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IT on song at Opera Australia

The not-for-profit music organisation deploys Microsoft Terminal Server
An artist's impression of Carmen staged in the Sydney Harbour by Opera Australia.

An artist's impression of Carmen staged in the Sydney Harbour by Opera Australia.

Remote desktop client technology will ensure that Opera Australia staff can work anywhere on the floating stage during the classic Georges Bizet opera Carmen on Sydney Harbour on March 22.

Speaking at a Kaspersky media briefing in Sydney, Opera Australia IT manager Grant Cresswell said that a small IT environment has been built on the harbour stage. It contains Microsoft Terminal Server, which will enable staff to connect multiple devices with a serial interface to a local area network (LAN).

“The terminal server is a cheaper option for us and we’ll probably have 35 devices, including desktops and laptops, on site,” he said. “Some of those devices will be used to control lighting.”

Controlling IT costs is important for Opera Australia as the organisation “runs on the smell of an oily rag," said Cresswell.

Forty per cent of Opera Australia’s funding comes from the federal and NSW governments. The remaining 60 per cent must be raised by the organisation through ticket sales and season subscriptions.

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Because of these funding restrictions, staff are encouraged to provide their own mobile device. About 65 mobile devices will be used at the Carmen site running on Telstra’s 4G network.

However, plans have been put in place to avoid the 4G issues that Opera Australia staff ran into during 2012 at the staging of Opera in the Domain.

“Telstra have both a 3G and 4G network so if you put a device on the boundary of those networks you can see them toggle between the networks,” Cresswell said.

“We had this process of trying to understand why we had brilliant speed and three minutes later we would be crippled because we were suddenly competing with every other 3G device in that group of cells.”

However, IT staff learnt how to fence the 4G devices into what he referred to as a “4G zone.”

For Carmen, more 4G devices will be deployed and plugged into a firewall which Cresswell said will allow staff to control the devices better.

Arts and security

Much like the hapless solider Don Jose who is seduced by Carmen in the opera of the same name, Opera Australia’s network is locked in the virtual gaze of hackers who are keen to take down its defences.

“Nearly every single day I notice on our firewall that we get hammered so a lot of people are trying to find out what financial data we have got,” Cresswell said.

“For us, the family jewels are probably not quite so significant. A lot of people wouldn’t want to hack into an arts company to get the words to a song or an aria.”

Adding to the security headache is the organisation’s mobile workforce which expects access to information while they’re working at the Sydney Opera House or in other parts of Australia 24/7.

“There is always a trade-off that exists between functionality, portability, security and the family jewels,” he said.

According to Cresswell, it provides network accessibility to all people who do work with the organisation. However, they must tell Opera Australia who they are and provide their mobile phone number.

“We get a roadmap of who is coming into our organisation and using our facilities,” he said.

“Without some of that [roadmap] knowledge its damn near impossible to manage devices. Of the 120 devices we see regularly within our organisation, we own about 20 of these devices.”

Because Opera Australia owns so few devices, it is made clear to staff that if the device contains business information and gets lost, it will be wiped.

“We suggest to them that they do a backup to another device and acknowledge that the Opera Australia information is important to us.”

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

More about: 24/7, Australia IT, Kaspersky, LAN, Microsoft, Telstra
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Tags: Opera Australia, 3G & 4G, Carmen, security, kaspersky, Grant Cresswell, Sydney Opera House, 4G mobile
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