NCP embraces blade technology

Largest car park operator in the UK is installing ClearCube's blade technology to reduce IT complexity and improve server reliability

National Car Parks has opened a national control centre using blade technology and has condensed seven operational sites into one.

Using blade technology from ClearCube, NCP is bringing its operations into one centre in Croydon that will control the systems based in around 150 car parks spread across the UK. NCP estimates that the centralised system will give 99.9 percent reliability, as well as simplifying its IT operations.

The ClearCube systems will use 67 blade servers as well as "10 or 12" in reserve, according to Neil Robson, the technology director for NCP. The systems will support all of NCP's operations, including CCTV, digital displays and general administration. NCP has invested £1.2m in the new system and installation, of which around £300,000 is for the blades alone.

Robson believes that the move to a centralised environment has made NCP more flexible. "It provides NCP with a highly adaptable computing solution that gives us 100 percent systems availability and significantly simplified IT management," he said.

ClearCube's Sentral 5.0 management system forms the core of the NCP rollout and it gives its IT administrators visibility and control of both local and remote computing deployments. The system offers dynamic resource allocation, virtual desktop management, active health monitoring and blade switching and sparing. Sentral can also be employed to support virtualised desktops, as well as other vendors' blade systems, although there is no virtualisation at the moment. "It is something we are looking at," said Robson.

The Croydon centre hosts 16 (human) controllers, who are able to manage NCP's car parks in the UK, overseeing security, payment and customer services operations, from one contact point, Robson says. CCTV at each car park is relayed back to secure operations, while the payments system is linked to all ticket barriers and payment machines. The integration of all car park operations allows NCP operators to connect directly to any barrier in any car park with video and voice feeds to discuss customer enquiries in real-time.

Robson is clear about why he chose ClearCube over some of the better-known names, such as HP or IBM. "ClearCube is smaller and we can get a more personal service because of that," he told ZDNet UK. "We like to be a big fish in a smaller pond. We get very good service from them."