When the New Zealand Defence Force moved into its new building in Aitken Street in Wellington in March, the IT environment also got a makeover. The new Defence House, which has been designed to reduce energy consumption, houses five separate datacentres and around 900 personnel.
The Defence Force has gone from an IT environment with a mix of technologies, scattered over different floors, which was a nightmare to control and support, to a monitored infrastructure where remote staff can log in and bring up what is happening in a particular datacentre, says Richard Hitchcock, NZDF programme manager.
“IT support staff really enjoy working here now, because they have got some cool tools to make their job a lot easier,” says Hitchcock.
The old building in Stout Street, where the Defence Force had been since the 1930s, lacked scalability to accommodate growth or change, he says. There were huge amounts of old network infrastructure — in particular old telecommunications infrastructure — cabling and fibre, and there were no electrical or environmental standards, or building monitoring, says Hitchcock. IT services was scattered over different floors in the old building and it was a “huge mission” to support it, he says.
The organisation was divided into four different areas in the old premises — the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and headquarters — which all had their own, separate IT budgets, he says. It was a challenge to bring all that infrastructure into one common architecture for the new building, he says.
The new building holds five datacentres, which are independent of each other, purely because of the security requirements associated with the data that is processed, he says. Hitchcock can’t go into why different classifications are needed, but he says that the Defence Force needs to maintain a level of accreditation, to be able to operate with and interconnect with its allies. APC’s InfrastruXure datacentre solution helped the organisation ensure that accreditation, he says.
The datacentres can also be monitored remotely, using APC technology, which has freed up time for IT staff to focus on fixing user problems rather than worrying what is going on in the datacentre, says Hitchcock.
All computer rooms and telecommunication closets are monitored and information is reported in real time to operators, using a GUI-based reporting system, 24 hours a day, he says.
The self-monitoring system is quite intelligent in how it alerts staff to problems as they arrive, before they affect the end-user, says Hitchcock.
The main datacentre is “pretty much lights out”, he says. People only go in there to change tapes or fix something that is physically broken, he says.
The remote management system also controls heat, humidity and water in the building, and allows staff to see remotely if there are any issues, for example with power or battery issues, before it becomes a real problem, he says.
Having the system accessible online was critical to the move as the new datacentres had to be set up and running while the machines were migrated over. The old building was still working too, while staff migrated to the new building.
Another benefit of the new system is the reporting functionality, which allows Hitchcock and his team to find out exactly how much power individual servers use — you could drill down to power usage per rack in the datacentre if you wanted to, says Hitchcock.
But the biggest benefit for Hitchcock was that he could give APC his requirements, and APC’s engineers then came back with a solution that was working, within budget and within time, he says. For example, some of the datacentres have unique security requirements around power. To solve that problem, APC took an off-the-shelf product and added some components to build a new solution, he says.
The need to meet strict security requirements for the processing of classified material called for the installation of a combination for OM3 Fibre and Cat6 copper cabling plants, says Hitchcock. The design of the fibre network allows for quick deployment when and where it is needed, without the need to bring in outside contractors to redeploy it, he adds. In addition, the potential for up to fourteen different networks to be served at any desktop had to be factored into the technology future proofing.
When planning the move to the new building, the Defence Force was keen to create a modern, tech-savvy and cool working environment for its employees, says Hitchcock. The aim is to attract and retain the right people, he says.
There are lounge-like break out areas, where staff can watch television, grab some dinner, rest and socialise, he says.