Fitness First replaces legacy data centres with hybrid cloud to save 'hundreds of thousands of pounds' a year

Fitness First expects to save hundreds of thousands of pounds a year by replacing its legacy data centre environment with a hybrid cloud using Nutanix converged infrastructure and Microsoft Azure public cloud.

One of the largest fitness brands, Fitness First has continued to expand since opening its first club in London in 1993, with 1 million members across 370 clubs in 16 countries.

Supporting its business growth and expansion has been a challenge for its IT department, with a complex infrastructure environment built up over a number of years, including a variety of applications, operating systems and outdated hardware across its three data centres - one in Amsterdam and two in Australia for the APAC region.

To reduce costs and allow IT to become more responsive to business goals, the company has begun a a major data centre consolidation and migration project along with Nutanix Global Services Organisation. For example, the company hopes to achieve achieve “six-figure” savings each year by reducing its expenditure on data centre hosting, and consolidating from several hundreds servers down to just two Nutanix hyper converged storage and server racks.

“[The aim] was to reduce down the footprint of what we have in place, and migrate to a purely virtual environment, making sure around that we deliver flexibility to the business in order to react to any business demand,” said Fitness First global programme manager, Jon Forster.

“Just in terms of floor space rental that is a significant reduction: the power and cooling we need, as we get away from having so many racks of kit. Also, since you have less moving parts, you have less servers, you don’t have a SAN, you can the technology so you don’t have tape backup or any of that. All of your run costs are greatly reduced.”

He added: "The IT team can then focus on what to do with it instead of just keeping it running - so you get spin-off benefit of much more business focused IT instead of just making sure the lights stay on.”

Legacy infrastructure overhaul

Fitness had previously relied on a combination of physical hardware going back “six or seven generations”, including HP servers and Toshiba SANs. The kit was running various operating systems mostly versions of Microsoft Server 2003 and some Linux, as well as older SQL server databases.

“Each sever was on physical tin and they had all been sized up to run at what the peak may be sometime over the next three to five years. So it was all over-sized hardware,” he said.

The infrastructure supported the company’s major applications, including Members First - an in-house developed membership management system, a SAP MIS system, and another SAP application to support processing of financial information across its international operations.

The complexity of its infrastructure caused a number of problems - most notably the “growing” cost of managing systems, but also the difficulty to react to the business’ demand for IT.

“So if we need to build a new area of the Members First application, it is slow, because you are standing up physical hardware in order to do development work. It makes it very difficult to have a consistent infrastructure from doing the development work all the way through to doing the go live into production,” said Forster.

Since getting board approval for the data centre migration in December, much of the work has been completed, with the firm planning on completing the move into a single Tier 3 Telecity environment in June this year.

It is now using Nutanix’s Virtual Compute Platform, virtualised using Microsoft’s Hyper-V - chosen for consistency with the Azure cloud, its .NET development, database and operating systems.

The new environment will consist of 32 Nutanix blocks in two sizes - the larger 3461 system, which will be used as data or application blocks, and the 1450, for managing the environment across the data blocks. Some physical HP servers will be deployed as physical domain controllers.

One of the main attractions for Nutanix’s converged infrastructure systems was what Forster described as the relative simplicity compared to more individual hardware components from separate vendors.

“It is all in one box - you have no gap between your compute power and your storage. So there is less support contracts, less cost, less complexity in terms of running that support and you don’t have one party pointing at another if there is a problem and the technologies keep aligned," he said.

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