Staffordshire County Council is the eighth-largest council in England and a leader in shared IT services. It wanted to benefit from management and virtualisation to save money and ensure continuity of critical applications, while creating a private
cloud environment to extend shared services. Working with Risual, the authority carried out a proof of concept and a production deployment solution using the Microsoft System Center suite and Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2. Over the next 12 months, significant
savings and productivity gains are expected, with server build times cut by around 90 per cent and scope to reduce human resource demands. Staffordshire can now enter more shared services partnerships and can accurately bill for underlying services. New server
provisioning now takes seconds and only five to 10 minutes to be fully on the domain, with no disruption to the organisation.
Staffordshire County Council provides high-quality public services to 830,000 people and 30,000 businesses in the West Midlands, United Kingdom (U.K.), and spends £1.3 billion (U.S.$2 billion) a year. Due to its location and skilled workforce, the county
is experiencing significant investment from leading brands such as Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), JCB, and Amazon. Staffordshire uses information and communications technology (ICT) as a driver for improving service delivery, reducing maintenance and support costs,
and achieving environmental sustainability. It aims to simplify and standardise services, allowing technicians to spend more time on higher value tasks, while reducing costs.
The council created the Staffordshire Public Sector Network (PSN). This network ensures that public sector organisations in the area can share services securely over a common network and offers opportunities for delivering a secure private cloud across other
Vic Falcus, Head of ICT Service Management, Staffordshire County Council, says: “Our interest in the private cloud was initially driven by the need to further consolidate the servers in our data centre through second-generation virtualisation technologies.
In 2007, Staffordshire virtualised a large proportion of its server estate. This is being extended to business-critical applications, including web content management, adult and children’s case management systems, geographic information systems, and pensions’
administration. We’re also looking at virtualising SAP in 2012.”
In addition, the county council wanted to support shared services through the use of a private cloud. Falcus says: “In the first phase, 1,000 council social workers are transferring to the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership National Health Service
(NHS) Trust. The newly-formed organisation creates the largest health and social care organisation in the U.K. Having a secure private cloud will help create shared ICT provision, giving us the ability to respond to the requirements of the new organisation
as they evolve.”
Staffordshire ICT also needed to cut the cost of its existing physical server infrastructure, both in terms of capital investment and operational management. The ultimate aim now is to reduce the production server estate to around 12 high-capacity physical
machines, while improving availability and disaster recovery. Currently, the organisation has more than 200 virtual machines across its two data centres.
Falcus says: “Previously, we weren’t being proactive enough. We found ourselves constantly firefighting instead of adding business value. We didn’t have deep insight into the applications that are delivered as services and no accurate method of auditing
our environment, or understanding usage and demand profiles.”
||We needed a comprehensive monitoring and management solution—covering hardware, hypervisors, operating systems, and applications—keeping our applications running, improving performance and availability, and optimising infrastructure
utilisation. We also wanted to enhance our ability to calculate charge-back costing to internal customers and third parties.
Head of ICT Service Management
Staffordshire County Council
For Staffordshire, virtualisation of business-critical applications was only one part of the private cloud solution. Falcus says: “We needed a comprehensive monitoring and management solution—covering hardware, hypervisors, operating systems, and applications—keeping
our applications running, improving performance and availability, and optimising infrastructure utilisation. We also wanted to enhance our ability to calculate charge-back costing to internal customers and third parties.”
Working with Microsoft Gold Partner Risual, Staffordshire ICT—the internal IT department for the county council—completed a proof of concept and production deployment for a Microsoft private cloud. It is using the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system
with Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 and the Microsoft System Center suite. The environment also hosts a development workspace and high-availability failover at the council’s second data centre. Storage is provided through the authority’s existing investment
in NetApp technology, which integrates easily with the Microsoft private cloud solution.
Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 (SP1) provisions and maintains the virtual infrastructure, while Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 Self-Service Portal 2.0 provides self-service provisioning facilities
that can be delivered to clients within the private cloud environment. The solution also includes Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R2, which provides comprehensive client management across physical, mobile, and virtual environments. Karen
Dallyn, Public Sector Account Director, Risual, says: “The holistic monitoring solution for the infrastructure comes from Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2, with distributed applications providing a deep insight into the performance of key
Sample service level agreements and charge-back costing—making it possible to bill shared services partners accurately—are provided through a series of dashboards. Finally, Windows Server Update Services has been deployed to manage software updates to the
infrastructure in a timely and automated way.
Staffordshire ICT considered using VMware instead of System Center and Hyper-V. But because the council already had a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, which allowed it to use Hyper-V at no extra cost, it decided to compare functionality. Staffordshire also
used Enrolment for Core Infrastructure (ECI) licences, which provide additional tools for managing private cloud environments. These include System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2, System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 SP1, and System Center Configuration
Manager 2007 R2.
Falcus says: “We found that about 90 per cent of the functionality of VMware was already available within Hyper-V and the management tool provided using ECI. We fully expect this gap to close further when Microsoft System Center 2012 is released.”
Falcus adds: “With Microsoft technology, we could use our existing skills and both Microsoft and non-Microsoft technologies to build a private cloud. System Center products can manage the applications as well as the virtual machines, which is a great advantage
in streamlining and standardising the infrastructure.”
Risual supported this process through its Value Assurance consultancy engagement. Dallyn says: “This service is designed to help organisations such as Staffordshire understand what they’re licensed for and the benefits available to them. We help them cut
costs through consolidation of duplicate or overlapping solutions, and show them how to realise business value from any investment in new software.”
||With Microsoft technology, we could use our existing skills and both Microsoft and non-Microsoft technologies to build a private cloud. System Center products can manage the applications as well as the virtual machines, which is a
great advantage in streamlining and standardising the infrastructure.
Head of ICT Service Management
Staffordshire County Council
Staffordshire ICT now has a highly available private cloud environment capable of supporting virtualised business-critical applications based on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software. The council is well positioned to enter more shared services
partnerships with other public sector partners, while accurately charging for resource use. As the private cloud solution develops over the next 12 months, Staffordshire ICT will make major savings and productivity gains. These include a 90 per cent cut in
server build times and an anticipated reduction of around 20 per cent of its infrastructure hardware refresh budget.
Private Cloud Delivers Significant Savings and Reduced Storage
The private cloud project—along with server consolidation through virtualisation—will result in lower costs across services. The improved manageability will allow business-critical applications to be included in the private cloud. As part of its infrastructure
refresh in 2012, the council expects the number of servers to be reduce by around 50. The consolidation of SQL Server onto dedicated clusters will help the council avoid spending £155,000 a year on licensing.
Falcus says: “We now need less storage for each production cluster—60 gigabytes instead of 220 gigabytes previously. So instead of requiring 25 terabytes of storage space in total, we now need only 5 terabytes, which is a considerable saving. Plus, server
build times have been reduced by around 90 per cent and new server provisioning takes seconds, with just five to 10 minutes for them to be fully on the domain. We’re expecting to enhance efficiency and become more proactive because of automated monitoring.
We expect to save around £50,000.”
Microsoft Private Cloud Creates Platform for Shared Services
By adopting virtualisation to consolidate servers, introducing new management tools to improve service delivery, and achieving greater standardisation with self-service, Staffordshire ICT is setting an example to other authorities. The private cloud has
created a resilient collaboration platform that will extend to other organisations through shared service and partnership arrangements, including the new Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust, which sees 1,000 social workers working alongside
Falcus says: “The work so far has demonstrated more options for the council in entering new shared services partnerships with other public sector partners. The ability to charge-back the cost of services with the help of the Microsoft System Center suite
gives us the ability to deliver usage-based pricing—whether within the authority or to external organisations.”
In addition, Staffordshire ICT is confident that the new monitoring system will help managers forecast future needs for IT infrastructure more effectively, as well as maximising the investment in existing assets. The council is currently planning to enter
into more shared services partnerships using its Microsoft private cloud platform.
System Center Suite Improves Manageability and Efficiency
By introducing the System Center suite to the private cloud environment, Staffordshire ICT is now working more productively with clearly defined roles and responsibilities within the team. Falcus says: “With Microsoft System Center, we’ve successfully allocated
duties within the team in respect of ongoing management, monitoring, maintenance, and configuration of the private cloud.”
Software Updates Take Minutes
Software updates can now be completed in normal working hours without requiring staff overtime or affecting service users. Automated patching is likely to save the council one to three person days a month just deploying software updates as well as reducing
the potential for human error.
Falcus says: “Internal customers will be happier because we can avoid any disruption to the business, saving around £50,000 in personnel. Operational risk is also significantly reduced— in the event of a major issue, lost productivity in key business applications
could cost the council up to £1 million a week. With the new architecture in place, this risk is now greatly reduced.”
Staffordshire Commits to Upgrade Staffordshire ICT is committed to the future development of the private cloud and is already interested in the next wave of Microsoft cloud technologies. The organisation is confident that Microsoft has recognised
that the infrastructure business is increasingly driven by applications that Microsoft clients are building.
Falcus says: “For us, the big win so far is that we’ve moved to a scalable cloud-based environment that brings together virtualised servers and storage. The Microsoft System Center 2012 suite including Virtual Machine Manager 2012 and Orchestrator are of
particular interest to us. They will help Staffordshire ICT in creating an even more resilient cloud-based platform for our customers.”
Microsoft virtualization is an end-to-end strategy that can profoundly affect nearly every aspect of the IT infrastructure management lifecycle. It can drive greater efficiencies, flexibility, and cost effectiveness throughout your organization. From accelerating
application deployments; to ensuring systems, applications, and data are always available; to taking the hassle out of rebuilding and shutting down servers and desktops for testing and development; to reducing risk, slashing costs, and improving the agility
of your entire environment—virtualization has the power to transform your infrastructure, from the data center to the desktop.
For more information about Microsoft virtualization solutions, go to:
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