To its 3.8 million guests each year, the Carnival Cruise Line fleet of 23 ships epitomizes leisure. For the 37,000 employees responsible for providing all that fun and relaxation, e-mail is a business-critical communication channel used to relay important information between ship and shore, as well as between employees and guests. Carnival faced a challenge as its messaging solution became more cumbersome to manage, particularly in terms of disaster recovery and solution administration. In August 2009, Carnival joined the Microsoft® Rapid Deployment Program and deployed a pilot of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 to evaluate how to improve its existing environment. After deploying the pilot, Carnival found that it would be able to improve system recovery and availability, ease administration, and improve its employees’ communication experience.
Carnival Cruise Lines carries approximately 3.8 million passengers per year, more than any other cruise line. Founded in Miami, Florida, in 1972, Carnival now has 23 ships sailing through the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, New England, Europe, and the Panama Canal. Its “Fun Ships” carry customers on cruises lasting anywhere from 3 to 16 days.
With 3,800 employees shore-side and 33,500 employees shipboard, e-mail is a business-critical communications tool that helps the staff ensure that all operations run smoothly across the organization. “E-mail is a direct link that people aboard the ships have with their shore-side counterparts,” explains Tom DeLuca, Supervisor for End-User Engineering at Carnival. “It is also integral to our sales and marketing organization, which sends e-mail out to past and future guests.” Carnival also uses e-mail to communicate with the Department of Homeland Security as ships enter and leave ports—any delay in communication can keep a ship from leaving port.
Carnival has been using Microsoft® Exchange Server as its primary e-mail messaging solution for several years. It now supports a mixed environment that consists primarily of Exchange Server 2007, with Exchanger Server 2003 still running on some ships. The primary data center is located in Miami, Florida, and call centers are located in Colorado Springs, Colorado and Miramar, Florida. Carnival has also installed Exchange Server and Windows Server® Active Directory® domain controllers on each of its ships, as well as at shipyards in several locations in Europe, bringing the total number of messaging servers to 27. It supports about 7,500 500-megabytes (MB) mailboxes across the organization. For high availability for its servers running Exchange Server shore-side, Carnival has implemented Cluster Continuous Replication (CCR), and for disaster recovery it has implemented Standby Continuous Replication (SCR). Carnival also relies on Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 to perform service-level monitoring across its servers running Exchange Server. For storage, it relies on a storage area network (SAN) solution with serial-attached SCSI (SAS) disks in a RAID (redundant array of independent disks) 10 configuration.
With such a distributed environment, Carnival faces a real challenge with management. “We have a shore-side operations staff that monitors our day-to-day operations, and we have two Information Services [IS] managers on each ship. Trying to keep the shore-side people in sync with 44 shipboard IS people takes quite a bit of management,” says DeLuca.
Another challenge Carnival faces is helping its employees manage mailbox data. Currently, workers store data in Outlook® Data Files (PST) on the network to help manage the size of their mailboxes. When legal discovery searches are required, searching data stored on the network can be a cumbersome process for everyone involved. “Today we support about three terabytes of PST files on the network, and a significant portion of them have to be backed up. The biggest business problem is that if we get a discovery request, it is complex to search for e-mail data archived in PST files,” explains John Ashmore, Manager of Engineering at Carnival. “We have to restore the mailbox for the requested dates from tapes or through a database restore. Everything is a manual task that involves a lot of people: IT operations, the IT security team, and the legal team.”
Carnival would also like to update its existing voice-mail system with a unified messaging solution that will tie into its
e-mail solution. “Our current voice-mail platform is about seven years old, and unified messaging can address capacity issues and improve functionality,” says Ashmore.
Carnival would like to improve its existing e-mail solution by:
- Creating a more robust, simplified disaster recovery solution with automatic failover.
- Ending the use of PST files.
- Moving e-mail back into the Exchange Server mailbox to allow for easier compliance with e-discovery.
- Addressing the challenges of dispersed management and administrative capabilities.
- Updating its existing voice mail to a unified messaging solution that enables voice mail to be delivered to employees’ inboxes.
Carnival decided to deploy a pilot of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. Carnival quickly determined that Exchange Server 2010 could help it reach many of the goals it had outlined for improving its existing e-mail solution. In particular, it could improve its current disaster recovery scenario, as well as address issues with mailbox data storage and e-discovery. It found that it could also deploy unified messaging—without relying on a third-party add-in. Carnival also previewed the Microsoft Outlook 2010 messaging and collaboration client and hopes to deploy it to all users when it becomes available.
Disaster Recovery and Availability
Carnival plans to implement the Database Availability Groups feature in Exchange Server 2010, which combines on-site and off-site data replication into a single solution and provides an easier way to replicate e-mail to a remote location in order to safeguard the Exchange Server environment against site-level disasters. It will keep four database copies: three copies in the data center in Miami and one copy in the disaster recovery site. “The transfer to our disaster recovery site will be automatic with Database Availability Groups,” explains DeLuca. “We will definitely use it to shorten the time for disaster recovery, and having multiple copies of the database will also help keep service up.”
Carnival also plans to deploy the Exchange Server 2010 management pack for System Center Operations Manager. “We find that System Center Operations Manager combined with the Exchange management packs are an integral
||Having Role Based Access Control roles within Exchange Server and the ability to customize them will help us distribute administrative functionality in a more granular fashion than we could in the past.
Supervisor, End-User Engineering, Carnival Cruise Lines
tool in maintaining our Exchange Server environment. We get alerted to potential issues before they become a problem and the built-in Microsoft knowledge base information on the alerts help shorten our mean time to resolution,” says DeLuca.
Role Based Access Control
Carnival plans to use the Role Based Access Control (RBAC) feature in Exchange Server 2010 to provide permissions to groups within its organization and better distribute management. Using RBAC, administrators can give teams such as security or help desk the rights to perform administrative tasks that align closely with their roles and areas of responsibility. “We have a widely distributed management model,” says DeLuca. “The security team handles mailboxes and distribution lists. The operations team handles the day-to-day functionality of Exchange Server to keep it running. When we implement unified messaging, we’ll have a communications team responsible for that. Having RBAC roles within Exchange Server and the ability to customize them will help us to distribute administrative functionality in a more granular fashion than we could in the past.”
Mailbox Management and E-Discovery
Carnival plans to switch its existing storage solution from RAID 10 disks to RAID 5 disks, a cheaper solution that it can use to increase employees’ mailboxes from 500 MB to 2 gigabytes (GB) without having to invest in additional storage capacity. It can also support mailboxes larger than 2 GB for workers who require it. Larger mailboxes mean that employees will no longer have to rely on PST files to help manage the size of their mailboxes. “We are looking at eliminating PST files for the majority of workers, because e-mail can be seamlessly managed within Exchange Server,” explains Ashmore. One solution Carnival is investigating to help it eliminate PST files is the Personal Archive feature, which employees can use to save important data on the server by dragging and dropping items into an mailbox archive that sits alongside their inbox.
Because employees will be able to keep more data in the mailbox instead of storing it in PST files on the network, Carnival’s IT team can implement managed folders and retention policies to build an e-mail life cycle and help employees better manage data. “We can have people pull the data from their PST files, bring it back into the mailbox, and then file it in a set of managed folders that have natural expiration times set for them,” explains DeLuca. “Hopefully we can build a life cycle where the majority of e-mail gets purged, and only the data they need to keep for historical purposes gets archived. Exchange Server 2010 with those features built-in will help us achieve that.”
RBAC will make it easier for Carnival’s IT team to put the job of legal discovery back in the hands of its legal team. For instance, the legal team can use the Legal Hold feature to preserve a copy of employees’ deleted and edited mailbox items. It can set legal holds for individuals or across the enterprise. With the Exchange Control Panel they can perform searches across multiple mailboxes to find the information they need. “With this capability, the legal team can place holds and perform queries themselves, and do what they need to,” says Ashmore.
Exchange Management Shell
Carnival plans to use the enhanced scripting capabilities of Exchange Server 2010 to manage more feature sets through the command line. Exchange Management Shell, built on the Windows PowerShell™ 2.0 command-line interface, provides powerful remote access capabilities and restricted runspaces (the operating environment where commands are processed) so that administrators can manage servers running Exchange Server without installing Exchange Server management tools. With the Exchange Management Shell, Carnival can ease administration, because it can perform more routine server management tasks remotely—and automatically.
With Unified Messaging in Exchange Server, Carnival employees can access voice mail, e-mail, contacts, and calendar information located in their mailboxes through a telephone, computer, or mobile device. “Exchange Server with Unified Messaging offers users a single point for e-mail and voice mail access,” says Ashmore. When employees receive voice mail, they can access a text-based version of the message from their inbox in Outlook. They can view a caller’s information, respond to messages via e-mail, or file the messages for future reference.
“It makes sense for us to keep things simple in terms of supportability and robustness. That’s what Exchange Unified Messaging can give us,” explains DeLuca.
Having also tested Microsoft Outlook 2010, Carnival hopes to deploy it as soon as it is available, to take advantage of features that will enhance its upgrade to Exchange Server 2010. Employees will be better equipped to prioritize and manage their communications with new features, such as MailTips, which will help ensure that users get their message delivered correctly the first time. For example, employees will know—before they click the Send button—whether a message recipient is out of the office or the mail is being sent to a large distribution list. Employees will also reduce the amount of time catching up on a series of e-mails with Conversation View, another feature of Outlook 2010, which helps to organize e-mail messages by topic. With this capability, employees can view all messages in a conversation at a single glance.
Carnival hopes to deploy Exchange Server 2010 to all computers as quickly as possible. “I think our Exchange Server 2010 deployment will be rather aggressive,” says DeLuca. “We will start moving toward making the switch—even on some ships that have Exchange Server 2003—by the beginning of 2010.”
With the new features in Exchange Server 2010, Carnival can provide improved disaster recovery and availability; ease and centralize administration and management; and improve the employee experience by creating a more efficient workplace messaging solution.
Improved Recovery and Availability
By implementing Database Availability Groups, Carnival will provide a more robust disaster recovery solution and reduce recovery time. “Our recovery time will be much shorter, because the steps are less complicated for activating the database copies,” says DeLuca. “Also, having multiple copies of the database in the data center, we can switch between copies fairly quickly. We have seen a definite decrease in time in terms of failover and recovery.”
Carnival will use several features in Exchange Server 2010 to realize its goal of easing administration across the organization. For example, larger mailboxes, managed folders, and retention policies make it easier for Carnival’s IT team to put the job of legal discovery back in the hands of its legal team. “We won’t have to get four groups involved just to get the data,” says Ashmore.
With Role Based Access Control, Carnival can customize roles and permissions for groups as needed, providing a security-enhanced environment, and removing the burden of some tasks from groups where they do not belong. “RBAC will make the platform more secure, because people will have the exact permissions required to do their jobs,” says DeLuca.
With Exchange Management Shell, Carnival will automate routine tasks, so that administrators can focus on more critical tasks. “Being able to run a script on an Exchange Server without having to log in directly to the server is definitely a feature we are looking forward to,” says Robert Hupf, Senior Messaging Engineer at Carnival.
Improved Employee Experience
With the combination of Exchange Unified Messaging and Outlook 2010, employees will have access to tools that they can use to increase productivity and gain more control over the flow of information. Using Conversation View, they will be able to organize messages into meaningful conversations, helping them to stay organized. “For people who get hundreds of e-mails a day, they can ignore a thread, or group messages together so they don’t have to track down a whole conversation,” says Ashmore.
With Unified Messaging, employees will have more options for accessing and responding to important messages. “[Voice Mail Preview] is something that really stands out,” says Ashmore, “for users who are mobile and do not have access to a phone, having messages converted to text so they can see them on a mobile device is great.”
With its upgrade to Exchange Server 2010, Carnival Cruise Lines will consolidate its messaging infrastructure into a highly available environment that continues to support business-critical communication as its employees have come to expect. The company’s investments in its messaging capabilities help position it for future growth and cost savings as it continues to refine its infrastructure.
Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
Exchange Server 2010 can help you achieve better business outcomes while controlling the costs of deployment, administration, and compliance. Exchange Server delivers the widest range of deployment options, integrated information leakage protection, and advanced compliance capabilities, which combine to form the best messaging and collaboration solution available.
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