Experian is a global information solutions provider that has grown rapidly in the last 15 years. Its 12,000 employees support clients in more than 60 countries, working with more than 50,000 clients across many diverse industries, achieving annual sales revenue exceeding £1.3 billion. The business is delivered across four main vertical service areas, which are delivered through a horizontal management function. Within the UK, vertical business functions (Information Services, Card Management Services, Direct Marketing Services and Decision Support Services) may be split across multiple geographical sites but need to have common access to internal human/information resources and processes. Resources (such as Research & Development, Application Build, Customer Management and Technology Services, etc.) therefore operate horizontally across both business and geo- graphical boundaries of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and the Asia Pacific region, with an expectation that individual national operations will move towards common standards and practices.
Adrian Dyson, Experian UK’s Head of Command Center & Automation: “Experian’s purpose-built data center has been created to provide our clients with a safe, secure, highly resilient facility for delivering mission-critical services. More than a building, the project underlines our commitment to fulfilling our responsibilities in terms of looking after client data and continuously improving the service we provide. The development represents an investment of £31.6 million and it will become our main computing center for Europe, meeting our capacity requirements for the next 10 to 15 years. The data center replaces our two processing centers at Talbot House and Abbey House, Nottingham, with Talbot House becoming our disaster recovery center. Operational teams will offer 24/7 year round support and improved service levels. At this moment, around 700 servers are installed and the number is expected to grow up to a maximum of 5,000 servers.”
Through its phenomenal growth, the business outgrew its existing central Nottingham data center. The U/C Technology Services group planned a new state-of-the-art data center on the outskirts of Nottingham which would accommodate its business and projected growth for many years. Technology Services is responsible for the delivery of all technology platforms, both physical and logical, to all business and service functions within Experian worldwide, except for North America.
This includes both internal business resources and the platforms supporting delivery of external information solutions to Experian’s clients. The Technology Services Group has specific responsibility for all non-mainframe platforms, which includes the delivery of all networks (WAN, LAN and Voice), business and client server platforms (HP/Windows, various types of UNIX) and desk top services, including PCs, printers and hand-held devices.
Remote control and administration of servers was being achieved using a variety of methods, including several different software packages and various KVM hardware. UNIX serial devices were accessed through standard Telnet.
When investing £30 million plus in a new data center, it was essential that there was a consolidation of technology, rationalization of business practices and a standardization of corporate management tools. As part of this change program, a system that offered centralized management and secure, audited access, allowing the control and administration of hundreds of different servers for both internal and external users was a necessity.
Adrian Dyson, Experian UK’s Head of Command Center & Automation: “Raritan offered a level of flexibility, scalability and security that its competitors could not match.”
“As we all become increasingly reliant on technology and online services, providing continuous availability and yet remaining responsive to change becomes even more crucial. The new data center requires world-class IT solutions, providing us with greatly improved capability to maintain and process client data, as well as providing growth capacity for at least the next ten years,” according to Adrian Dyson.
The requirements for the KVM solution were defined as:
“We made a thorough market scan and looked closely at all major KVM suppliers,” says Adrian Dyson. “After initial enquiries, we decided to fully test the Avocent and the Raritan solutions and concluded that Raritan offered better security, centralized management and scalability over the Avocent DS Series. Being an appliance-based solution, it did not rely on a Windows platform for operation. Raritan offered a level of flexibility, scalability and of security that its competitors could not match.”
The solution chosen was a combination of digital Dominion KX and Dominion SX switches for their Wintel and UNIX devices, centrally controlled by CommandCenter Secure Gateway and front ended by a Paragon UMT1664 analog KVM system to give 16 users totally unblocked access to all of the servers in the data center for internal staff, independent of the LAN. External staff will access servers over IP or dial-in modem.
Combining analog and digital gave the best of two worlds: non-blocked, high-quality video and secure access via analog KVM solutions — and flexible, scalable, anywhere anytime access via digital KVM switches. Support staff can access the Raritan KVM switches independently of the network, which means they can have fast and secure access — in every eventuality — to mission-critical servers.
Experian is very enthusiastic about the Dominion SX and the CommandCenter Secure Gateway. Adrian: “The Dominion SX switch offers a level of serial access that we had long hoped for but never quite achieved. When you consider the added centralized management benefits that CommandCenter brings, it makes it a solution unparalleled in today’s market place.”
The Data Center Solutions and Services division of Comrac Ltd. offers an independent consultancy to recommend the most efficient KVM Applications, whether you have remote sites throughout the world or are planning to build a new data center. Comrac Ltd. has played a significant part in Experian’s new data center in three specific areas: cabinets, KVM solutions and video wall systems. “Raritan’s commitment and close working partnership with Comrac Ltd. helped deliver a solution that meets the needs of our support teams whilst maintaining high levels of control,” according to Adrian.
On top of the complete Raritan centralized management KVM solution, Comrac Ltd. provided a bespoke generic cabinet to house Experian’s multi platform servers. To assist the operations team in both immediate problem-solving and training purposes, Comrac Ltd. provided Experian with two large cubed video walls to display full Enterprise Network information and also display any level of detail down to individual servers held within the data center. Due to the success of the close relationship and the flexible and scalable solutions deployed, Experian will look to build on continued cooperation with Comrac Ltd. and Raritan for further installations and expansions as the facility grows.
Experian is a global information services group with operations in 60 countries.