Fitness First slashes datacentre hosting costs with Nutanix

Fitness First has migrated its traditional datacentre installation to converged infrastructure based on Nutanix hardware hosted at Telecity

Fitness First has migrated its traditional datacentre installation from Amsterdam to converged infrastructure based on Nutanix hardware hosted at Telecity.

Fitness First group IT programme manager Jon Forster said the health club operator will use Nutanix to host two core gym membership applications in a Hyper-V virtualised environment running across a Microsoft Azure hybrid cloud.

Forster estimated that the Nutanix setup would be four to five times cheaper compared with traditional server infrastructure.

The applications, which currently run on Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server 2005, are being modernised to enable them to use the latest supported versions of the Microsoft server operating system and database server.

This is because Microsoft will no longer support Windows Server 2003 after July 2015 and SQL Server will no longer be supported after December 2015. Once updated to run on Windows Server 2012 R2 and SQL Server 2014, Forster said the applications would be able to take advantage of Azure.

Converged systems help align IT with business

Modernising the applications required a review of the company's hosting arrangement and how it fitted in with the way the business wanted to develop. "The key driver was that the IT strategy needed to meet business requirements. IT should not be holding the business back," said Forster.

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He added that he wanted the IT infrastructure to be focused around simplicity, flexibility and cost effectiveness.

"IT should make investments in hardware that support what the business wants to do in terms of digital services and be able to respond quickly and efficiently. Speed is really key," said Forster.

In the past, a datacentre migration would have involved plenty of hardware and often required building storage area network hardware. "IT was about keeping lights on. That was the way you did things," said Forster. "But we are moving away from this."

By taking a converged systems approach to the datacentre, Forster said Fitness First would be able to to untangle hardware from the actual IT strategy. He said the converged hardware, where storage processing and networking are built into one scalable unit, would enable the IT department to become more agile and flexible, and manage costs while keeping aligned to the business.

Proving scalability

When asked why he selected Nutanix for the converged system, Forster said the company provided him with reference customers, support and technical blueprints, which could speed up implementation. One of the reference customers he was able to speak to was LA Fitness, which was using Nutanix in a similar way to how Fitness First would be deploying its system.

IT should make investments in hardware that support what the business wants to do in terms of digital services

Jon Forster, Fitness First

"I spoke to the IT architect at LA Fitness in the US. This gave us the confidence to try Nutanix," Forster said.

He asked Nutanix to show him how the two key membership applications that Fitness First used would run under Hyper-V on the Nutanix converged infrastructure. "I took a team team from here and our membership database to Microsoft in Thames Valley Park and spent a day with Nutanix testing that the system would run all UK Fitness First clubs."

Forster then ran a full proof of concept at Fitness First. Testing was completed by the end of January 2015.

The Nutanix hardware is now being installed at a Telecity datacentre as part of Fitness First's migration from its existing datacentre in Amsterdam.

Lowering datacentre costs

The new installation requires only four servers installed in two racks, compared with 80 servers in Amsterdam, which required 20 racks. The smaller footprint means the company would save £150,000 per year in terms of the cost of renting datacentre floor space, according to Forster.

He said Fitness First would use Microsoft Azure as its disaster recovery (DR) site, rather than hosting DR at Telecity. The company would also be running Windows Azure Pack, giving it the ability to deploy hybrid cloud applications in the Azure cloud. Microsoft’s ExpressRoute is being used to connect the on-premise installation of Azure with the public Azure cloud.

Forster said the setup is far simpler than the previous datacentre. "We use less UPSs [uninterruptible power supplies] and there are less cables between different pieces of kit. We only have a network cable coming in from Microsoft Azure to plug into a switch, which then plugs into Nutanix."

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