Mindful of the necessity for a sound disaster recovery and business continuity plan, the Langeberg municipality has looked to Xepa Consulting to deliver an infrastructure solution based on HP servers and VMware software. The result is that come hell or high water, this is one municipality which is sure that IT issues will never compromise its ability to serve citizens.
That’s according to the municipality’s chief financial officer Conrad Hoffman. And, while hell isn’t a major issue, he says high water frequently is. “Being in a flood plain in the Breede River means the threat of flooding is always there; it has happened before and it will happen again,” he explains.
As a result, he says it was necessary to ensure that an appropriate IT configuration was in place. “There are constraints, however, in terms of costs. We were therefore very pleased when Xepa was able to grasp the challenge and also provide a solution which achieves disaster recovery capability without excessive costs.”
Garth Francis, Xepa MD, explains how it was able to create the solution: “The use of VMware virtualisation technology is really at the crux of the solution,” he says. “What we have done is to deploy two powerful HP servers in separate locations, which are linked with a high-speed fibre optic cable. The municipal applications are hosted on both systems in various virtual machines which are configured on each server; but both servers work in tandem to ensure balanced loads and optimal performance.”
IT manager Elrich Prins adds: “With the virtualisation software, we have a disaster recovery plan in place that ensures business continuity should anything – flood, fire – happen to one site. The software allows for the automatic switchover of all loads from one server to the other, which means there is no downtime on the applications.”
Hoffman says the applications which are essential for the operation of the local government office include financial, administrative, records management, email and other systems. Keeping these systems available, he notes, allows the municipality to get on with its work and therefore keep citizens happy. “IT plays an essential role in government service delivery. Its smooth running helps keep the community happy; they can buy their electricity, pay their accounts, and other essential activities can go on,” he comments.
Prins continues: “With the VMware virtual machines, the benefit is more than just the disaster recovery and business continuity aspects. We are also able to easily move loads to conduct maintenance or upgrades on each server as necessary; we simply bring one down and move the applications to the other and then repeat the process. The users of the applications don’t even know that a server is down,” he explains.
Additionally, the power of new HP hardware means faster response times and the ability to process large volumes of data far quicker, Prins notes: “These are beefy machines; that translates to the IT department being able to deliver a better service to the users.”
In a case of keeping all links of the chain happy, Prins says even his job is made easier through modern technology. “With these systems in place, the administrative load is reduced. There is no longer a need to run around to physical servers for maintenance and problem-solving, so it has had a major impact on the day to day activities of the IT staff. We are now freed up to focus on the more important things, with enough time to do thorough planning for strategic direction.”
Chris Norton, VMWare Regional Director says it is heartening to see the public sector adopting technologies that are not only fiscally the right choice but also technologically the right fit for their specific requirements. “Langeberg Municipality is realising the benefits of virtualisation as a fundamentally better computing architecture. It has taken a responsible step in future proofing the investments entrusted to it by the community, having laid the foundations for cloud computing. We’re proud to be associated with Langeberg Municipality as a customer and Xepa as a partner.”
Municipalities across the country can benefit from the lessons demonstrated at Langeberg, says Francis. “The solution has allowed this organisation to get rid of old, unreliable and cumbersome technology, compact its IT department and increase its focus on service delivery. At the same time, it has the necessary protection in place to ensure that records and applications are protected even in the event of a disaster. This supports the move by agencies of the state towards citizen-centric governance.”