Managed.IT - issue 65

28 01732 759725 DATA CENTRES infrastructure to third parties. “The Birmingham data centre was located within our HQ building. It was a purpose-built space with cooling and fire suppression but no backup power,” says Roberts. “A few years ago, the building suffered a major electrical fault and we lost our electricity supply for around five hours. An external generator allowed us to recover quickly and with no significant impact on train services, but the incident fast-tracked our decision to move the servers to a managed data centre with the latest security, backup, disaster recovery and redundancy capabilities.” Roberts had planned to move the servers and network infrastructure to the managed data centre that provided the organisation’s interconnectivity infrastructure. However, he had lost confidence in that provider’s capabilities, following delays in bringing the site online and poor customer service, so he asked his counterpart at East Midlands Trains which company they had used for their successful datacentre migration. “My colleague told me they’d chosen a Midlands-based company called Node4. This was music to our ears as we wanted a data centre within an hour’s drive from Birmingham. When we looked Running on schedule Owned by Transport UK, West Midlands Trains operates London Northwestern Railway and West Midlands Railway franchises, running over 1,300 services to and from some of the UK’s busiest stations, including Liverpool Lime Street, London Euston and Birmingham New Street. “With less than a dozen staff, West Midlands Trains has a relatively small IT team but an extensive remit and heavy responsibilities,” explains Steve Roberts, Head of Information Technology, West Midlands Trains. “We maintain a vast distributed IT infrastructure that covers ticket machines, customer information screens, CCTV, help points, IoT sensors, back office systems and applications. To give you a sense of scale, we operate from 160 stations. The smallest ones have 20-30 IT assets, while our largest sites can have up to 800. We have to maintain data centre connectivity for each site and each asset, and provide them all with reliable connectivity.” The Challenge Before engaging Node4, West Midlands Trains had three data centres. One provided centralised internet connectivity and disaster recovery; one housed the production servers that supported its IT assets; and one contained all the network interconnectivity How Node4’s managed data centre solution helps keep West Midlands Trains on track further into Node4’s credentials, we found the company had great references from other rail operators and public transport companies. Additionally, their data centres run on 100% renewable energy, which is good to know from an ESG and sustainability point of view.” Following a site visit, Roberts decided to migrate all 100 of West Midlands Trains’ servers to Node4’s main data centre. Today, that data centre also houses the train operator’s perimeter firewall, provides the base for its centralised internet connectivity and is the origin point for all site-to-site VPNs. To ensure availability and redundancy, the servers are backed up to one of Node4’s secondary data centres (with auto-failover), connected via two independent internet links delivered by different telco providers. “Node4 is integral to our organisation,” explains Roberts. “Its data centre supports our commercial operations, enabling customers to buy tickets from vending machines or station ticket office counters, as well as our customer information and safety infrastructure. It also houses the rail operation and train management systems that ensure drivers, crews and services are in the right place at the right time.”