- Move to Nutanix infrastructure consolidates compute and storage into a single platform with one supplier for technical support
- Estimated savings of £5,400 per year on energy costs alone
Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Platform
- Acropolis Operating System (AOS), including native AHV hypervisor and Distributed Storage Fabric (DSF)
- Prism management
- Move migration tool
UK councils are facing budget constraints while at the same time trying to modernise their IT delivery to better serve their staff and residents. Like many councils, Shropshire was seeking to get better value for money and replace legacy systems with new infrastructure that was more reliable and needed less oversight from the IT team.
The collaboration that we had with Nutanix throughout the exercise was exceptional. The sizing exercise that was done was very much a two-way street in getting to the right solution for us.Stuart Bland, ICT Infrastructure Specialist, Shropshire Council
Shropshire Council provides a range of IT services to support its 2,600 staff with productivity applications and line of business services such as ERP and HR systems, as well as delivering online council services to the public and the county’s primary schools.
Supporting all of these services was a mix of legacy infrastructure procured from different sources at different times, which meant that systems such as servers and storage were on different refresh cycles, causing ongoing headaches for the council’s IT department.
In addition, the legacy storage installed had never really lived up to expectations, and the IT department felt it was not getting the support it needed to fix the issues, according to Shropshire Council ICT Infrastructure Specialist Stuart Bland.
The storage had been installed by a third party and had never performed the way we had anticipated. We didn’t really have the skills or the confidence to sort these issues, and we didn’t feel that we were getting particularly responsive support from either them or from the vendor directly,” Bland says.
Faced with server systems that were approaching end of life and would soon need replacing, as well as a constrained budget, the IT department ran the calculations on how much it was going to cost to replace their compute infrastructure and how much it was going to cost in another two years’ time to replace the storage systems. They decided to seek a better alternative than simply upgrading their infrastructure to newer systems from the same vendors.
While attending a VMware User Group meeting, Council IT staff learned how the Nutanix platform had eliminated many of another vSphere customer’s pain points through ease of consolidated management and one-click upgrades of software components. Following this, the team decided to evaluate hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) as a solution for their IT requirements, as this would combine both compute and storage in a single platform, removing the need to procure storage separately and thus providing a single, predictable, cost model.
In addition to Nutanix, the Shropshire Council team evaluated other HCI systems, but found other vendors to be less flexible and responsive in meeting their requirements, while Nutanix was much better at customer engagement, says Bland.
“The collaboration that we had with Nutanix throughout the qualification process was exceptional. For example, the sizing exercise that was done was very much a two-way experience. We would give them the information - they would come back with some ideas we would go back and challenge some of those - they would evaluate our concerns and come back again. It was very much a joint collaboration to determine the right solution for us.”
Encouraged, Shropshire Council decided to invest in Nutanix NX hardware running the Acropolis Operating System with its Distributed Storage Fabric (DSF), plus the Prism Central version of the Nutanix management tool to allow them to manage clusters of nodes across their two data centres.
“What we were trying to achieve was to modernize, optimize, and automate our department’s IT infrastructure, allowing us to be more hands-off - letting it just work away in the background reliably,” Bland explains, “Knowing that if we did have a problem that it would get looked at as a priority and fixed. That was the overall impression we had of Nutanix - that collaboration would continue on into support.”
Shropshire Council has been able to replace its legacy hardware that took up six cabinets in its primary data centre with eleven Nutanix nodes that now fit into a single cabinet. This reduction in infrastructure alone is expected to save the council at least 45 MWh on electricity and cooling per year, equating to an estimated saving on running costs of £5,400 per year.
Using Nutanix’s Move migration tool, the IT team was able to transfer workloads across from their legacy infrastructure to the new Nutanix systems with few difficulties, according to Bland. This was despite moving from VMware’s hypervisor to Nutanix’s AHV, which as well as reducing licensing costs, is integrated with the AOS platform and benefits from the same one-click automated updates for easier maintenance.
“About 80 percent of all of the VMs that we migrated went with absolutely zero issues whatsoever. And then maybe 10 percent, we had a few little niggly bits and pieces with either having to upgrade software before we did the migrations or change some settings, and the remaining 10 percent were the ones we were well aware would cause problems.”
However, another benefit of using Move was that those things were highlighted before the IT team even started, Bland says. As soon as they got Move up and running it was flagging up virtual machines where there were issues with the configuration of the VM that needed addressing in order to do the migrations, so the IT team was pleasantly surprised to find that it ended up allowing them to plan those moves more effectively as well.
The IT team is still in the process of moving some of their legacy systems to modern infrastructure or to the cloud. One such legacy system is operating an Oracle database that Shropshire Council does not wish to run on the Nutanix infrastructure for licensing reasons, but the team is looking at using Nutanix Volumes to consolidate the storage used by the database onto it.
The team is also reviewing its disaster recovery provisioning. Bland says they initially licensed Nutanix Xi Leap in order to replicate the system they had in place with their legacy infrastructure. However, since upgrading, the team has found that the built in Protection Domain functionality within Nutanix Prism is able to meet their requirements.
Also up for review is the entire way that Shropshire Council employees work, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has demonstrated that the new infrastructure can support the entire workforce operating remotely, Bland says.
“It was never on the agenda to be able to support everybody on the council working remotely, but we’ve now been working in this model for four months and it’s all hung together. That’s in no small part due to how performant the Nutanix kit that we’ve purchased is.”