Business critical customer services at St Albans City and District Council were being compromised by unreliable legacy infrastructure, multiple hypervisors and complex management interfaces. Downtime and outages were commonplace and staff were working long hours just keeping it all working with knock-on effects across the organisation.
The Council chose to work with Nutanix partner Epaton and deploy a Nutanix Platform to modernise and simplify its IT infrastructure to solve these challenges.
|Always on availability||Unified management||One-stop support|
|Rock solid reliability with no IT downtime since Nutanix deployment.||Instead of multiple hypervisors and consoles, the Council now has one hypervisor and a common intuitive management interface.||No more buck-passing between vendors. Nutanix does it all, leaving the customer to focus on its business not the IT infrastructure.|
“Before Nutanix we were stretched and firefighting all the time. Now we can leave the infrastructure to get on with its job while we concentrate on ours, delivering cost effective IT services that can make a real difference to the Council and its ratepayers.”
A busy, medium-sized, local government organisation, St Albans City and District Council relies on its IT infrastructure to service the day to day needs of a population of some 150,000 people and supporting businesses. Following the ending of a costly managed service contract, however, the Council was left reliant on a complex mix of legacy technologies, many at end of life, which were becoming increasingly unreliable and time consuming to manage,. as Leon Thomas, ICT Technical and Infrastructure Manager, explains:
“We had the usual mix of legacy servers and a complex storage network plus, for historical reasons, two different hypervisors each with their own management interfaces; a mix that not only lacked the performance and scalability the Council and its users expected, but which was becoming a real challenge to keep running. Service disruptions and outages had become a way of life and we had to take on extra staff just to keep it working. Even then we were struggling to cope.”
Faced with under-performing IT systems and an over-stressed support team, the Council decided to take drastic action. Moving to the cloud wasn’t an option, so a number of on-premise products and approaches were investigated with the Council eventually choosing to work with Nutanix partner Epaton and deploy a Nutanix Cloud Platform. More specifically, the Council went for two Nutanix clusters – a primary system to be deployed in the main Council datacentre and the other at a separate location for disaster recovery and backup protection.
As a hypervisor-neutral solution it’s worth noting that the Nutanix Platform could also have hosted existing VMware and Hyper-V virtual machines unchanged. However, rather than do that, the Council decided to clear the decks and migrate all workloads to the AHV hypervisor included licence-free as part of the Nutanix software stack.
“It just made sense to migrate everything to AHV,” said Leon Thomas, “with the end result of saving on licensing costs as well as being able to manage everything – physical and virtual – from just one console. Added to which it just works and is a whole lot more reliable than what we had.”
The second cluster, meanwhile, provides much needed extra cyber resilience with the Council further bolstering that capability with third party tools to protect against ransomware.
With help from Epaton the installation of the Nutanix Platform went very smoothly with some 90+ VMs migrated to AHV using the automation tools provided in Nutanix Move. No real issues were encountered and the new systems were quickly up and running with no disruption to end users.
Do more, for less, for better
One of the most visible results is a much smaller datacentre footprint – down from nine racks full of equipment to just two in the main datacentre, with similarly much lower power and cooling overheads. Performance has, naturally, also improved, thanks largely to much newer processors and faster storage plus, for the first time, the Council has access to on-demand scalability to cope with both short term peaks in demand and long term growth.
By far the biggest benefit, however, is transformed availability, with no more outages or downtime since implementation plus a drastically smaller workload as far as management and support are concerned.
“It’s been a real game changer,” commented Thomas. “Instead of hours of overtime every day just to keep the IT lights on we’re able to spend time doing our real work, tweaking and making improvements, rolling out updates, installing new applications and helping end users with their problems. Added to which we don’t have to be experts in lots of different products with just one go-to console for just about everything we need to keep an eye on.”
Support to write home about
Of course there has been the need for the odd call to Nutanix for support, but Leon Thomas has nothing but good things to say about the experience.
“It’s very refreshing, with none of the buck-passing we’d become used to previously. Indeed, with Nutanix it doesn’t matter who answers the phone as the staff are all trained to the same high standard which means they understand what you’re talking about, are happy to take ownership and can usually sort any problems straight away.”
With a rock solid, highly scalable and easy to manage infrastructure it’s back to business as usual at St Albans City & District Council. Indeed, freed from fire-fighting duties, Leon Thomas and his team are already planning the next infrastructure refresh, due in 2025, as well as lining up an evaluation of Nutanix Flow to further reinforce network security.
Beyond that, the Council is also planning to broaden public cloud use, in particular its use of Software as a Service products including, possibly, a SaaS replacement for the current on-premise disaster recovery solution.