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Case study: How NIWA survived a supercomputer hack with its disaster response and recovery

Sathya Mithra Ashok | July 17, 2014
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research's GM of IT, Arian De Wit, talks about the organisation's disaster response and recovery plan and 'evolutionary culture'.

"We are focused on mainstreaming and automating as much as we can as well so we can free up those IT staff to do more value added things rather than looking after nuts and bolts," says De Wit.

NIWA has also moved to a mostly Microsoft-shop over time as part of its standardisation efforts.

"We are a largely mainstream MS shop now. Mostly Windows servers virtualised on VMware. We do have also a number of Linux servers for various apps. On the desktop end we have mostly Windows seven desktops. We have a small number of Macs for specialist needs and small number of Linux desktops.

"Some of our IT management tools are not Microsoft based at the moment. The video conferencing infrastructure at the moment is Cisco and Tandberg, but we have put out Microsoft Lync to every desktop so that is where we are headed in the future," says De Wit.

The move to Microsoft happened over time, and in phases.

"It was gradual in one sense and big bang in another sense. If we go back to 2010, we had a stage where we were looking at various different tools for various purposes over the previous years. And I got sick of vendors telling me that they don't integrate with this, but they do integrate with Exchange or Windows servers or Active Directory. And I thought this is not leading us to make the choices we want to make in applications.

"My ideology is to standardise at the centre and encourage diversity at the edges. For that we needed a base layer that enabled options at the outside. In doing that exercise we looked at some other options too. We looked at the likes of Google and Apple, but their enterprise stuff was not fully cooked at that point. Microsoft was the bed to make," says De Wit.

The firm moved to Exchange, Windows servers and Active Directory in one big project, which was followed later by the Lync 2013 deployment.

"The step that we are on right now is putting SharePoint for information and records management, as well as our intranet. Then we will look at if it makes sense to replace our IT systems management tool set with Systems Centre, which we are licensed for under enterprise contract. We are kind of paying for it. I just need to make sure that it stacks up against the three different tools that it would replace. That is kind of the journey we are on," says De Wit.

The move to Microsoft was minimally disruptive, he says. "It was a long piece of work and there were lots of I's to dot and Ts to cross. The promise of all the Microsoft things working together is a really nice promise. It is a fair bit of work to deliver on it. I think we did the transition smoothly, which is a credit to the whole team."


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