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Alcan Engineering manages rapid growth with APC

Alcan has recently been taken over by Rio Tinto and is now part of the Rio Tinto Alcan group.This case study took place before the take over.


Alcan Engineering Pty Limited


Manufacturing, Processing and Engineering


Brisbane, Australia


Icon Eye


Servers and other technologies could not be supported efficiently by existing data centre infrastructure.

Insufficient power redundancy and environmental monitoring, sub-par cable management, limited storage space and lack of de-centralised management of data centre equipment hampered efficient management.

Brisbane data centre to be relocated to new premises at late notice. Alcan Engineering’s IT team needed a complete, fully integrated data centre solution delivered and implemented within six weeks.


APC InfraStruXure, Data Centre architec-ture integrating power, rack, cooling, management and services implemented in Brisbane offices.

NetworkAIR FM 40A Modular Floor Mount Precision Air Conditioning for environmentally sensitive equipment areas.

Environmental monitoring unit that measures motion, humidity, temperature, plus additional moisture sensor for extra layer of protection


Increased back-up time from five minutes to 27 minutes

Environmental monitoring help to avoid downtime by alerting IT team of heat, motion, humidity and moisture anomalies

Centralised management simplifies administration and fault resolution

Overhead cabling reduces time spent manual handling cabling and equipment

Alcan Engineering provides engineering design and construction management services to Alcan Gove refinery in the Northern Territory, and to other Alcan and non-Alcan operations both in Australia and overseas. Alcan Engineering also provides data facilities to Alcan’s corporate operations in Brisbane, as well as other Alcan groups within Australia.

Alcan Engineering’s production and delivery of engineering services relies on 99 per cent systems availability. Alcan Engineering’s Brisbane data centre supports mission critical files and applications used for alumina refinery engineering, minerals processing industry engineering and energy and control systems design.

More than 1170 Alcan staff, located in Adelaide, Queensland, the Northern Territory and France, depend on the availability of systems supported by Alcan Engineering’s Brisbane data centre. Alcan Engineering’s IT administrator needs to manage ongoing growth and adapt to changes, simplify management and contain costs.

When the company announced plans to relocate its Brisbane headquarters, Alcan Engineering’s IT Manager, David Frazer, recognised the opportunity to replace the existing legacy equipment with a fully integrated data centre solution.

The challenge however was to implement a complete data centre within a six week timeframe.

When Frazer attended a data centre lunch hosted by APC, he found a solution that would meet the company’s complex IT requirements and that could be delivered and implemented at short notice.

Company growth compromises data centre efficiency

Over the past nine years, Alcan Engineering experienced rapid growth. The number of IT users relying on systems supported by Alcan Engineering’s Brisbane data centre increased 300%. It currently supports 600 users.

The traditional configurations in the data centre had grown in an ad-hoc manner over time. The result was inadequate power redundancy, different sized racks, sub-par cable and environmental management and limited storage space.

By February 2006, Alcan Engineering’s IT team faced significant power, environmental monitoring, storage and cabling issues.

“We had five racks, 60 servers and three small APC UPS systems squeezed into a 3.5m x 3.5m room. We had two small split system air conditioning units in a small server room that was creating condensation which could have damaged equipment and caused a systems failure,” said Frazer.

Back-up power was a concern – the UPS units provided the IT team with five minutes uptime on systems running mission-critical applications.

Data centre on demand

When Frazer was introduced to APC’s InfraStruXure solution, he immediately realised it was what he required for Alcan Engineering’s Brisbane data centre - a scalable and manageable infrastructure that could grow with the business.

Within days of attending the event, Frazer was advised that Alcan’s Brisbane headquarters was being relocated in six weeks and the Brisbane data centre was to be managed offsite.

“There was a lot of internal discussion to offsite Alcan Engineering’s data centre infrastructure. Particularly given that new data centre equipment would need to be researched, identified, purchased, delivered and implemented within six weeks if the data centre was to remain onsite,” said Frazer.

“I didn’t feel it was viable to offsite our infrastructure based on the complexities of our own engineering and operational requirements.” he said.

Frazer was able to demonstrate that replacing the Brisbane data centre’s existing legacy equipment with APC’s InfraStruXure solution would provide the company significant savings over a 10 year period. Alcan’s management team agreed to retain an on-site data centre.

The APC InfraStruXure solution was implemented in the new Brisbane office within four weeks of the order being placed.

Layered protection and increased redundancy for complete security

The fully integrated InfraStruXure solution included eight APC floor racks, two UPS racks, a 40KVA UPS, the NetworkAIR Floor Mount 40A Air Conditioning system and APC’s Environmental Management System, which features motion, temperature and humidity detection.

The bottom line is that we are spending less on IT management, and we can intervene sooner to prevent system downtime before it becomes a user issue.

Alcan also customised its environmental monitoring system by adding a moisture sensor that runs across the floor – for an additional layer of protection and security.

The InfraStruXure solution allows for 27 minutes uptime in the event of power failure. “We have increased our power redundancy from 14KVA to 40KVA which provides us with much more peace of mind. The management of one centralised UPS unit versus three also saves us time,” said Frazer.

“The overhead cabling design has reduced the time we spent manually handling cabling and equipment,” he added.

APC management system cuts IT management costs

Designed to form the basis of network critical physical infrastructure (NCPI), InfraStruXure has revolutionised the way the Alcan Engineering IT department manages its data centre.

“InfraStruXure gives us a level of management not available from any other solution. We can resolve power and cooling issues before users even realise there is a problem,” said Frazer.

“It gives visibility into the total infrastructure not just servers. Rather than bringing us to the data centre, InfraStruXure brings the data centre to us.”


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