Joseph Chamberlain College Dramatically Improves End User Experience and Infrastructure Agility with Nutanix

By Angelo Luciani
| min

This is a guest blog by Nutanix customer, Purdip Bahra, IT Manager at Joseph Chamberlain College, Birmingham, UK

It’s more than 12 months since we at JCC took the decision to break the mould around deploying traditional data centre equipment to support the College’s user base, and to move into the brave new world of hyperconverged systems. At the time it was not an easy decision to make, given the technology’s relatively new appearance in the UK education market, and I have to say our channel partner, Misco, were instrumental in helping us with the decision – not only from a commercial standpoint, but through their capability of understanding our challenges and providing insightful equipment demonstrations and ‘hands-on’ time to evaluate a number of different manufacturers’ solutions. And so, armed with some limited practical experience of the technology and its capabilities, we took our first steps into this market with Nutanix. And what a revelation the last 12 months has turned out to be.

First and foremost, there is no doubt that the project has been a complete success. And, really, this is down to two key areas – the performance of the equipment, and the simplicity of its maintenance and support. Yes, there have been cost savings along the way – the capital savings in the purchase of the equipment, for example, is undoubtedly an advantage when compared to a ‘traditional’ implementations; the price:performance ratio of Nutanix versus its competitors is favourable when taking into account both compute and storage resources over the lifetime period of the equipment; and additional cost savings such as those of time, effort and expertise spent in the deployment and upkeep of the infrastructure are also there – although these are less easy for us to quantify in exact terms. The real value proposition, however, has been in the day-to-day operation of the Nutanix solution itself.

Initially, we started with four nodes running VMware vSphere (based on Nutanix’s NX-3450 appliances), and we subsequently added two more nodes (NX-6220) to create two clusters, with the second cluster running Microsoft Hyper-V. We then migrated all of our VMs from vSphere over to Hyper-V and, once completed, created a single ‘6-node’ cluster running Hyper-V – all executed without any form of downtime to the system. All of the VMs were migrated onto the new platform within the first day. On day 2, we then migrated all of the IT systems – desktop applications, email, etc. – and then on every other second day (i.e. 1 day to migrate, 1 day to test and allow “settling-in” time), followed up with the porting of all of the other IT applications. Within the space of a week, including 3 days of bedding-in & testing, we had completed the full migration to Nutanix, all without any downtime or impact to our user base. Unbelievable!

The solution itself is incredibly easy to manage, and indeed was relatively easy to set up and commission as well – the configuration is highly intuitive, especially if you are used to VMware or Hyper-V environments. Disk management is easy – everything appears like a single volume – so there’s no need to spend hours figuring out what disk array links to where. And the GUI management interface & web management really is a dream to work with– it’s very slick, supports all of our key KPIs, and presents an excellent dashboard view – which means it’s good not only for our IT engineers to support, but also for handling key business and management reporting. And because it’s simple to use and takes a proactive approach to highlighting potential problems, we are spending a lot less time on the maintenance and training of the system than we would expect, freeing up our time to spend on other areas of the data centre.

The performance of the systems has also been exceptional and far higher than we expected: MS-Exchange, MS-SQL, all of the students’ and staff members’ ‘HomeDrives’, all of our Virtual users and VMs, the HR & Finance systems, and our complete Linux environment (consisting of around 40-50 servers) are all comfortably hosted on the Nutanix nodes. Over the 12 months since the migration, we have not had a single complaint in terms of performance or degradation of service – in fact, it’s true to say that nobody actually realised at the time that there was an upgrade taking place. And, unusually, there have been no real negatives to report with the Nutanix experience either – there were a few minor discrepancies in early versions of commissioning documentation that have since been rectified, but other than this, there hasn’t been a single cause for concern from a technical perspective.

So the last 12 months of living with Nutanix has been all – and more – that we were led to believe, and we would thoroughly recommend that any business or organisation should strongly consider a hyperconvergence approach and Nutanix solution based on our experience to date. The migration was very painless and quick; the solution is robust, reliable, well thought out, contains all the features you would need from a roadmap perspective and performs incredibly well; the maintenance of the system is extremely simple and intuitive; and the support we receive from Nutanix, both in and out of office hours in the UK, has been absolutely brilliant. QED, as they say.