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Belfast City Airport Reaches For The Sky With Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Platform

George Best Belfast City Airport has been able to halve IT operational costs in the data centre as well as enhance performance, security and availability to cope with rapidly escalating business demand post Covid by migrating its legacy IT infrastructure to Nutanix Enterprise Cloud.

Tasked with enhancing the airport’s IT services to cope with growth whilst, at the same time, reigning in escalating costs, newly appointed Director of Information Technology Brian Roche soon realised the need for a lot more than a simple hardware upgrade. He needed, in fact, to totally rethink the way the airport’s IT was delivered, managed and protected.

“It wasn’t just a matter of replacing the infrastructure,” said Roche, “we needed to move away from the existing managed service model as it was no longer delivering value for money. We also identified significant opportunities to enhance our backup and disaster recovery processes.”

“We briefly considered migration to the Cloud,” he recalls, “but with fairly static data volumes it didn’t make economic sense. Instead, we decided to stay on-premise for now and switch to a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) able to deliver the same kind of scalability and ease of management, but on our own terms, including the ability to adopt a more hybrid approach going forward.”

Following a competitive tender process, Roche and the team turned to Nutanix partner Leaf IT to assist with the migration. This started with the installation of two Nutanix Enterprise Cloud clusters each running the Nutanix AHV hypervisor, included at no extra cost as part of the standard software stack.

“Most tenders specified VMware,” commented Roche. “The Leaf IT/Nutanix bid, however, recommended no-cost AHV which meant we could equip both our primary datacentre and a new DR site for half the cost of just one using those alternatives.”

Another benefit was the integrated Prism Central management technology enabling the airport to move from a costly managed service model to in-house management.

“Thanks to Nutanix Prism Central, anyone in the IT team can provision new VMs, processors and storage across both clusters and do that on demand,” comments Roche. “That not only makes us more agile compared to using an MSP, but saves on operational costs without impacting service levels. Plus, we can still escalate more complex issues to Leaf IT and Nutanix, with both organisations having proved very responsive in the past.”

Deployed at the height of the Covid-19 restrictions, the Nutanix installation was completed with no disruption to airport services, taking just two weeks including migration of some 16TB of data and 56 virtual workloads with much of the hard work done using Nutanix Move software tools.

Of course, like many in the travel industry, Belfast City Airport was seriously impacted by Covid-19. That, however, hasn’t stopped Roche and his team taking full advantage of the new Nutanix infrastructure to prepare for business-as-usual following the easing of restrictions. Neither has it held back plans to enhance and add to the services available to the airport’s six airline partners, 35 on-site business partners and a growing number of customers.

Among those plans is the migration of the main Airport Operational Database to a flat file system to, again, simplify management and reduce licensing overheads. An Apache Spark data analytics rollout is now also possible on top of which the very busy support team is deploying 5G and building a secure 5G private network to further automate baggage handling, passenger movements and other tasks across the airport site.

“Businesses everywhere are transforming the way they provision and manage their data centre operations,” commented Dom Poloniecki, Vice President and General Manager, Western Europe & Africa, Nutanix. Not only changing technologies but reorganising people, processes and organisational roles. Some are shifting entirely to the Cloud while others, like Belfast City Airport, are staying on-premise with yet more opting for a hybrid approach. Whatever the model, however, Nutanix has the tools to turn these plans into reality in a straight-forward way, with tools that span and integrate the different technologies enabling customers to make business-centric rather than purely technology-led decisions.”

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