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Manufacturer floats private cloud on Nutanix Xtreme Computing Platform

Switching to a Nutanix Xtreme Computing Platform-based SAN allows Excelitas Technologies to adopt 'AWS-like' private cloud for databases, Microsoft Windows environment.

Looking to build an "AWS-like private cloud" for its local storage, defense contractor Excelitas Technologies has shifted primary workloads to the Nutanix Xtreme Computing Platform.

Before using Nutanix XCP hyper-converged appliances, Waltham, Massachusetts-based Excelitas relied on EMC and NetApp storage attached to Unix-based Hewlett Packard Enterprise servers.

Nutanix Xtreme Computing Platform combines compute, storage and virtualization in a single chassis. Robert Ersoni, Excelitas' vice president of global IT infrastructure and security, said Nutanix supports his goal to build internal cloud storage.

"I wanted to build something like an Amazon Web Services that we could use internally ... to bring an AWS-like private cloud to our infrastructure," Ersoni said. "We are a defense company and are required to either use government-certified [providers] or to host it ourselves. Before Nutanix, private cloud storage was either next to impossible or too expensive to do."

Excelitas: We're a Nutanix shop now

Excelitas designs customized optoelectronic equipment for original equipment manufacturers. The company's storage is dominated by CAD drawings, blueprints and engineering data. About 15% to 20% of data changes daily.

"We don't have a lot of data. Globally, it's probably less than 1 petabyte," Ersoni said. "We have been consolidating during the last 10 years and archiving a lot of data. After deciding to go with Nutanix, we took it upon ourselves to minimize the legacy data that migrated over [to Nutanix]."

Excelitas installed hybrid Nutanix NX-1000, NX-3000, NX-6000 and NX-8000 appliances across nine locations in Canada, Europe and the U.S. High-end NX-8000 and NX-6000 nodes in its Waltham data center handle mission-oriented Microsoft, Oracle Hyperion and SAP workloads.

The most extensive Nutanix Xtreme Computing Platform is a 12-node NX-8000 configuration for SAP databases and line-of-business applications. It consists of three NX-8000 chassis, each with four nodes and up to 36 drives. Nutanix requires customers to purchase its product as a minimum three-node configuration.

Excelitas equipped remote offices with NX-1000 building blocks and/or midrange NX-3000 boxes, depending on the use case. At some offices, NX-1000 has replaced local NAS file servers, whereas other locations use NX-3000 for scalable compute.

Nutanix Xtreme Computing Platform eases hardware refresh

Excelitas first deployed Nutanix to replace host infrastructure for SAP. The firm previously used Cisco Unified Computing System servers, EMC Storage and VMware vSphere virtualization to run SAP.

Ersoni said SAP workload performance improved noticeably after Excelitas brought in Nutanix.

"We expected that moving SAP to newer hardware would give us a 10% to 15% performance gain, but it was more than 30% during the first go-round on the Nutanix," he said.

Excelitas also uses Nutanix for other mission-critical applications such as Microsoft SQL Server, which it replicates between Nutanix nodes at West Coast and East Coast sites.

His IT team found it easier to install Nutanix, compared to previous refresh cycles. In particular, Ersoni said overprovisioning isn't needed to meet service levels.

"We have had some nightmare SAN upgrades in the past," he said. "The first thing my team mentioned is the simplicity they get with the Nutanix environment. The second thing is that data gets replicated data block by block across the cluster."

Ersoni said the one noticeable drawback is that Nutanix's virtual software controller -- which runs in a virtual machine -- caused server performance to drop, but he can live with that because of other benefits.

"The controller VMs took a significant hit in terms of our server utilization or consumption. However, we got a lot of that capacity back by enabling compression and deduplication. So the benefits outweigh the negative," Ersoni said.

Excelitas still uses vSphere for its hypervisor, but Ersoni said his team is considering running a proof of concept for Nutanix's KVM-based Acropolis hypervisor. Switching from vSphere to Acropolis would save Excelitas money from VMware licenses.

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