news The Federal Department of Immigration and Citizenship has revealed as part of documents associated with a major IT outsourcing initiative that it is midway through the process of migrating off its Lotus Notes/Domino email platform and onto Microsoft’s rival Outlook/Exchange system, as well as a number of other modernisation initiatives.
The department is one of Australia’s largest consumers of technology-related goods and services, with some 8,000 staff working in Australia and overseas, and a total operating budget of some $2.2 billion, of which hundreds of millions of dollars each year are typically spent on technology support. In the half-decade from 2006, for example, the department’s colossal Systems for People project was one of the largest IT projects of any kind Australia-wide — with an initial cost of $495 million, plus several subsequent increases.
The department maintains a sizable internal IT department and a dedicated chief information officer, Tony Kwan (pictured), but is also supported by several key outsourcers; Unisys, which primarily supports the department’s desktop infrastructure, as well as providing biometric and identity management services associated with the immigration process, and CSC, which supports the department’s mainframe and mid-range servers.
This week, DIAC put all of that work out to the market, with Unisys and CSC being forced to defend their ground against competitive bids from global giants likely including rivals such as IBM and Fujitsu, as well as mid-tier players such Dimension Data and others.
In those documents, DIAC revealed that event as it put such a large tranche of its services out to the market, it was also concurrently conducting a large body of modernisation work with respect to its IT infrastructure. For example, the department is currently conducting what it described as its “Desktop Modernisation Program”, which will see its 10,500 PCs and 1,750 laptops upgraded from Windows XP to Windows 7. Microsoft Office 2003 will be upgraded to Office 2010, and Lotus Notes/Domino 6.5 and 8.5 will be phased out, with the department planning to shift to Microsoft’s Outlook/Exchange ecosystem as a replacement.
“Residual Lotus Notes business applications will be redeveloped in the future,” wrote the Department in its tender documentation.
Microsoft Project and Visio will also be upgraded to the 2010 versions of the software, and Immigration will deploy Symantec’s Endpoint Protection platform as a security platform replacement. The GRAS remote access system will be replaced with Citrix’s Access Gateway. For administration, Microsoft’s System Centre Configuration Manager will be deployed. The entire body of work is due to be completed by December 2012.
As part of its tender documents, Immigration went into great detail regarding not only the desktop, but also the back office environment that responding IT services firms will be expected to support. The department currently supports its core border management and “client services” functions through an IBM z-series mainframe, running the vendor’s z/OS operating system. Its main platform based in Melbourne is capable of 1642 MIPS, and it also operates shared mainframe infrastructure at a Sydney datacentre for the purposes of disaster recovery.
In terms of storage, the mainframe uses 4.2 terabytes of data on a shared Hitachi Data Systems storage area network; both its mainframe processing and mainframe storage requirements are “relatively stable”. 86.5 terabytes of tape (IBM brand) space are used in addition, and there’s a 200Mbps encrypted link between Immigration’s production and DR mainframe facilities. IBM Datapower appliances take some XML processing load from the mainframe.
Immigration also has an extensive mid-range server environment, running commercial off the shelf software, as well databases, for example, web servers and J2EE containers. Here the department mainly runs IBM AIX, Windows Server 2003/2008 and Red Hat Linux, with most of the Windows and Linux environments being virtualised with VMware. Most of the application servers are connected to shared HDS SAN storage, with a total of 500 terabytes available. McData switches are uses to connect the servers to the SANs.
In terms of these servers, there are four IBM P7-780 servers, 36 physical Sun Solaris servers (although Solaris is being decommissioned over the next year, with Linux replacing it) and some 89 physical x86 servers, and 87 IBM RISC 6000 servers, with the majority being located offshore. Lastly, for its state and territory branch offices, Immigration runs two servers each, providing file/print/directory servers and support for Microsoft SCCM. Each is connected to an EMC CLARiiON storage area network, with about 21 terabytes of storage; all replicated to Canberra for backup purposes, where there is about 196 terabytes of storage.
The Department is seeking service providers; in two separate contracts; to provide support for each side of its IT environment — the server environment and end user computing. Each contract is expected to be substantial, with the desktop contract under Unisys worth in the area of $25 million a year, and the server computing deal expected to be worth about the same.
As strange as this may sound, I loved reading Immigration’s tender documents this afternoon, because they provided a perfect example of the sorts of enterprise IT journeys which large Australian organisations are on right now.
Think about it: Like many organisations, Immigration is shifting off legacy communications platforms like Lotus Notes (another example would be Novell Groupwise) and onto Exchange. It’s upgrading its desktop to Windows 7 and the latest versions of Office and Microsoft’s other associated platforms such as Lync. It’s deploying Symantec Endpoint Protection for security. On the server, it’s keeping its mainframe infrastructure intact but not expanding it, while simultaneously virtualising everything with VMware and shifting off Solaris and onto Linux. It’s upgrading its Windows server software and deploying Systems Centre Configuration Manager.
Does any of this sound familiar? It should. Because this is basically what every Australian major organisation is doing right now with its technology platforms, if they haven’t already.
Immigration’s going for the bog standard rollout of 2012’s normal upgrades here, and I like what it’s doing. Government departments don’t want to be on the bleeding edge or testing anything too dangerously new in their IT environments. They should be outsourcing common tasks such as desktop and server support and deploying standardised platforms such as Microsoft Exchange. And that’s precisely what Immigration is doing.
Full marks to new Immigration chief information officer Tony Kwan. When it comes to these basics, it looks as though he’s maintaining his predecessor’s reputation for common sense and stability.