The Port Authority of Jamaica consolidated operations and improved efficiency by deploying a Port Community System in the Microsoft Azure cloud. Through an integrated solution optimized by F5 technology, the organization boosted the system’s performance, secured critical data, and gained the flexibility and scalability required to scale for future growth.
Based in Kingston, one of the largest and busiest seaports in Latin America and the Caribbean, The Port Authority of Jamaica is focused on improving the infrastructure and business processes of the country’s flourishing maritime sector. The organization works to integrate the diverse stakeholders, such as shipping agents, Customs officials, and terminal operators to transform labor-intensive manual processes into more efficient and more secure procedures. “At the end of the day,” says Port Community System Director Dwain Powell, “we are focused on improving the way we do business in Jamaica.”
To boost the efficiency of inter-port communications and cut down on paper, the Port Authority decided to deploy a Port Community System (PCS) designed by the French company SOGET, a leader in the field. Powell says that the organization embarked on an international tender process to request proposals for the implementation of the PCS. “We chose SOGET based on its track record in setting these systems up and the type of resources they were able to provide for the project.”
The next question the Port Authority faced was how to deploy their new system. “When we were deciding between hosting the PCS on site or in the cloud,” says Powell, “we looked at global IT trends and saw that many Fortune 500 companies were moving toward cloud-based solutions.” Because Microsoft is a partner of SOGET, the Port Authority team was confident that deploying the PCS in the Azure cloud would yield the most efficiencies.
The Port Authority has realized the benefits of setting up this electronic platform to connect the seaports and airports in the country. “By automating our processes,” Powell says, “we’ve reduced the amount of paper, which has led to a significant increase in efficiency. Now, you go to one place and see all the information you need in real time.”
While the Port Authority was very happy with its new PCS, the IT team understood that they had an opportunity to boost performance, availability, and, most importantly, security. They needed the last piece of the puzzle.
The Port Authority needed a solution that was extremely secure so that its partners like the Jamaica Customs Department would have confidence in the new system. “Security is a major component of the PCS,” says Powell. “The information that we store is customer specific and may only be shared with other government entities that require it for processing.”
F5 BIG-IP Advanced Firewall Manager (AFM) provided just what the organization needed: application-centric protection, DDoS mitigation, data security, and robust logging capabilities. “We chose to go with F5 based on its track record in protecting sensitive data for international financial institutions,” says Powell.
While Azure offers some native load balancing features, the Port Authority opted to deploy F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM) because of its flexibility in intelligently managing network traffic and the ability to use the F5 iRules scripting language for customization. “One of the most important factors in our decision was the flexibility and comprehensive nature of the F5 solution,” says PCS Operations Manager Duane Wittaker, “especially in handling traffic and ensuring high performance as well as security all at the same time.”
Because this is the first time SOGET’s PCS solution has been deployed in Azure, all the partners have been learning as they go. “We are the first in the Caribbean to deploy this kind of system,” says Powell, “and other countries in the region have shown a keen interest in acquiring the solution and going cloud-based for many of the same reasons we did.”
Deploying its new PCS in the Azure cloud enabled the Port Authority of Jamaica to deliver value today while preparing for future growth. F5 technology provided strong protection for critical data, enhanced the performance and availability of the system, and gave the organization a centralized point of control to streamline operations.
With confidential information flowing in and out of the PCS, the Port Authority understood that data security was of the utmost importance to its operations. As a full-proxy, application-centric security solution, BIG-IP AFM delivers network DDoS protection, SSL inspection and termination, deep visibility and reporting, centralized policy management, and bolstered scalability, performance, and reliability to the organization.
The Port Authority has deployed BIG-IP AFM in reverse proxy mode, which allows the virtual device to scrub return data for sensitive information and private data, such as Customs and shipping information. “Based on our vendors and the system we’ve implemented, as well as the research we’ve done, the security service that F5 offers is tier 1 in terms of financial institutions and governmental organizations,” says Powell. “So we opted to go with one of the best.”
To ensure the organization and its partners get the most out of the enhanced communications delivered by the PCS—and to help build confidence in the new system—the Port Authority focused on providing a highly available, streamlined, user-friendly experience. BIG-IP LTM enables the organization to deliver all of the operational benefits of the PCS to its users in a reliable, secure, and optimized way.
“We considered using the native Azure load balancer, but it did not have all the capabilities we needed, so we turned to F5,” says Powell. The organization uses the flexible iRules scripting language to customize the flow of traffic between users and the system and to secure sensitive resources stored in the PCS. By providing static and dynamic load balancing in the cloud, BIG-IP LTM ensures that the PCS is not only highly available, but easy to manage and scale.
As the first in the Latin America and Caribbean region to deploy a PCS, the Port of Authority of Jamaica is poised to reap the rewards of streamlined communications among its ports. And by deploying the PCS in the cloud supported by F5 solutions, the organization can quickly take advantage of future growth opportunities. “The solution allows us to be very responsive,” says Powell. “If we need to scale in terms of providing storage space, server availability, or enhanced performance, it’s very easy for us to do.”