The Fabric of IT in Lapland…

 Author(s): , Posted on December 12th, 2014

I’ve just visited Lapland again for my annual discussion with Elf Tietokone, the CIO of SantaSystems, which, as readers will recall, is the IT division of SantaPrise. Elf had called me to make sure I would be paying my usual pre-Christmas visit. He said there had been some exciting developments he wanted to tell me about. So, full of anticipation, I set off.

Although it is of course a time of great activity in SantaPrise, Elf had set aside an afternoon for discussion and had brought in some of his group managers. He was keen that I should get a complete picture of what has been happening. He believes SantaSystems is a good example of industry best practice, from which others could learn.

We began by looking at progress on two of last year’s initiatives: application development and automation.

He reminded me that Eclipse and ABSuite had been introduced to enhance development productivity. Initial results had been very encouraging. However, he stressed that continuing, incremental improvement is necessary; introducing the tools is just the start of the process. SantaSystems has therefore developed an extensive training programme, not just for new recruits but for existing staff as well.

Training is not confined to classroom courses. Developers have been encouraged to work together through a series of workshops and seminars. Ideas are discussed and recommendations made for improvement. The results have been excellent. The training group director is now interested in how he can exploit social media as a collaborative tool within SantaPrise as a whole. His goal is to optimise the relationship between the business and IT. Elf is convinced and will be setting up a meeting with Unisys to discuss the next steps.

Automation, especially for DR, is another activity which requires continued enhancement – it can always be better. Elf introduced the operations director, who explained that DR is now regularly practised, with production moved between locations. In effect, there are not live and DR sites, but any location can be live. And DR tests can be triggered without warning, to ensure that any technical and process weaknesses are ironed out before a real disaster strikes.

Elf then introduced the chief security officer. In common with many other organisations, SantaPrise is very concerned about cybersecurity. The CSO said that SantaPrise has been exposed to a lot of attacks, although none has been successful. He said that the attacks were not just children trying to find out what presents they would be getting but are really sophisticated. The source is mainly trolls beyond the borders, lurking in centres located under bridges in the forest.

To increase security in Windows and Linux environments, Elf said that Forward! by UnisysTM systems had been introduced during the year for a variety of applications. He said that the fabric architecture and the security features, including s-Par® and Unisys StealthTM, have not only tightened-up security but enhanced performance as well.

Elf went on to say that he had been very interested in the ClearPath fabric-based systems, announced during the year. As a result, he had ordered a Dorado and a Libra system. His goal is to move the OS 2200 and MCP applications into the fabric, along with other closely collaborating applications and the SSB – readers may recall that the SSB (SantaPrise Service Bus) is part of the SantaPrise Architecture.  Elf and the CSO believe that the use of the fabric-based systems, together with Stealth, will enhance already-tight security.

The CSO added that he had reviewed the overall security position within SantaPrise. As a result, he introduced a number of measures to protect against internal threats. Restrictions had been placed on devices brought into the organisation and strict controls imposed on some of them. No corporate data may be loaded onto laptops or other portable devices, for instance.

On the subject of data analysis and route planning, Elf said they had made considerable progress, experimenting with a number of tools, and had some discussions with CERN on how to handle enormous data volumes. And simulations and tests for optimum routes are looking good, so Santa’s journey on Christmas Eve should be more comfortable this year. But, like DR and application development, improvements are always possible. The streaming telemetry from the reindeers’ red noses is one example of a technology still at the experimental stage.

That’s it for 2014!

Hyvää Joulua ja Onnelista Uutta Vuotta from Santa, Elf Tietokone and all at SantaPrise!

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