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Hero Group uses vMotion to replace SAN and servers with Nutanix

Baby food, fruit and cereal bar company Hero Group has migrated its Holland operations over to a single virtual platform

Baby food, fruit and cereal bar company Hero Group has migrated its Holland operations over to a single virtual platform from Dell/Equalogic to Nutanix.

The migration not only simplifies IT, but also demonstrates how agile IT infrastructure has the potential to power business change.

Hero in the Netherlands runs IT on an operating expenditure model, which means there is a leasing agreement for IT equipment. Hero ICT manager Paul Weijland said, with the lease up for renewal, the business had to return to hardware after three years.

"Our Equalogic storage area network (SAN) and Dell servers had to be replaced," he said.

This existing IT infrastructure supported the company's 100% virtual environment, which comprised of VMware, Citrix XenApp and Infor enterprise resource planning, along with factory production-line systems.

The systems are used by 145 concurrent users in Holland and supported by a small IT team.

"I had three options: I could extend the lease; buy new Dell hardware and Equalogic SAN; or take a step forward with new technology," said Weijland.

Hero decided to lease Nutanix for five years. Weijland said he liked the flexibility offered by the firm.

Nutanix packages computing and storage resources into discrete nodes. Each Nutanix box has four nodes. Hero runs three Nutanix boxes with six nodes.

In total, the company's datacentre comprises 144 CPU, 786GB and 14TB storage, based entirely on Nutanix.

"You can easily extend the system with an additional node," said Weijland.

Unlike a traditional SAN, Nutanix presents a single storage volume, reducing the need for IT managers to juggle multiple storage volumes, which is the case with a traditional SAN.

This was an important factor for Weijland, given the small size of the IT team. He said the company did not have a SAN specialist. 

"We are not storage experts, so I needed equipment that was reliable, stable and easy to use. Nutanix is easy to manage. Our system admin had two days of training on Nutanix."

Migrating the SAN and servers

According to Weijland, migration was easy because Hero did not have physical servers. 

"We did workload migration first, then migrated storage," he said.

In practice, Hero relied on VMware's vMotion to perform a live migration of the operating environment from the Dell servers over to Nutanix.

We could easily pre-build the server environment in Holland and replicate it in other locations

Paul Weijland, Hero Group

Weijland said: "In VMware we added Nutanix to vCenter and used vMotion to migrate. We did not even need to be on same on same ESX version. In fact, our existing environment was running vSphere 5.2 while Nutanix was on 5.5."

The company was able to migrate 70 servers in two days and there was no downtime during the switchover.

Hero has seen an improvement in database performance thanks to the new Nutanix–based infrastructure

"Performance was definitely enhanced with SQL database jobs," said Weijland. "For example, finishing in two-thirds of the time normally taken by the legacy infrastructure and an overall decrease of CPU utilisation across the board."

The ability to run the company's entire IT on a virtualised environment using Nutanix nodes is a model that could be replicated across the business.

"We could easily pre-build the server environment in Holland and replicate it in other locations," said Weijland. 

The company is also considering how it could deploy hardware like Nutanix centrally to support the business on a global scale, he added.

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