The need to adopt digital technologies in an era of strict financial restraint is prompting UK local authorities to work together to achieve economies of scale while still delivering and improving the services they are required to provide. The largest of such ventures is Orbis, a shared services partnership between Surrey County Council, East Sussex County Council and, as of 2017, Brighton and Hove City Council, offering services to handle everything from property management, business finance and HR to the provisioning and management of core IT and digital infrastructure.
A key reason for Brighton and Hove joining the partnership was a pressing requirement to replace its aging traditional IT infrastructure with a more scalable and easy to manage solution better able to support and deliver digital transformation. Migration of the council’s existing datacentre infrastructure to a shared Orbis facility in Redhill was the first step on that path and it was here that serendipity played a part, in the guise of existing experience with Nutanix from within the partnership.
Initially viewed as a stop gap it quickly became clear that the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud we were offered by Orbis was capable of doing a lot more than just meeting our short-term migration needs. Rather it equips us with the kind of infinitely scalable, cloud-like and almost invisible infrastructure we needed to move beyond simple workload consolidation to deliver real digital transformation success to our stakeholders.Simon Killick, Senior ICT Analyst at Brighton and Hove City Council
The first phase of the migration to the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud is now complete, and the council is moving rapidly forward to maximise this “accidental” investment, as outlined in this case study.
- Agile and scalable hyperconverged infrastructure enabling the City Council to cope with fluctuations in demand plus enhance and grow its digital services.
- Savings of £120k per annum, delivered by economies in maintenance, power and cooling, plus lower support and management costs.
- Reduced risk to critical applications and services from built in resilience and recovery capabilities.
- Enhanced performance with a 60% reduction in backup times.
- Nutanix Enterprise Cloud
- VMware vSphere
- 450 + hosted VMs
- Local government application workloads (finance, housing related systems, recycling etc.)
- Microsoft SharePoint
- Microsoft SQL Server
- Citrix Virtual Applications and Desktops
- Network infrastructure services
Like many UK local authorities, Brighton and Hove City Council was struggling to meet the IT needs of its stakeholders and the communities it serves, chiefly through its dependence on a fragmented and ageing infrastructure. Needing also to observe strict spending limits the council had joined with other councils through the Orbis partnership and was planning to migrate core infrastructure from its Swindon-based colocation datacentre to a closer shared Orbis facility in Redhill. As part of that move, it was investigating alternatives to its existing traditional IT infrastructure platform and it was then that fate intervened, pointing the Council’s ICT team in the direction of the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud.
Following a short and very successful proof of concept trial involving key workloads, approval was given to press ahead and migrate everything to the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud OS running on Nutanix NX-series. An order was placed for a more powerful system (4-nodes cluster) with additional storage to enable the council to move all of its production systems to the Redhill datacentre. The move was successful, prompting the council to immediately add additional nodes to consolidate additional workloads still hosted at the local Hove Town Hall site plus move forward with additional digital projects previously stalled by the lack of suitable IT resources.
Instead of being held back with the tech debt of a fragmented and ageing infrastructure spread across multiple sites, Brighton and Hove City Council has been able to build not only a fully consolidated but a much more scalable datacentre resource. This has significantly reduced operational overheads, both by slashing the required rack occupancy - thereby cutting floorspace, power and cooling bills - and by simplifying management. In particular, the entire physical and virtual infrastructure can now be managed from a single integrated console plus there is no longer any need for SAN and other specialist skills.
The result is the simplification of day to day management and infrastructure scaling, as Killick reports.
“The latest addition of nodes was integrated and delivered in less than a day instead of the usual weeks needed when adding capacity to our old infrastructure,” he commented. “It’s hard to believe that it makes such a difference, but it does - I just wish we’d discovered the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud sooner.”
Performance and availability have also improved with tasks like system backups now taking just a third of the time previously required. The new infrastructure also has plenty of headroom, plus the technologies and tools required to integrate the council’s datacentre applications with other services in the public cloud.
“Other than Office 365 we’ve not been a big user of public cloud,” explains Killick, “but the support for services like Xi Cloud Services and other integrated technologies gives us the confidence to look at going down the hybrid cloud route.”
The ICT team at Brighton and Hove is currently finalising the deployment of a Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops solution, which is expected to support 1500+ users. Afterwards, they will be looking at the possible migration of remaining legacy systems as well as evaluating a move from VMware vSphere to the AHV Hypervisor. This makes financial sense as AHV is included as part of Nutanix Enterprise Cloud OS stack at no additional cost. In addition, there are other benefits with AHV.
“We don’t have any workloads that absolutely need VMware, plus we have lots of individual small applications that need to run in their own VMs and that can be very costly,” explained Killick. “Switching to AHV will allow us to save big in terms of licensing, plus it’s fully integrated with the physical infrastructure as far as management is concerned making it even more appealing. Moreover, we’ve already started testing using the original cluster which is, once again, proving very successful.”
Looking forward, the Council is also planning to take advantage of the replication and data recovery capabilities in the Enterprise Cloud software stack to further enhance its resiliency.
“We don’t currently need to support recovery point and recovery time objectives of zero and near zero respectively,” commented Killick, “so we’ve managed our disaster recovery (DR) with the built-in resiliency of the Enterprise Cloud cluster plus the use of Veeam backups to enable us to recover quickly, should the need arise. Moving forward, we plan to setup a DR site at a separate location in Guildford to provide for fast failover capabilities, which will be needed as newer digital applications are rolled out.”
And lastly having seen what Brighton and Hove City Council has achieved using the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud, other members of the Orbis partnership are evaluating the potential of Nutanix against other HCI vendors in the market in the context of their own strategies.