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Catholic Diocese of Westminster

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster is the organising body for the catholic church for a large part of London and adjacent areas. The diocesan boundaries include the London Boroughs north of the Thames, and west of Waltham Forest and Newham, the districts of Staines-on-Thames and Sunbury-on-Thames, and the County of Hertfordshire.

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Background

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster is the organising body for the catholic church for a large part of London and adjacent areas. The diocesan boundaries include the London Boroughs north of the Thames, and west of Waltham Forest and Newham, the districts of Staines-on-Thames and Sunbury-on-Thames, and the County of Hertfordshire.

Besides the 208 parishes across the estate, key centres of the diocese are located in Westminster, Hendon and Chelsea. There are around 1500 users who have varying needs. Many have a significant requirement for the IT services found in medium and large organisations. In line with the popular view that Catholicism is modernising, the ICT function of the diocese seeks to leverage the latest technology to support day-to-day activities.

The Challenge

The server infrastructure of the diocese consisted of 4 physical servers hosting multiple virtual machines and a local SAN (Storage Area Network) for data storage providing access to a range of centralised services for users across the diocese.

Rod de Silva, ICT Manager for the Diocese of Westminster says: “We needed to upgrade some elements of the server infrastructure as they were approaching the end of their working life. Like many organisations, the technology team has finite resources.”

He continues: “We try to organise our time so that 50% is spent on support issues and 50% on special projects and strategic matters. It was important for us to have a server infrastructure that was as resilient and easy to use as possible.”

“We’ve selected Paralogic as our main ICT partner for a number of years. The close working relationship we enjoy means their team understand how we try to organise our time. We consulted with them on the need for upgrades and they came back with a proposal that was right for us,” says Rod De Silva.

The Solution

The CTO at Paralogic played a key role by recommending the entire server infrastructure be replaced with a hyperconvergence solution from Scale Computing.

One Scale cluster was installed at the site in Westminster. This has 3 nodes to match the performance of the system to the requirements of the organisation. This backed up by replicating the data to another site using a proprietary backup product.

Rod de Silva says: “Essentially once we had satisfied ourselves that this is the way to go, we handed it over to the Paralogic team to completely manage the project.”

He continues: “There is a lot of user activity at evening and weekends, so there is plenty of network traffic during times when a conventional organisation might expect low levels of activity. One of the most important parts of the transition to the new system was migration of the Microsoft Exchange server. This was achieved seamlessly overnight, with no impacts on users.”

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The Results

In terms of user support, it’s a case of ‘No news is good news!’ Rod de Silva says: “In ICT you seldom hear when things are working well, but you always know when they aren’t! We certainly get less calls related to data access issues now.”

He continues: “Ultimately the Scale hyperconvergence solution offers better stability which means we have less in the way of server-side support issues to deal with. The resilience also fits in with our time management 50/50 split for support issues and special projects.”

The conventional lifecycle of hardware is around 3 years. Three key factors here are processing speed, network bandwidth and storage growth. The principle is that when it is 3 years old it is likely to have come to the end of its useful life because newer, faster technology has emerged. It seems hyperconvergence changes this.

Rod de Silva says: “Hyperconvergence improves processing so it’s likely that after 3 years the system will still perform favourably when compared with newer technology. Networks are already fast enough for most users’ needs and it’s unlikely this will have changed significantly in 3 years’ time.”

He goes on to say: “Storage is different. Data growth and the need for increased storage is a certainty. One important project is set to substantially increase the volume of data we store. We are currently digitising the diocese records. It’s essentially about scanning, archiving and retrieval.”

“The storage capacity of the Scale Computing solution we now have can be simply expanded to meet our data growth requirements as and when we need to do it. We don’t expect to need to budget for replacement infrastructure until year 6,” Rod de Silva says.

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