By Simon Duddy
The UAE’s Ministry of Justice Islamic Affairs & Awqaf has implemented a FastIron 800 switch from Foundry Networks. The installation is part of the Ministry’s ongoing infrastructure overhaul.
|~|Fdry_ServerIron_m.jpg|~|“We opted for the FastIron 800 because it is a strong product with good specifications,” says Sultan Abdul Hameed Al Ali, IT manager at the Ministry of Justice Islamic Affairs & Awqaf. |~|The UAE’s Ministry of Justice Islamic Affairs & Awqaf has implemented a FastIron 800 switch from Foundry Networks. The installation is part of the Ministry’s ongoing infrastructure overhaul that will eventually see its network fully integrated with the Federal Government’s backbone and high speed connectivity delivered to the desks of its entire workforce. Other components in the network include Cisco routers and a wireless access point from 3Com.
The FastIron 800 is a Layer 2 and base Layer 3 switch. Based on the vendor’s JetCore ASIC chipset, the switch touts high port density, 10 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces and ternary content addressable memory (TCAM) for wire-speed switching and policy based routing (PBR). It was these features, among others, that first drew the Ministry of Justice Islamic Affairs & Awqaf to the FastIron 800.
“We opted for the FastIron 800 because it is a strong product with good specifications,” says Sultan Abdul Hameed Al Ali, IT manager at the Ministry of Justice Islamic Affairs & Awqaf. “Many other backbone products don’t have the features that the Foundry [switch] does and it also has a good price point,” he adds.
The FastIron 800 replaces a smaller switch in the Ministry, which it had used to connect a select band of users to the Ministry of Finance and GIA. Over this connection, the Ministry’s users accessed core back office applications for finance, payroll and human resources (HR).
“We had a small switch and we connected on a cable-by-cable basis. This was very slow. Also, when we wanted to add a new PC it meant we had to create a trunk and keep checking it,” explains Al Ali. “It was very slow when many users accessed it at the same time and we had to deal with complaints,” he adds.
Integrating the Ministry’s new network with the Ministry of Finance and the GIA’s backbone has been relatively easy. According to Al Ali, it was a simple configuration job that he and his technical staff of ten carried out.
“They [the other ministries] have the backbone so we just configured our network with that, which was easy,” he says.
Users access the main government backbone via a local area network (LAN). In most instances this LAN manifests itself as cables to desks. However, due to restrictions on the architectural restructuring that can be carried out in some parts of the Ministry, a wireless solution has also been deployed.
“We have wireless in two offices — one in the Minister’s office because we didn’t want to trunk in there and also in the Minister’s secretary’s office,” says Al Ali. “This connection is created using a 3Com access point and the range is about 90 metres,” he explains.
By accessing the applications hosted by the Ministry of Finance and the GIA over the Foundry switch-based network, access speeds have risen dramatically.
“We have to have a reliable network because every ministry has one and our users need to access the applications,” says Al Ali.
In addition to facilitating faster access to other public sector departments for back office staff, the FastIron 800 has allowed Al Ali to create a shared network within the Ministry. In turn, this allows users to print more effectively and share files on which they are working.
In the near future, the network will also be used to run the Ministry’s own software stack. Currently out to tender, applications due to be installed include an archiving system and an automated workflow solution. In addition, the government body is considering rolling out its own set of HR applications.
“We are currently preparing the quotations for these [apps]. Many companies are bidding for the tender and we will choose the ones that best fit our specifications and price,” say Al Ali. “Once we have implemented them, these apps will also run over the network,” he explains.
When the entire software stack is live, upwards of 60 users from the Ministry will use the network. Once it is connected to the Abu Dhabi Courts this number will increase yet further. The redundancy required to ensure each user has the access they require has been addressed by doubling up on key components.
“You have to have redundancy because if you don’t then when the network goes down the users also go down,” says Al Ali.
To further ensure that the network performs at its peak, the Ministry intends to make full use of the FastIron 800’s management modules, which include hot-swappable, load-sharing power supplies and interface modules. Al Ali and his team are also using Microsoft’s Active Directory to manage user access and ensure no one is misusing the network.
“What makes the network slow is when people download files. If they are downloading ones that are not necessary then it is wasted bandwidth,” he says. “We monitor and manage the network from our office. We have control and the user cannot install anything bad. We can also scan viruses,” Al Ali explains.
On the security front, the Ministry is currently using the FastIron’s IronShield component, which protects against Denial of Service (DoS) attacks and prevents unauthorised access. However, in addition to integrating the network with the Abu Dhabi Courts and ensuring users are reaping the full benefits of its infrastructure, the Ministry plans to deploy more security tools soon.||**||