A day in the life of MITA’s Network Services operations team
Written by Antoine Scicluna
Residents of Malta make use of various government online services at some point or another. It is very crucial that all these services are responsive and always available to provide their respective service to the end client, at the highest possible standard.
This can only be possible by several hard-working teams, composed of experts in their respective fields, that come together under the name of Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA). One of those teams is the MITA Network Services, which I form part of.
As a team, we are responsible for the deployment and maintenance of network equipment located in approximately 600 sites. We are also responsible for monitoring of approx. 2000 LAN switches and approx. 9000 interfaces. As part of our daily duties, it is crucial that the technology deployed within our environment is upgraded and improved upon on a regular basis. As a result, various technology upgrades have been recently carried out on our infrastructure. Such projects regularly involve upgrading to the latest operating systems, installing latest hardware, and optimizing network routing protocols.
Forming part of the MITA Network Operations Team, a sub-group under MITA Network Services Team, brings new challenges and issues every day. This which requires rapid understanding of the issue being encountered and a fast resolution strategy going forward. A typical day starts with reviewing all our network monitoring tools, providing a real time snapshot of the current state of the network. This will help identify issues on the bandwidth being consumed, connectivity, or any faulty device / link / interface at the earliest. Once all the tools are reviewed, we proceed in checking our ticketing system, which is our interface with the public service employees working within the MAGNET (Malta Government Network). This system displays a list of all the queries, new requests or any issues related to the network connectivity that users have raised with MITA Network Services team.
In a perfect scenario, one can work on these requests raised by the users without any distractions. However, it is very common that while working on these requests, an unexpected incident occurs, which based on its impact requires various members of the Network Services Team to act quickly.
When an issue occurs having a major impact on the government network infrastructure, our monitoring tools are quickly reviewed to try to identify what services are impacted. Once the impact is identified, we would immediately communicate with other MITA internal teams to check if the root cause of this incident is known. While doing so, we also troubleshoot the incident by making use of some of the best networking hardware and tools on the market. When troubleshooting, one needs to try to eliminate any possibility causing the incident, by trying to determine the root cause and resolve it. Regular communication with MITA Network Operations Center and MITA Call Center is carried out through the lifetime of a major incident. This is done to keep the public sector employees constantly updated.
Depending on the incident at hand, a ticket might be raised with our network equipment vendor to help identify the root cause. Communication with the local Internet Service Providers (ISP) is held where issues related to unexpected fiber / cable cuts take place. Since MITA’s network infrastructure covers most of Malta and Gozo, such fiber / cable cuts inevitably lead to unplanned outages within client sites. Once the root cause is identified and resolved, the monitoring tools and configurations are checked to make sure that services are working fine once again. Internal communication between stakeholders then takes place such that MITA clients are informed that issue has been identified and resolved.
Working in such a team requires an individual to have a sense of urgency and act quickly when an incident occurs, to minimize the service downtime as much as possible, and to adhere with the established SLA’s (Service Level Agreements). This working environment gives a vast amount of satisfaction when a major incident is resolved.
Our team consists of different individuals having different perspectives, backgrounds, academic levels, and different ideas which all contribute to achieving the best solutions for any issue. Our goal being to provide the most secure and reliable network infrastructure to all public sector employees and the public at large when availing themselves of government services.