Risk manager saves $1m with Win Server 2003

Industrial risk management firm Det Norske Veritas (DNV) Australia has reduced the total cost of managing its IT infastructure by $1 million a year by moving from a Windows NT 4.0 environment to the Windows Server 2003 platform.

A nine-month rollout of a Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition platform at the Oslo-based multinational's 300 sites was worth the wait, DNV Australia's IT manager, Darren Warner, told Computerworld.

By its nature, the knowledge-intensive consultancy had outgrown its legacy environment, running Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 Workstation on its desktop and notebook computers and Windows NT 4.0 Server since 1997 after moving from a mixed operating environment including Novell NetWare.

With increasing business growth and data volumes, and the need for more efficient data and image transfers between field locations and the office over the years, the company needed a new server platform.

"Existing remote access solutions were inadequate. We needed a more centralised management architecture, a strong remote networking capability and support for hardware devices such as digital cameras and mobile phones," company officials said.

DNV considered what seemed a logical choice at the time to migrate to a Windows Server 2000 platform, but expecting improved features and functionality in the Windows Server 2003 release, the company migrated its infrastructure in September last year to the new release, Warner said. Simultaneously, DNV also began standardising its desktop environment by implementing Windows XP Professional and user application suite Office XP Professional.

Security was a key consideration in DNV's decision to adopt Windows Server 2003. Warner said the new release was "highly relevant" to the company in that it wanted to tighten the security of its Web server applications. "Nobody wants their Web site code cracked - we have a reputation to protect," he said.

The winning factor for Warner has been Windows Server 2003's overall reliability. "We haven't had any downtime in six months," he said. "Ultimately, we'll be able to consolidate servers, reduce administration and have much better reliability."

Also impressive, he said, was the product's enhanced Active Directory (AD) and remote access features. "With around 200 desktops in Australia and the need to monitor and correct desktop applications remotely from our Sydney [head office] - with only two people in IT - we needed good remote installation services."

DNV has benefited from the move to Windows Server 2003 in so far as "better management of servers, remote administration and the ability to create a standard operating environment," Warner added.

In particular, Microsoft's Active Directory infrastructure was superior to [DNV's] previous platform. "It is saving us a huge amount of time when it comes to managing software rollouts for specific user groups," Warner said. "The system allows us to see which users have rights to install new applications - an invaluable aid to managing licensing requirements."

"Previously, we used Microsoft SMS (Systems Management Server), which was a reasonable tool, but when it comes to remote management, AD is more efficient and does the job better than SMS, and it can be used even over the slowest server. That would be an expected feature of Windows Server 2003."

Moving from an NT 4.0 environment to the Windows Server 2003 platform has also helped the company reduce its number of servers by 30 per cent, which in turn has cut down hardware and associated management costs. DNV is able to consolidate its servers by putting file, print and application servers into one box. Server consolidation has helped the company lower its hardware and software licensing time by a third, Warner said.

Overall, DNV's IT department can now manage its infrastructure more efficiently, which also means saving staff more time through continuous uptime and letting IT get on with the job, according to Warner. "The level of user satisfaction has increased and that's a plus for IT," he said.

The migration required a multimillion dollar investment by DNV worldwide. The company came in on time and under budget with its total project costs (covering hardware, software, licensing, implementation and training) and the move to Windows Server 2003 caused only minimum disruption to the business, Warner said.

In phase two of the project later this year, the company will set up its intranet on Microsoft's IIS 6.0 (Internet Information Server) and use Microsoft Certificate Services and RSA SecurIDs to authenticate users accessing vital services from the Internet. DNV will also install Exchange 2003 Server in August.

The company expects to see a full payback globally on its investment in Windows Server 2003 within a year of going live (September). "At this point we think the project has been a success. We're definitely seeing some real returns six months into it," Warner said.

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