The State Enterprise Vilnius International Airport, in Lithuania, is rapidly expanding. To help maintain its rate of growth and improve customer services, the airport wanted to modernise its IT infrastructure. Its priorities were replacing the existing Linux-based e-mail environment—which lacked a calendar feature or address book—and moving to a virtualised server infrastructure. Using the Open Value Subscription agreement for low-cost licensing, the IT team implemented Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Windows Server 2008 R2 with the Hyper-V feature. Today, airport employees find it easier to complete the day-to-day tasks that help drive business growth and ensure satisfied customers. The IT team has also reduced management time by 30 per cent in some areas—helping employees increase their productivity—and virtualisation has made scaling the environment highly cost effective. Situation
The State Enterprise Vilnius International Airport—or Vilnius Airport, as it is more widely known—is situated around 7 kilometres south of the capital, Vilnius, in Lithuania. Today, 15 airlines operate scheduled flights from the airport, 14 of which carry passengers, and about 430 employees maintain its operations.
By European standards, the airport is relatively small, serving approximately 1.3 million passengers in 2009. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in speed of expansion. The airport is the third fastest growing in Europe in 2010, and is rapidly modernising much of its infrastructure, including the IT systems. Mantas Kapočius, Head of Information Technology Unit at Vilnius Airport, says: “We want to give employees rapid access to data and the best collaboration tools possible. Our goal is simply to help people work more efficiently and deliver a better service to customers.”
Employees used a Linux-based e-mail system for messaging. However, there was no integrated calendar feature or address book, so they recorded appointments in desk diaries and maintained contact details in spreadsheets. “The diaries became messy when appointments were cancelled and rescheduled, and people had to remember to write everything down,” says Kapočius. “Plus, with new personnel starting and employees moving between posts, contact details were not always up-to-date.” Finally, staff had no Web-based access to their messages. “The majority of our employees couldn’t check for important e-mails while travelling or at home,” comments Kapočius.
The e-mail system also reduced the productivity of the IT team, which had to overcome the problem of managing multiple platforms. “Most of our systems are based on Microsoft technologies, and just a few of us are trained in Linux environments,” says Kapočius. “We faced delays if there were issues with the e-mail system and the Linux administrator was offsite or unavailable for whatever reason.” Because of the Linux system’s complexity, it could also take more than 30 minutes to restore a backed-up e-mail message. “That’s if one of the Linux team was around—otherwise, it could take a lot longer,” says Kapočius.Solution
Vilnius Airport decided to address its e-mail challenges as part of a larger project to upgrade the main Windows Server environment. “We planned to upgrade to Windows Server 2008 R2 with the Hyper-V feature and chose to implement Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 at the same time,” says Kapočius. The airport has an Open Value Subscription agreement—helping ensure lower up-front expenditure and the flexibility to change licensing numbers annually—so it was a highly cost-effective decision.
The airport engaged with Alna Intelligence, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, with which it had successfully worked in the past. Kapočius comments: “Our experience of working with Alna Intelligence was always good and it knew our IT systems well.” The environment featured a simple design. Two servers running Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V supported all Microsoft applications, with data held on a storage area network (SAN). Exchange Server 2010 was implemented on both servers and clustered to maximise availability. All servers—including the Network Policy Server (NPS), which governs access to the environment from outside the network—were virtualised using Hyper-V.
Kapočius and his team worked closely with Alna Intelligence during the project. “Key IT personnel collaborated with our Microsoft partner throughout and received training on using the new solutions. Alna Intelligence provided great support, ensuring that we stayed on schedule and avoided any major challenges,” says Kapočius.
The IT team and the partner built the new environment alongside the existing one, and alerted employees that inboxes would be offline one evening while they moved e-mail accounts over to Exchange Server 2010. Kapočius says: “We migrated around 120 accounts without any real problems. It took only a couple of hours.” With Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, employees’ contacts lists and calendars are integrated with their e-mail systems. They can also access inboxes—either through the Web or their smartphones—while out of the office.Benefits
With its Microsoft environment, Vilnius Airport can achieve its current goals—namely, continuing to expand rapidly and delivering excellent customer service. Because employees work more effectively, it is easier to complete the day-to-day tasks that help drive business growth and ensure satisfied customers. The IT team has also reduced management time by 30 per cent in some areas, helping staff to be more productive. What’s more, virtualisation has made the infrastructure cost-effective to scale in line with future requirements. The airport is now building on the success of its latest environment by deploying Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and Windows 7.
Employees Increase Productivity
Because employees use electronic calendars integrated with the e-mail system, they spend less time planning their days and focus more on delivering business goals. “Organisers can check people’s availability before sending out requests, helping arrange meetings more quickly,” says Kapočius. Furthermore, a company address book, which employees access in Office Outlook 2007, gives them up-to-date information on both fixed-line and mobile numbers. “People simply type in the name of a colleague they want to contact and the address book provides the phone numbers they need. It’s an incredibly simple but effective tool, which saves a lot of time,” says Kapočius.
Remote Access to E-Mail Messages Ensures Enhanced Service
Employees can be highly efficient while working remotely by having Web-based access to their inboxes. They just log on to Microsoft Office Outlook Web Access—using any browser—to gain a familiar e-mail experience. Says Kapočius: “Personnel can easily access e-mail messages and scan conversations that they may have missed while offline. Teams can collaborate more easily on projects and employees can work closely with colleagues wherever they’re located.”
An increasing number of personnel are also receiving e-mail messages through their smartphones. Due to Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, employees with iPhone devices can use them to read messages. “The Exchange ActiveSync automatically updates people’s smartphones whenever an e-mail message arrives. We plan to extend ActiveSync to other smartphones in the near future. It’s the most convenient way for people to use the e-mail system while travelling,” says Kapočius.
IT Personnel Reduce Management Time for Key Tasks by 30 Per Cent
By having a Microsoft-based environment—and no Linux systems—to manage, administration is more efficient and less time consuming.
Using the wider choice of storage options available in Exchange Server 2010, the IT team has moved from directly attached storage to a SAN. The internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI)–based SAN has delivered greater capacity—increasing inbox sizes for employees—and halved restore times. Kapočius comments: “We’re saving money as well as helping people focus on their business tasks. SAN technology is a lot more cost effective, while employees no longer spend time deleting messages and managing their inboxes to stay within their mailbox limits.”
Virtualisation Helps IT Team Increase System Availability
The switch to virtualisation using Hyper-V has improved availability and helped IT personnel work more efficiently. Kapočius says: “We can run multiple virtualised servers on one physical machine, so we can scale our environment without necessarily increasing hardware costs.” In the case of Exchange Server 2010, the solution is clustered to maximise availability, and for those applications that are not clustered, the IT team can still ensure high performance due to Hyper-V. “We can move the servers quickly between the machines with the Live Migration feature in Hyper-V. Now we can complete maintenance work on servers during normal working hours without causing downtime,” says Kapočius.
New Environment Provides Foundation for Future Efficiencies
The airport plans to build on its IT investment by rolling out Office SharePoint Server 2010. “We are going to move our complete document library over to the environment so that people can access everything they need in a single location,” says Kapočius. “With centralised access to this information, we will make better-informed decisions more quickly.” The rollout of Office SharePoint Server 2010 is also coinciding with an update of desktops to Windows 7. The new software is expected to further increase productivity, while increasing security and streamlining management. “We are creating a more flexible infrastructure so people can work efficiently anytime, anywhere,” says Kapočius.Microsoft Server Product Portfolio
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