Implementation of modern IT infrastructure
One of Europe’s Largest Convention Centres Upgrades its IT Infrastructure and Reduces Capital Costs.
With an ageing IT infrastructure that was only used at its most basic level, Sava Centar was struggling to meet the increasing technology requirements of its customers.
By upgrading its Microsoft-based platform it was able to modernize its platform, meet customer needs and reduce capital costs by 30%.
Sava Centar, in Belgrade, Serbia is one of the largest cultural and convention centres in Europe. Built in 1976 it includes a 4,000 capacity theatre hall, 15 conference halls, and an exhibition area as well as other facilities. The centre hosts approximately half a million people every year and is a popular venue for a number of pan-European and global events many of which are extremely high profile.
For example, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Interpol, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and UNESCO to name just a few, have chosen Sava Centar to host events. Despite its high-profile status, Sava Centar’s use of information technology was at best basic. For example, while it had implemented Microsoft Windows Server 2003 R2 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 as its messaging platform, its use of the technology was rudimentary. It did not have Active Directory in place either and furthermore didn’t have a back-up system.
That said, Sava Centar’s requirement for a full technology driven back office was fairly limited. With approximately 300 employees and 75 on site desktop computers, and well-established paper-based systems, the need for an optimal IT infrastructure was never considered to be particularly pressing. However, as customer technology demands grew, the organisation recognized that it was time for change. Nemanja Stanisic, Head of IT, Sava Centar, said: “Our clients were requesting new technology such as e-ticketing systems and greater security around communications. Given the profile of Sava Centar, and our large number of clients and visitors, we really needed an e-business model that would introduce greater efficiencies and a faster more reliable way of working.”
Implicit within this recognition was also the need for a highly available system that incorporated a failover service.
Sava Centar initially considered using a local technology company to bring its infrastructure up to date. However, following consultations with Code Computer Engineering, its IT services partner, the organisation decided to build upon its existing relationship with Microsoft. Sava Centar already had Microsoft technologies in place and had a long-standing relationship with the company, developed while hosting Microsoft-based events.
One of the first steps was to implement Microsoft Windows Server 2012 and build a Failover Cluster to provide high availability and scalability for server workloads. If for example a server fails, the failover cluster stand-by server identifies the fail in activity and takes over to become the active server. This also enabled virtualisation with Sava Centar moving from 12 single physical servers to three.
At the same time Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 and Active Directory 2012 were also implemented. By making use of Outlook Web App (OWA) and Data Loss Prevention, both features of Exchange Server 2013, Sava Centar was able to introduce secure remote email access. It could also support this with a system designed to detect and stop potential data breaches and leakages of sensitive data such as personal and company information, and credit card details.
Active Directory 2012 not only carries out its traditional role of assigning and enforcing security policies for all computers on the network and installing or updating software but also includes a raft of new features such as Flexible Authentication Secure Tunnelling (FAST). This feature isn’t enabled by default, but from Sava Centar’s perspective it offers a particularly strong security mechanism should clients request it.
Overall, the upgraded technology infrastructure provided Sava Centar with a fully redundant system, but more importantly, it met the demands of clients for a highly available and secure system. Sava Centar now has a modern technology infrastructure in place that enables it to meet the demands of its clients while also providing a platform for future growth and cost cutting:
• Cost savings – Nemanja Stanisic says: “We now have a virtualised platform that not only ensures maximum data protection for our clients, but we also have a platform that we can build upon for the future. It has also delivered significant cost savings. We have saved an estimated 30% in capital costs and this will increase as we move forward.”
• E-business - A significant proportion of savings have come from moving towards an e-business model in which paper and print costs have become almost redundant while the move towards a virtualised platform has reduced power consumption, bringing further cost efficiencies.
• Teleworking – The new platform has also enabled the introduction of teleworking which is driving new efficiencies among employees. Sava Centar is also building an electronic archive and introducing e-ticketing which will further cut costs while enabling more efficient business processes.
• Driving growth – Significantly, the upgrade also dovetails with a Serbian government program designed to attract more business and investors to the country. While Sava Centar has a strong reputation in its own right, the government move is expected to generate even greater use of its conference facilities, whether business or cultural events.
Predrag Cvetkovic, Technical Director, adds: “We have all kinds of customers from pharmaceutical to medical and IT conventions, and popular cultural events including film, art and music festivals. The new Microsoft platform ensures that we not only maintain our standing as a leading conference and event centre by meeting customer’s needs but also continue to attract new, important clients.”