The Guinness Partnership

The Guinness Partnership is one of the largest affordable housing and care providers in the country. They own and manage more than 60,000 homes and provide housing and care services for 120,000 customers. It is a national organisation that works across England, delivering local housing services through three regional housing companies: Guinness Hermitage in the south west, Guinness Northern Counties in the midlands and the north, and Guinness South in the east and south east. Guinness Care and Support provides care and support services across the country.

The Partnership has existed since 1890 when a £200,000 donation from Edward Cecil Guinness, the great grandson of the founder of the Guinness Brewery, created an organisation tasked with improving the lives of ordinary people, many of whom could not afford decent homes. This donation would be worth £15m in today’s money and planted a seed that has now grown into a strong, national group of housing associations known as the Guinness Partnership. Although all links with the Guinness Brewery disappeared a long time ago, the partnership is proud to remain true to the original philosophy, defined by Edward Cecil Guinness, of providing affordable and good quality homes in communities that are stable and supportive.

In more recent times, The Guinness Partnership assumed its current form as the existing group expanded to include new housing association partners. This created some challenges for IT provision as companies within the Partnership operated on different IT infrastructures, making collaboration across the country difficult. It had become clear that in order to future-proof the Partnership – and to allow for any further mergers – a common IT infrastructure was required.

The Interim Chief Information Officer at The Guinness Partnership, Steve Howells, was engaged by the Partnership to assess the situation and manage a project to bring all areas of the business on to a single infrastructure. “The different infrastructures across the Partnership were causing us significant issues”, says Howells. “There were separate email and log-on systems that meant that staff working at different locations within the organisation were unable to access emails or share files. With thousands of staff members working from 100s of offices across the country, this had become a big issue as more people were moving offices, either temporarily or permanently, and were unable to access their IT.

“We needed to create a single infrastructure that would let us migrate all users on to a shared platform, allowing them share files and access emails from anywhere within the Partnership. It would also allow us to migrate any new partners onto this single infrastructure, meaning that such issues would not occur again as we continue to expand.”

As there was no consistency across the multiple incumbent systems and all applications were completely separate, the Partnership decided to tender for a completely new infrastructure. This was a prerequisite to all planned integration projects and was to be the building block upon which all future IT work was constructed.

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The project ran well, with our in-house team and ANS delivering a very good job. We viewed the installation as a shared endeavour; between us we have implemented an excellent solution for the Guinness Partnership that provides an excellent legacy for years to come. Steve Howells, Chief Information Officer, The Guinness Partnership
  • The ANS FlexPod design, Infrastructure 3.0, combined Cisco UCS, Nexus switches, NetApp storage and VMware virtualisation technology to provide a unified and scalable infrastructure for the partnership.
  • With network architecture was based on the Cisco validated design (CVD) for FlexPod solutions which ensures exceptional service and is underpinned by the joint support agreements between the major vendors.
  • ANS installed a Cisco UCS platform that used Cisco UCS 6120XP fabric interconnects and nine B200 M2 blades with Intel Westmere processors, 64GB of RAM and Cisco PALO vNIC.
  • The storage platform was built with NetApp technology using an FAS3000 range dual controller, 10GbE unified adaptors, 20TB of tier one capacity.
  • 16TB of tier two capacity with fibre channel, iCSI, NFS, CIFS & FCoE connectivity and a complete NetApp bundle with all necessary licences.
  • NetApp SnapShot replicates the entire IT environment throughout the day to provide a near real-time record of the infrastructure in case of an IT disaster occurring.
  • The new solution has reduced the time it would take to fully restore the IT estate from days or weeks to just a few hours.
  • This made possible by Infrastructure 3 has helped the new disaster recovery solution be as ‘cost neutral’ as possible.
  • Either the Partnership, or ANS acting remotely, are now able to perform a full restoration of the system at the push of a button.
  • The Partnership has also agreed an ongoing support contract with ANS Group.
  • Their fully managed level support package includes proactive monitoring of their entire infrastructure and gives them access to top-level consultants (including CCIEs, NCIEs and VCPs).
  • This saves the Partnership costs, while ensuring that they are fully capable of maintaining their new infrastructure.

Features and Benefits

The Guinness Partnership now have an IT system that allows their end-users to perform their everyday tasks and that was the crucial element of the SIP. Guinness Partnership now have one email system that covers the whole Partnership and a single platform for all users. They now have the base that they wanted to begin work on moving applications and the disaster recovery aspect of the new infrastructure is fantastic.

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