Think iT completes R40m IT migration for BAE Systems


Local systems integrator and IT implementation specialist, Think iT Solutions has completed a R40 million technology upgrade for global defence, security and aerospace company BAE Systems’ South African operations.

The project covered every aspect of BAE Systems’ infrastructure in South Africa and as such spanned the company’s three local business units, each with separate focus areas, competencies and premises.

“It’s a complete upgrade,” says Louis Botha, Think iT chief technology officer, “entailing the replacement and setting-up of BAE Systems’ LAN, WAN, data centre, software stack, client computing and disaster recovery infrastructure across its three South African business units.”

This substantial upgrade had to take place in order for BAE Systems’ business units across the globe to share information, intellectual capital, operational best practices and for the company to operate more efficiently.

With this urgency in mind, the project took just over 18 months to complete – 12 months of physical implementation time and six months for the scoping, planning, equipment sourcing and procurement exercises to take place.

“Because of the urgent need for BAE Systems’ South African business units to integrate with our USA-based headquarters and other subsidiaries around the world, we wanted a technology implementation partner that not only had the requisite skills and resources at their disposal, but was nimble and able to react to our requests in a timely manner,” added BAE Systems’ Group IT Manager Abri du Plessis.

Drilling deeper into the nuts and bolts of the project, as a starting point Think iT had to replace all local and wide area network equipment, upgrade the network architecture to accommodate converged voice and data traffic, and implement a complete Cisco Unified network with the Cisco TelePresence solution being the epitome, which allows for intercontinental meetings to take place digitally without incurring the cost of travel.

“On top of that we completely upgraded each of the BAE Systems’ local data centers, utilising Sun Microsystems x64 servers and EMC storage solutions on the hardware front with Microsoft’s Hyper-V and System Center Suite virtualisation and management technology on the software front.

“This software choice allowed BAE Systems to run a number of disparate operating systems (predominantly Microsoft Windows server 2003 and 2008) and applications on a single consolidated and easy-to-manage hardware platform, thus reducing support and administration costs,” Botha adds.

“Building on the virtualisation theme in the data centre, BAE Systems required that we implement storage virtualisation so it was able to make better use of its storage resources, and application, presentation and desktop virtualisation, so that it could more securely manage applications exposed to its more than 600 end-users in South Africa,” Botha adds.

“All of this was rounded out by a high-end disaster recovery solution, which sees the three BAE Systems business units in South Africa having offsite business continuity capabilities,” Botha says.

“Because of the sensitive nature of our business and the information we deal with daily, outsourcing this competency to an external party would not be viable,” explains BAE Systems’ du Plessis.

“By using our local infrastructure to create a sound business continuity environment, we not only comply with governance and risk requirements, but ensure our information is kept confidential,” he says.

Aside from the urgent need to integrate with and subscribe to BAE Systems’ worldwide technology standards, du Plessis says the project was also driven by the need to build an architecture that was geared for growth.

“It was clear from the outset that we wanted to move from a reactive IT environment to one that was far more dynamic in nature – and in doing so, driving total cost of ownership down, return on investment up and eliminate vendor lock-in.

“We have succeeded on each of those counts,” he affirms.

“Think iT has first hand experience of BAE’ Systems’ environment and has all of the skill and resource required to keep things ticking over like a well-oiled machine. We look forward to a long and prosperous relationship with BAE Systems over the coming years,” he concludes.