Success Story: Hassell

Regaining Control of Core Infrastructure

HASSELL is one of Australia’s leading architecture firms – an international design practice with 14 studios across Australia, China, South East Asia and the United Kingdom. With more than 1,000 staff and a track record spanning 70 years, Hassell works globally in a diverse range of markets.

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The Challenge

Hassell’s core infrastructure was struggling to cope with demand. The requirements for storage and compute power had grown exponentially as Hassell’s designers work with graphically intense applications such as AutoCAD and Revit. Hassell had reached the point where it was hampered in its ability to deliver client projects because of the shortcomings of its infrastructure. It struggled with:

  • Infrastructure availability and performance
  • Reliability and accessibility of backups and archives
  • Massive and ongoing demand for additional storage – each studio’s storage requirements were growing at the rate of 150 GB a month
  • Ability for designers in different studios to collaborate.

The IT team operated reactively and resources were consumed with fighting fires, leaving no time for strategic planning or implementing infrastructure improvements to support the business.

The Solution

Hassell engaged Cloud Solutions Group (CSG) to design and implement a series of initiatives to put Hassell back in control of its IT infrastructure and position it for its journey to the cloud. “Our ultimate desire is to be able to easily collaborate with our other studios, sharing large files through the cloud,” says Hassell’s Head of Technology Tom Leyden, “but we knew we
had to get the basics right first. We have a technology philosophy of ‘robust core, agile edge’. We want all the underpinning systems to be rock solid and give us a foundation on which we can build flexibly as new business requirements emerge and technologies evolve.”

Cloud Solutions Group worked with Tom to plan multiple infrastructure improvements to:

  • Backup and archiving,
  • Scalable EMC storage at each studio
  • Essential platforms including: Microsoft Exchange, VMware and Citrix.

CSG recommended a mix of data centre and local storage with EMC VNX platforms. Designers have local in-studio storage for working filesets, delivering high performance. All data is de-duplicated and backed up to the data centre, where it is archived for easy access as required. “We’re now able to keep the storage beast under control,” says Tom, “and the backup and archiving process ‘just works’.” Tom also notes that the move away from tape storage has other benefits. “Previously when clients wanted details about previous projects, it could take weeks for us to locate and restore the data about their project from tape. Now, designers can access archives online in the data centre, and answer queries straight away on the phone.”

An upgrade to Microsoft Exchange 2010 provided a highly available architecture as well as a great opportunity to consolidate that infrastructure. CSG helped Hassell consolidate 14 Exchange
servers across six sites down to six virtual servers in two locations. This massively reduced licensing and management costs, while improving availability of this critical application.

A VMware upgrade likewise offered a consolidation opportunity. As well as benefitting from the improved virtual server management features of the latest software, Hassell was able to reduce its studio footprint from 12 virtual servers housed on four physical servers to six virtual servers housed on two physical servers.

These improvements opened the door to providing remote systems access via Citrix Xendesktop. This was initially planned to provide secure remote access and strengthen Hassell’s disaster recovery and business continuity strategy – allowing failover to other studios in the event of local systems failure. An additional benefit is that it complements Hassell’s BYOD strategy, allowing designers access to systems from anywhere, on any device. This is a key part of Hassell’s ongoing strategy to facilitate collaboration with its geographically dispersed workforce and customer base.

The Future

The success of this project for the Melbourne studio gives Hassell confidence that this is the right solution to roll out to its studios globally.

Hassell is now looking towards the next step: realising its dream of global interstudio collaboration. This will strengthen its practice by allowing specialised designers to collaborate in virtual teams. The plan is to move towards IT as a Service (ITaaS), and Cloud Solutions Group is currently working with Hassell to choose the best applications and systems to fit with the current infrastructure and support the business.

“We felt from the outset that CSG had a real empathy and a real understanding of what we are trying to achieve,” says Tom. “Their knowledge of how technology can solve our problems, and their passion and knowledge in the space has been the keystone of our success to date, and gives us the confidence that we cancontinue to evolve our infrastructure to deliver what the business needs.”

Key Benefits

  • Reliable backups, fast access to archived data
  • Three-fold improvement in availability
  • Reduced IT management, storage and hardware costs
  • IT staff freed for proactive planning and management
  • Access from anywhere: studio, home, client offices

Technology Used

  • Citrix Xendesktop 5.6 and Netscalers
  • CommVault Simpana 9.0
  • Dell blades and rack servers
  • EMC VNX5300s and MirrorView
  • Kemp load balancers
  • Microsoft Exchange 2010
  • VMware vSphere 5.0

Solution Areas

  • Journey to the Cloud
  • Messaging and Collaboration
  • Mobility and BYO Device
  • Secure Remote Access
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Data Protection and Archiving
  • Enterprise Storage
  • Private Cloud