Assessment of the SW installed on the Data Centre

InfoCamere

Abstract

InfoCamere, the IT Consortium of the Italian Chambers of Commerce, is the technological structure to support the Chamber system in managing its information stores and providing its services. It manages the high-speed and high-security communication network interconnecting the nerve centres of the Chamber system.

By devising and developing the most up-to-date and innovative IT solutions, it unites the Chambers of Commerce on a daily basis, across a network also accessible to all involved in the Italian productive system: businesses, members of the public, Public Authorities, business associations, professional bodies and anyone involved with economic data.

InfoCamere, with the objective to continuously evolve and optimise its information systems, performed a deep assessment of the software installed in its Data Centre (middleware, collaboration tools, database systems, document management, analytics tools, etc.).

The aim of this software assessment has been the elaboration of a three-year plan (2017-2019) for the migration and evolution of software platforms towards an open source environment and for the activation of labs and initiatives to experiment emerging open source technologies to be potentially adopted (e.g. block-chain, NOSQL data stores).

This assessment also verified the implementation level of some European Interoperability Framework (EIF) principles.

 

EIF and Interoperability matching

The InfoCamere initiative on software openness deals with one of the EIF interoperability principle: “Underlying principle 2 Openness”.

The concept of openness mainly relates to data, specifications and software. The use of open source software technologies and products can help save development cost, avoid a lock-in effect and allow fast adaptation to specific business needs.

Avoiding lock-in effect has been one of the main goals of the InfoCamere initiative on SW openness.

Indeed, the core objective of the InfoCamere initiative constitutes the assessment of all the software products of its data centre in order to proceed to an overall evolution plan from proprietary hardware and software platforms to open environments. The assessment focuses on identifying a software products selection and evolution strategy.

This initiative is part of an already existing and structured process at InfoCamere, aiming at the adoption of open source software, mainly for core environments.

Moreover, the assessment exercise deals with the Interoperability governance layer.

It is detected in the three-year plan, as well as in its implementation and yearly update (with results, new open source initiatives, etc.) ensured by InfoCamere and its IT Governance body.

Indeed, the project shows a yearly structured mechanism of IT governance in the company’s overall strategy. With its three-year-plan migration towards an open source environment, InfoCamere demonstrates a strong commitment from its top management to monitor the progress and implementation of its rolling action plan.

 

Policy context

InfoCamere strives in maintaining a high level of evolution and optimisation of the IT services supplied to the Italian chambers of commerce. This migration from hardware and software platforms to an open-source environment represents one of the many examples that testifies this perpetual IT evolution. This of course, has to be compliant to external factors such as national as well as European laws. In this case, InfoCamere has to remain fully compliant to both regulations in the context of eProcurement and digitalisation of Italian Public Administrations.

 

From a regulatory perspective, both the Italian and the European regulations are taken into account. The Italian and European regulations in scope are listed as follows:

 

These aforementioned national and European regulations have been identified as main references to both the “lock-in principle” (when a public administration does not have the sufficient information on the system that has to be replaced, which would allow a new supplier to take over the previous one at the end of the contractual period) and the “principle of non-fungible goods” (when a good cannot be replaced with any other goods).

 

Looking at the Italian Public Administrations context and its overall maturity on “openness”, the Italian Public Sector focuses its openness primarily on specific “non-core” software or on application areas of office automation/collaboration.

From a general viewpoint, the InfoCamere’s relationship between the adoption degree of open-source solutions and the level of the national regulatory commitment reaches a rather high degree of maturity.

Therefore, the InfoCamere project symbolises a best practice in the Italian context.

 

Description of the main stakeholders of the initiative

The main stakeholders of the initiative are internal structures and corporate members:

  • Board of directors and Chambers of Commerce’s top management
  • IT Governance and Maintenance structures
  • Procurement, regulation and legal services

 

Description of the way to implement the initiative

InfoCamere’s initiative outlines two projects phases, each with distinct objectives:

Phase 1 - Assessment of the software (SW) products installed at the Data Centre of InfoCamere

The scope of Phase 1 has been to assess the SW installed in the Data Centre in order to identify potential optimizations or alternatives in the open-source world and to identify the best strategies for the management and evolution of the SW portfolio.

The overall assessment has based on the Italian and European regulatory framework in terms of acquisition of goods and services and open-source openness, and on new technology market trends as well as guidelines in terms of digitalisation of the Italian Government (Italian Digital Agency – AgID).

 

On that, InfoCamere conducted a comparative analysis on 40 software products (the 40% of them already open source SW), highlighting structural, technical and regulatory constraints.

 

Each software assessment followed a three-step-approach, considering several key factors such as market and technology trends, license costs, implementation effort, Return on Investment (ROI), organisational impacts, technology risks and service level provided.

Once the assessment of the software functionalities/components is conducted, a peer group of SW alternatives has been identified in order to be compared with one in place and to find a possible open source alternative.

 

For each software analysed, four options have considered:

  • The existing software is maintained and further developed;
  • Migrate to other software solutions, for instance open source software or existing software to be reused (preferred option);
  • The existing software is partially replaced with other products in a given application context (acceptable option);
  • Starting technological labs of speculation of future evolutionary scenarios.

 

In Step 1, software products are evaluated by assessing their functional coverage of its components and its overall quality.

Hereunder an illustrative example of analysis carried out for the assessment of the functional coverage of a software in scope:

software functionality

description

level of coverage

API

The tool shows APIs (SOAP / REST services).

The services shown do not allow the publication of new services, but are helpful to those who want to use the services already exposed

Low

API Management

Used as a BUS for interfacing with web services both by Internet services and by Intranet services.

It offers minimal functionality of an ESB, restricting its use to only web services

Complete

Repository

Catalogue of described services

Medium

SECURITY

It ensures the protection of calls to services exposed in the platform through a "token" that is inserted in the header of HTTP or HTTPS calls

Complete

SUBSCRITION TO API

Registration procedure for a user in order to use an API.

Medium

Table 1 - Example of software functionalities coverage in scope in the project's software assessment

 

During Step 2, each InfoCamere software in scope is analysed and compared with the peer group of alternative open source software.

PEER

SW Candidate

Open source project URL

Mule

https://www.mulesoft.com/platform/mule

WS02

http://wso2.com/

 

Based on the evaluation of the functional coverage of the alternative SW, a potential candidate open source SW is identified.

Finally, Step 3 focused on the elaboration of a Business Case in order to evaluate the economical sustainability of migrating towards the SW open source alternative.

The following table provides an illustrative example of the results of the Assessment carried out:

SOFTWARE

PEER GROUP of OPEN SOURCE SW

ANALYSIS

Final Result AND NEXT STEPS

SW ON THE “SECURITY” AREA

ULTEO

The identified comparative peer seems to be a valid substitute for the analysed software from a technical/functional viewpoint. However, ULTEO is not good option from an economic standpoint

 It has been decided to maintain the SW and thus to renovate the licence

SW ON THE “BACKUP AND RECOVERY” AREA

  • ZAMANDA
  • Bacula

Both comparative peers share the same implementation functionalities and the needs for the specialist technical supported

It has been agreed to maintain the analysed SW, when the licence expires

Feasibility analysis required for both peers in order to evaluate a possible substitution

Migration, migration plan and migration launching

SW ON THE “ANALYTICS” AREA

R

As an open source alternative, R has significant limitations in its performance as well as in its learning. InfoCamere uses intensively the SW so it is practically impossible to substitute it with an alternative from the market

 It has been decided to maintain the software and thus to renovate its licence still for 3 years

To be evaluated the possibility to migrate the SW towards R and plan a traning and migration programme

SW ON THE “DBMS” AREA

  • SpagoBI,
  • Jedox

Jedox shows a better level of functional coverage compared to SpagoBI, but the latter peer is still not suitable from an economic standpoint

It has been agreed to maintain the SW and renovate its licence

 

 

Phase 2 – Definition of an evolution plan 2017-2019 for the SW installed in the Data Centre

Successively, the purpose of Phase 2 lies in the definition of a three-year procurement plan, supporting the continuing innovation process followed by InfoCamere.

 

The overall approach follows a four-step methodology, illustrated as follows:

 

Classification of the Data Centre SW in homogeneous technological areas and identification of IT drivers for each SW area

The output of this step has been grouping the InfoCamere SW in homogeneous technological areas and define for them strategic drivers for a gradual evolution in the 2017-2019 period.

Listed below the five drivers used for the SW classification in homogeneous areas:

  1. ICT strategy: main ICT evolution drivers for InfoCamere.
  2. Results of the SW Assessment: functional coverage of the SW in scope; open source peer identification and their respective comparison with SW functionalities.
  3. Relevant regulation: Main Italian and European legislation, including guidelines from the Italian Digital Agency (AgID).
  4. ICT technological evolutions: Major technology and innovation trends on the ICT market.
  5. SA Experimentation: Infocamere’s initiatives concerned to the trial of some SA, in order to analyse new features and functionalities and to test innovative technologies and paradigms.

Identification of strategic initiatives to be carried out on each SW area

After the software assessment, a decision has been made in terms of which SW solutions to be replaced with open source alternatives. These decisions led to the identification of clear initiatives to be put in place such as renew of the SW proprietary licence, migration of the SW toward open source alternative, technical feasibility study, etc.

Furthermore, based on InfoCamere business strategies and technological trends, several IT strategic initiatives has been identified such as the activation of technology labs or pilots to investigate new technologies (block-chain, Machine Learning, etc.) to be adopted in each SW area.

Prioritisation of the IT Initiatives

After the identification of the IT initiatives in scope for each SW Area (such as Collaboration, Analytics, etc.), a prioritisation process has been performed in order to identify the urgency of their implementation.

The IT initiatives are prioritised on a three-level scale (high, medium, low) according to the following two factors: regulatory obligations or strategic relevance, and operational necessity.

IT Initiatives roadmap

Following the prioritisation process, a scheduling plan is outlined in a macro-Gantt chart in which each IT initiative on the SW Areas is scheduled in a three-year period 2017-2019.

This roadmap takes into consideration the phases set during the prioritisation process and highlights both the initiatives in progress at the date of preparation of the three-year period plan and those to be launched.

 

Key technology/SW areas referred to during the project

This InfoCamere project dealt with 13 homogenous technological areas and 6 technology trends as shown below:

 

Main results, benefits and impacts

The InfoCamere project on SW openness of its Data Centre points out some benefits and some lessons learnt.

Five benefits can be outlined from this project, listed as follows:

  • Clear view of the “openness” level of the Data Centre software and of the improvement areas
  • Clear view on which proprietary software should be migrated and on the alternative open source software identified through business cases (with analysis of the cost savings)
  • Established an action plan for the implementation of the changes, with a clear governance for its monitoring
  • Investing in identified technology trends in the next future
  • Legislation and procurement laws compliance

 

Likewise, three lessons learnt can be outlined from this project, listed hereunder:

  • Open source software is not a valid alternative in general, but should be analysed in terms of functional coverage and community support/maturity through a business case
  • New open technologies must be first investigated through innovation labs in order to understand the potential and their applicability in the business context of a Public Administration
  • This assessment and action plan must be a rolling activity (on a year-basis). InfoCamere already has a plan to yearly update the SW analysis and the 2017-2019 Strategic Plan, based on the increase of the maturity level of new technologies, new needs that may arise, etc.

Categorisation

Type of document
General case study
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.