Hillingdon gets storage savvy

Storage has been the focus point for an IT overhaul at Hillingdon council.

The west London borough - home to Heathrow airport - has upgraded its IT systems over the past five years, including a new storage system from Compellent.

In 2003, the council's IT resource was divided into five disparate teams, which focused on support rather than innovation, the council's ICT head Roger Bearpark told attendees of Compellent's customer conference C-Drive in Minneapolis.

Now, the staff have been centralised and use standards to keep on track. But taking the IT department from muddled to innovative took more than a little staff reorganisation.

Indeed, it wasn't just the people working at random, it was the equipment, too. The council had no idea how many servers it had. "It was 200 something servers - nobody actually knew," said Bearpark. Backup was done on tapes, but it wasn't well organised. A staff member would push a shopping trolley around to each machine to flip tapes over, sticking tape on the used ones to identify them.

Despite the randomness, the council was coping. But Bearpark believed the business should innovate, not just offer basic services. And, data had been increasing at a rate of a 100 per cent each year, making management difficult and leading costs to rise.

Now, with the Compellent system which was rolled out at the beginning of this year, the council can try more innovative technology. "We can achieve an awful lot of stuff we only dreamed about before," said Bearpark.

Not only can the council use its virtualised system to make use of thin provisioning and tiered storage, but it can better audit and priortise data, Bearpark said. The latter means the council can ensure data is stored on the right level of storage - a system that let them move to tiered storage for backup instead of tape, keeping data in use and saving money.

"Clever storage doesn't have to be technically difficult," Bearpark explained.

The success of the system wasn't kept secret by the council, Bearpark said. The council was approached by the local Primary Care Trust (PCT) to ask if it would provide storage for the PCT - the first time such a services deal has been made between a local authority and a PCT, Bearpark believes.

The improved data management let the council work out an accurate cost to bill the PCT, and let them predict costs in the future as well as offer a scalable system.