Enterprise development

The Ministry of Social Development is one of the newest governmental departments in the island Kingdom of Bahrain.

Tags: Novell Incorporation
  • E-Mail
Enterprise development
By  Ben Furfie Published  October 11, 2010

The Ministry of Social Development is one of the newest governmental departments in the island Kingdom of Bahrain. Yet despite its young age, it has already signalled its intent to be at the forefront of the country’s IT infrastructure, after signing a deal with Novell for enterprise IT services.

In these days of austerity, governments around the world are looking for ways to cut costs without compromising services. The Kingdom of Bahrain is recognised as perhaps one of the most progressive in the region when it comes to IT policy, something that is reflected in its 2030 policy master plan.

A major part of the technology strategy contained within that policy document is the urge to shift – where possible – IT infrastructure towards open source software. One of the first departments to achieve this strategic goal is the Bahraini Ministry of Social Development.

The major problem the Ministry had was finding a way of avoiding spiralling maintenance costs due to the complexity of the IT infrastructure that was previously in place. In particular, the Ministry chose to tackle many of the problems that eat up the time of IT managers and their support staff, both in the public and private sectors, such as user administration and asset management.

The solutions the Ministry chose were Novell’s Identity Manager and SecureLogin, and ZENworks Configuration Management and eDirectory. “We compared a number of competing technologies across the market, and found that Novell’s Open Enterprise solution was superior in terms of stability, security and overall performance,” explains Rashid AlMadani IT director at the Ministry of Social Development. “Aside from being a best-of-breed solution, Novell has also helped us – as a Ministry – to achieve value-added benefits through significant cost savings and improving our ability to fast-track various tasks.”

Amongst the benefits that Novell touts over its rivals are the ability to simplify IT infrastructure without necessarily having to purchase new and expensive proprietary servers or other hardware. Other areas that the company says allow it to offer better business comptability for CIOs is in its approach to file management, which it says can help CIOs to reduce the time they or their IT team has to spend back up and ensuring there is minimal file duplication.

However, the part of the suite that AlMadani feels has had the biggest impact on the Ministry’s IT requirements – both in terms of time spent maintaining and serving users – is the software’s ability to manage the network from a single location, as well as provide automated help desk support.

Many of those tasks, AlMadani says took up a lot of man hours, yet were minor and often repetitive, such as password recovery and licence management.

“Using the change management and desktop management feature in Zenworks suite, we managed to reduce the desktop technician man hours by a great extent by using the features like automated software distribution, remote management and complete desktop lifecycle management.”

One area where there has been a huge impact in terms of the time it use to take prior to the implementation the installing of new workstations at the Ministry. “With the imaging features of desktop management, it takes less than ten minutes to set up a new workstation, compared with hours previously,” he reveals.

“Using Identity Manager and Password Self-Service, we managed to reduce by 80% the number of help desk requests related to password reset issues, as it automates password synchronisation, as well as simplified methods to change the password.

“Moreover, its solutions, particularly the ZENworks Configuration Management, have helped us to reduce our IT support workload by at least 60%, giving greater flexibility for our IT staff to focus more on testing and adopting new technologies and improving performance.”

As less time is taken up handling those tasks, AlMadini found that his workforce has more time to focus on areas that he feels the IT team should be able to, such as forward planning.

“As the day-to-day workload was reduced, the IT department was able to concentrate on more important aspects of IT like uptime, high availability of services, and upgrading to the latest technology, with less manpower,” he adds.

Aside from the cost savings from being open source, Novell’s solution also had a number of other financial benefits for the Ministry, in particular, its low hardware requirements compared to other solutions.

“Previously, the Ministry was using Microsoft-based systems, which we shared with another Ministry. However, the new solution only took three physical servers to implement the solution, which are capable of serving the users who are scattered across 28 locations. Any other technology would have required at least double the resources, which would have increased the overhead of hardware and the time spent on server maintenance.”

However, as with many projects that are the first of their kind in the region, the biggest problem that CIOs run into is the lack of regional support and expertise – whether at vendor level, or as part of a community of users. “Lack of Novell expertise in Bahrain was a major challenge during the implementation stage,” reveals Al Madani. “This in turn led to bringing a Novell consultant onboard for the implementation.” Acutely aware of the false economy of having an expensive consultant working as part of the IT team full time, the Ministry looked to outside talent to overcome the cost. “Later on in the project, we brought in a Novell expert to the IT department, which allowed us to cut the cost of the consultant while retaining the specialist knowledge required,” reveals AlMadini.

However, despite brinining in someone from the outside, the lack of a local partner or vendor who specialised in Novell solutions caused problems when it came to things like licensing. “Lack of a local vendor for licence renewal was another major challenge we faced,” he adds. “In the end, Novell considered it as a special case and allowed the Ministry to order the renewal directly.”

Despite those challenges, AlMadani feels that the Kingdom’s goal of using open source software is the right policy for all of the Ministries from a technological and business policy point of view. “Reduced cost of licences, the ability to customise the solution to meet the business requirements at a cheaper cost and the stability of the products,” he reveals. “In addition, it is in line with the Kingdom’s vision for 2030.”

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code