TVNZ looks to future with SAN

A storage area network implemented to handle TVNZ's business applications could ultimately support its highly specialised audiovisual requirements.

The state-owned New Zealand television company has installed a Hewlett-Packard SAN as part of a wider consolidation project.

TVNZ CIO Neil Andrew says the broadcaster wants to learn how to manage the SAN environment for business systems such as SAP, as he believes sound and video data will also eventually migrate to that type of environment.

Until now audiovisual and broadcast transmission hardware and software have been highly specialised, and been produced by their own vendors and suppliers. However, mainstream IT vendors such as Microsoft, IBM, Sun and HP are making inroads with the right mix of availability, robustness, capacity and pricing, says Neil.

TVNZ is gradually going digital. Last year it converted its news production from analogue to a Windows server-based editing system from UK-based Omnibus running on broadcast video servers by Qantel. The next steps are to digitise post-production editing and commercials.

On the operations side, meanwhile, TVNZ is in the happy position of getting rid of one of its server rooms following a consolidation project which trimmed 22 machines. Andrew says over time the number of TVNZ's servers had climbed to 120. The aim of the project was to reduce complexity and costs. Apart from the fact that servers now have more redundancy built-in so organisations don't need as many, consolidating storage to the SAN also helped reduce the number of boxes, he says.

The broadcaster also rationalised its networking environment, moving from a mix of Windows and Novell NetWare to Windows 2000 Server. It replaced Novell's Groupwise email system with Microsoft Exchange and Outlook and upgraded 1400 desktops to Windows 2000.

Andrew says the switch to Microsoft-only has been on the cards for three to four years and the planning was done with Novell's full cooperation.

"We had two lots of licensing to pay and two systems to support in terms of specialist skills. We just wanted to rationalise and transfer all that across to Microsoft products."

The project was timed to coincide with the expiry of leases for many of the servers.

Andrew says a pilot revealed that TVNZ didn't have enough people so the project was outsourced to Datacom and approached in phases.

"We thought we would try and get rid of some of the complexity within TVNZ but the pilot showed that we had to keep a lot of it."

It also showed that the change from Groupwise to Outlook required training. We forced people to come to training before they were migrated. It was fairly difficult but well over 80% of people attended training."

Andrew says the discipline of changing systems also forced TVNZ to "clean up" a lot of its IT processes and operational management.

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