The Greater Manchester Commissioning Support Unit is closing the 17 data centres it manages on behalf of 12 clinical commissioning groups and moving their data to a single location.  

The CSU, which offers IT and business intelligence support services to Greater Manchester’s CCGs, is in the middle of a data centre migration project it hopes will improve systems and reduce costs.

Ann Halpin, head of IT technical support at the Greater Manchester CSU, told EHI the decision to decommission the individual data centres in favour of a single location was made as part of a focus on shared services as the CSU was being set up.

“We wanted to look at how to consolidate the infrastructure and make efficiencies that scale, while also bringing the infrastructure up to standard.

“Some centres had servers at different statuses, some were more resilient than others, so we needed to bring them up to a new standard.”

Halpin said migrating the data centres will save on costs as fewer engineers will be needed to maintain a single centre, while there will also be efficiencies in electricity and staffing costs.

Another benefit of the migration project is that it will improve the data processing and storage capacity as well as back-up services, she said.

Data centre project manager Jon Shone said the project is also connected to a wider IT infrastructure project from the CSU, with the migration team taking into consideration planned upgrades before migrating any data.

“If we want to remove the system as version A, but they’re talking about a version B, then we provision a whole new system set and prepare for the upgrade, not just moving the old system.”

Shone said the project team is also reviewing each data centre to remove old systems and data that is no longer needed by the CCGs.

“There’s lots of legacy systems and data out there, so we’re going through all the systems and all the data to say, ‘Is this still needed?’ or whether it can be archived off the server, decommissioned or so on.”

The new data centre is in Wigan, and is made up of two data halls each with its own power supply, back-up generator and other pieces of infrastructure, allowing the servers to “flip across” if there is any problem with one of the halls.

Halpin said the project is going “fairly smoothly” with Salford CCG, the first to be migrated, several weeks away from completion.

The project team has obtained a second migration kit to allow “concurrent” migrations to take place, Shone said.

It is also working on other data centres ahead of their migration, reviewing and refreshing the system servers and running test migrations to ensure they are prepared.

“When it comes to the time to deal with the locality, we already know the ins and outs,” Shone said.

Halpin said the project is on track for its planned completion date by the end of the 2014-15 financial year.

The CSU announced in February that it will merge with the Cheshire and Merseyside Commissioning Support Unit to create a new organisation spanning a population of more than 5m.

A statement from the units at the time said the merger will secure their long-term future and enable the potential for large scale transformational support across the North West.