Far from a leap of faith, moving to a new cloud environment for its information systems (IS) has added a new lease on life for the IT department of the Seventh Day Adventist Church's South Pacific operations.
In 2006 the South Pacific division, which includes Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, decided to introduce major changes to its information systems (IS) infrastructure to better service 14 separate administrative entities within the organisation.
The plan was to link each of the groups via a wide area network (WAN) that would deliver hosted managed services and provide more efficient network management, security and backup.
According to Seventh Day Adventist IS manager, Luke Pannekoek, the operation was considerably aided through gaining real-world insight about a migration to the cloud from the health food manufacturing arm of the church, Sanitarium.
“I’m fairly comfortable with the infrastructure and focusing on internal systems,” he said. “The way the church works between different entities is unique.
“There is a lot of exchange of information and the way we manage our membership records rolling right down into how we manage events.”
According to Pannekoek, Sanitarium is significantly more advanced in cloud computing, having already migrated from IBM hosts to a blade set up with a “much fuller” replicated environment.
Pannekoek said the decision to move to the cloud, particularly for its Australian and New Zealand operations was the best way to consolidate its infrastructure down from about 15 physical servers.
“We now have 70 virtualised servers sitting on six servers sitting in the data centre so there has been some huge savings there,” he said.
“Just about everything has been moved and a few legacy things have been supported out of the main rack in our office which we’ve rolled across.”
The project involved installing an EMC storage area network (SAN) in the data centre along with six IBM hosts, some switches to connect it all together and smaller servers for management consoles and backups. The environment is fully virtualised using VMware ESX.
Pannekoek said he now wants to focus efforts on adding value to the church IT environment.
“We’re comfortable with what we’ve got out of virtualisation but now we’d like to increase our server power and storage space while focusing on more strategic projects.”
Since moving to a cloud environment Pannekoek said the guys on his team see IT in a completely different way.
“It’s added a new dimension for them.”
Despite the positive experience across Australia and New Zealand the cloud is yet to be rolled out to the Pacific Islands due to interminable internet problems most islands.
“ADSL connections in most of those countries is still flaky so we can’t afford to put too much reliance on those cloud computing links whereas for Australia, everything about their network is dependant on those links being up,” Pannekoek said.
He added that in most cases it is not viable for the church to host the Pacific Island core applications and leave them at the mercy of their links.
“Their downtime and performance isn’t quite there yet.”