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Case studies

IT infrastructure/cost reduction


National Library of Scotland – data storage
GlassHouse Technologies


When the National Library of Scotland began its expansion from traditional hard-copy book storage, to digital publication archiving, it called on GlassHouse to lend its expertise to a very data-heavy project.

The National Library of Scotland (NLS) is a major European research library and is the world’s leading centre for the study of Scotland and the Scots – an information treasure trove for Scotland’s knowledge, history and culture. The Library’s collections are of world-class importance and holds well over 14 million items, including printed items, approximately100,000 manuscripts and nearly 2 million maps.  Every year it collects over 300,000 items via Legal Deposit. In addition, the library is one of only three in the UK that has opted to store digital publications for public reference purposes.

In late 2006, it was decided that the Library needed a more modern approach to storing, retrieving and protecting its digital data, as well as catering for the growing rivers of electronic based publications and web-based information.  NLS asked GlassHouse Technologies to assist because of their deep expertise and rigorous independence.
GlassHouse initially started out working with the NLS to produce the storage aspect of a business case for project funding. When the completed case, incorporating storage recommendations, was put forward, the NLS secured £1.8 million worth of funding for the Library to cover the entire project.

Following this success, GlassHouse embarked on the larger job of assessing the full technical storage requirements for the project, and producing the full reference architecture to be followed. The project team conducted a series of requirements interviews with stakeholders across the organisation. This was followed by a collation of each request, and an assessment of its importance within the development of the NLS digital library; were they ‘must‐haves’, or ‘nice to haves’? It was from this that a plan for a large Storage Area Network (SAN) was designed that allowed above all for easy management and access of data. Following this, a complete and objective assessment of supplier bids was needed, so GlassHouse built a scoring mechanism for use in the RFP (request for proposal) stage to help decide which vendor would be chosen for the project.

A year after the hardware and integration programme was initiated, the NLS is starting to look like a very different place. The SAN is now up and running and data is being migrated from the old network attached solution to the new 102 Terabyte SAN. This SAN itsel fhas been mirrored to ensure business and data continuity, as per the GlassHouse plan, and one of the NLS primary requests. The second identical site is positioned 30 miles away in Hamilton, and is connected via a high‐speed network link.
When looking back at the value of the GlassHouse consultancy for the NLS, Tim Dinham the NLS ICT Manager is pretty definite about his decision to work with the company. “The GlassHouse activity was a small percentage of the overall project budget, but it was an extremely useful investment to make to ensure that at a technical level our project was successful. It’s almost as though we needed an internal audit before we did the project. It’s difficult to measure specific return on investment here, but what I can say is that we have built an infrastructure that will keep us happy for the years ahead, and we have a very clear picture of what we have to do next, which in many ways is priceless.”

The NLS has some big plans for its digital library moving forward – all very clearly laid out. Its next step is to take the SAN to the next level with the introduction of a virtualisation hypervisor, to simplify data management. Beyond this, it’s going to focus on increasing the usability of its data, assessing its value by mapping it out.


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