Maritime Museum sets sail for cloudy skies

In-house systems on massive upgrade path
Maritime Museum's CIO, Karen Holt

Maritime Museum's CIO, Karen Holt

After appointing its first CIO in January, the Australian National Maritime Museum has successfully migrated its e-mail and groupware system to the cloud as it prepares for a complete IT overhaul.

The museum, located in Sydney, is administered by the federal Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts and underwent a strategic review two years ago to assess its IT and digital outreach capability.

The review resulted in Karen Holt's appointment as the museum’s head of IT services in January 2010 and a wider IT transformation project is in the pipeline for the next two years.

Holt presides over corporate IT, online services including Web and digital media, and records management.

“Until recently the IT team was comprised on one or two business contractors who supported the museum servers, cabling and desktops,” Holt says. “We will only have a small technical team so it’s important to have an infrastructure they can manage.”

Holt began looking at a mix of hosting, cloud and on-premise infrastructure to best support the limited in-house skill set. The museum has been “fairly well served” for most of the past decade by Novell GroupWise on Windows, but issues around disc space, feature limitations, lack of smartphone support and an unintuitive interface forced it to look at alternatives.

“With GroupWise everything is a third-party add-on — for example, to enable unified communications — which adds layers of complexity and licensing,” Holt says.“Quest had tools for migrating from GroupWise to Exchange and I thought about a cloud offering which might offer higher availability and work the same from everywhere. It would also provide tools to collaborate.” Holt presented the idea to the executive group in mid-February and commenced the migration at the beginning of April. By the end of April everybody at the musuem was using Outlook in the cloud.

“It was probably four weeks planning and three weeks to migrate and upgrade,” she says. “We have then ‘backfilled’ people’s mailboxes through May and June.” The museum experienced “minimal” loss of productivity during the migration and the 25GB mailbox space and IM service has been well received by Gen-Y and executive staff alike. Holt has been an IT professional for 17 years, mostly in the education sector and says “given how most IT projects can go” the transition was relatively smooth.

In keeping with government regulations, the museum tendered for at least three quotes for the projects and looked at exchange hosting, Telstra’s T-Suite “which had more apps” and Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS) offering. Microsoft’s BPOS won the deal and now executives are using Windows mobile phones to access e-mail on the road. Holt says the project has changed her view of cloud and, with a CRM project due at end of the year, she will look at cloud offerings.

Next on the agenda is a move to IP telephony and integrate voice with Outlook for a true unified messaging environment with click-to-call. A new PABX may need to be installed on site, but over next two years the vision is to have all voice and messaging converged and in the cloud. The museum currently uses a hosted analogue telephony service from Telstra with voicemail running on an NT4 system.

With a successful cloud project behind it, the museum will continue to modernise its internal IT systems.

The museum’s inhouse IT vision

With a successful cloud project behind it, the museum will continue to modernise its internal IT systems across its two sites in Sydney and local hosting providers.

For a “not large, but important” organisation the museum has quite a complex infrastructure including venue management software, ticketing software, education programs and digital outreach, specialist software to manage its collection, conservation software for the museum’s environment and software for library, fleet and building management.

There is also a hosted Web site and social media activities. With 128 staff and number of part time people and volunteers the museum is closed for only one day every year.

The corporate LAN consists of Novell directory services and Windows 2000 servers to run the mainly Windows applications. This will be migrated to Windows Server 2008 and Active Directory to save on licensing costs and simplify management overhead.

It will also move from VMware put in 12 months ago for backups and DR to Microsoft Hyper-V.

A comprehensive EDRMS implementation is also in planning.

“We will be virtualising and clustering across two buildings for live migration and DR, including offsite to a data centre,” Holt says.

Everything from switching, servers and wireless will be modernised and the network will be extended to the museum’s working ships using satellite and 3G.

“We are trying to achieve a high level of ICT maturity over the next 18 months,” holt says. “We want to be able to say yes to all the innovation people come up with.”

Along with the new infrastructure will come a SharePoint portal, which would also be migrated to the cloud once all the necessary integration components are finalised.

“We will do it on premise and integrate business apps, then make decision to migrate to the cloud,” Holt says.