Stockport council picks hyperconverged Nutanix to trim fat on data centre infrastructure

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Image: view from Stockport Viaduct/Wikimedia

When Stockport Council needed a five year refresh of its data centre infrastructure, the council’s IT operations manager Adrian Davies didn’t think of hyperconverged first – but now he’s a firm believer that it could deliver all kinds of benefits in local government and the public sector, especially in the current climate of tightened pursestrings.

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Late last year, Davies was trying to get an idea of what the council, which serves roughly 286,000 residents, might need for its refresh. The council had lost some of its specialist infrastructure staff due to budget cuts and Davies had to consider the whole gamut of options.

“We looked at all the traditional vendors – IBM, EMC, NetApp, the whole range, really,” Davies tells Computerworld UK. “At the beginning of the process, something like a FlexPod installation would have been the forerunner. It seemed, from what we had with our real silo-legacy architecture, a good step forward.”

“But as we went through the process and became aware of hyperconverged technologies and what they offered, it seemed to me like the natural next step in the market: from siloed, to converged in a rack, to actually hyperconverged.”

The council was originally using an Hitachi SAN setup as its primary storage, while it used disk-to-disk tape for backup and disaster recovery, Brocade switching for the fabric, and X86 for compute. This took up a great deal of rack space – something addressed by the simplicity of running hyperconverged hardware out of the box.

“It’s about a 20-1 consolidation ratio, we’ve got about 10 racks of SAN and compute infrastructure all down into one half rack,” Davies says. “We’re able to provide our new infrastructure out of a very small consolidated data centre space.”

Other benefits quickly became clear the more the council looked into the technologies.

“It provided far more benefits to us that we really needed than just converged infrastructure,” Davies explains. “Being purely software driven, reducing maintenance, the skills to run, maintain and support the kit, the quickness of the deployment and the scalability – all of those aspects were playing right into what Stockport needs, to underpin its programs of work such as Digital by Design and Health and Social Care integration.”

The procurement process took place in Q3/4 last year and the Nutanix kit arrived just before Christmas – and was “deployed and out of the boxes within the day”. Migration is “pretty much there now” pending internal procedures such as dealing with service orders and so on. Nutanix will power the council’s own two data centres from which its digital services are delivered.

Davies says the council did also look at Simplivity, another top player in hyperconverged, but the key features that stood out for Nutanix was the ability to run any hypervisor.

“We need that flexibility because we do work with third-party partnerships who might require something, and we don’t want to paint ourselves into a corner,” Davies says. “The Acropolis hypervisor is part of our plans going forward as well, reducing our licensing costs, which is very interesting to us.”

When budget cuts hit the council, many of its specialist operational staff lost their jobs, and with them, the skills to maintain and run SAN infrastructure.

“We lost all that,” Davies explains. “What we’ve got now with Nutanix is the ability for our generalists to be able to provide a server with storage on demand really quickly, without having specialist skills.”

And Davies believes that with limited local government budgets, hyperconverged architecture could offer a way forward for councils to deliver their infrastructure with less cash.

“Everybody’s got reduced budgets, they’re having reduced staffing and skillsets because they’re losing staff, and they’re not able to maintain them,” Davies says. “However, demands are maintained among council services to work closely and integrate with other third-party bodies – the NHS, other councils, and to develop in a more digital manner.

“All councils are doing that, and the pressures that they’re going to have to deliver that are going to be eased by using a hyperconverged platform because of all these benefits – the reduced operational expenditure, the flexibility, the scalability. I imagine hyperconvererged is going to be very prevalent.”

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