Nutanix Cloud Clusters (NC2) On Microsoft Azure Enables Forestry And Land Scotland To Accelerate Delivery Of Long Term Cloud-First Policy
Rapid revamp of legacy on-premises datacentre to meet short term IT needs of a newly devolved Scottish government agency whilst, at the same time, planning for an imminent move to the public cloud in line with a cloud-first government policy.
|Agility for the unknown
|Good to go public
|Instant in-cloud scalability to handle short and long term capacity needs, on-demand and with minimal disruption
|Single console to manage on-premises and cloud-based virtual machine infrastructure with no specialist skills required
|Existing workloads can be migrated to public cloud without application refactoring or re-skilling using NC2 on Microsoft Azure
It’s been win-win all the way with Nutanix. Starting with the on-demand scalability and easy management needed to setup a newly devolved agency without worrying about capacity or skillsets. And now, with NC2, we’ll be able to migrate the whole datacentre to Microsoft Azure without the time, effort and expense of re-engineering applications for native deployment.
Founded in 2018 as part of the Scottish devolution process, Forestry & Land Scotland (FLS) manages over 1.5 million acres of national forests and land. That’s close to 9% of the Scottish land mass with FLS having a wide remit to promote and manage, not just forestry but tourism, leisure, nature conservation and other related activities across the area.
IT, naturally, plays a major role in that process and while FLS may have been starting from scratch that didn’t make choosing the best technologies for the job any easier, as Nick Mahlitz, Senior Digital Infrastructure Manager, Forestry & Land Scotland, explains:
“As a newly devolved organisation we had very little to go on when it came to predicting what IT we might need. On the plus side we did inherit some legacy platforms, but they needed urgent updating. And an on-premise datacentre but, given the Scottish government’s cloud-first strategy, that would have to be vacated sooner rather than later. In a nutshell we needed a solution able to meet an unknown set of short term needs that we could just pick up and move to the cloud and fairly quickly.”
Prioritising rapid scalability, Mahlitz and the team decided the best way of proceeding was to upgrade the datacentre to a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), eventually selecting the Nutanix Cloud Platform to support a workload of some 300 virtual machines. Supporting the usual mix of back-end applications, databases and supporting services these VMs would all be hosted using the Nutanix AHV hypervisor with extra resilience added using bundled Nutanix data replication tools and by taking backups to the Microsoft Azure public cloud.
“Because we didn’t know exactly what capacity we would need, easy on demand scalability was a number one priority ,” commented Mahlitz. “Likewise, simple management as we were still building the support team at the time and specialist skills were (and still are) in short supply. Nutanix ticked both boxes, making migration to the new infrastructure relatively straightforward, and affordable as we could do it all ourselves rather than have to sign up to costly service agreements or pay contractors.”
The migration to the Nutanix Cloud Platform was soon completed with immediate benefits in terms of both performance and that, much prized, on-demand scalability. It also resulted in a significantly smaller datacentre footprint in terms of both physical space and power and cooling requirements - yet another key benefit of value to this environmentally focused organisation.
Day to day management was, similarly, soon mastered, leaving the IT team to concentrate on making sure they had the right mix of applications to meet the diverse needs of the FLS workforce. It also provided breathing space to consider how best to deliver on the cloud-first policy of the Scottish government. A policy made all the more pressing by a fixed deadline to vacate the on-premise datacentre.
Public cloud, but not as we know it
Fortunately, Nutanix was again able to help, in the form of Nutanix NC2 which enables customers to host their private clouds on a variety of public cloud platforms, including Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure, without the need for any re-coding.
“We initially saw NC2 as a kind of stopgap,” explains Mahlit, “that would allow us to pick up our on-premise Nutanix datacentre and run it on Microsoft Azure while we went about re-engineering applications to run on that platform natively. However, it soon became clear that NC2 could be a lot more than a halfway house. In fact it could deliver many, if not all, of the benefits of public cloud without the time, effort and extra expenditure required for full native migration.”
As with the original datacentre project Mahlitz and the team were faced with a lot of unknowns when it came to coming to this conclusion, but here, too, Nutanix was able to help. In particular by arranging a proof of concept trial of Nutanix NC2 on Microsoft Azure involving actual FLS production workloads.
“We were given the opportunity to see for ourselves how easy it would be to move our applications to the public cloud using Nutanix NC2, how they would actually perform and understand the benefit of being able to manage them using the same tools as on our existing on-premise datacentre. It also gave us real insight into just what we could save by not having to re-code and acquire new specialist skills to run applications natively on the Azure platform.”
At the time of writing, FLS was in the process of configuring its new Nutanix NC2 virtual datacentre on Microsoft Azure in advance of moving out of its on-premise facility. Helping with that move is the ability to transfer existing product licenses across to the new platform and built-in data replication and migration tools to simplify and automate the many processes involved.
Having practised with the proof of concept trial, Mahlitz expects few issues with the forthcoming migration and is further assured by the high-level of support provided by Nutanix in the past.
“Nutanix support has always been exceptional,” he says, “and we are confident that together we can move our datacentre to the cloud without any disruption.”
That, however, doesn’t mean that it will go unnoticed. Indeed, according to Mahlitz the Nutanix NC2 migration is being closely watched by other agencies which view FLS as something of a trailblazer for the Scottish government when it comes to delivering its cloud-first policy.