Weather-related outages can leave Queensland’s Redland City Council’s 150,000 residents unable to access services such as utilities, animal management and libraries.
That’s one of the reasons why the council's IT team decided to adopt a Vertiv (formerly Emerson Network Power) modular data centre, which will help “boost resiliency and lower costs,” CIO Glynn Henderson, told CIO Australia.
Redland City Council is the local government authority for the Redlands, which includes the Southern Moreton Bay Islands, North Stradbroke Island and the mainland from Redland Bay in the south, to Capalaba in the west and Thorneside to the north.
Henderson said the technology will be implemented in a purpose-built facility elevated to put it out of harm’s way from weather events, which typically cause IT outages once or twice per year in the region.
He said the technology is expected to reduce the risk of weather-related outages, increase energy efficiency and gain higher performance across the IT environment. The implementation will take place in June.
“We provide municipal services to 150,000 residents. So we need to have our services available all of the time, ready and enabled to service our people and service our community.
“It’s about resiliency and ensuring no matter what happens with the weather or with the services to our sites, that our critical ICT infrastructure continues to function and provide those services to the community,” he said.
Henderson said the move to adopt the containerised modular data centre will also free up between 150-200sqm of space within the council previously taken up by its legacy data centres, allowing it to create more open work spaces and bring teams within the council closer together.
Council will also reduce its carbon footprint and save costs with the move. He said the new datacentre will save up to 40 per cent in electricity costs, which will be bolstered further by solar panels that will be fitted to the facility housing the data centre in the future.
The technology implementation will be completed by Resolute IT, a subsidiary of the Queensland Government and is a step in the right direction towards council's vision of delivering a 'smart city' agenda.
“We’re capitalising as much as we can from this move,” Henderson said. “Outsourcing the management of our data centre will enable our team to start focusing on smart city initiatives, which is something we’re building towards.”
Henderson said outdated technology prompted council to adopt the modular data centre approach.
“We currently have two data centres which have been progressively built over the last 20 to 30 years and have been built up in a very snowball-like fashion. They weren’t designed to provide the level of redundancy and resiliency that we need, and they were also getting quite expensive to operate and very inefficient,” he said, explaining asset management was also difficult to control.
Certainly, Redland faces several challenges, particularly in terms of connectivity and remote locations. And unlike other governments taking up a cloud-first approach - or being aggressive on cloud adoption - that scenario didn’t make sense for Redland.
“We’re in this disruptive environment in and around cloud at the moment. Some of the challenges with Redland is that we aren’t very well connected into the city so jumping head first into cloud wasn't really an option for us. We don’t have the connectivity to do that at a reasonable price point. So we decided to implement a modular data centre that is purpose built and stand-alone.”
But council can now move to cloud at its own pace. “The benefits for us means we can progress to cloud over the period that our city is connected, and then not be heavily reliant or stuck with datacentre capability into the future. We can literally sell the datacentre at a later date or use it for something else.”
He said council is adopting a hybrid cloud environment, and urged other local government CIOs to adopt similar moves.
“I would certainly be researching the hybrid environment. Cloud is great, but some of the local government platforms don’t allow you to be fewer-cloud. So having that hybrid environment, but selecting in it very carefully (and making sure you aren’t overinvesting in either tranche) and that you're providing that connectivity and integration between them, is certainly important.”
Asked his next steps, Henderson said IoT is on the radar, particularly as it relates to ‘smart cities,’ and the adoption of the modular data centre will help in that vein.
For example, the design will include a partitioned wall between the modular data centre and additional space in the facility – this can easily be taken down or adjusted as the council needs to scale up its infrastructure as it rolls out 'smart city' initiatives.
Council is also looking at how it can make utilities management systems smart and promote the idea of innovation hubs to support entrepreneurs and small businesses in the community.
Additionally, IoT will help council deal with the ongoing challenges of connectivity, he noted.
“Certainly, IoT is high on the list. We have a lot of islands. They have very little connectivity so to provide your wide area RF networks to those sorts of islands, and have that interconnectivity and resiliency as well back to our own inner city data centre, is going to be really helpful to provide the vast amount of emergency, management and municipal services to the islands as well.”
Council is also eyeing the GIS spatial capability arena. “This involves huge amounts of data and huge amounts of analytics. Having a hybrid environment, which we’ll have - partly cloud and core services in our own data centre - will provide a really good model for delivering services moving forward.”
Telehealth is also on the radar, he said, explaining the region has a large Indigenous population - particularly on the islands - and an ageing population.
““We have quite a diverse range of stakeholders in our community. We have an ageing demographic so health is very important to us as well, and the integration of health services - telehealth, specifically, for our islands. We want to make sure that we can work with Queensland Health and other areas to provide support and enabling services as well.”