London School Goes To The Top Of The Form With Nutanix & Vanquish Tech
Barking Abbey School Future Proofs Its IT Whilst Delivering Immediate Performance, Availability And Ease Of Management Benefits
“Nutanix was exactly what we needed, at the right price and the right time. More importantly it just works, needs only light touch management and is always there when we need it. What more could we ask?”
– Paul Leake, Head of Operations, Barking Abbey School
To build a more flexible, reliable and easy to manage IT infrastructure better able to both cope with expected growth in demand and deliver a strong standards-based platform for further projects going forward as part of a hybrid cloud IT strategy.
Significant performance and capacity boost plus on-demand scalability to meet short and long term development plans
Fit for now, fit for the future
Hypervisor neutrality for preferred Hyper-V deployment with linear scalability and support for hybrid multicloud working going forward
Always on availability
Data replication to second site with faster backup and instant failover for enhanced DR protection
Considered state of the art when originally installed, the legacy IT infrastructure at Barking Abbey School in East London was reaching end of life and needed attention simply to keep pace with growing staff and student demand. An upgrade was long overdue but, as Paul Leake, Head of Operations explains, what was really needed was a more flexible and sustainable approach to, effectively, future proof the school’s IT infrastructure rather than simply kicking the problems a few years down the road.
“Like for like upgrades would have fixed immediate performance and availability issues but done little to prevent them coming back. More than that, technology had moved on and we clearly needed a more flexible infrastructure to enable the school to take advantage and keep pace with those changes going forward.
With only a handful of skilled IT staff to call upon, the new infrastructure also needed to be easy to manage as well as affordable within the budgetary constraints of a publicly funded organisation.
For help with this project, Leake and the team turned to Vanquish Tech, a specialist value added reseller and professional service provider. With their help they decided the best approach would be a hybrid cloud based around an on-premise hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) installed in 2 locations across the split-site Barking Abbey campus. A number of vendors and products were considered for this role before choosing the Nutanix Cloud Platform with the decision also made to switch from VMware to the Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor.
“Nutanix won out due primarily to its on-demand scalability and simple management from a single interface,” commented Leake, “However, the ability to support Hyper-V was also important as our local authority had already standardised on the Microsoft hypervisor which would enable us to share support resources and expertise. Crucially, the hypervisor neutral Nutanix platform would also allow us to use Hyper-V whilst still managing all of our IT resources from a single console.”
For high availability two Nutanix clusters were specified with the second installed in a separate location. This would be configured to automatically replicate data held on the primary cluster as well as use Veeam software to take backups to a remote NAS appliance for belt and braces data protection.
Covid-related supply issues delayed delivery of the new infrastructure which was eventually installed in September 2021. Leake and the team, however, took full advantage of the summer break to prepare the new Hyper-V virtual machines in advance so, once the Nutanix cluster was up and running, it was just a matter of copying the VMs across.
“It was all very quick, easy and pain free,” said Leake, “with an immediate boost in performance and a huge increase in headroom resulting in over four times the storage capacity and three times the available VM memory compared to what we had before.”
There have been big space savings, too, with a rackful of servers and SAN hardware replaced by just a single 3U Nutanix cluster in the main datacentre. Moreover, Leake believes one of the biggest benefits has been the ability to upgrade from Windows Server 2008 to the latest Microsoft Server platform and, at the same time, build a more flexible, secure and standards-based network.
“By upgrading to Nutanix we’ve got the scalability and ease of management we were looking for,” Leake explains. “But on top of that it’s allowed us to upgrade, consolidate and move all of our software forward and do so on our own terms rather than being constrained by limitations set by the previous legacy servers and networking infrastructure.”
In the short term, Leake and his team are taking full advantage of the school’s Nutanix investment, particularly the light-touch management interface which has freed staff up to concentrate on other projects such as the roll out of specialist CAD and other specialist tools. The school has also migrated users to Microsoft 365 rather than host common productivity and communication apps on premise and will be further evaluating the use of public cloud as part of its long term hybrid cloud strategy.
“We’re currently looking at all our workloads to see if any would be better hosted in the Cloud,” said Leake, “a task that will be all the more straightforward thanks to the new, hybrid-friendly, Nutanix infrastructure.”
About Barking Abbey School
Employees: 300 staff, 2,300 students
Revenue: Not disclosed
Nutanix Cloud Platform on-premise
Prism Pro management plane
Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor
Active Directory and other local infrastructure services