Engineers prep infrastructure for Web services

With most of a technology infrastructure overhaul complete, Engineers Australia now has the server performance and scalability to deliver Web services to its 70,000 members.

David Pruss, CIO of Engineers Australia (known as the Institution of Engineers Australia until March this year), said the large upgrade was prompted by inadequacies in its IT operations as a whole.

“An evaluation was performed to ascertain the pros and cons of the infrastructure which revealed many inadequacies that were contributing to inefficiency, downtime, network failures, and system crashes,” Pruss said.

“Some steps had been taken to address the deficiencies; however, without full-time management band-aid measures were being used.”

Those “band-aid” measures included file and print servers, upgraded PCs still incapable of supporting current needs and a WAN implementation too small for inter-office traffic.

“A program of change was implemented, and this realised the phased replacement of some 140 PCs, 13 new servers from IBM and Dell and a new communications carrier to provide WAN and Internet access,” Pruss said.

“Engineers Australia now has IBM NetFinity servers in all divisions, and an X Series IBM in national office.”

It has two 64-bit servers – an HP Alpha server for the members database and a Sun server for Oracle financials.

According to Pruss, the overhaul was necessary to allow Engineers Australia “to be competitive and to effectively provide a service to our members”.

“We had to bridge the gap in technology and modify the methods of planning, delivery and management,” Pruss said.

“[It] was a challenge because of the geographical displacement of the divisions around the country. Costs were reduced by performing imaging of desktops in the national office and having servers built before shipment. This reduced implementation costs by as much as 40 per cent.”

Pruss said the project has cost “in the vicinity of $600,000” which includes both leasing and outright purchasing over a period of three years.

“Desktop upgrades unfortunately are the unwelcome side of the infrastructure as there is not as much capability for upgrading them cost effectively,” he said. “Upgrades are almost as expensive as replacement.”

The desktop issues have not ended, however, with Engineers Australia planning even more upgrades over the next 12 months.

“We operate a mixture of Windows XP Pro and Windows 98SE,” Pruss said. “With the planned upgrades, all desktops will be installed with Windows XP Pro and Microsoft Office will be upgraded to XP Pro.”

Pruss said the impetus for change was to ensure capacity for growth and scalability around the server environment at minimal costs. With this infrastructure in place, Engineers Australia will now develop Web services applications for its staff and members.

“We have embarked on Web delivery of services which provide secure online payments for membership, ability for registered members to amend their records online (defined areas of member details), and a members-only zone which offers exclusive benefits and resources,” he said. “Projects for implementation include events registration and portal access.”

Earlier this year market analyst IDC predicted that the move to Web services would result in more money being spent on hardware than software thus creating a $US4.3 billion hardware market by 2007.

“We have invested wisely to achieve the outcomes of planned change,” Pruss said, “and have benefited from a structured approach to change and aare realising them now.”

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