BAFA, the German federal office for economics and export control, is a government organisation responsible for managing the country's complex export control system, implementing EU regulations on imports, supporting small and medium-sized businesses, and promoting energy efficiency. Based in Eschborn, BAFA employs 600 people.
Like most modern organisations, BAFA uses e-mail as a primary means of communication. Having a reliable e-mail solution is one of the top priorities of the IT department–but as a public body, BAFA also has a responsibility to make the best possible use of tax-payers' money by keeping costs as low as possible.
For several years, BAFA had been using Microsoft Exchange as its e-mail platform, while the majority of its network software–file, print and directory services–came from Novell. With its Exchange licence due to expire, BAFA decided to review its position.
"We already use Novell eDirectory™, and renewing our Microsoft Exchange licence would have required buying both Active Directory and an identity management solution," said Markus Crecelius, Project Manager at BAFA. "Moreover, our Exchange licence only allowed each user 30MB of mailbox space, which was inconvenient and did not represent good value for money. We therefore decided to rationalise the IT environment."
BAFA began investigating the possibility of replacing Exchange with Novell GroupWise®, and looked for a partner that could help it decide whether this would be a viable solution.
"We attended a roadshow in which a team from iTEC Services GmbH, a Novell Platinum Partner, was demonstrating the benefits of Novell GroupWise," said Crecelius. "We decided to include iTEC Services GmbH in our tendering process along with four other companies. We were so impressed by their professionalism and expertise that we selected them as our partner."
iTEC Services GmbH helped BAFA set up a test environment for Novell GroupWise, enabling the IT department to explore its capabilities. Following a satisfactory outcome to this testing phase, decision-makers within BAFA opted to go ahead with the project.
The migration took four months in total, with three weeks devoted to migrating the 600 users to the new Novell GroupWise client. Other challenges involved integrating existing fax and photocopier systems–but as Novell GroupWise connectors were already available for these, there were no major technical issues.
During the migration, iTEC Services GmbH and BAFA worked together to run a training programme for the users, getting them up to speed on the new client software within just four hours.
"The teamwork between iTEC Services GmbH and the in-house team was excellent throughout the project, and the migration was very smooth," said Crecelius. "In fact, the only impact on the end-users was the training sessions–there was no downtime and no impact on their productivity."
One beneficial feature of the new solution is that BAFA is running Novell GroupWise in a two-node cluster, enabling the IT team to install patches and updates on one server while the other remains online to handle e-mail traffic. In future, the cluster may also be used for load-balancing and high availability purposes.
Moving from Microsoft Exchange to Novell GroupWise has enabled BAFA to rationalise its IT infrastructure by choosing a single vendor for its main network and communications software. Choosing Novell GroupWise means that the organisation does not need to maintain two separate user directories or install a solution to manage and synchronise them–rather, Novell eDirectory provides a single directory for all users.
"Having a single vendor makes support and licence management easier, and means that we can work with a partner like iTEC Services GmbH for all our network software needs, instead of having to manage two or more suppliers," said Crecelius. "Moreover, standardizing on Novell should help us reduce compatibility issues in the future."
A second benefit of moving to Novell GroupWise is that users' mailboxes can now be up to ten times larger than with the previous solution. BAFA's Exchange licence limited the total mail database to just 16GB, or 30MB per mailbox–a major inconvenience in an age where attachments of several megabytes are increasingly common.
"It used to be very frustrating for users that they had to continually clean out their mailboxes, and large attachments were a big problem," said Crecelius. "Novell GroupWise offers us ten times the capacity for an equivalent price–so we have addressed a major pain-point for our users without increasing our IT budget."
With the success of the migration project, BAFA has chosen to work with iTEC Services GmbH again on an upcoming project–an upgrade to Novell ZENworks® Configuration Management that should deliver considerable benefits in terms of IT management and administration.