Councils are diverse businesses as exemplified by the City of West Torrens (CoWT). Its Manager of Information Services, Chris James, describes: “We’re dealing with not only the Council’s corporate responsibilities but also a multitude of assets and from the young to the elderly in our community. We’re a reasonably conservative Council but we’re also creative and keen to take on IT systems that deliver for our ratepayers.”
A tender in mid-2018 was to discover and implement a solution to improve the Council’s IT Infrastructure performance/storage and disaster recovery (DR) capabilities.
The City of West Torrens local government area, in Adelaide’s western suburbs, caters to a population of 60,000. Its Information Services team is acknowledged as being appropriately moderate but nimble and innovative in its pursuit of best practice computing environments: twice winner of the IT Team of the Year Local Government IT South Australia awards, and West Torrens Manager of Information Services, Chris James, is President of the State-wide, collaborative LGITSA.
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CoWT operates a mostly on-premise model, primarily because it has a hybrid of best-of-breed, in-house and SaaS business applications. The environment includes leading mobile asset management, EDRMS, GIS, web and multi-channel multi-channel contact centre solutions. The Council’s Production and Disaster Recovery datacentres were virtualised in 2007 to create a high availability IT platform but in recent years, some of the 250 desktop fleet had to be moved back from virtuals to PCs due to the lack of performance.
The goal of the new environment was to boost the compute performance and to improve business continuity. “With our old replication system, it could have taken days to get our business back up and running after a failure. ” James says.
Management of CoWT’s complex and growing infrastructure was to be simplified. And a transparent, 4-year procurement and support contract was to reduce CapEx.
“High performance and value for money IT offerings stand as the ultimate measures in our service delivery to our business and the community,” he says.
CompNow’s proposed Dell VxRail Hyper Converged Infrastructure, as a virtualised server and storage environment, was the best of seven solutions offered.
The key differentiator in the CompNow offering is the Active/Active attribute. With all nodes always available, Council can leverage all its capacity – it enables fully active processing and access to the complete storage capacity as no servers are idle in backup mode.
With the cost and maturity of relevant cloud services still evolving, James assessed that it is still wiser to have half of the stretched datacentre on-premise and half in a private cloud. The hyperconverged Active/Active environment delivers cloud-like benefits, such as high availability, but without the cost and transitioning effort from a traditional server/SAN platform.
The architecture stretches the eight node cluster across two geographically separated sites: with four nodes each at CoWT’s Civic Centre and a shared facility at the City of Adelaide 15 kms away, connected by fibre in the ground.
In the case of an outage, the Council’s work load continues to operate on whichever nodes are available. Even in the event of one or all nodes in the other site failing, there will be no loss of data from the downtime.
A Dell EMC VxRail hyperconverged solution simplifies the operation and management of CoWT’s growing, complex IT environment. Backup technology improvements shrink the time taken for backups, improve restore times, reduce the number of tapes and allow the IT team to more efficiently send copies of backup data offsite. The platform also supports the expanding mobile and remote access requirements to Council’s business systems.
The Dell EMC equipment converged into a single rack unit will enable CoWT to slot in more nodes for performance, or new apps. As nodes age in 5-7 years, they can be easily pulled out and replaced. The consolidated racking real estate and reduced power consumption fits the Council’s objective to be greener and drive down expenditures.
“We’re open to good ideas and the great business outcomes from the CompNow Active/Active solution was something we wanted to pursue,” James says. “While not the lowest response, it was easily the best value for money”.
The migration project required “the transitioning of a hundred different systems – Linux & Windows, and the Mobile connections,” he says. To de-risk the migration, low priority data bases were the first to be tested. The project was completed with the ‘big end of town’ asset management, payroll, document management & GIS systems brought online.
Our network administrators, Jess & Jason, appreciated the regular collaboration with the CompNow team throughout the implementation.
The Dell EMC VxRail, highly available environment is enabling the Council to re-establish its use of virtualised desktops. “We now have the grunt and speed to support all areas of our operation,” James says. It is of particular importance to such areas as Building & Planning with their large assessment files; for engineers reliant on complex GIS data; and for staff requiring multiple business systems to be open at the same time. The team responsible for Council meeting document production can bring together large reports without the old frustrations.
“We immediately achieved 40 percent faster speeds. We’ve lowered risk and are delivering our services to ratepayers far more efficiently and cheaply. We’re very happy with the nous inherent in the system and the management of it,” James says.
CompNow established the depth of its expertise and the value of its effective communication during the implementation phase. “There’s nothing like the appearance of a software bug during a rollout to prove the value of your partner. CompNow has delivered the system we were promised and not only we in the IT team but also our business managers are very pleased with the outcome,” he says.
As IT consumption and remote access requirements continue at pace, James believes this high-spec environment, with its inbuilt flexibility and scalability, will protect the Council’s performance, storage and recovery into the future.