Customers reap the rewards of Imperial Online’s massive move

3 July 2012

Dubbed “Die Groot Trek” for good reason, the relocation of Imperial Online’s two data centres to Vodacom data centres was one of the largest moves of this kind ever undertaken in South Africa. The project included 1 500 pieces of equipment valued at R150 million, and it entailed 2 000 network line terminations.

Why make the move?

The aim of this testing data centre relocation was to provide Imperial Online’s valued customers with multiple connectivity options. To achieve this, the IT solutions specialist decided to partner with Vodacom in new, high availability data centres, rather than re-invest in its own aging facilities.

Five potential partners were reviewed by Imperial Online. While the other vendors only offered their own networks as a complete solution, Imperial Online was able to negotiate with Vodacom for two other telecoms partners to provide data connectivity solutions from with in the Vodacom data centre, thus not restricting customers to a single vendor. Broadlink and Telkom lines would also terminate in the Imperial Online cage in side the Vodacom data centre.

The challenge

The challenge, and Imperial Online’s primary goal, was to make this move with little or no disruptions to the seamless service it provides to its diverse client base, which operates in a wide range of industries, including the automotive industry, construction, engineering, manufacturing and transport – both within the Imperial Group and externally.

The approach

An in-line project approach was employed, which meant that the data centre relocation would be achieved as part of Imperial Online’s day to day operational activities, using the same resources.

While this approach provided challenges – mostly related to resource capacity and ensuring that operational service levels were maintained throughout the project – it yielded significant benefits. Imperial Online operations director Nicolé Mey elaborates: “Resource availability was a challenge, and the project was undertaken largely after hours and mid-month due to month-end. Network migration preparation, however, was done during the day.” But she stresses that the benefits made the testing in-line approach worthwhile. “A huge boon was that our Imperial Online resources were exposed to the new operational processes and policies during the project, and there were therefore no training requirements after the project. Our people were intimately involved with the customers in the relocation of their servers and, as a result, now have a much better understanding of the customers’ environments.”

Tips and tricks

The buy-in and involvement of executive level management was crucial for the success of this data centre relocation, since senior management was able to make quick calls when required, override other calls and negotiate with suppliers. “It’s difficult to say no to an executive,” Mey quips, adding that executives also knew when to use kid gloves, and when to bring out the boxing gloves.

Customer involvement all the way through the project was also critical, along with their final sign-off. In addition, Imperial Online needed to ensure the involvement of third parties, particularly for warrantees on equipment, and maintained an accurate asset register.

Ongoing communication, to ensure that everyone remained in the loop, was a key element of the process.

The project’s success was also determined by the stability of the new core infrastructure, as well as flexibility for future customer changes.

The outcome

This mammoth data centre move was successfully completed by Imperial Online, without compromising the operational excellence to which this local IT solutions specialist is committed.

On completion of the relocation project, Imperial Online was proud to report that the 10-hour agreed down time was never exceeded, and on the majority of moves, the customer’s down time was limited to less than five hours.

Through this data centre relocation, Imperial Online has achieved a South African first, with a data centre in which partner Vodacom has granted access  to two other telecoms vendors– namely Broadlink and Telkom. The benefits to customers are enormous. With fail-overbuilt in to every aspect of the new data centres’ design and connectivity, and multiple fail-over scenarios catered for, this is a truly unique service offering in South Africa.

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