A Recipe for Award-Winning Data Centre Digital Transformation

Schneider Electric and Elite Partners APT win SDC Award for ‘Digital Transformation Project of the Year’.

Today digital transformation demands have accelerated at an unprecedented pace. Many end-users have worked tirelessly to ensure both their physical, and digital infrastructure systems are secure, resilient, and efficient, often collaborating with external teams to bring digital initiatives from inception to reality. Data centres are in many respects, the beating heart of the digital economy and crucial to the success of many digitalization strategies. They are, therefore, pivotal, for any initiative dependent on mission-critical IT.

In late 2020, Schneider Electric worked with our Elite Partners at Advanced Power Technology (APT) to deliver a data centre digital transformation project for Newcastle City Council. The success of any digital transformation project often hinges on several, variable factors, which can include cost, energy reduction and uptime. And having met all these requirements, last week APT MD John Thompson, and I accepted the 2021 SDC Award for ‘Digital Transformation Project of the Year’, something which we are deeply grateful for.

This award-winning project took place amid a £45m revamp of Newcastle’s Civic Centre and was a central part of the local council’s e-government strategy. It aimed to improve the ability of Newcastle City Council to deliver e-government services to the 300,000 citizens and businesses within its constituency, while supporting critical applications hosted within its data centre, which included local council tax collection facilities, social and library services, education, and road traffic management in addition to support for other essential public service bodies such as the local National Health Service (NHS) and the Police.

Data centres and digital transformation

Together, Schneider Electric and APT worked to consolidate all of the council’s existing data centre capacity, delivering upgrades to the physical infrastructure and deploying our EcoStruxure™ IT data centre infrastructure (DCIM) management software, which would ensure operational continuity and energy efficient digital service delivery for the initiative. Once operational, the new data centre would replace three legacy server rooms, each containing a number of disparate UPS and cooling systems which were old and in need of maintenance.

To bring the project into fruition quickly and efficiently, the Council chose our EcoStruxure™ for Data Centers architecture for its new integrated facility. The system consolidated their entire mission-critical IT infrastructure portfolio into a single data hall, incorporating APC™ NetShelter™ Racks, Power Distribution (PDU) and EcoStruxure Row Data Centre solution , with our industry-leading and sustainable Galaxy range UPS.

Our modular and scalable Galaxy UPSs were deployed in an N+1 redundant configuration, offering the council extended runtimes, together with a standby power generator, which would guarantee uptime in the face of an outage. Further, our EcoStruxure™ IT Expert DCIM software would provide the data centre management team with a platform that could deliver anywhere anytime monitoring, improved maintenance schedules and would proactively alert them to system issues, such as faulty equipment or potential outages, in real-time.

“Previously, we were able to withstand a loss of power for about 20 minutes,” said James Dickman, Senior ICT Solutions Analyst, Newcastle City Council. “Now we can operate for three hours on UPS batteries if required and can use our backup generator to provide alternative power in the event of a lengthy loss of our mains supply. It’s also reassuring to know that the data centre infrastructure is being constantly monitored, with alerts routed directly to mobile devices if events occur out of hours.”

DCIM drives operational and energy efficiency

Within any digital transformation project, return on investment (ROI) is of course, crucial, and the new data centre greatly improves the council’s ability to ensure service continuity, while increasing efficiency to deliver a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) across the stack.

One of the key benefits of our award-winning EcoStruxure IT Expert software is for the ability of end-users to monitor power consumption within each of their IT racks. As such, and with the council’s new data centre designed to house all IT and network devices in contained aisles, gaining increased visibility of energy consumption and environmental data, together with real-time insights enables their power and cooling systems to be operated with maximum energy efficiency.

Additionally, the software enabled them to deliver cost-effective hosting services to other local bodies and businesses. In fact, around 10% of the data centre’s real estate is today leased out to other public sector organisations including HM Courts and the arbitration service, ACAS. So, by carefully monitoring the power supply to each rack, the Council can accurately charge for hosting services, thereby producing a revenue stream that helps to offset its operating costs and creating savings that would be passed on to their local citizens.

“As a public body we are always looking for ways to improve cost and energy efficiencies,” continued James Dickman. “Schneider Electric and APT were able to design and deliver a data centre solution that meets our needs and our expectations. The new facility enables us to meet our service commitments to all stakeholders while minimising the carbon impact of delivering IT services.”

This award-winning recipe for digital transformation required three crucial ingredients; clear objectives around resilience, efficiency, and sustainability; open communication and collaboration between all teams; and an appetite for disruptive change. Through this approach, Newcastle City Council has successfully laid the foundations for e-service delivery, for years to come.

Read more in our case study, here.

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