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Internal IT systems – best practices revealed 1

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Steve Cannard

GCOMM built a reputation by providing exceptional service to Australian businesses. The company has been awarded for its innovation and integrity, and continually improves both its services and infrastructure. GCOMM’s IT Manager, Jay Lehnert, gave us an overview of the latest internal business infrastructure upgrade that will support the company’s dedication to providing superior service to customers and partners.

What makes a business IT infrastructure exceptional?

Depending on the business, requirements can vary, but internal infrastructure should be reliable, flexible, scalable, and secure.  GCOMM recently upgraded and transformed its internal infrastructure and it was a huge undertaking. All the components of the existing infrastructure were reviewed and improved.

We had several goals we wished to achieve, and we did. One of the primary goals has always been reliability, which we approached through high availability. Flexibility and scalability had to be inherent in the system and, of course, it had to be cost-effective as well!

Security – We enhanced our security and gained greater flexibility through the use of additional DMZs and by consolidating multiple firewalls into a single high availability environment. This way we could have complete separation between systems that are accessible on the internet and systems that contain sensitive company data whilst at the same time giving us greater flexibility to internally manage each system. In the unlikely event that a system is compromised from the Internet, then any damage is contained to that individual system.

When it comes to security, the choice of Fortinet firewall gave us excellent flexibility with virtual domains and effectively unlimited interfaces for use in numerous DMZs and virtual firewalls.

High Availability – This was essentially achieved by making everything redundant, and I mean everything:  power, switching, storage-SAN and servers. The system would still be operational even if we lost one of every physical component.

Flexibility and scalability – With the use of VMware the flexibility and scalability went far beyond what we had envisioned for this particular environment. With the use trunks and VLANs we have the ability to completely isolate the virtual machines into their own networks allowing us to maintain the high level of security we have employed on the system.

Independent development platforms – Development platforms enable GCOMM’s team to simulate a production environment before inflicting any changes on clients. The systems are able to run completely independently of the production environment, enabling us to uphold our industry standard SLAs.

Enterprise-grade hardware and software – When it came to vendors, we wanted nothing but the very best, so we chose HP, Cisco and VMware, plus, as mentioned earlier, Fortinet firewalls for security.

How was GCOMM managing its internal environment previously?

Previous to this update GCOMM was plagued with the common problem of server-sprawl and the inability to perform maintenance without significant outages to systems. Systems were aging and individual upg


rades were costly and time-consuming.

We lacked any significant development platform, so trialling new systems and upgrades before going to production was very slow, time-consuming and unnecessarily complex.

Although we had good security previously, we didn’t have any centralised management and reporting functionality and access to systems for maintenance was often clumsy and lacked standardisation.

I might add that these are the problems many companies face and after helping so many clients solve their issues, it’s good to finally have a solution that allows us to do much more with far less.

How would you sum up the benefits of the new infrastructure?

GCOMM now has scalability, reliability, security, flexibility and long-term cost benefits. We created a platform we can build on, no matter how we scale. As shown on the picture, it is very compact – but there are over 20 servers in there with capacity for many more and scope to upgrade if we want.

We have retired over 40 Rack Units of physical servers and will be using only 15% of the power we did previously. It is superior in every way compared to previous use.

Would you recommend this architecture to your customers and why?

Absolutely – If I could, I would recommend nothing less!

♦ End

About Steve Cannard

Steve Cannard
Steve joined GCOMM in 1999 to run Sales & Account Management, taking on the role of IT & Consulting Manager in 2008. Steve has been deeply involved in shaping the tools and strategy that position GCOMM’s future growth, with a focus on maintaining relationships with clients to provide the best advice and service. He is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys surfing, fishing and fitness.