New Zealand Customs Service has completed the first stage of a project to automate non-production and production environments, enabling the team working on the Joint Border Management System to automate the current manual configuration process.
Future stages of the project will extend the capability to the JBMS Production (Primary and Disaster Recovery) environments as well as being used Customs-wide for consistent automation of all systems and environments, according to Murray Young, CIO, New Zealand Customs Service.
“In part, this will be achieved by enhancing and ensuring a mandatory governance and lifecycle model for environment management and standard operating procedures (which) will establish the required control and enforce compliance,” he says in a statement to Computerworld New Zealand.
When the JBMS was first being designed and developed in 2012, the non-production and production environments were built and maintained manually, as was usual for many large IT products.
As testing and delivery progressed and increased in complexity, so did the time and resources needed to manually build / configure and roll out each environment.
As a result it could take up to two weeks to create a new environment or refresh existing environments across 350 plus hosts and 14 environments. Subsequently this increased server costs because each server was managed as an individual entity.
Young says in his statement that the benefits of automation are "significant" and result in effiency gains and costs savings.
Automation allows a one-time fix that can be rolled out across multiple environments in a much shorter time frame.
“Introducing effective environment automation and configuration management capabilities will allow the JBMS non-production environments to be rebuilt to a consistent state, and for consistency to be maintained over time," he adds.
"Automating this process also enables for cost-effective management of Customs' virtualised server fleet by providing the ability to apply change across one or more environments (or classes of system) in a single operation, rather than on a server by server basis.
“Environments automation also positions Customs to leverage the GCIO all-of-government infrastructure as a service intiative in the future by enabling a much simpler way of 'standing up' environments on the GCIO's shared servers, thus minimising the costs of purchasing and maintaining our own hardware.”
A four-week proof of concept exercise was completed last August to prove the validity of the automation project with roll out / delivery time for a new or refreshed environment reduced from two weeks to four hours.
Young says that planning is under way to develop remaining aspects of the Environments Automation Project and to make it a part of Customs' IS business as usual - this is linked to the current schedule and commitments with the larger JBMS programme of work.