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Schneider Electric's data centre solution stands tall for 800,000 members

10 Dec 2013

For an organisation with over 800,000 members, speed and resilience of IT systems is paramount.

When Southern Cross Health Society needed to relocate, the health insurer had an opportunity to rethink its approach to IT and reconfigure its data centre to boost efficiency, redundancy and performance.

The new central data centre would play a key role in all aspects of the business, and Southern Cross knew that it was crucial to get it right.

As a result, Schneider Electric’s data centre solution and configuration has significantly boosted the redundancy, efficiency and resilience of Southern Cross Health Society’s IT system.

The InfraStruxure architecture has delivered a significant improvement in energy efficiency, and a reduction in floor space for the central data centre.

Founded in 1961, Southern Cross Health Society is a trusted organisation that provides health insurance and a range of health and wellness services to its over 800,000 members.

To deliver its many services, Southern Cross Health Society relies upon an extremely robust IT system.

“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,” explained April Walker, Head of Information Systems & Business Change, Southern Cross Health Society.

Southern Cross Health Society 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 – and it provided the opportunity to overhaul IT facilities.

Southern Cross’ previous computer room was dated. It had grown organically over a long period, causing power and cooling inefficiencies as well as capacity and performance problems. Given the large number of members that Southern Cross communicates with and the volume of data involved, the business required an efficient, resilient data centre.

The change of premises presented a great opportunity for Southern Cross to rethink its approach to IT and overcome issues presented by the legacy system.

The Society 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,” says Walker.

Schneider Electric worked with Southern Cross’s IT facility management supplier, Datacom, on the project. It was crucial that both worked together from the outset.

Over the course of about six weeks, the team designed a modular, high density data centre. A demonstration centre at Schneider Electric was used in the design phase to show how elements of the solution – such as StruxureWare Operations data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) software – would deliver on the project goals.

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

The management solution, StruxureWare Operations, 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.

“Schneider Electric’s complete solution – including racking, power and cooling, as well as UPS – was innovative and responsed 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,” says Walker.

“It is a complete solution that addresses all of the key business issues around space, power and cooling, redundancy and resilience.

“Schneider Electric went in and installed without a hitch. With Datacom and our engineers, they combined to make an excellent team. In terms of the scale and complexity of the move, it was huge but went super smoothly,” Walker says.

Southern Cross now has a comprehensive maintenance agreement with Datacom and Schneider Electric to cover all aspects of the data centre. This gives Southern Cross peace of mind – it also guarantees the speedy and accurate resolution of any issues.

The new data centre designed by Schneider Electric transforms the risk profile for Southern Cross’s IT. The centre is more energy efficient and has greatly reduced in size. But perhaps most importantly, the Schneider Electric solution delivers a sophisticated, high-performing solution that provides the robustness and reliability that an organisation of its size demands.

The active-active configuration of the data centre architecture and built-in redundancy across all modules ensures that the entire set-up has the highest possible resilience.

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