St John Ambulance

Providing Life Saving Data Centre Container for New Zealand Emergency Service

St John Ambulance, NZ treats 400,000 people every year. Their mission critical site in Christchurch is responsible for the Emergency 111 calls for the entire south island. Positioned on the edge of the February 2011 earthquake red zone, the operations building, and its data centre suffered severe damage. St John was forced to move its operations to the Earthquake Recovery Office Park by Christchurch Airport. With only a five year lease possible, St John sought a mobile data centre solution. Rittal’s next generation data centre container was a perfect fit.

We are grateful to the Rittal team; the innovation, functionality and mobility of their products that have enabled us to get back online quickly and help those that need us most.
Colin Lawrence, Data Centre Manager - St John Ambulance

A bitter irony; New Zealand’s St Johns Ambulance emergency service, long respected for rescuing and restoring those in need faced its own emergency. The February 22nd 2011 earthquake ravaged the key operations building responsible for responding to Emergency 111 calls.

The data centre is central to St John’s Ambulance Emergency service, from all elements of the 111 emergency service; telephony, paging, radio, servers, application interfaces, through to everyday business operations. The data centre secures the complete raft of equipment.

After shifting operations to the Airport Recovery Office Park, St Johns required a modular and mobile data centre that would not only grow with business requirements but also allow them to move the data centre once the maximum five year lease was exhausted.

Data Centre Manager, Colin Lawrence was responsible for the project.

Colin had already done proprietary work prior to the earthquake establishing costs for moving the data centre to a five story building. After devastation struck, Colin and his team were forced to reconsider their plans.

“Due to the uncertainly of everything in Christchurch it seemed irresponsible to invest that degree of money into a bricks and mortar data centre solution.” Said Colin Lawrence

In search of mobile, modular data centre solutions, Colin visited Orion New Zealand. A year earlier, Christchurch’s energy provider, Orion, had suffered massive damage to their own data centre operations due to two previous earthquakes. With their data centre almost unusable Orion employed the services of Rittal, commissioning a fully modular, fully mobile data centre container. Touring the option, Colin was convinced that this solution was the right fit.

“We had a clear bill of statutory requirements that had to be met. It was essential that the solution we chose was solid, stable, robust and that it was able to continue operating under most natural disaster conditions - keeping the equipment housed, safe and operational.”

Further to this, portability was essential to ensure that the investment could shift with St John business operations.

“We won’t be at this site forever..” Said Colin. “We want to be able to relocate in the least evasive way, with the assurance that we can move easily, quickly and without having to move all the gear individually.”

Rittal’s Christchurch team worked closely with St Johns Ambulance. Rittal received an order for a 42 sqm data centre container complete with fourteen server racks, UPS, intelligent power rails, Fire Alarm And Extinguishing system – DET-AC XL as well as the super efficient Direct Free Cooling concept.

“Rittal have provided a portable solution for our data centre which allows our data to be housed in the appropriate way to ensure the longevity of the systems used.” Said Colin. “This system has added safeguards; it’s capable of being externally monitored for security and technical operations, and it has an inbuilt fire suppression system. It caters for the full gambit within one container arena.”

Colin and his team found the container solution to be financially attractive. “This was definitely the best value for money solution on the market. When you balance the cost of what we have against a bricks and mortar solution there was a considerable saving in doing this.” Colin said.

Utilising Direct Free Cooling, Rittal’s data centre container promises up to 40% reduction in cooling costs. “We have doubled the functionality and now have 100% resilience across the complete infrastructure where it previously only covered 50%. Previously, we had 30 minutes on UPS now it is 2 hours plus, we operate in a very controlled environment.”

Rittal was highly involved in every stage of the purchase process from design through to installation and commissioning.

“We were very impressed with Rittal...” said Colin Lawrence. “As an international world leader Rittal were able to call on resources locally and internationally to ensure first class delivery on every element of our project.”

Colin and the team at St Johns Ambulance have shown incredible resilience, their response to the devastation is a credit to the human spirit of determination and commitment.

“...tragedy hits out of nowhere but it’s your response and your actions that follow that really count.” Said Colin. “As the central nervous system to our service, ensuring our data centre remained operational was fundamental to enabling our business to continue.

We are grateful to the Rittal team; the innovation, functionality and mobility of their products that have enabled us to get back online quickly and help those that need us most.”