Consulates to get integrated

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is replacing its multiple systems overseas with an integrated consular IT system.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is replacing its multiple systems overseas with an integrated consular IT system.

The new system will allow New Zealanders travelling overseas to register online with embassies and consulates.

The ministry, which is seeking expressions of interest from vendors, says the new system will replace what MFAT IT director Elizabeth Beaufort describes as “a variety of Word, spreadsheet and small databases”.

Other requirements include capability for case management, travel advisory, contingency planning and crisis management.

A fully integrated, packaged product operating in a Microsoft environment is the preference, according to tender documents.

The ministry is also seeking an integrator for an EMC storage area network scheduled to go live in September.

The SAN will replace direct-attached storage and SCSI-based systems. While a SAN was preferred over network-attached storage, tender documents state “the ministry is still open to a combined NAS-SAN solution which may be available as an alternative by the time the solution is implemented”.

Fibre channel, the conventional technology for SANs, will power the ministry’s storage network, but tender documents give a small nod in the direction of iSCSI, the emerging standard which has the potential to reduce SAN costs and make SANs available to smaller organisations.

“We are aware that considerable work has been going on around using SCSI over IP, but believe this architecture still has considerable overheads.”

The ministry is also buying new human resources and financials systems, with providers to be selected.

The new financials system will run on Windows 2000, replacing the present Unix-based system and taking advantage of the ministry-wide rollout of Windows 2000 in 2002.

The Windows rollout was part of an extensive IT update at the ministry which laid the foundations for the new projects and which will enable ministry staff to access the internet from their desks for the first time.

The ministry’s LANs are classified by the government for security purposes and thus desktop browsing requires far more stringent security than in organisations handling non-classified material, Beaufort says.

“We are investigating options to provide such functionality while meeting the considerable security issues,” she said in a statement.

Among the costs in the 2001-02 systems upgrade was $130,000 for ongoing quality assurance covering all 50 MFAT sites in New Zealand and overseas.

“This is not only good practice in managing a project but is a requirement under the government’s monitoring procedures for large IT projects,” Beaufort says.

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