Manchester City Council has leveraged the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Platform to create an agile and scalable infrastructure, achieving a lower total cost of ownership, improved performance and vastly enhanced availability.
As a modern, forward-thinking city authority, Manchester City Council has ambitious plans to take advantage of technological advances to meet the challenges of its increasingly diverse and mobile population.
At the same time, however, it has to meet the immediate needs of city residents and do so against a background of strict financial constraints, onerous governance requirements and rapidly escalating demand in sectors as diverse as transport, recycling, housing and adult social care.
Balancing these demands meant replacing legacy IT infrastructure and doing so with regard to the UK government’s Cloud First policy, whereby public sector organisations are required to fully evaluate potential cloud solutions before any other option.
As such the council established a five-year strategy to build a more agile, flexible and highly available infrastructure based on a mix of cloud computing and software-defined data centre technologies.
Rather than public cloud only however, the council opted to put an on-premise hyper-converged infrastructure at the heart of its strategy and, following an open tender procedure, chose the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud as the best way of achieving that goal.
With the first phase of implementation now almost complete, the council is reaping the rewards of this ambitious project in terms of lower total cost of ownership, improved performance and vastly enhanced availability.
Moreover, it is moving ahead with plans to exploit other advantages conferred by its investment in the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud.
One of the biggest local government contracts to be awarded in the UK, the Manchester City Council infrastructure project was initiated in the wake of escalating maintenance, management and support issues with its legacy IT platforms.
A fundamental requirement was a move away from a conventional on-premise data centre to a hyper-converged infrastructure distributed across two new co-location facilities with the aim of building a scalable, robust and highly resilient infrastructure to meet both the immediate and ambitious long term IT needs of the council and the population it serves.
To future-proof its investment and deliver maximum agility, the council decided to build its replacement infrastructure around cloud and software defined technologies.
It opted for Cisco ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) for software-defined networking and also evaluated a number of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solutions to virtualise, manage and secure compute and storage resources.
With its emphasis on delivering the benefits of a public cloud approach in a secure enterprise environment, the council decided that the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud was the best fit for its requirements.
Mike Farrington, Technical Operations Manager, Manchester City Council, said: “Working to a clear set of requirements aligned to our strategic objectives, we completed a detailed, vendor agnostic appraisal, with Nutanix Enterprise Cloud identified as the most appropriate solution.
“We recognised that the solution went far beyond meeting our immediate infrastructure and disaster recovery requirements, providing us with a comprehensive set of technologies, tools and services to support other, more ambitious projects and initiatives.”
Enterprise Cloud installation took just a few days, followed by the migration of 900+ application workloads over a period of three to four months, with immediate benefits.
For example, along with greater levels of performance and cloud-like scalability, rack occupancy was reduced by 90%.
This has contributed to an annual saving of £285k per annum through a significant reduction in power and cooling, as well as rack space. The move to Nutanix Enterprise Cloud also supports the city’s ambitious climate change target to become a zero-carbon city by 2038.
The migration to Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has both consolidated and simplified the council’s data centre infrastructure which, in turn, will enable Farrington and his team to de-risk the planned move to separate colocation facilities later this year.
Another positive outcome is that the council no longer needs separate groups to manage compute and storage resources. Instead these have been combined to create a single multi-skilled team able to manage and support all aspects of the infrastructure, as well as provide a valuable resource to support future projects.
We spoke to Mike Farrington, Technical Operations Manager, Manchester City Council, to find out more about the implementation.
How far have the solutions future-proofed the organisation?
The implementation of Nutanix has delivered immediate benefits for the council (infrastructure consolidation, reduced support and maintenance cost, resilience and performance and reduced management overhead), but it really was the pace of innovation and how that can support the council’s strategic objectives and desire to be at the cutting edge which set Nutanix apart from other technical solutions.
In the short term, Nutanix is a key enabler for the delivery of our Data Centre and Infrastructure Strategy, with a focus on ensuring we have in place the appropriate level of resilience and disaster recovery capability. Looking beyond that, Nutanix will support our adoption of cloud services with the freedom and flexibility to select the most appropriate solutions based on requirements – Azure, AWS, GCP or Xi.
The council plans to migrate from VMware to Nutanix AHV in 2020, enabling a significant reduction in license cost at a time of financial constraint. There is also keen interest in the future development of Nutanix Volumes and Files, with the potential to further consolidate infrastructure.
Thinking about the longer term, it will be interesting to see where Nutanix takes products such as Flow, with a need for all organisations to adopt more of an application centric security posture, Xi Leap and the consideration for reduction of on premise infrastructure and cloud disaster recovery capability, and Xi IoT with a huge focus right now on IoT, AI and ML.
In short, the investment in Nutanix is not seen as a short-term tactical solution. It enables the delivery of our short to mid-term infrastructure strategy, with some immediate benefits in that regard, but the real value for the council will likely be in the future and the relationship with an innovative and disruptive technology vendor.
How has this benefited the end user/public?
With regards how Nutanix has benefited the end user and the public, I always say to my technical teams that a successful infrastructure project is one that nobody is aware of and that was certainly true with our implementation of Nutanix.
The majority of the council’s applications and services are underpinned by approximately 1,000 virtual servers, all of which were migrated to Nutanix with minimal impact to critical council services.
The council delivers critical services to Manchester residents, some of whom are the most vulnerable in society, so the need for resilience, performance and availability at the infrastructure level is paramount.
The migration to Nutanix provides us with greater assurance given the built-in resilience, and the ability to protect and recover critical application and services using Protection Domains and Snapshots.
There have been no infrastructure related service-impacting major incidents since the migration – these were all too common previously.
While there are always limits to what you can deliver from a performance improvement perspective (certainly for legacy applications), there have been performance improvements for a number of widely used transactional applications, likely attributed to the way in which Nutanix is architected with local read and write (data locality).