The problem

Railpen has been providing such pension administration services since 1965, when the company was formed from a number of regional British Rail pension administration offices. In 1993, the company was privatised (along with British Rail) and began to take in non-rail pension clients. Since 1993 Railpen has consolidated its presence in the UK pension market, acquiring more pension work from outside of the Rail industry including a similar scheme for Electricity providers. Now, Railpen has £20bn in assets under management and pays out over £80m in benefits each month.

Based in Darlington, UK with other offices in London and Coventry, the company provides Administration, Investment and Trustee services to over 200 pension scheme clients, providing services to over 500,000 members. Railpen runs a number of proprietary applications which have been in use for many years. While some of these applications run on SQL databases, they are quite specific to the pension administration business and were created specifically for Railpen.

Although the current applications are fit for the business and function well (and they will eventually by upgraded), Railpen believes in the continuous improvement of their performance in order to provide a competitive edge and greater levels of efficiency. The best way to find these improvements is to add a layer of faster SSD-based storage. However, Railpen was not in a position to completely replace its existing (SAS and SATA-based) storage systems.

The Solution

The applications (running on the existing SAN infrastructure) also consumed significant staff resources to support the business. For example, a daily output of administration reports is required, which run on Windows 2008 servers. These reports are run using ‘batch-scripts’ by reading over 2 million records in a sequential database, which historically took up to 8 hours to complete. The reports are a daily requirement, so Railpen operated a night-shift team between 10PM and 6AM.

Another key output for Railpen consists of “Valuation Reports”. These reports took up to 46 hours to complete, which took other systems completely off-line for days at a time, often over the weekend. Any solution that could reduce these staff-intensive processes would deliver a strong return on investment (ROI).

In order to find a solution, Railpen turned to long-time advisor FourNet a Huawei partner. Their relationship with Railpen includes the design of a resilient data centre solution and a major server/storage virtualisation project. Huawei and FourNet worked closely to design and implement a SSD storage system that fulfils these requirements. The result was the implementation of 2 Huawei Dorado2100 G2 SSD Storage systems, each containing 24 SSD disks with a capacity of 100GB per disk (with an overall capacity of 4.8TB). One of each Dorado has been installed at the Railpen data centres in Darlington and London.

Railpen has also installed a Huawei OceanStor2600T at its remote Disaster Recovery centre, completely replacing the existing SAN there. The OceanStor 2600T, which contains 95% SAS and 5% SSD disks, is also virtualised using FalconStor.

Fabric networking has given the IT infrastructure elasticity that has allowed the University to migrate an entire data centre off-site, thereby recovering valuable teaching space, into which the University can expand with no impact on security or performance. The use of Fabric further allows secure

virtual networks to be created that separate all transactional data, thus eliminating the potential for accessing secure data (intentional or otherwise); whilst also complying with current financial regulations (PCI compliant).

The C>Ways design ethos is based on no single point of failure. The C-Ways delivery plan included the initial up-skilling of University IT staff and a shared roll-out programme, project managed by C>Ways , utilising resource from both the University and C>Ways’ technical teams. C>Ways’ design method has successfully allowed the University to deliver network services, with zero downtime for 12 years, during which, major network change programmes and the introduction of Fabric has occurred.

Return on Investment

The Dorado solution has dramatically improved performance of legacy applications, which allowed Railpen to eliminate a night shift and to use the staff on other projects.