staff and patients going forward no matter what happens.