Serco's Anglia Support Partnership (ASP), which provides a wide range of shared services to the NHS and other health-oriented organisations in the East of England, is using a private cloud solution based on HP CloudSystem to manage people, processes, technology and assets more effectively.

Serco ASP provides services including recruitment, payroll, pensions, purchasing and financial services. The company currently produces 42,000 payslips per month on behalf of its customers from an integrated service centre in Huntingdon, and operates four primary care support centres in Cambridge, Ipswich, Witham and Norwich.

"Serco ASP needed a high performance, future-proof IT platform to support business growth, both geographically and into other market sectors," said Mark Smith, head of IT at Serco.

HP CloudSystem will provide a geographically resilient dual data centre solution to support Serco's own multi tenancy shared services platform. According to HP, this centralised infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform will enable Serco to provision complex applications in "minutes instead of months".

Resources can be allocated across the physical and virtual environments to ensure predictable delivery and service levels, said HP, and massive virtualisation using HP ProLiant servers will allow Serco to keep costs to a minimum.

Serco ASP is also using HP 3PAR Storage, together with the company's thin provisioning software and StoreOnce Backup system. However, HP's cloud country manager for the UK and Ireland, Michael Clifford, insists that the real attraction of CloudSystem is its openness and flexibility.

"We don't just push you down a single stack. As it happens Serco has used our technology, but you could substitute the names there for somebody else's - they could use EMC storage. Because we're vendor agnostic, our offering is about architecture," said Clifford, speaking to Techworld at IP Expo.

Clifford said that HP CloudSystem is decentralised, non-proprietary, totally open, and will interoperate with competitors' hardware. This means that customers can leverage their existing assets, rather than thowing the baby out with the bathwater.

"For about £150k sterling we deploy a turnkey solution into your private data centre and we put four services of your choice live onto that. At that point you've got an environment that will stay with you for life, you'll never have to re-engineer it. You can take existing assets and  sweat them by putting them into the new cloud environment."

He said that once organisations have become comfortable deploying their applications in an private cloud environment and want to start experimenting with third party services, they can start bursting out into the public cloud

"Because we're OpenStack compliant, you can burst out into that market," he said. "Serco have understood that by buying today they're not closing any doors for future options."

Serco's Mark Smith added that the virtualised HP platform will meet Serco's needs today and allow the company to add services and capacity as the business expands.