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Dorset Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust unlocks critical data centre constraints to improve capability with virtualisation


Space and power are core issues facing the progressive IT department. Dorset HealthCare NHS Foundation Trust (DHFT) had a pressing need for data centre space to meet growing requirements. However, sited on a limited power supply, expanding the data centre was not possible as the main power phase was stretched to the limit.

Healthcare IT specialist CSA Waverley, developed a creative resilient solution that unlocked space, reduced power draw and provided a flexible future proofed infrastructure.

The client

DHFT is a Specialist Trust providing Mental Health, Learning Disability, Addictions, Community Brain Injury and Community Dental Services for over 700,000 people in Eastern Dorset and a number of services across the whole of Dorset.

The organisation operates across 30 sites with over 2,000 users backed by more than 50 servers, 1000 PCs and laptops. All sites use individual backup mechanisms and an IT team of 10 provides service, support and management functionality across all mental health services across Bournemouth, East and West Dorset.

The challenge

  • Overcome power supply overdraw and zero server room space
  • Increase capability and functionality
  • Provide a resilient and flexible architecture capable of matching Trust progression
  • Deliver business continuity

DHFT sits on a limited spur of the local electricity network and is housed in an old Victorian building with poor energy performance credentials. Legacy infrastructure also generated considerable amounts of heat that demanded large amounts of cooling, which in turn drew heavily on power.

With pressure to increase capability to cope with N3 and Community of Interest Network (COIN) projects, the IT team had to find space and power to house two full cabinets of equipment.

Nigel Rodgers, Head of Information Technology at the Trust, explains: “We had critical issues with power and our old building.

“These chronic problems meant we were overdrawing power by 10% with inefficient servers and overburdened air conditioning that couldn’t cope. The power problem became critical in the winter months when staff used electric fan heaters. But due to the size of the server room we couldn’t legally introduce a second phase, to load the room, to cope with any further technology.

“Worst case scenarios have seen one phase blow, which put a third of the building out, including the computer room and a temporary return to a paper based office system. This is totally unacceptable as patients sometimes found themselves in the dark.

“Our electric bill was astronomical and our IT systems were far from resilient.

“The IT team’s mission to improve capability meant a new building, the purchase of a sub-station or a technological miracle.”

CSA Waverley was successful in a three-way bid process to address these problems.

The solution

CSA Waverley used a Novell PlateSpin PowerRecon Assessment to qualify that DHFT could consolidate its existing estate of over 30 servers, reducing power requirement and saving space.

The team developed a value for money plan to consolidate the Trust’s Windows server estate, based on HP DL Servers, but maintaining some existing HP UNIX technology for flexibility. Virtualisation became the only feasible option given the constraints of the challenge.

Three HP blades running VMware ESX and two management blades have been introduced.

The application of VMWare and blade architecture has paved the way for future projects to consolidate and migrate both live and legacy UNIX systems to a virtual environment.

The team had to design a tight implementation plan with little tolerance for downtime, given a need to test and introduce the virtual infrastructure before cooler autumn months, when the Trust’s power requirement classically went up.

Equally, the team had to design a staged and managed process of build and migration as the poor power availability limited parallel operation of new and old infrastructures.


Nigel Rodgers, Head of Information Technology at the Trust, said: “We have consolidated our infrastructure by 67% and saved 74% on our energy bill thanks to a refined and efficient data centre that meets green IT imperatives.

“Energy has been saved by using less hardware and HP blade power management, which powers-down unused capacity during low usage periods. In turn, our air conditioning has been turned down by 5 degrees per unit. The proliferated impact has been phenomenal.

“We’ve survived the power crisis and freed up space to add the core of a resilient WAN, as well as testing and refining failover services. Without virtualisation and blades we simply couldn’t have fitted it into the

“We have future-proofed the Trust’s capability to accommodate the next generation of applications and deliver services beyond community of interest projects.

“The savings objectives have been exceeded so much that we have also added another ESX blade and doubled the storage capacity on the SAN overnight. Provisioning of a large data warehouse has become a simple operation.

“We have unlocked flexible backup, improved its speed and can test encryption processes. This has elevated the credibility of our DR and backup policies, providing an extra layer of security and resilience.

“Overall we have achieved 100% resilience, eliminating physical issues, black-outs and downtime since project delivery. Increased capability and functionality have enabled us to better serve staff and patients in a more sustainable manner, providing highly available, load balanced applications and improved business continuity.”

The author

Andrew Boyle, Managing Director, CSA Waverley

(ITadviser, Issue 61, Spring 2010)



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