Port Authority of New South Wales; where the waterfront meets the cloud

An island-nation, Australia’s trading success has always been intertwined with the efficiency of its ports. Now the Port Authority of New South Wales is upping the efficiency ante – planning a wholesale migration to cloud computing, kicking off with disaster recovery.

The strategy of the Authority is to move away from an “own everything” capital intensive and monolithic approach to information technology, to a “pay as you go” approach without compromising the quality of services. Quality should instead be enhanced thanks to the flexibility and scalability that cloud computing offers, allowing the Port Authority fresh levels of agility and responsiveness.

An initial and successful transition to an Azure based disaster recovery solution has paved the way for a planned migration of all production systems to the cloud within 18 months.

Based in Sydney, the Port Authority of NSW is a state-owned corporation responsible for commercial and recreational maritime operations at multiple locations on Australia’s east coast. It handles the navigation, operation, and security needs of commercial shipping, manages Sydney’s international cruise terminals, and responds to emergencies.

It has also experienced significant and rapid change, seeing some elements privatised and new ports brought under its control. Such was the pace of change that the Authority had just a two year window to take on all those new ports’ technology management. Following the integration, the organisation was handling around 200 servers and 80 TB of data.

The need to manage these information assets efficiently and respond rapidly to changing needs was a key factor in the development of a fresh technology strategy.

“The main driver was gaining more flexibility,” explains Ian Chilton, Senior Manager, Solutions Development and Services at Port Authority of New South Wales. “We’ve gone through a lot of changes, including a period of partial privatisation, and we’ve merged with other ports in New South Wales. So we were really looking for flexibility and scalability at this stage.”

George Tzikas, Senior IT Infrastructure Specialist at Port Authority of New South Wales adds; “Obviously we wanted to move to a cloud platform, and we don’t particularly want to own infrastructure.”

Traditionally the Authority ran two data centres – one for production and a second for disaster recovery, which was due for a refresh.

It made sense to start the cloud migration with disaster recovery. To ensure the project’s success the Authority embarked on a rigorous procurement process.

In combination with System Center Operations Manager, Operations Management Suite enables comprehensive oversight of the Port Authority’s hybrid cloud environment.  “Operations Management Suite gives us a greater level of visibility over our entire infrastructure in a user-friendly format.” The transition to Microsoft Azure is about moving from a model based on capital expenditure to a system based on operational expenditure. That’s what a lot of the industry is doing: moving from a ‘we own’ to a ‘we subscribe’ model.”- Ian Chilton, Senior Manager, Solutions Development and  Services, Port Authority of  New South Wales.

Microsoft also had a strong partnership with Cubesys which the Authority selected to work with it on the DR migration.

Leveraging Microsoft Operations Management Suite, Azure Site Recovery and Azure Backup services, the Authority’s on-premise production data centre connects to the cloud DR through Azure ExpressRoute to ensure rapid and secure replication and recovery. StorSimple with Veeam software backs up local file data.

Besides the peace of mind that DR, and hence business continuity is underpinned by state-of-the-art cloud computing infrastructure, the IT team now has much greater visibility of its entire infrastructure according to Chilton and a good deal more flexibility than was available previously.

Cubesys also helped the Authority set up a development and test environment on Azure and created a self-service portal for developers to manage Azure Virtual Machines. “It provides the developers and testers with a one-stop shop where they don’t have to deal with the complexity of setting up servers manually,” says Chilton. “And again, that comes back to the goal of bringing up services only when we need them and closing them down when we don’t so that we get a much better, cost-effective usage of resources.”

Further freeing the Authority’s IT team for more value-adding work, Cubesys now delivers the disaster recovery process as a managed service.

With a successful initial cloud deployment for DR, the Authority is looking to harness cloud in other areas, mindful of the need to support ongoing innovation efforts and a mobile workforce of marine pilots and other port personnel who need reliable, flexible access to information systems.

It is already using Azure Active Directory for single sign-on and to provide remote access to on-premise applications. It has also started to implement Microsoft Office 365 for cloud-based access to collaboration software and file storage.

Chilton reiterates the strategy; “The transition to Microsoft cloud services is about moving from a model based on capital expenditure to one based on operational expenditure.”

By moving to the cloud, the Port Authority of New South Wales can take on current and future challenges more easily. “We have a flexible platform now,” says Chilton. “If we had to upgrade some infrastructure to accommodate a new business requirement, we can do it without actually having to go buy, install, and integrate something. It makes provision of services to our customers a bit smoother.”