Northparkes Mines - Case Study

CMOC-Northparkes Mines (Northparkes) is a copper and gold mine located 27 kilometres north-west of Parkes in the Central West of New South Wales.

For more than 11 years, Xpanse had been providing IT infrastructure and professional services to Rio Tinto, the parent company of Northparkes Mines until the latter was divested in December 2014 to China Molybdenum Co., Ltd (CMOC).

The separation works that ensued presented the perfect opportunity for Northparkes to take stock of its IT infrastructure and invest in a system that would facilitate the company’s growth into the future.


Prior to Northparkes’ divestment, on-site staff had minimal influence on decisions regarding technology.

Although only two to three years old, the IT infrastructure was not meeting the businesses requirements, and with operational budgets managed by Rio Tinto’s IS&T department, Northparkes had

little visibility of the ongoing costs of infrastructure maintenance.

Prior to engaging Xpanse, Northparkes had no formal business continuity plan and used an outdated backup process, which was slow and unreliable.

Furthermore, Northparkes’ secondary site did not have the capacity to support production workloads in the event of a critical outage at the production site.

Any attempt at restoration of services would have been lengthy and complicated; moreover, not all business critical services would have been restored at the disaster recovery site as the infrastructure was not capable of supporting a full service.

In addition, new ownership of Northparkes by CMOC, brought further business continuity requirements and a wider group of stakeholders.

“We greatly appreciated the collaborative manner in which Xpanse worked with us to define our business continuity objectives,”

“We have quite a small IT department, which is responsible for the delivery of service to the business and runs a relatively large and complex IT environment,” Northparkes ICT Infrastructure Senior Technician, William Harry, said. “Our infrastructure supports both critical production control and corporate environments so, with limited resources, we required Xpanse to undertake the design, implementation, transition and automation needed to meet our new business continuity requirements.”


After careful analysis of Northparkes’ IT environment, Xpanse upgraded the existing storage infrastructure to next-generation hardware and implemented scale-out storage systems (NetApp clustered Data ONTAP).

The capabilities of the existing virtual environment were enhanced to support cross-site fail-over, and the compute-and-storage infrastructure at the disaster recovery site was upgraded to ensure a consistent experience during a fail-over.

In order to remove Northparkes reliance on tape backups, the Commvault Simpana suite was implemented. This enabled storage-level snapshots for production backup and recovery purposes, using IntelliSnap and long-term disk backups to a new high-density storage array.

Xpanse evaluated cloud-backup strategies, however, after careful consideration, deemed them currently not feasible due to the remoteness of the mine
site, WAN bandwidth limitations and the rate of data change.

“We greatly appreciated the collaborative manner in which Xpanse worked with us to define our business continuity objectives,” Harry said. “By listening carefully and understanding the unique nature of the challenges we faced, they were able to design and implement a bespoke solution to suit our business.”

It was on the back of this positive experience that a managed-services offering was implemented, complementing Northparkes’ operations team and delivering maximum operational visibility via real- time alerting and monitoring, as well as ongoing reporting and technical support. The managed- services agreement releases valuable resources to focus on business transformation rather than day-to-day operational tasks.


Xpanse managed the project throughout its lifecycle, minimising business impact, removing risk and leveraging many years’ experience in project delivery within enterprise critical environments.

Using a collaborative approach, Xpanse strives to understand clients’ business needs in order to design and deliver innovative best-of-breed solutions.

Project phases include:

  • Business analysis and understanding of requirements
  • Environment discovery and solution design
  • Documentation of solution, clearly defining deliverables and outcomes
  • Low-level design and associated scopes of work
  • Implementation and transition methodology for each project phase
  • Project ownership and full management of all stages
  • Solution deployment, testing and data migration services
  • Post-implementation BAU acceptance after rigorous business continuity, and data backup and recovery testing
  • Project documentation including as-build and procedural guides


Northparkes’ IT environment now features highly available NetApp clustered FAS storage appliances, running latest-generation clustered Data ONTAP across both primary and secondary sites. A virtualised server environment utilises VMware vSphere, leveraging VMware SRM (Site Recovery Manager) to meet cross-site replication requirements for business continuity.

The implementation of Commvault Simpana meets both short and long-term backup and recovery requirements in a disk-to-disk environment, utilising high-density NetApp E2760 storage systems as disk targets.

Xpanse has implemented the solution using a client- centric approach, featuring open lines of communication and a willingness to involve Northparkes throughout all stages of the engagement.

Since implementation, Northparkes has been able
to perform regular fail-over and fail-back of services between primary and secondary sites for business continuity testing and also has a 100% success rate for backup jobs. The company now has a highly available and operationally stable environment, which provides the opportunity to change and implement new business applications in a non-disruptive manner.

Northpark Mines now has a highly available and operationally stable environment.

“In the beginning our decision to engage Xpanse was influenced by several factors, including its technical expertise, existing knowledge of our IT environment
and ability to provide support for that environment following implementation,” Harry said. “Another thing that appealed to us was that Xpanse was willing to consider a variety of solutions and work closely with us to deliver a solution that would meet our technical and commercial requirements.”

“Xpanse’s track record was also taken into consideration, as was its long and successful relationship with Rio Tinto, which demonstrates their outcomes-focused approach and its commitment to delivering on promises.”

The Future

Xpanse continues to provide ongoing support to Northparkes through a managed-services agreement and also provides visibility into forecasted operational costs. It communicates regularly with Northparkes and provides formal strategic architecture advice on a monthly basis.

The company continues to evaluate technology options and provide Northparkes with guidance on market trends. Since implementation, Xpanse has also been engaged by Northparkes to extend the solution via long-term data archiving for structured and unstructured data sets.