A reliable platform for future IT growth
Cumberland Building Society chooses APT and Schneider Electric to support 24×7 IT operations
Cumberland Building Society was formed in 1850 when 1,000 people came together to form the Cumberland Co-operative Land and Benefit Building Society. At that time its main objective was to provide a means whereby the ‘industrious classes’ could acquire property. Since then the Cumberland has grown to become one of Britain’s top ten building societies, with 34 branches throughout Cumbria, Dumfriesshire, North Lancashire and Northumberland, and is a leading provider of mortgages as well as other retail financial services including current accounts, savings accounts and financial planning in the communities it serves.
Cumberland Building Society sees its investment in leading edge technology as one its sources of competitive advantage. Although it is a smaller organisation than the UK’s big banks, its size means it can make decisions and move quickly to develop and introduce the sorts of technology that it believes will be of benefit to its members. A good example is Pay2Mobile: Launched in January 2014, the Cumberland was one of the first current account service providers and the first building society to offer this type of mobile payment service. However, in the connected age, the society’s reliance upon technology coupled with the “always on” expectations of its members puts a heavy emphasis on ensuring reliable and available services.
A new HQ
In late 2012, Cumberland Building Society planned to move to a new head office. Relocating to new premises created two key opportunities to ensure the business could continue to scale its use of technology for the foreseeable future, and therefore to sustain competitive advantage through IT. The move also provided an opportunity for the Building
Society to upgrade IT infrastructure and procure a data centre solution that could also improve levels of reliability and availability in a cost efficient manner. Gary Richardson, General Manager IT, Cumberland Building Society said, “Th move to a new head office gave us an exciting opportunity to take a big leap forwards with our IT infrastructure. We knew this would be the right moment to lay the foundations for us to take the next step in our IT journey, and also allow us to build in
higher levels of protection against power failures than ever before. This was important, because the area in which we are located has suffered significant outages in the recent past.”
“As part of our first steps, we made contact with APT – one of Schneider Electric’s Elite Partners. We initially asked them for their help to relocate our UPS and generator to the new HQ site, 5 miles away. We already had a successful partnership with APT based on an earlier project to upgrade and maintain the power protection system, so we felt we knew enough about their capabilities and that based on experience we could trust their advice.”
“However, once they started asking usquestions about the full scope of the move, the IT load and how we proposed to deliver a new server room, it became clear that APT were in a position to offer us a much broader data centre design and build service. APT talked to us about the sort of physical infrastructure that could help us achieve our ambitions for the move and upgrade. We therefore invited them to help us to develop a detailed specification as the basis for an open and competitive tender, which they subsequently won.”
Infrastructure fit for future growth
APT provided a scalable, modular, pay- as-you-grow data centre design for the Cumberland Building Society’s new facility.
The modular approach provides the benefit of enabling infrastructure to be right-sized according to the IT load. A major cause of energy waste in data centres is due to over- sized infrastructure, often to accommodat a future growth requirement which is never realised. Right-sizing ensures that the physical infrastructure is kept in step with the IT load requirement, helping to ensure energy efficient day-today operations, as well as allowing capital budgets to be conserved until needed.
The new facility, designed by APT in conjunction with Schneider Electric, incorporates an APC by Schneider Electric Hot Aisle Containment Solution (HACS) together with InRow precision cooling units. A key advantage of HACS is that it enables high density loads to be accommodated, helping to maximise utilisation where available space is constrained.
In addition, hot aisle containment can avoid the requirement and therefore cost for a dedicated server room with a raised floor The APC by Schneider Electric InfraStruxureTM modular solution brings together pre-tested and predesigned components, with integrated power protection and distribution, racks, cooling, physical security and management software. The new room supports the full IT infrastructure for Cumberland Building Society and its customers, including customer banking services, the organisations’ internal IT and networking as well its IP phone system. The modular approach gives the Building Society a flexible future upgrade path as they can procure specific upgrades to support the direction in which the IT loads evolve. Gary Richardson said, “When you look at the Schneider Electric solution provided by APT, it’s perfect for us. It’s flexible, scalable and provides a cost- effective approach that can also grow with us to support our competitive advantage. It gives us a dependable and adaptable solution.
Delivering highly dependable resilience Reliability and continuity of service is critical. Cumberland Building Society supports its customers 24×7 via a number of IT enabled services, from cash machines to online banking. As a result of this focus the Building Society planned specifically to eliminate the possibility of power outages or failures being able to negatively impact customers.
However, there had been some significant power outages in the area where the new HQ office is located due to local flooding. Some of these events have lasted only an hour, but others have persisted for more than a day. Gary Richardson said “We’re very proud of the trust and reputation we’ve built with our customers, so it’s absolutely vital that we protect the services which they depend upon daily, from any downtime whatsoever.”
The new data centre infrastructure incorporates an APC Symmetra PX UPS solution. Designed to cost effectively provide high levels of availability, the UPS provides a fully redundant, scalable, power protection system which is seamlessly integrated as the core power train that drives APC InfraStruxureTM data centres. It comprises dedicated and redundant modules – power, intelligence, battery and bypass, which are engineered into a design that is easily and
efficiently serviceable. The Symmetra PX ensures run-time in case of a power failure to provide a bridge as back-up generation comes on line. Its architecture can scale power and runtime as demand grows or if higher levels of availability are required. Additionally, the Symmetra PX is highly manageable and features self-diagnostic capabilities and standardized modules which mitigate the risk of human error resulting in increased overall data centre reliability.
Gary Richardson said, “To date we’ve not had any downtime despite some very challenging circumstances. We’re very
pleased that the new installation has kept us up and running continuously. The Schneider Electric Symmetra PX UPS specified as part of the design is a key factor in this success. It provides essential runtime for ride-through incidents as well as protecting the load should we need to switch to secondary power generation. The last thing we want is for the system to fail and to have customers with a full shopping cart stuck at checkout online or in the local
A solution that delivered both key objectives Gary Richardson summed up with strong praise for APT and its partnership with Schneider Electric: “APT came up with the most cost effective solution for the Cumberland’s requirement. It was also technically superior and scalable for our future needs. We had a high degree of confidence that APT would deliver an excellent system for the Building Society and our customers, and that confidence has been well placed. They’re well organised and everything’s been delivered exactly as we’d hoped. We have now have a reliable platform for our future IT growth. It’s not only efficient, but also ensures the power protection we need to help us ensure full customer satisfaction.”