Nutanix Server Cluster Solution Implementation

Nutanix solutions are 100% software-based, and are built on the industry’s most popular hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) technology, delivering a full infrastructure stack that integrates compute, virtualization, storage, networking and security to power any application, at any scale. Nutanix software runs across different cloud environments to harmonize IT operations and bring frictionless mobility to all applications. See https://www.nutanix.com

Challenge

Ellerman House is a premium Boutique hotel that offers their guests the very best of South Africa. The hotels’ in house systems are managed across several Virtual servers hosted in an IT room.

When the server booking systems were first rebuilt at Ellerman after Precision Technologies took over the IT management, they were installed as Virtual Machines (VMs) on a single Proxmox Dell host server.

This was a host with enough on-board storage, CPU capacity and ram to allow the six required VMs to run seamlessly on the same machine with decent performance.

The main Booking system used Opera (managed by Micros) and was based on a SQL database. Backups of all the VMs were made daily onto a secondary backup Dell Proxmox server and weekly onto a remote located Nas storage.

This system worked perfectly well for many years, but in 2018, a decision was made to do a full upgrade of the Opera server in order for it to support Windows 10 machines which were unable to access Opera.

However the upgrade turned out to be more a reinstallation as the database changed from SQL to Oracle. So while after the upgrade the systems were essentially the same from a user perspective, there was a noticeable negative consequence in that the experience for users was now much slower. So what had once had taken users a few seconds to process in Opera was taking so much longer.

Diagnosis

After an investigation, it was determined that the reason for the much slower user experience was that the main host Dell server was struggling to handle the newer Oracle database which had a much greater IO requirement than the former SQL database.

It was just too oversubscribed with the new demand especially with the other 5 VMs also running on the same platform. Hence a new solution approach was needed to improve the server capacity and performance.

Solution Overview

As Ellerman House already owned 3 “older” Dell servers and are essentially a 24 hour hotel operation it was decided than rather just buy a new higher spec server and utilise this single host to run the VMs as before, we would buy a higher spec server but run it together with the 3 older Dells in a Nutanix cluster setup.

Essentially using the new server and two of the Dells in a Nutanix 3 node cluster and using the former VM host as a separate single node Data Recovery server.

There are many advantages to using a Nutanix cluster solution (see link above) but essentially the biggest advantages for Ellerman House is that there would be a significant performance improvement for the users when using systems as well as lowering the risk of a complete server failure with VM hosts now residing across three server hosts as opposed to residing on a single host.

Also the backup strategy using Nutanix would significantly improve over what was used before because Nutanix uses “lighter” snapshots that can be taken more frequently and which would now be hosted on the local 3 node cluster setup as well as on the DR recovery node.

Solution Implementation

Nutanix solutions come in two options, the “professional” paid solution and the Nutanix Community Edition which is free. Although we would have loved to use the paid option, the monetary cost is significant and beyond most small organisations budget.

And also importantly one can get most functionality from the Community Edition, so this Nutanix implementation was based on using the Community Edition.

Implementing the above solution included:

  • Sourcing suitable new server hardware (Super Micro) to act as the primary node in the 3 node cluster. Ideally VMs should be distributed across the cluster for CPU and Ram as well as storage but in this setup it was decided to run the CPU and Ram on the primary host and use the other two Dell hosts in the cluster as distributed storage – so the two Dells would provide protection against any storage failure on the cluster while the operating system would be run from the new Super Micro.
  • Introducing a 10 Gbps backbone into the network for connecting the cluster server hosts together.
  • Upgrading two of the older Dell servers to have more Ram, newer storage and 10 Gbps network cards.
  • Add the SSD, USBs and storage into the 3 hosts as per the cluster configuration.
  • Configuring the 3 node cluster with the Nutanix setup and installing onsite into the network.
  • Migrating the VMs from the former Proxmox host into the new cluster.
  • Once the migration was completed, decommissioning the Proxmox host converting it to a single node host that acted as a DR box.

Post Implementation

After implementation, the performance improvement was noticeable for users which justified the choice of solution. The Opera server even with its Oracle database was back to its former “speedy” self.

What was also advantageous about this solution was the reuse of older Dell servers in a newer modern solution.