Financial Constraints? No Problem: Move to HCI and Stretch Your IT Budget


It seems that every department in every organization has to work within a budget that’s too small to get everything done. IT divisions constantly work to find that balance between providing adequate security and services while staying within their means.

Since 2009, I have worked in numerous IT environments in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia-Pacific. I’ve seen endless approaches to IT and how companies have dealt with systems and networks that use a wide range of technologies.  My current position, however, is the most challenging yet.

For nearly a decade, I’ve worked within an IT department that has become increasingly more responsible for every aspect of the entire nation-wide infrastructure. This would’ve been impossible had our environment remained the same as when I arrived. But we found a solution that not only makes management possible, but easy to accomplish. Now, I have time to do more than just troubleshoot problems or maintain systems. As a bonus, we also have more control over the infrastructure so that we know everything is secure. 

A Typical Starting Point for an Atypical Role

When I first started working in my current position, we relied on public clouds and organizations to manage a wide range of IT infrastructure. My arrival coincided with some significant technological advances, and the decision was made to do everything in house. Initially, we built our own virtualized environment, relying on a lot of out-of-the-box solutions and vendors to create a system that could be managed internally. That first solution was adequate, but it wasn’t scalable and it was expensive to maintain.

We also had to handle increasing amounts of data as the organization grew. When the number of our applications tripled, we had to rely on people outside of the organization to create and deploy the apps. This defeated our initial goal of wanting to keep everything in house. 

Perhaps the best reason to find another solution was that we didn’t have a disaster recovery (DR) solution, which put us in a precarious position. Backing up the system had become so expensive that we couldn’t afford the licensing fees for a DR site. This was frustrating, and we knew we didn’t have the necessary tools to run our business effectively.

After watching this situation develop for several years, we decided to have a conversation about hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI).

An Environment That Empowers IT

Our team works with the Linux family of open-source operating systems. Whatever the new solution was, it had to work within that framework.

One of my colleagues is a virtualization expert who suggested we look into Nutanix, and I did some research. I learned that they're Linux based, which was great news for our team. The open-source aspect is extremely important to us because we like to know the ins and outs of a system. Most other vendors will sell you a system, but don't want you to touch it. We like to tinker and build, so having something that we're not allowed to touch is annoying and hard to work with. It would also require us to open a ticket for every little thing, which we wouldn’t have to do with Nutanix.

The situation here can be precarious, so to say that our budget is unpredictable is an understatement. Some years, we don’t have a budget at all for regular maintenance, let alone upgrades. To ensure that the infrastructure and data isn’t compromised, we needed to find a solution that was cost effective right off the shelf. Compared to many of the other vendors we considered, Nutanix offered a cost-effective solution we could trust. We saw how companies often submitted low-cost proposals, but when we dug deeper, there were a lot of hidden costs. In the end, those companies were far more expensive than what Nutanix quoted. With Nutanix, we knew exactly what we would get.

Being transparent with documentation and communication empowers IT teams. #NutanixStories

Another big selling point for us was documentation. From the beginning of our relationship with Nutanix, we felt like we were a partner. They have always been transparent about documentation and communication, and nothing happens behind closed doors. Other vendors like to do a lot of things behind the scenes, which is a problem for us. It was enjoyable to talk to the Nutanix team about what we needed,  and we felt empowered by the Nutanix environment they helped us put in place.

Seamless, Fast Implementation

Having been through a number of migrations and deployments, I wasn’t looking forward to the change. I was pleasantly surprised by just how easy the process was since we used Nutanix Move to migrate our environment.  

When we had worked with other vendors to set up a cluster in the past, the installation typically took weeks. With Nutanix, the process took nine hours, and that was only because I asked so many questions! The technician was accommodating and eager to answer everything I asked. Our next Nutanix cluster only took us a couple of hours to install both hardware and software.

We started with a mini cluster, which had four or five nodes. We moved some workloads onto them and once we saw that everything ran smoothly, we got a petabyte-scale cluster and moved the mission-critical loads onto them. 

When I say “moved,” it only took a couple of clicks to migrate from our old environment to the new environment. My boss used to dread any migration because there are no migrations without errors and sleepless nights—until now. The last time we performed a migration before Nutanix, it took the team a couple of months to move around half of the data, followed by months of regressions, fixing bugs and patches, and creating workarounds. This time, we moved a petabyte of data within a week. Not a single issue. Simple. Seamless. Awesome.

Immediate Performance Gains

After moving to Nutanix, we reduced the number of cabinets from 252 to just 24. Now that we don’t have such a huge system, we are saving costs on power. But even with less footprint, we’ve seen a dramatic improvement in performance. The changes were so significant that users thought we had purchased new servers.

The least impressive improvement to our environment was twice as fast, and in some areas we saw up to 10x faster speeds. Some people were used to copying 10 files per iteration, and after we moved to Nutanix, they started copying hundreds. 

Most importantly, we now have a DR site with a plan that we can rely on in the event of an emergency. We added another cluster, and with just a few clicks, the virtual machines are copied and synced every day. If something happens, we will have a recent backup that is easily deployed. 

When a UI is easy to understand, managing systems becomes much easier, which allows teams to move forward instead of getting bogged down with system maintenance. #NutanixStories

The new Prism Central is a significant improvement on the UI and UX of anything else I’ve used, and it’s made managing systems so much easier. I would estimate that I’ve gained a day back every week since we moved to Nutanix. I used to set aside Mondays to complete wellness checks for the system, but I don’t need to do that anymore. When I open Prism, I have a visual notification that tells me everything is good—or a warning that tells me what I need to check. I can now dedicate one day a week to research and development to further improve other aspects of the infrastructure. That makes me feel like we’re moving forward instead of barely keeping our head above water.

We are now doing more with less money, and the executives have noticed. Leadership has trusted IT in the past, but they tend to view our role as a cost rather than a value to the organization. Now, however, when we request something and mention that it’s related to Nutanix, we get approval much faster.

Certainty in an Uncertain World

Based on the great experiences we’ve had so far, we want to develop a private cloud using Kubernetes to increase automation. There are a lot of things that cannot be automated, but there are enough that can be that it will give us back even more time. It will also provide greater security.

When it comes to the organization’s infrastructure, we’ve undergone a paradigm shift from the more traditional systems to HCI. Nutanix has enabled us to create so many new and interesting applications that previously were impossible. Everything is accessible, scalable, and reliable, and still offers a number of affordable options to grow. It’s hard to stretch an IT budget to fit everything you want. But if you’re looking to grow without breaking the bank, HCI might be the best choice for you.