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Case studies

IT infrastructure/cost reduction


BT Strategic Data Centres – optimising data backup processes to save cost, mitigate risk and reduce environmental impact
GlassHouse Technologies


BT’s data centre strategy is to achieve industry leading levels of resilience while optimising costs and environmental benefits. They are moving to “lights-out” operations where highly mobile staff can support the company’s data centre estate across the UK rather than having staff resident in each. BT asked GlassHouse Technologies to help them arrive at an automated backup environment to save cost, improve service, mitigate risk and reduce environmental impact. The objective was not only to facilitate the transition to lights-out but also allow BT to consider taking on the management of customers’ data centres through a dynamic, service-oriented support organization with more mobile engineers.

In mid 2007 BT and GlassHouse Technologies undertook an 18 month transformation programme. At a tactical level the team worked to release capacity and reduce incidents while using root cause analysis to identify and eliminate underlying problems. Longer term the focus was to stabilize and optimize the estate to release under-utilised resources and enable backup operations to be fully automated.

By late 2007 the joint GlassHouse BT team had achieved a hundred fold reduction in the number of traps (as part of a steadily declining ongoing trend). The backup success rate had climbed to in excess of 98% on a consistent basis. Savings of £650,000 had been identified and hand-back to business as usual management was in progress.

Simply using better design principles, back up capacity within the existing estate was increased by 25 per cent from four petabytes to five petabytes (a petabyte is 1024 terabytes, over 1,000,000,000,000,000 bytes). In addition, between April 2007 and October 2007 backup volumes were increased by one petabyte per month with minimal investment. The released capacity created by that optimisation work will be used to accommodate growth without significantly increasing infrastructure, power, and space requirements.

Having consolidated the estate, the planned introduction of fully automated back up processes using new technologies will enhance service levels at reduced cost and mitigated risk for BT and its customers. That new architecture will enable BT to adopt its lights-out support model. The accent will shift to over 90 per cent of BT’s data centre operations team becoming mobile (whereas 50 per cent were permanently resident in data centres previously). BT will also be able to use that highly flexible resource to offer its clients either a better support service or full outsourcing deals.

Another advantage of the transformed infrastructure is that class-leading disaster recovery capabilities will no longer see tapes physically transported for storage. Instead ultra-high-bandwidth optical fibre links between data centres, using DWDM (dense wavelength division multiplexing) technology, will enable mission critical data to be stored off-site in more than one place in real time. By so doing, BT is improving the resilience of its core systems infrastructure (already, obviously, carrier class) and better mitigating operational risk for closer regulatory compliance.

As well as those powerful business outcomes, environmental benefits will flow too. Reduced and more efficient back up equipment has a lower carbon footprint, and travel demands are being lowered with far less people commuting to data centres. This more than offsets the on-demand trips of the fewer mobile staff, which in many cases are obviated anyway by the automated and highly reliable nature of the transformed infrastructure.

“Through our partnership with GlassHouse Technologies,” says Harkeeret Singh (Head of Data Centre Strategy BT), “we are getting closer to achieving our vision of automated, standardised, and highly efficient back up services for both internal and external clients. The programme is also improving our business sustainability by, for example, cutting down on travel and reducing the amount of hardware consuming power and requiring cooling."


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