With its head office in London, architecture and design practice Zaha Hadid Architects has grown exponentially in recent years. But with success have come challenges—specifically, in matching the IT infrastructure to the needs of a global business. The award-winning practice replaced its infrastructure with the Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter operating system and Hyper-V virtualisation software, together with Microsoft datacentre management tools. As a result, it is helping to ensure business continuity and improving productivity, with systems running to optimum performance and resilience levels across two separate sites in London. The practice has saved money on upgrading unified communications by deploying Microsoft Lync 2010 and now has a scalable infrastructure through which it can implement new servers and applications quickly, with no risk of downtime.Situation
The award-winning Zaha Hadid Architects practice is renowned globally for its innovative design and iconic buildings, including the Aquatics Centre for the 2012 London Olympics and the Guangzhou Opera House in China. In 2011, for the second year running, the practice won the Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize, this time for its design of the Evelyn Grace Academy School in south London. Handling 950 projects in 44 countries and rapid growth in recent years has put significant stress on the IT infrastructure of the London-based firm with 300 staff.
Based in Bowling Green Lane, Clerkenwell, Zaha Hadid Architects wanted to make its business more agile and establish a disaster recovery site. The practice wanted to ensure that systems were running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the required levels of performance and resilience in the event of an emergency, such as loss of power supply. With the firm’s expansion to a second site in London at nearby Goswell Road, an opportunity arose to update its IT infrastructure.
A number of other challenges needed urgent consideration to support the requirements of a global business with project offices in remote locations that had to copy data to head office. Top of the list was to ensure automated data replication of key business project folders to reduce the previous dependency on a multitude of tape and direct-attached storage devices.
||It was also important for us to achieve a greater user density per server. We wanted to offer our architects and designers application deployment through a self-service portal and give them a centralised infrastructure in which to work, with broader access to media-rich applications.
Head of IT
Zaha Hadid Architects
Simon Johns, Head of IT, Zaha Hadid Architects, says: “It was also important for us to achieve a greater user density per server. We wanted to offer our architects and designers application deployment through a self-service portal and give them a centralised infrastructure in which to work, with broader access to media-rich applications.”
From a management perspective, Johns considered that virtualisation would reduce the time spent overseeing maintenance and backups. A second datacentre would enhance the support for disaster recovery within the IT environment. “We also needed to drive uptime through consistent configuration and updates for server operating systems,” he says.
Zaha Hadid Architects had an existing Microsoft Services Enterprise Agreement for low-cost volume licensing of software. This gave the firm the advantage of Microsoft virtualisation technology Hyper-V—which comes with Windows Server 2008 R2 at no extra cost. The company also had a long-standing partnership with Microsoft Gold Partner Fabric Technologies for systems integration, consultancy, and technical support.
Fabric Technologies replaced the core infrastructure with a more flexible architecture to support the current and future requirements of the firm using Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter with Hyper-V. VMware virtualisation software was considered, but ruled out on cost grounds. The key components of the solution include:
Increased hardware resilience to ensure business continuity in an emergency with disaster recovery site failover
Implementation of Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 and Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 for the management and deployment of applications. To encourage self-service by key staff in uploading new software, the solution also incorporates Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self-Service Portal 2.0
Replacement of the existing Microsoft distributed file system for replicating key project folders to head office. The practice deployed Dell EqualLogic virtualised IP storage at the two London sites, providing 90 terabytes of storage at each site
Deployment of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Enterprise communication and collaboration server and Microsoft Lync 2010 for unified communications, replacing Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2
Simon Kentish, Chair, Fabric Technologies, says: “We handled the project in two stages, with head office first followed by the second site. Ensuring business continuity was a major consideration during the deployment since Zaha Hadid Architects staff often work late into the night and at weekends. Using Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2, it’s now easier and quicker to deploy new servers.”
The storage solution ensures that Zaha Hadid Architects can take full advantage of the high availability features included in Hyper-V. Kentish says: “A key element of the project has been to consolidate four or five different kinds of existing systems, which meant that keeping up to date was a constant battle. EqualLogic is much more scalable and the Hyper-V functionality means the practice can hold a lot more data.”Benefits
With its systems now running at optimum performance, Zaha Hadid Architects has helped ensure business continuity and improved productivity. Through Hyper-V, the practice is better equipped to store data and has a scalable infrastructure capable of deploying new servers and applications faster, with no risk of downtime. In one case, the provisioning of six servers for a new accounting system took just two days. And, with new automated operational management technology for the datacentres, the IT department is more productive.
Disaster Recovery Proves Its Value During Power Outage
Shortly after completion of the infrastructure refresh, the disaster recovery site was tested to the limit. “In mid-2011, we experienced unplanned electricity outages at the Bowling Green Lane site,” says Johns. “This was a real test of the system, not a simulation, and we emerged from it with no downtime.”
Server Provisioning for Accounting System Takes Just Two Days
With virtualisation, many routine maintenance and backup functions are no longer necessary, freeing up IT staff to spend time on higher value work. Efficiency has improved in terms of server deployment and requests for software updates through Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self-Service Portal 2.0. With the virtual infrastructure, IT is much more responsive to the needs of the business.
Johns says: “Using Microsoft System Center tools to service requests for updated versions of computer-aided design software has reduced demand on the IT team and helped us ensure licensing compliance.”
Savings Arise from Virtual Infrastructure Rollout
Lowering costs was not the principal driver for the infrastructure refresh, but due to close collaboration with Fabric Technologies, savings have been achieved.
The practice had adopted Office Communications Server 2007 early on to enhance communications with its overseas offices. Johns says: “We avoided having to incur capital expenditure in upgrading to Lync 2010 for instant messaging and desktop sharing by making use of our Enterprise Agreement. The upgrade paid for itself.”
Greater Storage Capacity Future-Proofs the Business
The datacentres—with their significantly improved, simplified systems for storage capacity—are helping to future-proof the business against sudden increases in demand. With Hyper-V, it is much easier to bring in additional storage space using Dell EqualLogic.
||The storage capacity increase with Hyper-V means there is less information to archive to tape and more data instantly available. It’s easy to take snapshots from all sites and projects. The refresh has changed the way the practice works and solved the problem it had with overheating and lack of server space, making the business more environmentally sustainable.
Kentish says: “The storage capacity increase with Hyper-V means there is less information to archive to tape and more data instantly available. It’s easy to take snapshots from all sites and projects. The refresh has changed the way the practice works and solved the problem it had with overheating and lack of server space, making the business more environmentally sustainable.”Microsoft Server Product Portfolio
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