PITB provides IT and infrastructure services to more than 100 departments and organizations within the government. With around 15,000 civil servants increasingly becoming dependent on email, it was more essential than ever to have a redundant and highly available collaboration system to ensure consistency in services and support.
Until recently, the government lacked a centralized communications infrastructure. Instead, it relied on disparate systems that had been developed over time. Sajjad Ghani, Joint Director (Databases), Punjab Information Technology Board, says: "Previously, the PITB email services were hosted by a third party cloud provider and the majority of civil servants used web-based email services. The government's Microsoft Exchange 2007 messaging system - which had around 2,500 active mailboxes hosted on a single server - lacked redundancy and high availability. In addition, the server wasn't scalable."
With geographically-dispersed officials serving more than 80 million people, any technology refresh was likely to be a complex exercise requiring an experienced systems integrator. To meet the challenge needed in delivering high-quality public services, the government of the Punjab wanted a long-term partner that could offer flexible licensing and comprehensive local support.
Ghani says: "We wanted a complete solution that improved productivity through efficient identity management and provided highly effective protection against viruses and malware. Another priority was to introduce automated systems monitoring to reduce the costs of operating the data center."
Above all, the solution needed to offer value for money given the pressures on public spending. Ghani says: "To build a modern, resilient infrastructure capable of taking the government forward, we needed low-cost volume licensing, a maintenance programme to ensure that software is free from vulnerabilities, and a simplified license management framework."
Working with systems integrator Microsoft Gold Partner Inbox Business Technologies, PITB choose a solution using Windows Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. Other components include Active Directory services for identity management, and the Microsoft System Center suite of products for improved monitoring and manageability. The Microsoft Forefront family of security products was chosen for defense against viruses and malware.
Led by Microsoft Services doing the envisioning and design and local partner Inbox Business Technologies deploying the project, PITB rolled out the project in phases with 5,000 users already live.
Shahzad Akbani, GM Services, Inbox Business Technologies, says: "Part of the business value we're bringing to the project is to advise PITB on the best way to cut power consumption costs in the data center, and make the infrastructure highly available and more environmentally sustainable. Microsoft offered an end-to-end solution, which provided far more functionality than the existing system."
The government signed a strategic partnership agreement with Microsoft in 2010. As part of this, it took out a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement for low-cost volume licensing of software. It includes Software Assurance for ongoing maintenance and simplified licensing processes. Ghani says: "The strategic agreement ensured that we gained access to the latest versions of Microsoft technologies. We're now planning to work with Microsoft in workshops to conduct health checks, and to provide assistance to us in defining our future IT requirements."
The roadmap, supported by Inbox Business Technologies, has already encompassed a proof of concept for unified communications using Microsoft Lync 2010. The next stage is to evaluate Microsoft SharePoint technology, server virtualization, and the Microsoft private cloud to further reduce the costs of providing a physical infrastructure across a region five times the size of England.
Within the next few years, the PITB will have completely modernized its IT infrastructure with a standardized collaboration and communication platform for its civil service. Microsoft was the preferred choice because it offered an end-to-end solution including data security and system monitoring tools. Aamir Zaffar Chaudry, Director General IT, Punjab Information Technology Board, says: "In today's world, technology is the service delivery vehicle for good governance. For this aim the government wanted improved communication within its structure and to provide citizens with a new avenue to communicate with public servants. The project has evolved to be one of the largest deployments in the country for identity management and the first of its kind in public sector." The government of the Punjab will now focus on further reducing operating costs, increasing efficiency, and creating the foundation for different services.
- Standardized communications platform improves productivity and services.The Microsoft technologies are giving the government of the Punjab a more reliable, scalable, and redundant messaging service. Ghani says: "We're now a major step forward in our vision to make the Punjab a hub of IT in delivering better services to citizens."
- Technology refresh promotes social inclusion with better services at district level.In the past, civil servants working at district level in the province often had inferior communications tools compared to their colleagues working in the main centers of population. Ghani says: "Expanding our services from the center to district level will help promote social inclusion and provide better and more reliable public services."
- Improved manageability helps reduce operating costs. With the System Center suite of products, PITB will significantly reduce operating costs because it will no longer depend on manual intervention for software updates and security. As a result, technicians will be freed for higher value work in developing applications and future proofing the infrastructure in preparation for introducing SharePoint and a Microsoft Citizen Services Platform.
- Partner helps in transferring knowledge to PITB technicians. Ghani says: "Inbox Business Technologies played a vital role in knowledge transfer, as well as offering local support. Microsoft Services first engaged PITB in the envisioning session and design analysis, that was later deployed by Inbox."
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