A high-performance private cloud is saving New Zealand schools money and helping them optimise opportunities flowing from the rollout of fibre across the country.
Service provider New Era IT created the dedicated cloud service, which also takes advantage of local peering to Network for Learning's high-speed managed fibre network to ensure schools face no network costs at all transferring data to and from the private cloud.
Greg Strachan, chief executive of New Era IT, said the company was a 20-year pioneer in delivering managed software services and web-based applications, doing so long before the term “cloud” was coined.
Tight cost efficiencies were key to maximising the benefits to schools.
“Like most organisations, education providers have to balance technology investments against tight budgets," Strachan said. "As a specialist IT solutions provider that works solely in the education sector, New Era IT was ideally placed to push the boundaries."
The journey began last year after New Era IT decided it was time to re-imagine how, in a perfect world, “the cloud” should look and work for education providers.
The company's technical services manager, Nick Coakley, said as usage of its existing managed software systems accelerated it was forced to constantly add storage, virtual hosts and to shuffe workloads around for performance and redundancy reasons.
Patching hyper-visors and keeping firmware up to date added to that workload.
“We wanted an experience akin to public cloud, but needed the platform located in New Zealand where we could ensure economic high-speed access for our customers," he said.
New Era IT also needed to make sure it also had total control of the environment.
“We had looked at a number of other hyper-converged offerings on the market and even considered building something ourselves from open source bits and pieces at one point," said Coakley.
"However, after evaluating the various options, partnering with Nutanix and Lenovo through Ingram Micro made the most sense."
Swapneil Diwaan, senior market development manager for the Lenovo Data Centre Group (DCG) at Ingram Micro, said it was obvious early on that New Era IT was intent on creating something that would change the game.
“New Era IT was clear that the solution had to offer value for money, reduce or optimise operational and management costs, and provide more flexibility for their clients’ current and potential needs,” he said.
A series of technical discovery sessions, workshops and whiteboard sessions, were undertaken to identify Nutanix on Lenovo as the preferred solution, Diwaan said.
Coakley said that process revealed Nutanix would be the best fit on paper. Ingram then arranged for New Era IT staff to attend Nutanix's .NEXT conference where they spoke to other Nutanix customers who rated the technology highly.
"That’s the kind of end user endorsement that reassures you that you are heading down the right path in the evaluation process,” said Coakley.
After working on detailed sizing, a five-node cluster was initially introduced, complemented with Lenovo 10Gbps networking. The first customers were brought on within days.
"The servers on the Lenovo/Nutanix cluster performed much faster than on the existing clusters – all of the hot data was living in flash memory and we were getting better than expected de-duplication savings,” Coakley said.
Keeping the platform up to date is also now a one-click upgrade.
“By centralising school infrastructure onto our cloud platform we have saved schools millions of dollars in both CAPEX and OPEX running their own server platforms," said Coakley.
"At the same time we are providing a much higher performing, reliable and secure platform, than an individual school could justify implementing as a one-off proposition."