A Multi-tiered Approach to Data Centralization, Consolidation, and Elimination of Branch Office Backups
By using both Microsoft Azure and Talon FAST™, Capita P&I has been able to design a scalable and cost effective hybrid cloud-based solution to reduce the overall management of islands of unstructured data and to eliminate branch office backups for better global collaboration across their enterprise.
Capita Property & Infrastructure is the UK’s leading provider of business process management and integrated professional support service solutions. This division of Capita is a multi-disciplinary consultancy operating in the building design, civil engineering, environment, management, and transport sectors, with 68,000 staff across the UK, Europe, South Africa, and India, with an annual revenue of $6.4B.
Capita P&I business delivers solutions, reduces costs, and enhances services for a wide range of clients. Their services benefit central and local governments, as well as property developers, investors, occupiers, building contractors, and a range of other commercial organizations and blue-chip companies.
Challenge: Improve global collaboration
Capita P&I needed to revisit the way they were dealing with growing data storage demands. The exponential growth of their storage and infrastructure footprint at both datacenter and branch office locations did not provide a scalable and resilient foundation to deliver IT services. This system inhibited current users and made collaboration amongst the distributed enterprise nearly impossible.
To make matters worse, their users, including architects and knowledge workers, often collaborate within the various disciplines in the company, and with 3rd party consultancy practices. With such a diverse range of files and information being shared across the company, the current unstructured data only inhibited collaboration.
Daren Stone, Capita P&I Change and Improvement manager notes, “These offices wanted to share the special knowledge within these discreet offices to collaborate. Users found it very difficult to collaborate. They were replicating files, dragging and dropping files from one server to another, and often sending the same files through e-mail.”
Capita P&I identified a key set of business requirements needed to optimize the way it consumes and manages data:
- Create a Single Set of Data
- Deliver High Performance Real-time Collaboration
- BIM level 2 Compliance (Governmental requirements)
- Processing Power and Data
- Reduce Duplication and movement of data
- Flexible to Implement/Change
- Improved Backups
- Improved Resilience
- Improved Disaster Recovery
- Reduced footprint on each site, consolidate servers
- Cost savings by eliminating backups and complexity at the branch
Daren continues, “In some of our branch offices we needed to deploy and manage 6 or more different servers or storage devices in order to provide a ‘good enough’ level of service, however managing all this local file storage, backups, and application servers is a real pain.”
Solution: Talon FAST™ deployed in conjunction with Microsoft Azure
The Microsoft Azure family of cloud-integrated storage solutions is an on-premises enterprise SAN (storage area network) that interoperates with Microsoft Azure. It provides hybrid cloud storage for primary, backup, archive, and disaster recovery needs. This platform stores frequently used data on solid-state drives for very fast performance, while older or less frequently used data is stored either on serial-attached SCSI drives or in Microsoft Azure.
Talon FAST™ software helps organizations deliver business data continuity by providing a solution that transparently extends existing file sharing infrastructure out to distributed enterprise offices and users. FAST™ ensures an optimal end user experience at every location. Using Talon’s FAST™ Intelligent File Caching, central File-Locking, and Data Reduction/Compression, the software delivers a flexible, reliable, and scalable Global File-Sharing and Collaboration solution for the distributed enterprise.
For Capita P&I, the ability to centralize its data is essential for ease of access and collaboration amongst users. With such a range of files from typical Microsoft Office documents, PDFs, designer files and large project files, to Autodesk AutoCAD, Revit, Bentley Microstation, and other engineering applications, Capita P&I needed a storage solution that could globally connect their team at all times.
However, that centralized data still needed to be local to those users, including architects and engineers, who need to leverage their desktop’s processing power near the data. This emphasized the need for the Intelligent File Caching aspect of the FAST™ solution, which only caches what’s needed at the branch, while providing high performance and immediate access to all data in the organization and keeping the storage footprint to a minimum.
The joint-solution helped Capita P&I drastically reduce costs and IT infrastructure complexity by replacing its existing on-premise data center infrastructure. Subsequently deploying the solution in the main data center locations and extending all redundant storage aspects, including application data into the Microsoft Azure cloud data centers, resulted in drastic improvements in Capita's daily operations.
Talon FAST™ software aligns with this strategy by unifying the approach to present file-based content in a single global namespace, including file shares, folder structures, documents, and project files, for end users throughout the distributed enterprise.
Collaboration & BIM Level 2 Compliance
Bringing data together allowed Capita P&I’s distributed user workforce to access central files and collaborate on projects from all the different offices. The FAST™ Intelligent File Caching mechanism caches a unique active data set that is used by knowledge workers or engineers at a specific branch location. This mechanism tiers the data into many different levels archived in the cloud, and uses a primary storage tier in the datacenter, which extends into the branch office.
This file-caching is crucial for a company like Capita, who is subject to BIM regulations. Within a Building Information Model (BIM) integrated organization such as Capita P&I, it is a prerequisite to achieve a consistent design and eventually lower costs for the construction and management of buildings. The UK government from 2016 onwards requires that everyone involved in the execution of construction projects for the government should be able to support at least a BIM Level 2 process.
Talon FAST™ ensures Capita can meet those regulations by enabling them to create a native Microsoft-based, high performance, collaborative file-sharing infrastructure. By leveraging existing Microsoft Enterprise Licensing, reducing existing branch offices IT footprint, eliminating backups while consolidating all services, including Microsoft Active Directory, DNS/DHCP, Print Services, and Software Distribution, data can be unified into a unified single appliance infrastructure. “These requirements were mostly sparked by the UK government in its Level 2 requirements for the year 2016,” said Stone. “Bringing the data together allows users to work simultaneously on large project files from any location.”
By using both Microsoft Azure and Talon FAST™, Capita P&I has been able to design a highly scalable and cost effective hybrid cloud-based solution. This solution helps scale the consumption and overall management of file-level/unstructured data throughout the distributed enterprise.
Combining both solutions, Capita P&I has been able to deliver a “Single Set” of managed data at the datacenter, where a 400TB file set is fully archived and de-duplicated into the Microsoft Azure cloud. Subsequently, deploying a FAST™ virtual instance at the edge allowed for full consolidation of all Microsoft Services at the branch, including Active Directory, DNS/DHCP, DFS Namespace, and SCCM Software, on top of Microsoft Hyper-V only using a single physical server at these branch locations.
Capita P&I saw significant improvements by using Talon FAST™ with Microsoft Azure:
- Talon FAST™ allowed global collaboration on all files
- Talon FAST™ cut down unstructured data and centralized all information
- Talon FAST™ gave Capita the tools to meet BIM compliance and provide a better product to customers
- Talon FAST™ provided control over file-sharing for increased productivity
“As soon as you put our ‘Office-in-a-box’ in an office, all business users are able to pull their data back down from the datacenter file servers,” said Stone. “It's much quicker, and in a disaster recovery situation, you get the business back up and running very, very quickly.”
The solution guarantees optimal global file access to all files at the datacenter. By consolidating services and eliminating local storage and backup, Capita P&I has removed branch office backups and phased out expensive IT infrastructure at all of its branch locations.
Learn more about how Talon FAST™ can solve unstructured data storage problems.
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