The Royal Opera House (ROH) set out to complete the modernisation of its servers, virtualisation, networking and hybrid cloud infrastructure. This was in order to take full advantage of cloud technologies and realise benefits across its service desk, service delivery, customer liaison, line of business application support including CRM, analytics, box office, ticketing and most recently digital streaming – the fastest growing part of the business.
- Media & Entertainment
- Execution of hybrid cloud strategy including archive to cloud
- Use of Nutanix for private cloud enabling better public cloud service management and integration
- Tangible cost savings on storage
- Capacity headroom for existing workloads and new projects
- Faster back ups
- Nutanix Hybrid Cloud Platform
- Nutanix Prism Pro – Multi-cloud management console
- Nutanix Calm
- Rubrik backup & recovery as a Service
I was looking for a solution that was cost effective, easy to manage and flexible. We needed something that meant I didn’t have to expand the technical team, that would take care of security and would tie into our cloud strategy. We wanted something affordable to tie together our workloads and applications across multiple premises and clouds and provide a clear technology direction and certainty on future expansion.Daniel Rubie, Head of Technology Operations, Royal Opera House
In 2018 the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden unveiled a £50m makeover and building upgrade. Established in 1946, but with a history stretching back over 250 years it is the UK’s only permanent house for opera and ballet. In 2019 it looked to modernise its IT function to lay the support foundations for its live performances and digital future.
Back in 2014/15 the Royal Opera House had embarked on an infrastructure refresh which included moving servers from on premise to 2 colo data centres and installing a WAN for support.
This left ROH with a functional but inflexible stack. IT was ‘ticking over’ but delivering little added value to the business. Much of the owned and operated infrastructure ran separately from its AWS and Microsoft cloud services which followed.
When the time came for a five-year infrastructure refresh, key benefits sought were operational and management ease, cost effectiveness, security and simple cloud integration.
The Royal Opera House is publicly funded so it was vital to find an affordable solution. While at the outset nothing was being excluded, in infrastructure solution terms, a cloud first approach appeared appealing.
The project began with pre-preparation that was extremely thorough. In-depth conversations were held with the incumbent cloud suppliers (AWS for its web site and Microsoft Azure for Office 365) on application readiness with a focus on options for retiring or refactoring and identifying those applications which required no change.
A requirements analysis on workloads and sizing was followed by an information gathering exercise on different solutions. This generated a vast amount of data. When the time came to go to market, Head of Technology Operations, Daniel Rubie was confident that ROH understood its immediate capacity requirement, the headroom and the futureproofing needed.
Prior to its market evaluation some within the ROH IT team felt there was a strong case for a full cloud solution. During an exhaustive process many solution options were evaluated in fine detail. “Nothing was off the table,” says Rubie. There was however an unexpected twist when the consultation with Nutanix partner ET Works revealed some findings about cloud costs, complexities, maintenance and roadmap.
“The market evaluation dispelled certain wrongly held beliefs within ROH that it would be a case of simply lifting applications into a cloud environment. The surprising thing for some of the IT team was that the cloud options emerged as far more complex than expected and more expensive than the Nutanix solution. For example, cloud involved maintenance support which would mean adjusting for additional costs,” says Rubie.
ET Works played a major role in what happened next when it proposed a Nutanix based alternative to a cloud only solution. They were able to show that the Nutanix solution had a lower total cost of ownership than public cloud alone. Being less expensive from the start Nutanix also provided transparency on upgrade costs for new workloads and future expansion. It provided certainty.
The Nutanix solution, when compared with cloud and alternative hardware options - came out as the best in terms of cost and in meeting all the ROH technical and business requirements. The Nutanix option had the added benefit of being financed through ROH’s preferred Opex model.
ET Works provided a combined Nutanix (on prem) and Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), powered by Rubrik.
The idea was to have a smaller on premise IT footprint. The Nutanix production environment was moved to a private cloud in a data centre in Farnborough. The Rubrik-based DR service would be delivered from another data centre run by Assured Data Protection (ADP).
The initial set up involved a four node Nutanix NX solution supporting around 30TB with 25% headroom capacity, a move from an existing colocation environment to a cheaper third-party data centre, and a cloud-based back-up and disaster recovery service in a separate physical location. The installation was straight forward. Infrastructure setup went smoothly thanks to ET Works and Nutanix professionalism in delivery, physical installation, hand over, testing and help with the initial migration.
The Royal Opera house stages 420 live performances every year including matinees and evening shows. It is also expanding the digital streaming part of its business. This leaves little time for planned downtime for maintenance and upgrades. Plus, no box office means no ticketing. With the old stack even planned downtime was difficult to accommodate. In the event of an unplanned outage the business critical ROH box office must be brought back online within 30 minutes with no more than 5 minutes of data loss. This is now possible.
Nutanix and Rubrik combined provides failover, keeps downtime minimal and fast recovery of all workloads.
Meeting initial requirements within budget was just part of the solution. Now operations are easier to manage, staff training was easy and straightforward and the solution is readily scalable.
Operating a hybrid cloud with Nutanix provides an additional benefit of the integrated system in that when it comes to upgrades, downtime is no longer needed, it is simply a case of moving workloads to a different node with no loss of access.
Using Nutanix Calm is driving automation across the infrastructure stack. With ‘one-click’ IT on the infrastructure management side, it is ready for more automation and enabling faster builds and automation on the application side.
Rubie wants to use technologies such as Chef, Ansible and Docker with plans to bring it into the IT infrastructure. The Nutanix and Rubrik platform is an API first architecture and Nutanix Karbon allows for native deployment of Docker applications.
A key growth area for the ROH is high definition video and sound digital streaming to cinemas. The company’s broadcast and media teams are exploring Nutanix enabled on-prem storage options which will later be archived to the cloud. “We are looking at ways we can extend our Nutanix relationship to cover our future requirements,” says Rubie.