St. Francis Xavier’s search for storage simplicity

School sold on hyperconverged infrastructure

St. Francis Xavier College in Canberra has scrapped its SAN setup in favour of hyperconverged infrastructure.

The co-educational ACT college serves about 1200 students from Year 7 through 12 and the school has around 150 staff, according to network manager and head of IT Geoff Smith.

Previously St. Francis Xavier relied on NetApp FAS for storage, IBM servers and Brocade VDX switches. The setup delivered decent performance but as end of life for the storage infrastructure approached, Smith said he began to look at alternatives.

“The question was whether to go with another traditional three-tier solution or to look for something a little bit more efficient,” Smith said.

“I wanted something that had one simple management interface,” the IT manager said. The setup was robust but storage management was complicated.

“Having the storage separate from the compute also means you’re going to have performance loss because you’re still going to have to go through some form of switch,” Smith added.

“I had dual 10 gig on everything but there was still a bit of latency and I thought that if I could find a solution that was affordable that removed that problem then we’d get much better performance as well.”

Smith began surveying the market around 12 months before the end of life on the school’s storage hardware. He ended up placing an order for Nutanix hardware late last year, and rolled out the new infrastructure in early January.

A key factor in the decision to go with hyperconverged infrastructure — the school has rolled out Nutanix NX-1000 series appliances — was ease of management.

Storage management is now “significantly easier,” the IT manager said. Smith was previously grappling with five different data stores, with storage for some servers split between them, which have now been amalgamated.

“With Nutanix I’ve got one data store with the full 21 and a half terabytes in it, so I don’t have any split data storage issues,” he said. “I can see where the data is, I can very easily deploy new machines up in that data store and I can very simply take them out again. “

Smith said the school has seen some efficiency gains too: Backups are 60 per cent faster, and he’s reduced the physical footprint of the school’s infrastructure from 17RUs to two.

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