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WaterNSW flows real-time data streams into data lake with Nutanix

WaterNSW flows real-time data streams into data lake with Nutanix

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Enterprise cloud OS leader, Nutanix has announced it is supporting WaterNSW in its mission of supplying and improving water availability for communities across the state through the innovative use of data.

WaterNSW is a state-owned corporation responsible for operating New South Wales’ rivers and water supply systems.

It is tasked with protecting Greater Sydney’s drinking water catchment, supplying water to Sydney Water and other distributors for treatment and delivery to residents, infrastructure planning and operation and the management and monitoring of water transaction services – including licensing and approvals – for farmers and irrigators across the state. 

Ian Robinson, CIO at WaterNSW, said the organization operates the largest surface and groundwater monitoring network in the southern hemisphere and the data gathered from this network was one of its most important assets. Nutanix software allows WaterNSW to process the collected data by first capturing and storing it, before interfacing it between a range of customer-centric applications – including the recently released Water Insights Portal.

“We’re a data management company when it comes down to it,” Robinson said. “Everything we deliver for our customers depends on the visibility of what’s happening across our water network. Whether that’s river flows, storage levels or water quality, every decision we make is data-driven.”

WaterNSW’s monitoring network comprises about 4,600 measurement gauges and sensing devices installed in waterways across the state, delivering data which is not only critical to its own operational decisions, but also the decisions of its customers – particularly given recent disasters including drought, floods and last summer’s bushfires.

“Our water data is critically important, and it needs to be shared. Making it accessible is a core part of our role,” Robinson said. “From the Bureau of Meteorology investigating weather patterns, to government departments making policy and population decisions, to farmers and irrigators who need to know when there’s enough water available for them to start pumping – all these decisions are influenced by our data.

“Nutanix plays a key role in the way we operate our network. All our SCADA and telemetry systems sit on the platform, which acts as the engine room for gathering all that data from the field in real-time. “Our infrastructure allows us to move our data between the point it is captured and the output location with integrity and automation so it’s consistent and meets our customer promise.”

WaterNSW first engaged Nutanix as part of a data center refresh alongside trusted IT partner HCL Technologies. It runs a hybrid cloud environment with SaaS or IaaS used where the workload dictates, and business-critical and operational applications are hosted at a government-run data center. Robinson said as part of the refresh, he explored moving all the business’ workloads to the cloud but opted for a hybrid approach underpinned by Nutanix as it offered WaterNSW a number of key benefits.

“Nutanix represented better value for money than going to a cloud-only strategy,” he said. “Not only would we save a further 50%, Nutanix’s consolidated approach means we can emulate the cloud capabilities in-house without a huge amount of effort.”

Since the implementation, 400 applications have been transitioned to the new environment with a large number of those modernized to the latest Windows and SQL server versions meaning many of the underlying applications also had to be upgraded. Further, upgrades to business-critical applications have removed legacy system security vulnerabilities and enabled automated failover to an alternated data center, giving the critical infrastructure provider a much stronger Disaster Recovery capability.   

Lee Thompson, Managing Director at Nutanix A/NZ, said hybrid cloud was emerging across enterprise and government as the preferred operating model and WaterNSW was a leading example of an Australian organization having the best of both worlds.

“While some applications and data are suited to public cloud, the risk of handing others over to a third party is just too immense – particularly in the case of critical infrastructure such as water, utilities and government services.

“WaterNSW understands the incredible value of its data. Through an innovative approach to its architecture, it has retained ownership and control over its most important asset, while simultaneously having the flexibility to share it in real time with those who matter most – its customers.”   

Intelligent CIO asked Ian Robinson, CIO at WaterNSW, further questions about the deployment.

Can you explain how Nutanix software allows WaterNSW to process data by first capturing and then storing it? 

The Nutanix solution runs various systems including our telemetry and SCADA master stations that connect directly to communications networks that in turn connect to individual sites and measurement gauges or remote terminating units that take SCADA commands and operate actuators to open or close a valve or other physical field device action. We collect data through remote control systems where we receive data every 15 minutes or so from many sites. We also capture data from field measurements made by field staff that capture the data into a computer on site and which then synchronises with a back-end data base. 

Nutanix provides the underlying infrastructure and management software services that allows us to run many workloads on these environments to enable the above functions.

Can you explain how the data is interfaced between a range of customer-centric applications?

Our customer centric applications are generally web portals that provide dashboard information and detailed drill downs or large data set transfers. Typically, we upload the data from our capture systems and transaction applications to a data lake that then processes these using micro services to provide web applets that come together to form a page of a website. For example, clicking on the map as shown in the picture below accesses a single micros service to show the size and inflow volume in a specific dam. 

How important is data to your decision-making process?

Data is fundamental to all parts of the business but it is a big transformation to enable every piece of data we use to be easily accessed, shared with our key stakeholders, quality checked and then presented in a way that can be used. Up to now we have been Big Data users but much of the data is hard to access and in fragmented data stores that require manual extraction and then manipulation in spreadsheets etc. to normalize and then turn into graphs and tables that can be put into static reports. Our promise is to make our data transparent and accessible to our customers and internal staff so they can relieve themselves from having to manually extract information so they can focus on higher value work in creating insights from the information.

Why did you decide to adopt a hybrid cloud strategy?

We found that a pure cloud strategy was not realistic or cost effective. To move our workloads to a public cloud solution using IAAS products would have increased our costs by 50% compared to a hybrid cloud solution. We use cloud for SaaS and PaaS solutions because they are cost effective and enable rapid development and deployment. They remove the need for IT staff focusing on upgrading and maintaining the boring bits of our systems because the cloud provider does that for us. However, for many applications, we are the experts, the solutions are very specific to our business or require careful management and oversight of the way they are configured and for these we require more control and the investment in IT staff is justified. In these cases, IaaS offers no significant benefits in IT staff effort and the Nutanix solution is cost effective, modern and automated. 

To what sense has the operating model given you the best of both worlds?

The best of both worlds means constantly optimizing where we spend our money and accelerating delivery to meeting business demand. An on-premises solution fits well for applications we understand well and are well equipped to maintain, whereas the cloud offers highly capable productized solutions that we can leverage to a speed and cost advantage when we can build or configure them to meet our needs. Much of our new advanced analytics will be done on cloud solutions, but much of our core transaction systems and data capture tools are better suited to on-premises.

How far is the system delivering on your objectives?

We have removed over A$500k of cost per annum from our cloud environment and delivered a cloud like experience for our infrastructure team managing our on-premises environment with our investment in Nutanix. We have fixed our Disaster Recovery problems by building a highly resilient failover solution and have enabled a single seamless domain to manage our internal applications on. Finally, the transformation of our data center has meant we have modernized the operating system, database versions and application releases so we have a hardened and fully patched data center to work with. It is a great platform to launch our future application development plans from and means we are not chasing our tails trying to keep things running but focused on adding value to our business.

Why did you choose to work with Nutanix?

Because they won our tender in the market and proved to us that deployment could be achieved in a realistic timeframe and was significantly cheaper than a cloud only solution or other competing offers in the market.

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