Massey University goes hyperconverged

New Zealand uni rolls out hyperconverged infrastructure for its mission-critical student management system

After initially experimenting with hyperconverged infrastructure for a small project New Zealand’s Massey University is now deploying Nutanix equipment to handle its mission-critical student management system. The university says it is planning a broader rollout of the technology.

Hyperconverged infrastructure comprises processing, storage and networking hardware and virtualization software very tightly integrated, generally from a single vendor. This tight integration simplifies management and reduces costs, according to its proponents.

Guy Defryn, senior systems engineer at Massey University, told Computerworld that the university decided to deploy hyperconverged infrastructure after hearing a presentation from another New Zealand customer of Nutanix.

“We saw a presentation by the South Taranaki District Council in late 2013 or early 2014 and we immediately saw the value of the Nutanix technology,” he said. “One of the things that stood out was how easy it was to maintain. You did not need a specialist storage engineer.”

The university tested the technology at a small remote site that was due for a hardware refresh. Defryn said the decision was cheaper than replacing nodes in the university’s SAN.

The university at the time was running its production environment on HP servers with a NetApp SAN for both production and disaster recovery.

Although Defryn was pleased with the performance of the new technology, the university was unable to roll it out for its production environment because of the mismatch with the equipment deployed at its DR site.

The university then went on to make another two Nutanix deployments for applications that did not require disaster recovery: An eight-node cluster supporting 200 VMs a for development projects at its main campus in Palmerston North; and a three-node cluster supporting about 40 VMs at its Wellington campus for local production services.

“This site has no current DR requirement. If something were to go wrong we’d restore from our backups,” Defryn said.

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Ease of management has been a key benefit of the hyperconverged infrastructure rollout, Defryn said.

“I am not a storage engineer and I can do it with one click of a button, so to speak. It is really easy,” he said. “We are a small team, we are very, very busy and the simplicity of Nutanix means we don't spend much time looking after it.”

An additional benefit, he said, is a choice of hypervisors, with the university potentially able to switch out its VMware environment for Hyper-V or AHV.

The university has now decided to move its student management system onto Nutanix. This caters for 35,000 students of which 17,000 study by correspondence.

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“What we are doing now with the student management system is a big step. We are now starting to put some really important systems on Nutanix,” Defryn said.

To run the student management system the university is deploying a new four-node cluster at its main data centre in Palmerston North.

“As this is a core service, automated DR is critical,” Defryn said. A four-node cluster has been deployed at the university’s DR site in Albany so the SMS can fail over if there’s a problem at the primary data centre.

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