Achieve Easy Scaling and High Visibility for You and Your Clients with HCI
It can be hard for IT people to go on vacation. Even when we go away, we might be called to look into something, or be asked to bring our laptop with us “just in case.”
As team lead for the ICT department at , I have been that person who brings his laptop with him on summer holiday. Egency, where I have worked for almost a decade, is a managed service provider based in Veenendaal (Utrecht), Netherlands. My role here is to identify what customers need, translate that into technical terms, and respond to issues when things go wrong. With Egency’s IT team we provide ICT services per user on a monthly basis.
We deliver IT services to a customer base that consists of mostly small businesses—although a “small business” in the Netherlands can have anywhere between two and 300 staff members. It’s a big range of customers seeking our services, and their needs vary. For companies with less than 50 employees, it’s often too expensive for them to have their own internal IT team, so they outsource their IT services to us. For larger companies that can afford an internal IT staff, we act more like a consultancy, helping them with projects like setting up a data center.
Putting Skilled IT Professionals to Better Use
It’s hard to find experienced IT staff. Four years ago, we wanted fewer skilled people working as IT admins, and more skilled people working on the help desk, which is the front end of delivering services to our clients. We also wanted to ease the burden of infrastructure management.
We found to be an attractive hyperconverged solution because we could manage all our servers from a single pane of glass. That meant our staff wouldn’t have to log onto different portals or tools to manage it all. We also liked Nutanix’s flexibility. We could use whatever hardware we wanted for ourselves or for our clients, and install Nutanix on top.
Today, only a few staff members need high-level technical skills at Egency, because Nutanix has made management on the back end so much easier. Our IT staff can still create VMs, see current utilization, and respond to alarms, but they can focus on doing that for our clients on our help desk. We require fewer staff working on our network and servers, and even less rack space. When we set up Nutanix in our data center, we reduced our space from two racks to one. That translates to a huge cost savings from our previous setup.
Creating Happier Customers
Not only do we like Nutanix for ourselves, but we need it for our customers, too. Before, several of our customers had traditional two- or three-tier storage setups. When something goes wrong with infrastructure like that, it’s difficult to recover, because the storage isn’t fully synced. A few of our customers have experienced being down for a full day or two while trying to fix a storage problem. That is an impossible situation for any business. Thankfully, with Nutanix, those problems are all in the past.
We migrate our clients to the Nutanix platform using . I remember an incident with one of our clients, who we were preparing to migrate to our shared data center. This transition would also see the customer moving from VMware to Nutanix’s . All the customer had to do was plan for a very brief time when the service would be unavailable as we cut over from one to the other.
They were shocked at how smoothly it went. We finished two or three weeks earlier than planned, and their IT staff and management asked, “Are we really finished?” It just seemed too easy. The cost savings from such a smooth migration was a happy surprise for them. On top of that, they’ve gained massive performance improvements as well.
Now that Egency and our clients have migrated to Nutanix, a big focus of ours is training. Everyone on the help desk group is undergoing training. Informally, we encourage everyone to work with the Nutanix platform daily to discover and note the things they don’t understand. That way we can build sessions around the gaps in their knowledge. Going forward, we want to deepen our relationship with Nutanix by having everyone on staff get certified; not just our technical staff, but our salespeople as well, so they know how we can best bring this solution to our customers.
Advice for Your HCI Transition
Even though we started on our Nutanix migration four years ago, we’re just finishing the process now. We thought it would be wise to take a stepping-stone approach from converged to hyperconverged infrastructure. Egency was a Microsoft shop, so we used Hyper-V. We thought if we had the benefits of Nutanix with its hyperconverged platform while still using Hyper-V, it would be the best of both worlds.
My best advice to anyone considering a similar hybrid approach is: don’t. Combining platforms does not turn out to be the best of both worlds—it turns out to be a headache. The reality is that you will need to manage the two platforms, one in Hyper-V and the other with Nutanix Prism.
If I were to do this all over again, I would go straight to Nutanix’s AHV, without a step in between. Now that we have completed the migration to being an all-AHV data center, it’s a delight. Using Nutanix’s own AHV, you have more options and add-ons. You reap the benefits of Prism’s GUI and can also use , for example, or for database management. And it’s all managed from that integrated single pane of glass, with features that work flawlessly on AHV.
Today, Egency is running around 200 VMs on Nutanix, divided between 25 customers. We have gained so much intel on how our VMs are performing that when we do run into an issue, we know how to troubleshoot. It’s easy for us to show developers, for example, that it’s not a hardware problem. We can escape that seemingly never-ending cycle of finger-pointing between system management and development teams because we can show the metrics around CPU, RAM usage, network traffic, or disc I/O.
We can also see when there is a bottleneck on a VM, and if it’s suffering from less memory, less CPU, or high network throughput. Next, we want to look into for the VDI solutions. We’ve tested it already, now we have to select the right time for implementation.
We can now easily scale like we never could before. If I want to add a node to our Nutanix platform, we just plug and play: We add it to our rack, add it to the Nutanix platform, and we’re done. If we want to remove that node, we click “Remove,” and it’s removed from the cluster. It’s that easy. Scale up, scale down—we can quickly respond to whatever our needs are.
What Nutanix has done for us is given us peace of mind. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. Since implementing Nutanix four years ago, the life of IT has been easier. I no longer have to bring my laptop on vacation because I know that Nutanix helps the rest of the team manage everything easier. That enhanced visibility benefits everyone, and I can now step away and enjoy my time out of the office.