WEST BERKSHIRE COUNCIL CASE STUDY

West Berkshire Council covers half of the geographical area of Berkshire, including the towns of Newbury, Thatcham, Theale, and Hungerford. Its in-house IT team runs two data centres to support both the day-to-day operations of over 1,800 council staff and the delivery of online services to some 155,000 residents.

With technology becoming an ever more potent weapon in the public sector’s armoury to drive efficiency, efficacy and cost-effectiveness, West Berkshire is keen to be proactive with its IT – taking early action to ensure the optimum infrastructure is always in place, rather than having to react to degraded performance and play catch-up.

It was this philosophy that was the driving force behind a major 18-month upgrade of its main data centre, and its challenge to Redcentric.

West Berkshire Council - Scalability enabled IT capability to stay aligned with organisational need icon

Scalability enabled IT capability to stay aligned with organisational need

West Berkshire Council - Ongoing reliability and continuity supporting both staff and residents icon

Ongoing reliability and continuity supporting both staff and residents

West Berkshire Council - Removal of organisational risk through tested and planned migration icon

Removal of organisational risk through tested and planned migration

Challenges

As part of a £200K refresh of its data centre estate, which focused primarily on up-rating power, cooling and building management capabilities to achieve a better PUE rating, the West Berkshire team also examined its switching provision. It wanted to preempt any performance issues as the demands on bandwidth inevitably increased over time, preferring to keep capacity comfortably aligned with usage.

However, the team had a number of key criteria for project success, specifically:

  • Architectural fit – the proposed solution had to sit in a certain footprint while offering up sufficient port density
  • Price point – the project had to work within tight budget constraints and to support best value
  • Proven design – with the final physical go-live on the new switches having to take place over a single weekend, there needed to be clear evidence of ‘plug and play’ reliability.

ICT Operations Manager Andy Best comments: “It wasn’t the longest list of critical success factors but I can’t overstate how vital it was to deliver 100% against those three criteria. They were all big questions for us, upon which the success of the broader project also hung: could we find the right solution? Could we get it on the right terms? And could it be delivered in a way that meshed seamlessly with the other works we were undertaking? And our concern was always that somewhere, somehow, we would be forced to compromise, and that wasn’t something we were ready to accept.”

We knew that this was giving us exactly what we needed technically, operationally and commercially, and I commend Redcentric for making that possible. We were now free to focus on testing the configuration and evaluating the equipment, prior to the go-live, and again, Redcentric was most diligent in ensuring that process was completed to our absolute satisfaction.

How Redcentric helped

Redcentric’s ICT services team looked at a number of scenarios and equipment vendors before finally recommending a 10Gb top of rack switch-based solution using Brocade. It ticked the boxes for port density within a set footprint, would integrate seamlessly with the existing architecture and offered future upgrade options. Redcentric also leveraged its relationship with Brocade to enable the team to put forward what it deemed to be an optimum solution – at the right price point.

Andy Best: “As soon as we saw what was on offer, the concerns we’d had around compromise vanished. We knew that this was giving us exactly what we needed technically, operationally and commercially, and I commend Redcentric for making that possible.”

“We were now free to focus on testing the configuration and evaluating the equipment, prior to the go-live, and again, Redcentric was most diligent in ensuring that process was completed to our absolute satisfaction.”

“Working closely with Brocade engineers, its services team undertook comprehensive proof of concept work on Redcentric’s own servers, carefully testing every facet of the design to ensure that come the final weekend, there would be no surprises. Because we had so much else going on, because the changeover had to be faultless, and we were so time limited, there was a huge amount of pressure – but I was really impressed how client and supplier teams liaised and collaborated, and how the Redcentric personnel worked so tirelessly and expertly to alleviate that pressure.”

Come the final weekend, there were no unknowns, no what if’s, just a quiet, assured certainty that all would go according to plan. And it did!

Business benefits

Improved performance – The up-rated bandwidth has ensured West Berkshire Council has sufficient capacity going forward to maintain speed and availability.

Enhanced resilience – The investment in new switches has helped safeguard the on-going reliability and continuity of service to both council staff and residents.

Best value – The Brocade deployment has allowed West Berkshire Council to deliver on a key operational objective while meeting its financial obligations – with no compromise whatsoever.

Increased flexibility – The solution offered was as much about the future as the here and now. It wasn’t a fudged stop-gap, but a strategic implementation that underpins scalability and growth, and allows IT capability to stay aligned with organisational need.

Andy is very clear on the value of the Redcentric team and the project it delivered.

“It would be easy to write this sort of project off as a ‘commodity sell’ ie supplier prices up equipment, client buys equipment, equipment goes in, end of project. But that would be to criminally underplay how much of a genuine partner Redcentric has been to us. It took on the responsibility of designing an appropriate solution, getting it for the right price, testing its suitability beyond any doubt, completely plugging in to and understanding and responding to all of our concerns.”

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