Before looking at Nutanix, the most pressing concern at BUPA was the need to address performance, scalability and management issues impacting its business-critical Citrix EUC platform that supports over 5000 users. These issues were quickly resolved by migrating from a legacy infrastructure to the Nutanix Cloud Platform and AHV hypervisor. Beyond this initial phase, BUPA has also begun using Nutanix Calm to fully automate management of its EUC system and allow for rapid deployment of this and other workloads to any cloud in accord with long term multicloud strategy.
- Significant improvement in performance of Citrix EUC platform
- Lower management overheads through centralised management of all physical and virtual resources from a single interface
- Enhanced agility through on-demand resource scaling, application orchestration and one-click automation provided by Nutanix Calm
- Greater availability using integrated data replication and disaster recovery tools
- Immediate access to Infrastructure-as-Code (IAC) tools to support future plans for multicloud IT
- Nutanix Cloud Platform
- Prism management plane
- AHV hypervisor
- Nutanix Calm
Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops
"By migrating our EUC solution from a legacy 3-tier platform to Nutanix we’ve gained a lot more than just a more scalable, performant and agile infrastructure. We’ve kept operational costs down by using the AHV hypervisor and further lowered support overheads with Nutanix Calm which is enabling us to both automate day to day management tasks and move forward with confidence to a multicloud future."
With End User Computing (EUC) seen as a business-critical application by leading health insurance and healthcare provider BUPA, the company had invested heavily in a state-of-the-art Citrix solution tailored to meet its exacting requirements. The legacy infrastructure supporting that software, however, was approaching end of life and its replacement needed to address a number of long-standing issues which, as Technical Services Manager, Rick Jagger, explains, were many and varied.
“In common with other large enterprises we were running a 3-tier infrastructure which has lots of good use cases. Unfortunately, EUC isn’t one of them. Scalability, in particular, had become a real headache requiring consensus across multiple stakeholders just to get approval for minor upgrades and changes. Even then, those changes could still take days or sometimes weeks, severely limiting our ability to respond quickly to rapidly moving business demands.”
There were performance and availability issues, too with key components within the company’s Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop platform, for example, taking 30 minutes or more to boot. Added to which it was a very complex setup calling for expert skills across multiple disciplines just to keep the infrastructure lights on, let alone enhance or develop it further.
Although small, the BUPA tech team is highly experienced and it didn’t take long to figure out that a switch to hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) would be the best way forward for its EUC solution. Neither did it take much time to decide on Nutanix as the vendor of choice, for a variety of reasons.
Hypervisor to go
Fortunately, the results of those tests were all good with the hypervisor neutral architecture of the Nutanix solution of particular interest here. Primarily because the BUPA team was keen to move away from the Citrix hypervisor then being used to both reduce complexity and allow for greater automation of both EUC management tasks and its supporting infrastructure.
“The obvious answer would have been to switch to VMware, simply because that’s what we use to host other IT systems. But when we started to compare that approach with AHV it became clear that we could get the same results using the Nutanix hypervisor with the added benefit of full integration, a single point of management and none of the associated extra costs of hypervisor licensing.”
The configuration chosen called for two Nutanix clusters, numbering 100 nodes in total, to support the 3,000 existing EUC users whilst also allowing for future growth. These were quickly delivered then subsequently deployed across two sites to meet rapid failover and disaster recovery requirements.
The migration went very smoothly with no downtime and clear benefits as soon as the new infrastructure was brought online, as Rick reports:
“Users told us that they were seeing a marked improvement in desktop performance straight away and behind the scenes, Citrix modules that previously took half an hour or more to boot were now starting in seconds. More than that, the whole system was a lot simpler and easier to manage with on-demand scaling available at the press of a button and full end-to-end visibility from a single console.”
Longer term benefits
Support too has been streamlined with just one point of contact for all issues, whether hardware or software related, including the hypervisor. All can now be managed from the same console, eliminating the need for expert skills thereby freeing up staff to concentrate on other tasks, including plans to use Nutanix Calm to automate all aspects of the EUC application lifecycle.
“We’re very pleased with what Nutanix and Calm, in particular, are enabling us to do,” commented David Brett, EUC Technical Architect at BUPA. “In fact we’re already very much where we want to be as far as the automation of day to day EUC management processes is concerned. Everything, in fact, from initial provisioning of desktops and apps to empowering stakeholders to quickly scale the resources needed to do their jobs themselves. So much so that we’re now looking at wider uses in line with long term business objectives, both for EUC and other IT systems.”
Like most large enterprises BUPA expects the Cloud to play an increasing role in its IT strategy which, according to Rick, puts Nutanix Calm, with its Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) capabilities, front and centre going forward.
“We’re already looking at using Calm to enable us to redeploy rather than upgrade applications in place,” he said. “We also like the ability to quickly deploy EUC and other applications onto any cloud and, where possible, balance workloads across what could, eventually, become a global multicloud network supporting other parts of the BUPA business. It’s a tall order but, from what we’ve seen so far, Calm could well be key to making that all happen.”