Safe as houses

Posted on 23/03/2020

Phoenix helps one of the UK’s largest housing associations manage its growing pile of data and accelerate digital transformation with VMware solutions.

Accent Housing provides social housing for 35,000 people and has grown considerably in recent years. It now manages 20,000 homes across the UK.

Accent’s existing SAN was coming to its end of life, as was the HPE blade hardware. This infrastructure had failed to keep pace with the increasing amounts of data that were being generated by the group – from customer details, to environmental sensors. The ageing compute was not delivering the performance the organisation required. This threatened its disaster recovery position, creating implications with industry regulations.

Accent Housing has worked with Phoenix for a number of years, particularly around the provision of its Microsoft licences. The Phoenix proposal was to move towards a hyperconverged IT infrastructure (HCI), integrating the compute and storage components of a data centre. This would reduce manual processes and the need for siloed operational expertise, creating a single, converged IT team to monitor and manage compute and storage resources.

Accent currently has a traditional virtualised infrastructure in place based upon 12 VMware vSphere® hosts in Shipley and four vSphere hosts located at a second site in Bradford. The HCI proposal was based on Accent’s existing vSphere while layering on top of VMware vSAN™, which was built into the latest release of the vSphere product.

Phoenix engaged pre-sales, created and ratified a design, installed and migrated workloads, provided training, did full handover and future-proofed the vSAN.

Creating a high performance, scalable and secure IT platform, with proven disaster recovery and simplified operations
Implementing vSAN from VMware offered Accent Housing improved storage performance on all Flash storage, reduced management complexity and improved DR SLAs. By removing physical SAN technology and moving into the host Accent hugely simplified its IT management.

The Phoenix engagement delivered a number of additional benefits:

  • Improved flexibility and DR options allowing simple failover and failback to a DR location
  • CAPEX savings through most cost-effective purchase versus traditional SAN and compute nodes
  • More performant storage than traditional SANs and benefiting from an all Flash approach
  • No tiering in storage and all Flash, therefore removing some of the performance issues Accent has seen before with data tiered across storage layers
  • Provided not only a new storage solution, but also new modern specified vSphere hosts delivering significant performance gains over the existing blades currently in use
  • Reduction in rack space, power and cooling
  • Reduction in the number of vSphere licences the organisation needed to pay support and maintenance on; from 36 down to 24.

Because the vSAN kernel is embedded into vSphere and the storage is local to the host, IO throughput has been improved as external storage arrays are not required. Administration is also simpler because there is only one contact for both storage and compute.

The project has proved so successful Accent has committed to two new servers. It will install and configure two additional servers to expand the current six-node All Flash vSAN solution. The two servers are required to host the new Skype for Business solution. In total, there will be 12 additional virtual servers within the new solution to run over these two nodes.

In addition, Accent Housing is considering a proposal for a three-node vSAN cluster for its DR site to host the telephony system.


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