If a train goes off the track there’s a problem, a big one at that. The latest project from Schneider Electric, ensures Angel Trains can go full steam ahead.
Angel Trains is one of Britain’s leading train leasing companies, providing rolling stock to several of the UK’s largest Train Operating Companies (TOC’s) including Virgin Trains, Abellio Greater Anglia, Arriva Rail North, Great Western Railway and South Western Trains.
Established in 1994 as part of the process to privatise British Rail, the company now employs approximately 150 people split between its primary headquarters in Victoria, central London and secondary premises in Derby.
The company owns some 4,000 plus rail vehicles which it leases to operators, on terms that are generally coterminous with franchises granted by the Department of Transport. “We’re a big-ticket asset leasing company,” says Andy Wren, head of IT services, “We have an intricate business model, and our IT systems that support it are similarly complex.”
Angel Trains’ IT department comprises eight people, including Andy Wren, and is based at the London HQ where the corporate data centre is located. Andy is responsible for leading the entire IT services function including application development, software procurement, support for users and management of the data-centre infrastructure that underpins it all.
The key IT systems operated by Angel Trains is its asset-management system – a bespoke application developed in-house that manages the company’s inventory of rolling stock – and Oracle Business Suite, which comprises the financial stack of software including accounts receivable, general ledger and invoice-management.
“Together those two applications are the most business-critical, being responsible for managing our revenue generation and collection, on which the business depends on,” says Andy Wren. “However, we also run several other Microsoft server-based applications such as Sharepoint for our content and document management.”
A golden key can open any door
The key priorities for the data centre, in which the applications are hosted, are agility, reliability and cost-effectiveness. Although the company tries to standardise leasing contracts with its customers, the reality is that each agreement has an element of customisation with consequent demands on the IT department’s development effort. An implication for the data centre is that it must have the agility to scale up capacity to accommodate additional servers, should they become necessary to meet customer requirements.
For reliability, the data centre has a South London-based disaster recovery (DR) site to which all its data is replicated and securely backed up. Driving all the IT investment decisions, however, is the perennial need to keep costs low while maintaining a consitently reliable level of service. Angel Trains IT department enjoys the convenience of being able to run its own systems on-premise, but IT management are cognisant of the fact that third-party service providers can offer hosting services from remote sites at competitive prices. The ownership, control and speed of connectivity from the on-premise solution has many benefits for the company, of which one is avoiding any latency issues, particularly with large files.
Owning V outsource
“As an internal IT department, we are comfortable with having the ability to monitor our own infrastructure and IT equipment, rather than have a third-party managing it on our behalf at another location,” Andy says. “We investigated a number of different hosting partners and found there is a great variety of services available, however, it was more cost-effective to own and manage our own on-premise data centre.”
Among the service options considered were simple colocation, where the servers could be hosted in a colocation site operated by a third-party company, but Angel Trains’ staff would continue to manage the systems remotely. Alternatively, some or all of the management of the systems could also be outsourced to an external service provider. However, the company decided to continue to operate its data centre in-house, with the help of a maintenance and support contract with APC by Schneider Electric Elite Partner, Comtec Power.
Resilience from start-to-finish
Their data centre comprises a rack-based containment system, with critical power protection provided by Schneider Electric Symmetra PX UPS units. For additional resilience, there is a dual power feed running direct from the mains and an emergency backup power generation unit on-site.
With key challenges that included cost effectiveness, reliability and footprint, in terms of space, Angel Trains chose to adopt Schneider Electric’s ISX Pod architecture with InRow cooling for its data centre.
“Once we were introduced to Schneider Electric’s on-demand InfaStruxure solution with InRow cooling, we knew that was exactly the type of architecture we wanted to move forward with.” Andy adds, “We needed to make the new data centre as cost-effective, scalable and robust as possible and the Schneider Electric racks and Symmetra UPS systems hit the mark in terms of resilience and efficiency – while helping us to optimise the fairly confined space in our data centre.”
Ultra-efficient cooling is provided by a combination of external chillers and condensers located on the roof of the building, in addition to the industry-leading InRow DX systems deployed within the Pod. The facility is also managed using Schneider Electric’s Award-winning StruxureWare for Data Centres DCIM (Data Centre Infrastructure Management) software, part of the EcoStruxure for Data Centres Solution.
“As a team we knew we could run an on-premise data centre cost-effectively” Andy continues. “But the Schneider Electric infrastructure components we have selected have been key to that process, ensuring the capacity is utilised in the most optimum way.”
For more information on Angel Trains and its strong relationship with long term partners such as Schneider Electric and Comtec, read the full feature in May NCN.