For the past eight years the infamous “prancing horse” logo has been proudly displayed on the P.180 Avanti—the “Ferrari of the Sky.” Many may not realize this, but the genesis of the logo actually dates back almost a century when it was displayed on the tail of an airplane belonging to a legendary World War I Italian Air Force pilot (see the “Genesis of the ‘Prancing Horse’” sidebar). It made its reappearance in aeronautics with the release of the P.180 Avanti in 2002.
The P.180 Avanti, the flagship product of Piaggio Aero Industries S.p.A., is an impressive aircraft—the fastest turboprop in the world (402 knots per hour with a maximum cruising altitude of 41,000 feet and a range of 1,500 miles). Its engineering design required a complete rethinking of conventional aircraft configurations, resulting in a patented Three-Lifting-Surface Configuration (3LSC) that requires 34 percent less wing span and dual turboprops on the backside of the wing. The P.180 Avanti, which has sold more than 170 worldwide, is used to shuttle Ferrari’s executives and star Formula One drivers around Europe, if not the world, to unveil new cars, win Grand Prix events, and much more. In addition, both Ferrari Racing Team drivers, Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen, are spokespersons of Piaggio Aero and the P.180 Avanti II.
Standardizing at takeoff
The bar had obviously been set very high when Roberto Zuffada, who was given the charter to design and build a next-generation IT infrastructure representative of the company’s brand, was named CIO two years ago. There was much work to do; the legacy environment consisted of a number of different technologies configured in isolated silos. For example, the server environment included mainframes, various UNIX and Linux flavors, as well as Microsoft Windows-based servers. At the same time, applications were based on proprietary technologies that did not talk to each other.
After significant analysis, Zuffada determined that standardization should be at the core of the next-generation IT infrastructure. The overriding objective of the standardization initiative was to reduce IT costs while driving operational efficiencies.
Microsoft technologies would play a pivotal role for the Piaggio Aero team. “We decided to standardize on a number of different Microsoft solutions,” Zuffada says, “from Microsoft Windows for our server platform and operating system, to Microsoft Exchange for email, to Microsoft SharePoint for publishing and information flow, to Microsoft .NET for application development.”
The need to standardize the IT infrastructure was accentuated by the requisite to deliver a streamlined, more integrated product lifecycle management (PLM) for Piaggio Aero’s next-generation projects. “The design and manufacturing of our future aircraft will be based on a new PLM that requires a new ERP system,” Zuffada explains. “In order to get to the point of selecting and deploying this new ERP solution, we had to get the underlying IT infrastructure in place.”
Beyond Microsoft, the Piaggio Aero team has formed strategic relationships with other technology providers, including Symantec. “We’ve elected to standardize on Symantec technologies on a number of different fronts,” Zuffada says. Initiatives encompass data protection, endpoint security, mail security, and email and document archiving and management.
Eliminating 98 percent of email
An overwhelming volume—approximately 98 percent—of the email Piaggio Aero receives is spam. End users were spending as much as 30 minutes each day deleting spam from their inboxes, while the IT team was spending an inordinate amount of time managing the Exchange environment in order to sustain system performance.
Zuffada’s team designed a dual-cascade control architecture using Symantec Premium AntiSpam. The first server is used for overflow while the second server is used to analyze the remaining email. With the elimination of 98 percent of email, the overall productivity of the IT team improved 30 percent; the time saved is now reallocated to more strategic tasks. Additionally, end users have seen a dramatic productivity improvement.
Data protection with a business case
The previous IT infrastructure had backup-and-restore solutions for each server platform and operating system. Ongoing administration of this environment was extremely inefficient and time consuming. When Zuffada and his team consolidated the server environment onto Microsoft Windows-based HP servers, they made a decision to migrate from EMC Legato to Veritas NetBackup. “A key business requirement was the need for more granular restores,” Zuffada explains. “The ability, for example, to restore a single email was very interesting to us.”
The Piaggio Aero team worked with Symantec Consulting Services to roll out the next-generation data protection solution in October 2008. Backups are configured for disk-to-disk-to-tape to HP StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Arrays and HP LTO 3 tape libraries. The backup window shrank 50 percent while the time required to perform a restore was reduced 60 percent. The solution is expected to scale with a backup volume growing at an annual rate of 30 percent, enabling the Piaggio Aero team to avoid adding more backup administrators despite a larger backup volume per administrator.
Extending green to IT
Just as the design of the P.180 Avanti is sensitive to its carbon footprint, including 50 percent higher fuel efficiencies than most other business jets, 30 percent higher fuel efficiencies than the most efficient twin turboprops, and the ability to land and takeoff on runways as short as 3,000 feet, Zuffada and his team are designing their next-generation IT infrastructure with green concerns in mind.
Virtualization is part of this process. “Now that we have a standard server platform in place, we are ready to move towards virtualization,” Zuffada notes. “Our focus here is to create a more energy-efficient data center environment by consolidating servers and reducing power consumption.” Though they have not finalized a technology decision yet, Zuffada and his team are in the final stages of evaluating different technology options and anticipate an implementation timeframe in 2009.
In addition, there was a pressing need to create an archival solution for unstructured data. The team not only had a need to archive file and print data but product lifecycle management data created by various authoring tools such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Server.
As a result, the ability to archive both structured and unstructured data was at the core of the evaluation criteria the Piaggio Aero team established. They ultimately selected Symantec Enterprise Vault and began implementing the solution with the assistance of Symantec Consulting Services in November 2008.
Delivering security to the endpoint
When Zuffada and his team migrated from the silo-based IT infrastructure to Microsoft Windows, they pinpointed endpoint security as an area they wanted to address. As part of this process, they engaged Symantec Consulting Services to conduct a penetration test to ascertain the vulnerabilities of their network.
With the results in hand, the team determined they needed to standardize on one centralized endpoint security toolset. This would help to improve overall efficiencies while creating a mechanism for checking client logs and tracing data. “We are centralizing antivirus, antispyware, application and device control, firewall, as well as policies and procedures underneath Symantec Multi-tier Protection,” Zuffada says. “This will provide a greatly enhanced endpoint security environment and help us drive business efficiencies.”
Soaring to success
When asked what has helped him achieve success throughout his career, Zuffada indicates the answer is twofold: technology and the business. Zuffada explains: “Technology is not enough. IT must understand the business and the underlying business processes in order for technology deployments to be successful.” And when these two elements are combined, the potential results might be “The Ferrari of IT.”
Patrick E. Spencer (Ph.D.) is the editor in chief for CIO Digest and the author of a book and various articles and reviews published by Continuum Books and Sage Publications, among others.