A Namibian financial holdings company that has seen its number of employees rise from 50 to 900 in a decade turned to Nutanix to improve its infrastructure model.
Trustco Holdings is a dual listed diversified Namibian financial services group that invests and operates in sustainable high growth assets in emerging markets. Employing 900 people, the company operates from three business segments – insurance and investments; resources; and banking and finance. However, Christo Du Raan, COO IT Hardware and Infrastructure at Trustco, says that the company got to the point where the company needed to change its whole business model when it came to infrastructure, so started to look at what was available in the market.
“Hyperconvergence was the new thing on the block and we found that Nutanix seemed to be the most mature in that department,” said Du Raan.
“We did a community edition testing first and it’s been pretty much smooth all the way from inception to running our VMs and VDIs.”
Du Raan said that Trustco do not follow the strict rules that large corporates follow when it comes to its tender process.
“We like to do things quickly and fail quickly,” said Du Raan.
“I’ve been with the company for 13 years and we look at what we want and what there is in the market and say ‘let’s go for product a’. We then test it and if we don’t like it, go for product b, c or d until we find the one that works for us.
“There is no tendering process because these are the things that make us slow. We have a trial server just to test new technologies until we say, ‘right this fits the criteria and we want to stay with the system’. Make no mistake, we’ve implemented systems having spent a few million on it and quit it a week or two later, because that is what the company is. You win some, you lose some.”
Trustco’s aim over the first two years was to get its infrastructure consolidated and get the new Nutanix solutions in operation. Then earlier this year, the company explored the Nutanix software stack a little further and elected to license Prism Pro and implement Leap.
“We’re still in the baby stages, but we’ve seen with the Leap product that we can actually bring the stack closer to one solution,” said Du Raan.
“Our next big planning would be to get Prism Pro up and running and get Leap for all our clusters, and then we’ll take it from there
“The next step is to move away slowly and maturely from the remote desktop services into Nutanix Frame and push applications to the desktop.
“Africa is not there yet in terms of hybrid-cloud services, especially in Namibia. The Internet is not reliable enough and our ISPs are not mature enough to handle cloud.
“There are a few players in the market that seem to be able to stretch from coast-to-coast, so we’ll see where we’re at in the future, but at the moment, I can’t see heavy workloads going to the cloud, not in Namibia anyway.”
“In the beginning, there were still some parts of Nutanix that the technical team didn’t understand, and we tried to fix things by ourselves,” said Du Raan.
“We had to do some networking changes and had some big issues.
“But in my 24 years in IT, I have never come across a company that has a support system like Nutanix, it’s unheard of.
“I hate to call a customer care centre, because firstly we’re in Africa and the rest of them are in another time zone, so trying to communicate with them is a problem.
“And they also don’t understand the way we work. We work differently than the Europeans and Americans because we are a ‘jack of all trades’ – we know a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
“The quality of the support is a major reason why we’ve stayed with Nutanix because I know if I log my call, two hours later, someone has helped me. Our workers benefit by the fact that the systems are always on. We had some shocking SLA delays with our legacy system with only 80% uptime and now we are very close to 99.9%, so from an internal and external customer perspective, they are very happy with Nutanix.
“Uptime has gone up dramatically and we can provision services now. Technical staff feel more comfortable with it because there’s no other things that you need to know. I think it has made us more agile and quicker and the product is a lot more resilient should we have to go into maintenance mode.”
Du Raan believes that Trustco’s biggest digital journey will be within its banking segment.
“Our next digital projects will lie in banking and the Internet and software banking, doing some AI and Machine Learning data stuff in the banking and financial industry,” said Du Raan.
“Traditional industries, like insurance, will look into Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. As soon as you can start trading as a bank everything you do comes down to money and how you work with it, and these type of analytics will give us insights into other businesses and how to improve those businesses.”