As the 7th largest island nation in the world, the United Kingdom is lined with rivers and canals that have provided essential sources of water, transportation, and recreation for centuries. In fact, you can traverse much of the UK without ever leaving the water, thanks to its delightful network of rivers, canals, and locks.
Today, two of Britain’s longest rivers – the Severn and the Trent – serve as the inspiration for Severn Trent Water, one of Britain’s largest water utility companies. The charming rivers and peaceful streams written about in Shakespeare’s plays now provide fresh drinking water to millions of Britons. And when they’ve finished with it, Severn Trent takes it away for cleaning and treatment before returning it safely to the environment. The company also helps municipal and industrial clients design, build, and operate water and wastewater treatment facilities and networks.
Severn Trent impacts the lives of people across the Midlands — from the outskirts of Sheffield, down to Bristol, and into north and mid-Wales. Altogether that means delivering almost two billion liters of water each day. In addition, the company treats 3.4 billion liters of wastewater daily.
The complex network of pipes, pumping stations and other assets needed to deliver these services without interruption creates an equally complex IT environment where continuity is a must. This is especially true when you consider the multitude of equipment sensors that alert Severn Trent to problems that may impact service anywhere in the vast area the company covers.
“If we couldn’t get services to the people and properties we need to, it would cause a major issue,” says Mark Gwynne, IT Director—Service Management, Severn Trent. “As a water utility, we’re classified in the UK as a nationally critical infrastructure. So, it is incumbent on us to provide clean water to millions of customers and to take their sewage away.”
Gwynne continues: “From a resiliency perspective, that means we need to be doubly sure that our systems work and, if they’re not working, that we have a disaster recovery solution we can fall back on.”
The Sungard AS data center in Woking, near London, provides the resiliency needed for Severn Trent’s primary IT environment—and has since 2014. Leased space in a second facility served as a recovery environment in case of disaster. However, this property was being converted into residential flats, and Severn Trent had to vacate the premises by the end of 2020.
“We needed to close and relocate the data center we had used for 35 years,” Gwynne explains. “With only 18 months to do that, we had a hard deadline to hit to avoid substantial penalties.”
The complexity of this secondary site increased the challenge. Adding to this was the need to run multiple IT environments in parallel during the transition. “Until we were fully migrated to a new environment, we would have the added challenge of running a third new data center alongside the existing two we already had. And, we would have to run all this in tandem with services we ran in a Microsoft Azure cloud.”
COVID-19 and the restrictions it placed on the people, places and supply lines involved in the move compounded the level of difficulty involved in such a large IT transition. “In my mind, there wasn’t any other choice,” confirmed Gwynne. “We’ve been doing business with Sungard AS for ten years and they’ve never let us down.”
The seven-month project began in May 2020. Sungard AS’ account team and migration consultants were joined by a Severn Trent internal team (including Gwynne), enterprise architects, and sponsors from the business operations side of the company. Sungard AS extended the team to include resources from a third-party provider to help manage the complex mix of logistics involved in any data center relocation.
Working together, Sungard AS guided Severn Trent throughout the project—from planning to cut over and beyond. This included a critical first step: auditing the existing Severn Trent data center to determine project scope.
Once Severn Trent approved the design, Sungard AS project management specialists came on board to oversee the relocation. This involved working with select Sungard AS partners to coordinate the labor, resources and logistics required to decommission and set up the new environment—from how many engineers and trucks would be required, to setting up GPS tracking capabilities to monitor the in-transit process.
Despite the limitations of COVID and the pending holidays adding pressure to an already demanding schedule, the move was completed in December. Constant communication and collaboration, supported by weekly check-in meetings, kept the project flowing. “From a communications perspective, everybody was flexible and totally engaged in making sure we were working together as one team throughout the project,” says Gwynne.
Today, Sungard AS primary and recovery data centers provide the fully redundant and recoverable environment Severn Trent needs to support its critical applications, as well as back-office systems that support finance, HR and procurement operations.
Moving toward the future with Sungard AS also provides great peace of mind. “Our CEO says, ‘I just expect technology to work without a problem.’ And that’s what we have with Sungard AS,” Gwynne says.
Read more about Severn Trent in the Sungard AS case study.