Australia's National Portrait Gallery paints a digital future

Government agency using hyper-converged, software-defined storage technology to digitally transform, grow and scale at speed.

By Jennifer O'Brien
June 5, 2017

National Portrait Gallery
National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery is on a path towards digitisation as it works to provide almost one million on-site and online visitors with "unprecedented access" and interactivity with the Canberra-based gallery's 2,500 portraits.

"We're trying to always enhance the digital experience be it online or on-site," National Portrait Gallery COO, Trent Birkett,  told CIO Australia. "We try to move along and keep up with the trends that people are moving towards including social media."

Around 450,000 people visit the gallery each year, and a further 80,000 visitors attend its travelling exhibitions. With the agency's website experiencing high volumes of audience engagement, with half a million sessions per year, there was a need to provide visitors access to a robust digital library.

Trent Birkett
Trent Birkett

Working with Lenovo Data Centre Group, the gallery has built a new IT system to make way for a fully integrated digital asset management storage solution. DataCore Software and local IT consulting firm, Vintek, helped the gallery digitise its collection of portraits.

Managed by Vintek, the new high performance, hyper-converged storage solution is powered by DataCore's Virtual SAN software and consists of x3650 Lenovo servers in a metrocluster configuration.

Birkett wanted to adopt a modern, fully-managed IT environment to digitise, store and make available its extensive catalogue of historical portraits to a wider audience.

"We were after a scalable, reliable, fully-managed technology platform that could release our assets to the public, allow our image library to be updated in real time, and ultimately protect and secure our data while giving staff flexibility to plan and organise exhibitions," Birkett said. 

"Since its implementation, the new system has increased the efficiency of internal processes, provided seamless integration of previously incompatible platforms and ensured improved security around our data."

The IT infrastructure was built from the ground up, and now hosts key applications including the National Portrait Gallery's customer relationship management, SQL/Web based apps, and file and print servers in a VMware environment.

The Vintek infrastructure is hosted at the Metronode Data Centre in Mitchell, Australian Capital Territory, which guarantees 100 per cent uptime of its facilities.


Time for change

Birkett said it was time for change at the gallery, which had been restricted in both access and overall capabilities over the last several years. The gallery needed to have a platform that would empower the art gallery to deliver better experiences for visitors.

"For the last six to seven years our IT was delivered by government agencies who were on restricted networks. As an agency we were restricted on what we wanted to do. So we wanted to enhance our capability and especially in this era where everything is moving to online, and on social media, it was about time to free up to allow our walk in visitors, and our online visitors, easier access to our information.

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