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Nutanix powers Manchester City Council’s IT

Manchester City Council has made considerable savings since migrating off a traditional architecture in favour of a hyper-converged infrastructure from Nutanix

Manchester City Council is replacing legacy IT infrastructure with hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) based on the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud.

It plans to swap out VMware for Nutanix’s AHV hypervisor and, by the end of the year, will be running the software to support the majority of council services across an active-active configuration based on Nutanix.

The project was initiated a year ago in response to escalating maintenance, management and support issues associated with its legacy IT platforms.

The council’s five-year support and maintenance contract on its existing IT infrastructure was up for renewal. Given that the replacement cost would have worked out at £300,000 a year, the council took the opportunity to look at different approaches to replacing its existing hardware architecture, according to technical operations manager Mike Farrington.

“Historically, we were behind the curve,” he says. “Three years ago, we ran a fairly traditional infrastructure, with separate servers and storage. We wanted to consolidate servers, simplify what we had and not replace like for like. We didn’t want a run-of-the-mill refresh – we wanted to trailblaze.”

Gaining flexibility

Manchester City Council decided to build its replacement infrastructure around the cloud and software-defined technologies, using Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) for software-defined networking (SDN) and hyper-converged infrastructure.

The council assessed Nutanix, HPE SimpliVity, HPE Synergy and the VxRail appliance from Dell-EMC and VMware. Farrington says it elected Nutanix running a supermicro appliance because “Nutanix offered the closest to a silver bullet – we could get everything from a single vendor”.

“Three years ago, we ran a fairly traditional infrastructure, with separate servers and storage. We wanted to consolidate servers, simplify what we had and not replace like for like. We didn’t want a run-of-the-mill refresh – we wanted to trailblaze”
Mike Farrington, Manchester City Council

In Farrington’s experience, HCI gives the council greater flexibility than traditional IT infrastructure. One benefit is a distributed storage fabric with thin provisioning, which enables the council to make the most of its storage capacity.

“We have the ability to scale quickly. The ability to add another storage and compute device quickly is beneficial,” he says. “We also benefit from the deduplication and compression services that are built in.”

Consolidating teams

HCI has also provided a way to bring together the support teams for Windows servers and storage.

“I had six teams to look after the datacentre facility,” says Farrington. “Historically, we had two teams – one looked after our 900 Windows servers, the other looked after storage and backup. We  have been able to shuffle the pack and we now have a single infrastructure team. Now I don’t need dedicated storage expertise.”

A recent report by analyst Gartner notes that storage utilisation in datacentres decreased from 67% in 2011 to 56% in 2017, equating to an effective cost increase of 11%. Gartner attributes the decrease in datacentre storage utilisation to lack of sufficient storage expertise.

Farrington says Manchester City Council has managed to maintain its storage expertise. “We have maintained those skills to manage storage capacity.”

He says that almost all of the IT to support council services runs on Nutanix. “We are 95% virtualised and have a cloud-first strategy, but see hybrid IT as key,” Farrington adds.

While some services use software as a service (SaaS), he says the majority are run across 900 VMware virtual machines running on Nutanix. Citrix, SQL Server, Active Directory and part of the council’s SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) are also on Nutanix.

“Having reviewed our server workloads, we have yet to identify any that will not run on AHV, presenting us with the opportunity to further reduce management overheads and licence costs”
Mike Farrington, Manchester City Council

In the short term, Farrington plans to migrate from VMware to the Nutanix AHV hypervisor. “We initially stayed with what we had to simplify and accelerate the migration. However, having reviewed our server workloads, we have yet to identify any that will not run on AHV, presenting us with the opportunity to further reduce management overheads and licence costs by approximately £100,000 per annum,” he says.

Future plans

Looking further ahead, the council is also keen to use the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud to evaluate and deploy new technologies. Farrington regards Nutanix as a springboard for shifting the council to the cloud.

“You have freedom of choice. You are not locked into [Microsoft] Azure, AWS [Amazon Web Services], or the Google Cloud,” he says.

Instead, with Nutanix, the council can determine where best to run workloads – on-premise or in the cloud. “I think we will push workloads to IaaS [infrastructure as a service], but it has to be cost effective,” says Farrington.

Along with using the public cloud, the Nutanix platform enables the council to deploy internet of things (IoT) technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) as part of Manchester’s smart city initiative.

Farrington says Nutanix provides Manchester City Council with a comprehensive set of technologies, tools and services to support ambitious projects and initiatives across the city. One of these is the ongoing Manchester Smarter City Programme aimed at optimising city systems and ultimately improving how people live, work and play in and around the Manchester area.

The council plans to move its IT infrastructure to a colocation facility by December 2019, and Nutanix will be part of an active-active configuration across two sites.

“The way we’ve implemented Nutanix, using two independent clusters, will enable us to leverage the built-in capability of the platform to move and protect the council’s most critical applications and services when it comes to the migration,” says Farrington. “Essentially, we will relocate critical workloads before we power off one of the clusters, then move to the new colocation facility, power on, test and repeat the exercise.”

Read more about hyper-converged infrastructure

  • Brighton and Hove City Council has already moved its co-location servers onto Nutanix nodes. It is now looking at moving its primary Hove datacentre.
  • HPE-Nutanix partnership springs up on two fronts, bringing more layers of coopetition to the world of HCI. But where does this leave HPE SimpliVity?
  • Hyper-converged infrastructures pose different challenges depending on the deployment method. Software might not offer as much support, while choosing hardware risks supplier lock-in.

Read more on Virtualisation management strategy

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