|Service and solution:||Data Centre Infrastructure, Managed Services|
|Sector:||Manufacturing & Distribution|
Logicalis managed service proves to
be the perfect medicine
Avecia is a leading private biotechnology company specialising
in the development and manufacture of innovative
biotechnology-based medicines. With a long history of technological
innovation, the company works closely with other biotechnology and
pharmaceutical companies to help them achieve fast progress into -
and through - the clinical development programme. Avecia Biologics,
one of the company’s two business units, is a world leading
contract developer and manufacturer of biologics for human
healthcare products. From its base in Billingham in the Tees
Valley, it has grown rapidly over the last five years, investing
over US$150m in state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities.
Nowhere is the availability and accuracy of information more
critical than in the pharmaceutical industry, where compliance with
stringent auditing and reporting procedures are a high priority.
Like any company involved in manufacturing medicines, Avecia
Biologics is heavily regulated and regularly inspected by
government bodies. Round-the-clock systems management and
monitoring are therefore essential to support the company’s IT
processes, which are the lifeblood of its operations.
“Following restructuring of the Avecia Group in 2005-06, we
urgently needed to upgrade and consolidate our legacy IT to meet
the modern demands of our industry and to comply with regulations
for electronic data protection, including data backup and recovery
laid down by governing bodies like the US Food and Drug
Administration (FDA), and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products
Regulatory Agency (MHRA),” says Campbell Kay, Avecia’s Head of IT.
“As well as making our applications and processes more efficient,
we were keen to demonstrate to customers and regulators alike that
we’re continually developing our compliance programme.”
Kay says the increasing automation of systems, coupled with a
greater emphasis on trending data, has also placed much more focus
on IT and its ability to secure and protect data from loss,
corruption and unauthorised access. A legacy of organic growth and
divestment, however, meant significant areas of Avecia’s
infrastructure were undocumented and vulnerable through unsupported
software and ageing hardware.
“Our challenge was therefore to relocate, rationalise and
modernise our infrastructure to meet current industry standards,
while at the same time continuing to support a business which
demands minimum downtime,” he says.
With only modest internal IT resources and expertise to achieve
this, Kay quickly recognised the need for outside help and called
upon ICT solutions provider and managed services specialist
Logicalis to help design and ‘virtualise’ a significant chunk of
Avecia's IT infrastructure.
Working to demanding timelines following the termination of a
previous service support contract, the Logicalis team designed and
delivered a virtualisation project, reducing 100 servers down to 40
and implementing high-performance software for many of the
company’s applications and processes. Kay anticipates further
reductions in server numbers as applications confirm their support
for virtual machines.
“Logicalis recommended we first virtualise the servers on our
existing platforms, then use the virtualisation technology where
necessary to upgrade these, once the service had been transferred.
This would minimise the risk of making too many changes at once to
our NT servers and older applications. I’m delighted to say that
virtualisation has greatly increased the resilience of our IT
infrastructure and reduced the need for segregated development
Following the success of this initial project, in October 2007,
Avecia awarded Logicalis a five-year managed services contract to
look after its consolidated IT infrastructure and to support
compliance regulations by providing 24/7 management and monitoring
of the company’s server farms, office applications, security
infrastructure and storage area network (SAN).
Logicalis began by implementing Avecia’s new SAN to provide the
company with centralised data storage and standardised data
backups. Ageing firewalls and custom desktops, which had previously
led to security risks, were then replaced by a reliable Cisco
firewall and a completely new desktop.
“Logicalis also rationalised our Exchange servers, and migrated
our employees to Exchange 2003 in an offline virtual environment,
thereby avoiding any downtime for users,” says Kay. “Having lived
with Exchange 5.5 for so long, the availability of Outlook Web
Access means our employees - and particularly our remote workers -
are delighted they can now access their email and calendars from
anywhere with an Internet connection, greatly increasing their
productivity and efficiency.”
“In the pharmaceutical industry, validation and data protection
is everything,” states Kay. “For this reason, Logicalis’ ability to
verify our server hardware and software installations, as well as
our SAN and backup processes, matches our requirements perfectly.
Industry inspectors are placing greater emphasis on data protection
and network security. The changes Logicalis have made to Avecia’s
infrastructure and external access have greatly increased the
company’s ability to protect its data and consequently meet the
demands of its customers and regulatory bodies. Logicalis’
penetration testing and firewall detection and prevention
procedures have greatly increased our level of security and reduced
our risk of audit failure.” Avecia successfully underwent FDA and
MHRA inspections in January 2009.
The fast pace of today’s pharmaceutical industry sees new
processes and techniques for clinical development and the
manufacture of medicines emerging every week. It means companies
like Avecia need to respond rapidly when implementing these core
practices, whilst remaining compliant at all times. Avecia's
decision to adopt virtualisation techniques and deploy an on-demand
virtual IT team means they now have the agility to transform their
IT estate as often as their business model changes.
“We’re currently working with Logicalis to improve our disaster
recovery procedures,” says Kay. “With their help, we’re looking to
move to a contingency model based on the virtualisation and SAN
technology they’ve already helped us implement. It means we can use
these technologies for data replication to an alternative site,
dramatically reducing recovery time.”
Kay believes he and his team have developed an excellent working
relationship with Logicalis – one that’s yielding continuous
improvement. “We’re now benefitting from the virtualisation they’ve
helped us achieve as we implement new applications and they will
certainly continue to be a core part of that process,” he adds.
"This collaborative partnership means we're able to use today’s
technology and Logicalis’ expertise to continue developing our
infrastructure. What’s more, our ability to share their resources
with other companies means we don’t have to pay for this level of
expertise 24/7. This makes their managed service a highly
cost-effective proposition for companies like us with only a small
in-house IT team.”
Kay says Logicalis have become an integral part of Avecia’s IT
support. “Their expertise in virtualisation and IS service
provision means we have a partner on whom we can rely to help us
address issues and, more importantly, prevent them through early
identification and warning - rather than continually patching and
upgrading systems, as was often the case in the past.
“At the end of the day, we can't afford the time to be
continually looking over the fence at what technologies are coming
along. Thanks to their technical knowledge and their close
partnership with key players like Cisco, HP and Microsoft,
Logicalis are now our eyes and ears on the industry,” he
"Logicalis have become an integral part of Avecia’s IT support. Their expertise in virtualisation and IS service provision means we have a partner on whom we can rely to help us address issues and, more importantly, prevent them through early identification and warning - rather than continually patching and upgrading systems, as was often the case in the past."
Campbell Kay, Avecia’s Head of IT