Taronga Zoo herds operations to NT

Taronga Zoo is reaching the end of a transition to Windows NT, which began in 1997.

The zoo originally moved to NT to simplify operations after managing a range of disparate systems became too complex.

Prior to rolling out NT "there was a small LAN in our HR area; the financial system was running SCO Unix, and various departments were connected . . . via serial connections over baud modems", said John Inkson, systems administrator, Taronga Zoo.

Another reason for the shift to NT was that Microsoft offered to sponsor the project, supplying NT and Windows 95 for Taronga's 150 clients, free.

In addition, Taronga had relevant skills in-house to support a Microsoft environment, Inkson said.

The final systems to move to the NT environment are Taronga's retail system -- Centaman from Touch Screen Systems -- which was transferred smoothly four weeks ago, and the admissions system -- also Centaman -- which is scheduled to move across in six weeks. Both retail and admissions systems have been running on DOS and Lantastic from Artisoft until now.

Taronga's network consists of a 300Mbit/sec fibre channel backbone with around 16 10BaseT hubs. As the number of e-mail users has increased, and people are sharing more files generally, the zoo plans to increase the network speed to 100Mbit/sec as funds allow, by updating hubs and network cards, Inkson said.

The zoo also has an in-house managed 64Kbit ISDN link to Western Plains Zoo, about 400km away in Dubbo, NSW.

It was originally chosen for cost reasons, Inkson said, and describes the ISDN link as very reliable. Eventually he would like to increase its speed to 256Kbit to handle growth in network traffic.

"Western Plains has a point-of-sale system like Taronga's," Inkson said. "For fail-over purposes the databases from that system are copied to Taronga every night [over ISDN]."

Also, five users in Western Plains connect to Taronga's SAP R/3 financials, running on an AS/400 over the ISDN.

Meanwhile, Taronga's IT staff manage Western Plains' 25 clients and its mail server.

Another project Taronga has just completed is an initiative to consolidate its seven servers into one room, and manage them from a single monitor. "Rather than a whole series of monitors, keyboards, and peripherals being spread over two or three rooms with people moving from one to the next, we can now operate everything through one monitor, one keyboard and one mouse," said Jason Barrett, systems support officer, Taronga Zoo.

"All the servers are integrated into the one dataswitch operation from which we can gain access to the entire network, saving energy costs and not having to deal with seven separate computers."

The dataswitch was supplied by TAB Australia at a cost of $3800, and Taronga also invested in a moduLAN technical furniture system from the same source, at a cost of $3972, in the move to house servers and peripherals in one room.

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