Future-proofing Frankham Consultancy Group’s IT Infrastructure with the design and deployment of Nutanix Hyperconverged Infrastructure

Frankham Consultancy Group

Meet Frankham Consultancy Group

Founded in 1982, Frankham Consultancy Group are a top 100 multi-disciplinary consultancy providing a full range of design and consultancy services to the construction sector. The group’s prime ethos is that it “exists to improve the surroundings in which we all live and work”.

Frankham provide a truly integrated capability, encompassing all professional disciplines and a range of specialist services from within the group. Using directly employed staff allows them to take a holistic view of all the elements of each individual service, and their impact on every stakeholder of every project. The group’s design teams are at the forefront of the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) on projects.

The sectors within which the group works range from education – where Frankham works in partnership with many local authorities and schools to maintain, refurbish, remodel, extend and build new school buildings –health Trusts, local authority and housing provider projects, clients across transport, local and central government, maritime, utilities, sport and leisure, and offices and retail.

Challenge: Consolidate and secure the seamless user experience

Understanding the industry landscape
In the early days of reassessing the ability of its infrastructure to cope with the increasing demands of 160 users across four locations, Frankham’s IT Director Andy White, had encountered people from Symetri at various industry events. A relationship between the two parties gradually developed.   

Andy had a number of conversations with the Symetri team around general technology trends and developments impacting efficiencies and digital transformation in the construction sector. The relationship grew, and Symetri invited Andy to other AEC-focused events where peer group professionals shared ideas on an informal basis.

“I found this networking approach really valuable”, says Andy. “Especially being able to benchmark where we were on our technology maturity cycle compared to other similar companies. Meeting with Symetri in this way gave a me a lot of reassurance about their professionalism. I’d already decided they would be our partner for our next strategic move on the IT front, but while making these plans, another problem cropped up. I immediately called on Symetri to help”.

The software licensing audit
The problem Andy had encountered is one of the most common in the industry, and often one of the most painstaking to resolve – completing a software licensing audit imposed by a vendor. “It just wouldn’t go away”, says Andy.

“I reached out to Symetri for advice and recommendations on the best way to help us pass the audit. It was a very polished process. I knew from that moment on that I could trust Symetri to take us on to the next step in our IT strategy”.

IT you can rely on – attention to the future
This next step was Frankham’s infrastructure refresh. Frankham’s strategy was to implement an overhaul on two fronts. The first, in adopting Microsoft Office 365, was to move from an on-premise Microsoft Exchange server to an Office 365 hybrid solution.

On a more significant scale came the main infrastructure refresh. This was an entirely proactive initiative on Frankham’s behalf; user experience was acceptable, network performance was fit for purpose, and no problems were in evident in data storage. Andy was very much of the opinion however, that this was very much a ‘calm before the storm’ scenario.

“So much is changing so fast in terms of technology serving the construction sector that innovation has to be deep in our group culture. It’s not just that the competitive advantage depends on using the most advanced applications; it’s also about delivering the highest quality services to our clients,” says Andy. “We can’t have any weak points in our systems, storage, networking, or the virtualisation layer, or any that may start to falter due to age. Our infrastructure refresh was about confidence and reassurance for the business and for those we serve.”

Solutions: Future-proofing the virtual environment – from network, to server, to user

As Frankham’s existing server virtualisation platform was approaching end of life, Andy’s prime concern was to avoid any degradation in user experience; performance speed and the possibility of running out of disc space.

Andy had identified Nutanix Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI)[1] as the preferred platform for the future, given both the flexibility it offered for virtual machine deployment and the increasingly widespread adoption of Nutanix in the marketplace. He asked Symetri to undertake a complete overhaul of the infrastructure at Frankham’s head office in Sidcup.

Intrinsic to laying the foundations for the new infrastructure was the requirement to upgrade the network switching at both the core and the edge to ensure that Frankham’s VPN tunnels could handle the required performance moving forward. Symetri engineers aligned the network to the new performance expectations and deployed the HCI solution while ensuring essential knowledge transfer to Andy’s in-house IT team.

Outcomes: “Seamless, continuous, and reliable.”

“Symetri’s experience was impressive. There was no pocket of the network, no aspect of server virtualisation, and no insight into ensuring flexibility and system optimisation that they didn’t know about,” says Andy.

“More than that, they were generous to a fault in how they shared their knowledge with us. We had 35 virtual servers to migrate from the ageing platform onto Nutanix, and Symetri showed us how to run the migration on three servers, allowing us to complete the task for the rest. This was a great cost saving for us and also validated the trust we had in Symetri.”

“Symetri enabled us to move from exclusively on-premise with our Exchange server approach to the combined cloud/on-prem hybrid solution. This matches where we are on our eventual journey to cloud at this point. They implemented the hyperconverged infrastructure solution with no disruption to the business. Our users hardly noticed that anything had changed. This is as it should be; seamless, continuous, and utterly reliable for all their operational needs”.

Since the initial migration Frankham has been able to consolidate its server estate from 35 to 22 effecting cost savings through improvements in energy efficiency and power efficiency as a result of lowering CPU usage.

Symetri is now Frankham’s preferred IT implementation and sourcing and partner; they now come to Symetri for all IT hardware, most recently sourcing 90 new laptops when Windows 7 reached end of life.

“Symetri give us the confidence that we are in very safe hands regardless of project stature or the wide range of technical skills it might call for,” says Andy.

References

[1] Nutanix HCI provides integrated server, storage, networking and virtualisation resources along with end-to-end systems management and operations management capabilities.

Challenges

  • Transition from on-prem Microsoft Exchange server to an Office 365 hybrid solution
  • Overall IT infrastructure refresh
  • Procurement of 90 workstations due to Windows 7 end-of-life

Solutions

  • Upgrade edge and core switching in prep for HCI installation
  • Installation of all core infrastructure components; servers, networking, storage

Benefits

  • Robust network foundation
  • Superior performance and resilience
  • Seamless user experience

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