Case Studies

Sun International

by Think iT

After taking a strategic decision to more closely align its IT environment with the Microsoft ecosystem, South African gaming and entertainment resorts giant Sun International, embarked on a site by site migration across from its legacy Novell server environment to a Windows Server 2003 server environment.

While the majority of the Novell to Microsoft migration tasks were standard in nature and such could comfortably be carried out the by company’s internal IT department, the company’s reliance on CA’s ARCserve range of backup and recovery solutions proved to be somewhat more of a challenge.

“The move from Novell to Microsoft on the backup and recovery front entailed a move from ARCserve9 for Netware to ARCserve 11.5 for Windows,” explains Dave Norman, IT Services Manager at Sun International.

“And even though this sounds like a simple enough transition, ARCserve is an extremely powerful and complex backup and recovery solution, with substantial differences in interface and functionality, depending on the host operating system.

“As such, we felt this part of the project would be better handled by an outsourced expert in this field, with the requisite qualifications and skills,” he adds.

Moving forward almost immediately, Norman says that Sun International in July 2005 began compiling a shortlist of experts and went out to tender to find the right IT partner for the job.

Deciding on a partner

“Out of a field of weighty other bidders, Think iT Solutions won the deal based on its sound understanding of our current and future IT plans; its long track record of partnership with Sun International; its impressive skills base in the ARCserve space and last but not least; its competitive costing structure,” Norman says.

Added to that, he says, Think iT also illustrated a clear understanding of the fact that this wouldn’t be a simple ‘rip and replace’ project.

More than a ‘rip and replace’

“The deal required a detailed analysis of each site’s preparedness for the switchover; an analysis of the data volumes that required backing up; the physical installation of the new software; the configuration of the initial backup tasks and a handover to the site’s IT staff, complete with training sessions and documentation that would ensure the site could run itself in perpetuity thereafter,” Norman explains.

Norman says the last and probably most important element of the transition was the ability to have a partner such as Think iT and its 24-hour service desk environment in place so that each site’s IT resources had access to telephonic and on-site support should the need arise.

“The service level agreement brokered with Think iT saw it guaranteeing a one hour turnaround time from the time a call was logged to assigning an engineer to the incident and having that engineer actively engaged in solving the issue,” he says.

This would in turn be linked to an ongoing proactive support and reporting function, which would see Think iT performing regular remote monitoring on each site within Sun International’s portfolio of properties, ensuring that best practices were being adhered to, and in a nutshell that backups were being performed successfully according to the prescribed schedule.

“Everything considered, selecting Think iT as the preferred partner for this project was a low risk decision for us,” Norman says.

Keeping the wheels turning

Norman says the project started on the 18th of October 2005 and was designed to pick up where Sun International’s internal IT team left off when completing the rollover of sites from Novell to Microsoft.

“The initial target was for us to complete the rollover within a 12 month period,” explains Rohil Dayaram, pre-sales technical advisor for Think iT, “but since we were limited by the progress of Sun International in its switchover to an end-to-end Microsoft environment, the project took six months longer than anticipated.

“Using the extra time freed up by this scenario however, we endeavoured to keep all of the sites we had previously concluded our work at, current with the latest versions of ARCserve,” Dayaram says, “and an accurate tally of what ARCserve licenses are being used on file, so the renewal/audit process is kept simple and efficient.”

“This means that throughout the project, Sun International sites we had worked on were constantly being upgraded to the latest versions of software and benefiting from the additional features that technology brought to the table,” he adds.

What started out as a simple migration of Sun International’s IT environment from version 9 of ARCserve for Novell to version 11.5 of ARCserve for Windows, ended a year and a half later as a project that saw all 25 sites in the company’s network upgraded to and fully supported on version 12.5 of ARCserve for Windows.

“We’re extremely proud of the progress made within the time frame,” Dayaram says.

Worthwhile results

Dayaram says it took Think iT 18 months to complete the switchover of Sun International’s 25 sites to the latest version of ARCserve for Windows, bed down each of those environments and work closely with Sun International’s on-site teams to ensure that backups were being performed in the correct manner, within the correct timeframes and with a high enough success level that the company was able to stay well within the bounds of both its own corporate governance requirements and those of the South African Gaming Board.

“On average, it took us a week to perform a migration and skills transfer process at each of Sun International’s smaller sites, and roughly double the amount of time for the same tasks to be completed at each of the company’s far larger ‘tier one’ sites.

“Compared to industry benchmarks, that’s extremely efficient,” Dayaram adds.

Dayaram says that the relationship between the two companies has also gone from strength to strength.

“We’ve managed to substantially improve the integrity of the data being backed up at each site and evolve a simple remote monitoring and health reporting role into one that sees us consulting with Sun International on a monthly basis on how the process of backing up its most critical business information can be further refined,” he adds.

This, he says, has been done through Think iT compiling an analysis of each issue revealed by its regular health checks and the reasons for calls logged to its service desk.

“By analyzing issues being revealed by our reporting, we’ve been able to identify areas where additional training, reconfiguration or general maintenance tasks need to be performed,” Dayaram says.

Dayaram says that Think iT has also been given the opportunity to be a cost saver to Sun International, by working closely with CA to find the most cost effective licensing mechanism for Sun International, further proving our value to the customer.

“This entailed us consolidating the existing licensing and coming up with a standardized mechanism for the way Sun International licenses and manages its ARCserve environment,” Dayaram says.

“With the new environment in place, Sun International has perfect clarity with regards to the software each site is using and instead of having to renew licenses as and when they lapse, through a consolidation exercise undertaken by ourselves, can renew its entire ARCserve Suite in one transaction that aligns with Sun International’s year end.

“This,” he says, “has proven to be a substantial benefit both from a budgeting and a overall IT management perspective.”

Satisfied customer

“Overall, the full gambit of work performed by Think iT has been exemplary and well beyond our expectations,” says Norman.

“We are convinced that even though any of the other companies on the tender list would have performed the work required satisfactorily, they wouldn’t have provided the kind of value-adds Think iT has over the past couple of years.

“We are well on the way towards building a strategic relationship with Think iT and are convinced this will prove to be even more valuable in the years to come,” he concludes.