Web host opts for Nutanix hyper-converged after supplier nightmares

Finger-pointing between suppliers in server/SAN environment led Yorkshire-based ticketing web host Millennia to opt for Nutanix hyper-converged infrastructure

Yorkshire-based web hosting company Millennia has switched to Nutanix hyper-converged infrastructure and ditched its traditional server and SAN environment. A key benefit was to end supplier finger-pointing whenever anything went wrong as hyper-converged infrastructure bundles servers and storage within one product.

Millennia is based in Harrogate and specialises in box office services for businesses ranging from small theatres to football stadia. It delivers these remotely from its VMware environment.

Millennia had a Dell server and mixed storage environment in place with some Equallogic iSCSI arrays. It suffered nearly 18 months of problems arising from a conflict between AMD CPU-equipped Dell hardware and BIOS updates.

Every time issues arose, said IT director John Thorpe, Dell and VMware would blame each other.

“The problem with AMD and Dell resulted in purple screens and it took 18 months and seven BIOS releases before it was fixed. Whenever anything went wrong Dell and VMware would point the finger at someone else and, meanwhile, everything would fail.

He added: “Between that and things going bang at 3am it was a very stressful environment.”

Millennia initially deployed hyper-converged infrastructure from a supplier other than Nutanix for disaster recovery purposes but that soon ran into problems. Thorpe describes the supplier as “low-cost”, but was unable to name the company as a result of a mutual agreement after court proceedings.

He said: “The low-cost option simply wasn’t robust enough to cope with sensitive workloads such as SQL Server, as there was a risk of data corruption, with maintenance often requiring downtime.”

He added: “Some might say that’s acceptable for a disaster recovery system, but at some point your DR environment could be your production environment.”

More on hyper-converged infrastructure

That’s now been replaced with Nutanix, of which Millennia runs 10 nodes comprising seven NX1000 and three NX3175 hyper-converged boxes with flash storage used as cache. In total the company has around 20TB under Nutanix with around 115 VMware virtual machines.

Nutanix was a pioneer of so-called hyper-converged infrastructure, which combines compute, storage and networking in one box. This is a trend in part inspired by the modular hyperscale architectures pioneered by web giants Google, Facebook, and so on.

The key advantage for Thorpe is the reliability gain and the need to speak to only one hardware supplier.

He said: “Key benefits are reliability and robustness and to be able to do no-outage maintenance. We’re a 24/7 business and getting a maintenance slot is difficult and they are not liked. Also, if anything goes wrong it’s a one-stop shop, not vendors asking for a list of everything running so they can get out of it.”

Did Thorpe have concerns about moving to the relatively novel hyper-converged infrastructure?

He said: “I tend to be OK with leading edge technologies, within limits. Nutanix has been going long enough to have confidence in its stability for a production service.”

Read more on Managing servers and operating systems

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