August 2016 - Triangle Computer Services


TechPro July 2016

The context of this question is really interesting with all major storage vendors promoting their flash storage solutions, converged infrastructures and software defined storage, enterprises could be forgiven for thinking they are lagging behind their competition by not deploying the latest and greatest.

Datacentre managers are keen to extend the life span of existing investments without compromising business demands, reduce maintenance cost and reduce operational costs

Software Defined Storage and extending the life span of existing investment are not mutually exclusive. In fact SDS solutions are extending the life of existing investments in the Enterprise.  By its very nature SDS does not care about the underlying hardware once that hardware is robust and has a performance profile that meets business demands.

A SDS platform for either block, object or file data, reduces existing SANs software maintenance, extends its life time and exposes additional features and benefits of the SDS platform to the enterprise

While there are a number of new SDS offerings available we in Triangle have been delivering SDS to customers based on the IBM Spectrum Platform for over 10 years.  IBM Spectrum provides SDS for block storage up to 32PB per system and the file storage has no known limits for performance or scale.

Within the SDS our customers are utilising Flash to manage critical workloads and then merging existing storage solutions under this SDS platform.  This significantly reduces operational costs, capex investments and once deployed completely removes the requirement for any distributive data migrations in the future.



Almac is a contract research organization headquartered in Craigavon, Northern Ireland.  The company provides the most comprehensive range of services extending from research through pharmaceutical and clinical development to commercialisation of product. Over 600 companies worldwide, including all the market leaders, use Almac’s services, testament itself to the quality, innovation and efficiency of the business over the past 30 years.  Almac employs over 3,300 worldwide, xx in Craigavon.  Almac has implemented interactive technology in support of clinical trials.

“We provide clinical trials for our clients that explore whether a medical strategy, drug or treatment is safe and effective,” explains Andy Hillis, Group Head of IS at Almac.  “The purpose of clinical trials is research so the studies follow strict scientific standards.  We needed a new technology architecture that would allow us to deliver our specialised application reliably and quickly.”

Almac had developed a new version of its clinical trials test study application and wanted to implement and leverage the automation capabilities of its virtualized infrastructure.  Almac selected Triangle because of the company’s premier partnership with VMware, its expertise in the Dev Ops and Automation area and reputation in the marketplace for successful engagements with other clients in these areas.  Triangle performed the business analysis of the clinical trial test study case application deployment and identified the individual steps and responsibilities required in each part of the process.

Almac chose to deploy VMware vCloud Suite Enterprise for the automation, orchestration and monitoring framework.  Triangle automated many of the manual processes involved in creating platforms and applications for clinical trials by implementing VMware’s vRealize Automation solution allowing Almac to introduce Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) capabilities for clinical trials of new treatments. 

Triangle designed the new architecture and implemented and configured the tools to be used for the automation including VMware vRealize Automation Center, Application Services and vRealize Orchestrator.  Triangle also created the required templates for the installs and required workflows to integrate all the components according to the business processes.   Almac’s clinical trials application is based on windows .NET, IIS, SQL Server, MSMQ, nService Bus and Raven DB. 

“Deployment of clinical trial platforms has been reduced from an average of three weeks to approximately three hours,” adds Andy.  “Applications can be deployed, updated or amended in approximately one hour and deployments can be reproduced consistently with massive reduction in the risk of human error.”

“The process of creating a new clinical trial study is now standardized and streamlined and is available as a service in a self-service portal,” concludes Andy.   “We have seen great reduction times in deployment of our application and we have reliable, repeatable deployments without human intervention which reduces the possibility of errors.”

About Almac

The Almac Group is an established contract development and manufacturing organisation that provides an extensive range of integrated services globally to companies within the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors. The services range from R&D, biomarker discovery and development, API manufacture, formulation development, clinical trial supply, IXRS technology(IVRS/IXRS) through to commercial-scale manufacture and companion diagnostic development

Only Almac can combine the expertise, from our specialised teams, to provide you with the right service solutions to help you across the full biopharmaceutical product lifecycle, from the preclinical stages through to commercialisation.

Airwatch Test Event

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Aviva is Ireland’s only composite insurer providing life, pensions, general and health insurance products to its customers.  The company employs over 1,000 people between its head office in Dublin its offices in Cork and its Galway call centre.  Aviva’s data centre sprawled over an area the size of half a football pitch and the company wanted to modernise the aging IT infrastructure and reduce it  to a quarter of its footprint.

“Our Data Centre in Ireland runs in combination with part of our UK data centre.  It’s our heartbeat,” explains Sean Bellamy, Head of Infrastructure at Aviva.  “It runs every single system from our GI business which sells motor and home and our Life and Pensions business.”

Aviva engaged Triangle to develop a compelling technology proposal backed by a cast iron business case for renewed investment in the Irish data centre.  The cost effectiveness of the solution was to be measured on two scales; the initial investment and the total cost over time.

As the estate was old, it was expensive to maintain as production systems were failing. The company was having more and more incidents where outages to the business were quite significant.  Following an assessment and design phase, Triangle worked closely with Aviva to develop the project. Using their expertise in network creation and migration, they built a highly secure dark fibre data centre network and SAN fabric to provide improved connectivity in a smaller footprint.  Aviva had 350 Wintel systems running a variety of operating systems. 

The company virtualised its estate to one third and reduced those down to six hosted VMware solutions.  On the AIX side, Aviva had a P590, P595 and a P770 in the Dublin office and they eradicated the P590 and P595 and updated the local P770 and bought a new P770 for the B site which is hosted in IBM.

“Storage was another challenge for us with three huge storage units.” adds Ian Farnan, TSS Infrastructure Manager at Aviva.  “These have been replaced with a three tier solution based on IBM FlashSystem technology coupled with an IBM V7000 clustered system containing both SAS and NL-SAS tiers”.

Aviva realised savings by retiring old hardware that would have required renewed maintenance contracts and licenses for backups

Triangle converted Aviva’s legacy systems onto the new infrastructure enabling the company to run legacy applications crucial to the business.  The nature of the project improved the company’s test and development environment, improved disaster recovery capabilities, and increased flexibility to react to the organisation’s needs.  In addition, warehousing processes are much faster which makes better use of current resources.

“It is a phenomenal leap forward in technology for us.  We have saved significant costs this year – half a million euro and next year somewhere in the region of €800,000.  For us these will be year on year savings,” says Sean.

“We have achieved a significant reduction in footprint and we have been able to use the saved floor space for another purpose. This is real estate in the centre of Dublin which is very expensive so it’s a fantastic saving.  We’ve also achieved significant energy savings because our electricity use has reduced by about three quarters   and the cooling is significantly reduced as well which is great from an environment point of view.” 

Triangle has played a core part in the design, development, build and management of this adventurous project,” continues Ian.  “Without their dedication, technical knowledge and expertise, we would not have achieved all we did.   We now have the modern, future proofed, agile and flexible data centre that we wanted.”

“There are many benefits with this project,” concludes Sean.  “In terms of stability, the data centre is ten times better than it was.  Also, performance has improved dramatically, for example, we are able to run our month end processes on our systems locally and they are completed in one hour as against eight hours before we did this work.

Triangle pulled out all the stops and the project was delivered on time on 31 December.  The €3 million initial capital investment will have paid for itself in 22 months.  This project has made our business more efficient and more competitive.”