Keep the systems running during a pandemic
When Steven Heuft from LINKIT started at client SSC campus last May he never imagined that his job would be in for a bizarre turn. The SSC campus is the ICT supplier for knowledge and research institutes within government, including RIVM. As Steven said, “The IT landscape I work in is probably the most important in the Netherlands now.”
1000 times more website visits
After all the attention from the nitrogen crisis, the coronavirus erupted a few weeks ago and the RIVM once again became the centre of attention. The RIVM is naturally prepared for crisis situations, but the consequences of the coronavirus were large and IT systems came under immense pressure.
For example, the website visits increased by a factor thousand, taking it to two million unique users per day. Everyone at the RIVM suddenly worked from home. Additionally, the calculation models that run on the servers were determining government policy. As Steven said, “Yes, that is indeed exciting indeed!”
Determining calculation models
As the Cabinet has already hinted before, they may have policy determined by advice from specialist researchers and scientific calculation models from RIVM. These models combine an enormous amount of data with which they make the best possible predictions, such as the distribution of the Corona virus, but also the number of sick patients on the intensive care and the distribution rate.
Responsible for the Netherlands and the world
Steven: “Our systems are responsible for the continuity of the Netherlands and are even important for the rest of the world. That’s because the data is shared with other researchers around the world, and so it has an effect on other countries’ policies. ”
State of the art server park
Fortunately for Steven, RIVM and the whole of the Netherlands, the calculation models do not run on a number of dilapidated servers, but on a state of the art server park. “Most of them are located in Amsterdam, but we also have data centre’s in the rest of the Netherlands. My position is mainly on the Service Management side, in the role of Incident and Request Fulfillment Manager. That means that I am responsible for these processes and functionally manage the organization. If there is a major disruption in the IT landscape, I am the first point of contact and I can quickly scale up with a team from different disciplines to restore the service as quickly as possible. ”
“When I started here last May, strangely enough, within the first week was a major disruption.” Steven explained. “That is a good way to get to know everyone and get to know yourself.”
Everything at once
Like most government services, SSC campus runs partly in the cloud and partly on premise. Due to the many demands placed on government data, the cloud is not always the best option. Moreover, such change processes usually requires a lot of time to coordinate and implement. Of course, the pace changes when there is a national virus outbreak. “We have achieved a lot in recent weeks,” says Steven. “Actually everything came together. We had to scale up and people suddenly had to work from home, for which everything had to happen in the field of both software and hardware. Critical systems are also monitored extra alert and changes to existing systems are additionally checked, determined and implemented.
“In the beginning, we had serious doubts whether we would have enough capacity available to keep everyone working from home. We then made an overview of the most important people who should have priority in questions and problems, so that continuity is guaranteed. ”
Steven then explains this further. “You can undoubtedly imagine that RIVM’s data is quite sensitive. To establish secure connections, we work with soft tokens for the identification of devices and other authentication means. We were prepared for that in some ways, as people from RIVM often work at home, just not on the scale as we see it now. At the same time, it was of course extremely important that everyone could continue working. Fortunately, various teams and departments from across the organization have worked hard and made every effort to ensure that everyone can work safely from home. ”
Fantastic team spirit
Surprisingly, the collaboration is now better than ever, says Steven. “Of course it is difficult to organize a conference call with sometimes 15 people in it. Everyone shouts “hello, everyone hears me?” by default and there is a lot of squeaks and creaks. But what I see is that everyone here is extremely motivated to do their job. The team spirit here is fantastic. We really realize that the work we do here is for the whole of the Netherlands. And that makes it fundamentally different. ”
Heroes of the rivm
Steven goes as far as to compare it to the heroes in the healthcare sector. “As far as I’m concerned, the people here are also one hundred percent heroes. As RIVM, we are not used to looking for publicity and we certainly do not want to put ourselves on a pedestal. But I am extremely proud of my colleagues and our team and the crucial work we are doing. ”
Also for Steven himself, he regularly works at night and on weekends. “But that does not matter. I still have energy for a hundred! ”
He finds it exciting that he is the first point of contact during an incident for one of the most important IT landscapes in the Netherlands, both in a positive and negative sense. “We have a fantastic team that is ready when something is going on. Fortunately, there is very little that can really go wrong. I’m certainly not worried about that. ”
In any case, it is special to suddenly find yourself in this exceptional situation. “It will indeed be difficult to find another job that outweighs this. I certainly hope I can reside here for a while longer. At the same time, I also hope that KLM, for example, will be able to use our expertise again soon. All LINKIT clients, whether commercial or government, can always find beautiful innovative projects where you can learn new things. So there are plenty of opportunities! ”