Data centre redesign provides flexibility for next decade

Wednesday, 22 January, 2014

Southern Cross Health Society has rejigged its data centre design, boosting the facility’s energy efficiency and providing enough flexibility to cover the organisation’s racking needs for the next 10 years.

Founded in 1961, Southern Cross provides health insurance and a range of health and wellness services to its more than 800,000 members. To deliver its services, Southern Cross Health Society relies on its IT systems.

“When it comes to IT, like any major organisation, we can’t afford to miss a beat. We need to know that the data we’re capturing, and the business processes we’re supporting, are protected,” said April Walker, head of information systems and business change, Southern Cross Health Society.

Southern Cross had outgrown its old premises. With Auckland employees spread across two different locations and the main building not fit for required purposes, the organisation needed to relocate. Bringing the Auckland-based operations of the society together in one location would also mean improved efficiency and productivity for the staff and business.

The organisation’s previous computer room was dated. It had grown organically over a long period, leading to power and cooling inefficiencies as well as capacity and performance problems. The change of premises provided an opportunity for Southern Cross to rethink its approach to IT and overcome issues presented by the legacy system.

Southern Cross took a proactive role in the construction required for the new office fit-out and got involved in designing the new data centre space. As part of this, the engineer on the project approached Schneider Electric to assist.

“Initially, Schneider Electric was brought in to advise on uninterruptible power supply (UPS) solutions; but we soon saw the benefit of using their expertise in data centre design and implementation to help us save on space, achieve greater energy efficiency and boost the overall performance of the facility,” said Walker.

The vendor worked with Southern Cross’s IT facility management supplier, Datacom, on the project. Over the course of about six weeks, the team designed a modular, high-density data centre.

Central to the new data centre design was the APC InfraStruxure (ISX) architecture, comprising a configuration of eight racks, four InRow RDs, Symmetra PX UPS, hot aisle containment system (HACS) and environment management.

The StruxureWare Operations data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) software is built in to enable Datacom to host the data centre remotely. It facilitates ongoing monitoring and alert management by Datacom, again adding to the system’s overall resilience.

“[The] solution - including racking, power and cooling, as well as UPS - was innovative and responded to our needs. The modular design, with all elements completely enclosed, builds the resilience of the entire data centre. It means that, if for any reason there is a single failure in one module, it’s a non-event to us and doesn’t impact on our operations,” said Walker.

Southern Cross now has a maintenance agreement with Datacom and Schneider Electric to cover all aspects of the data centre.

The new data centre is more energy efficient and greatly reduced in size. The active-active configuration of the data centre architecture and built-in redundancy across all modules helps improve resilience.

“The new data centre design is flexible enough to meet Southern Cross’s racking needs for the next 10 years. And we can easily add another two racks using this modular design,” said Walker.

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