Stepnell builds a better future on Nutanix infrastructure
Construction Firm Ditches Legacy Hardware for Greater Performance and Easier Management with Nutanix Enterprise Cloud
Stepnell’s migration to Nutanix Enterprise Cloud fixed performance issues that were hindering employees managing construction projects and limiting the operating potential of their teams.
- IT Infrastructure able to handle required workloads without slowdowns
- Easier management from any location
- Modern, cloud-based DR solution
Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Platform
- Prism management
- Xi Leap disaster recovery service
- Enterprise content management
- SQL Server
- Email services
- Production management applications
The Nutanix solution removed all those bottlenecks, so the performance was where it needed to be and our user base saw the benefit from the solution straight away. We couldn't have asked for more.”Anthony Francis, IT Manager, Stepnell Ltd.
Stepnell is a construction specialist headquartered in Rugby, England, with regional offices in the East Midlands (Nottingham), Midlands (Rugby) and Southern (Wantage, Poole and Southampton), and an average of around 30 project sites operating at any one time. They serve a broad spectrum of private and public sector customers, delivering exceptional projects up to £30 million in value in the care, healthcare, commercial, industrial, education, leisure, residential and civil engineering sectors.
The company found that its existing infrastructure, with Dell servers running Hyper-V backed by a legacy SAN environment, was struggling to deliver enough performance to meet the everyday requirements of the applications and their users.
“We were coming across huge storage bottlenecks in terms of raw data storage and also problems with performance. The SAN itself just wasn't able to keep up with the amount of work that we were putting through the hypervisors at the time,” explained Stepnell IT Manager, Anthony Francis.
At the same time, Stepnell was seeking to overhaul its backup and recovery strategy, which largely consisted of backing up all the virtual machines to tape and then moving the tapes to a safe off-site storage facility.
“Our data was just getting too big, and it was taking too long. And really, we had to think of a better solution that would enable us to get the data backed up more quickly and off site instantly,” Anthony says.
These issues were likely to prove an increasing headache for Stepnell as it continued to grow its business, and so the company sought the advice of an independent IT consultant and technology services provider, Nephos Technologies, to find a solution to this challenge.
Nephos helped Stepnell to analyse its current workloads in terms of their compute requirements and evaluate options that would meet these requirements. It was determined that a modern hyperconverged infrastructure platform would deliver the necessary storage performance, and Nephos brought in Nutanix to help design the solution.
Anthony said that he had already researched Nutanix prior to the upgrade project, and was therefore comfortable with moving to this platform as it fitted with the longer term requirements.
“I knew of Nutanix before I joined Stepnell, and saw that it was cutting a new path in terms of bringing new technology to businesses and really simplifying how businesses operate their own private clouds. And that was crucial for our long-term strategy for Stepnell,” he explained.
Installation of the procured three-node Nutanix cluster was completed and the platform was operational in a single day, allowing the Stepnell team to test it out with a few services before using the Nutanix Move tool to migrate their workloads to it over the course of a weekend.
“We agreed we would begin migrating our virtual machines from the old legacy system, onto the Nutanix cluster, and it went seamlessly over that weekend, all the virtual machines migrated across. We didn't have any problems. They were all working flawlessly, ready for when we went live on a Monday morning with our user base,” Anthony says.
Stepnell also decided to implement Xi Leap to meet its backup and disaster recovery requirements, as this capability is built into the Nutanix platform and replicates data to the cloud when enabled.
Following the Nutanix deployment, Stepnell quickly found that its infrastructure had ample performance for the workloads it operates to keep its business running smoothly, while the effort required to manage and maintain it is much reduced thanks to the Nutanix platform’s automation features that make private cloud as simple as using one of the big public clouds.
“On the Monday, we had some users who weren't sure if systems were working correctly, because they were working so fast, which was a very strange scenario for us to be in,” Anthony recalls.
“I think it's because the Nutanix solution had removed all those bottlenecks, so the performance was where it needed to be for the applications and our user base immediately saw the benefit from the solution straight away. We couldn't have asked for more,” he says.
- Management dividends
The ability to manage and maintain the Nutanix cluster from anywhere is one of the key benefits that the Stepnell team has seen, and this paid dividends when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and forced businesses to adapt their working practices, according to Anthony.
“We didn't have any real operational challenges to contend with at all,” he says. “Everything we had in place with the Nutanix cluster pre-empted it, and my team has not had the stress that maybe some other companies have had with not having the right infrastructure in place.”
- Easy DR
Stepnell also found implementing Xi Leap DR trouble-free, with Nutanix providing support to get the configuration and setup just right before turning the capability on.
“It was again fairly seamless. We replicated our initial data set into Leap over a weekend, and then we were in constant backup every 12 hours, and we've not had any issues since. The solution has been rock solid, and technical support has been great, it's been a fantastic experience,” Anthony says.
Now that the Nutanix infrastructure has been in place for a while, Stepnell is looking at how it can make use of some of the enhancements that have since been added to the Nutanix platform, especially in terms of multi-cloud support.
“We're looking at putting some workloads into one of the public clouds, and we realised that Nutanix now allows us to do that really easily. That opens us up to a few extra options in the future. But again, we'll work closely with Nutanix to do that,” Anthony says.
Stepnell is also considering how it may have to make further changes to the way it operates in future, and so is evaluating Nutanix Xi Frame as an addition to its Nutanix infrastructure. Xi Frame is a cloud-hosted desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) solution that would allow Stepnell employees to access their applications and data from any location, a useful capability for a company with a distributed workforce.
Nephos Technologies UK
Nephos Technologies is an independent systems integrator with headquarters in London that provides consultancy, management and technology services.