iSoft enters next phase of IT transformation

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iSoft enters next phase of IT transformation

Aims to shave millions from computer services costs.

Health software developer iSoft has started a rationalisation of its business applications portfolio, entering the third phase of a multimillion dollar IT overhaul that also saw the company rebuild its Sydney data centre from scratch.

The company's chief information officer, Martin Wilkinson, told iTnews the activities were part of a three-year transformation project he had set down for the group.

The first part of the transformation saw iSoft's worldwide offices wired with a mix of voice-over IP, videoconferencing and unified communications - the latter based on Microsoft's Office Communications Server 2007 software.

The worldwide video network infrastructure and VoIP core network for Asia Pacific were hosted in Sydney.

Phase two encompassed a complete data centre rebuild and server consolidation project while phase three, aimed at reducing duplication of software, was still underway, according to Wilkinson.

"We have lots of applications doing the same things in the same areas [of the business]," he said.

"We're looking now at where and how we invest [in software]."

Wilkinson said the transformation was brought on by the merger of iSoft and IBA Health some "twenty months ago".

"We went from 700 to about 3600 staff and we also inherited a fairly substantial operation in India and the UK," he said.

The sudden scale initiated a rethink of where the company would host its data centre and how it would provide computing services to offices in the Asia Pacific.

The software vendor's headquarters were based in the Darling Park complex in Sydney's CBD.

"We didn't really have a proper computer room," Wilkinson said.

That meant no redundancy, raised floor, wiring closets, and a domestic air conditioning system, he said.

The company decided to shift its headquarters out of one tower of Darling Park and into another.

The company "gutted" two of the highest adjoining floors of the tower and engaged HP for the data centre design and construction.

The facility was completed within two months but wasn't without its challenges.

"We had to relocate all the servers from one tower to the other but [facilities management] didn't allow us to bring them through the lobby [which interconnects both towers]," Wilkinson said.

"So we had to take them downstairs, put them into the back of a truck and drive them between the loading docks. It was pretty phenomenal it only took nine hours [because] I'd told the business we'd be down for a whole weekend."

Wilkinson said the company had also managed to avoid expensive floor-strengthening work during construction, despite the data centre being located close to the top of the tower and the need to locate heavy duty plant such as Emerson computer room air conditioning units (CRAC) on the floor.

"Surprisingly we didn't need reinforcement. I saw [the builders] cut out a concrete slab to make room for stairs between the two floors [and] I understand why - it's a monster," Wilkinson said.

The new data centre was six times the size of the superseded "computer room" and includes "mostly relocated HP D series servers", along with HP and EMC SAN units and networking infrastructure. The company has installed 80 physical servers running 104 virtual machine guests using VMware, Wilkinson said.

Worldwide, the company had about 500 physical servers and over 3500 virtual machines, although many of these were in development and testing centres in India.

Wilkinson said the company was also undergoing a "considerable server refresh".

Most of the Australian servers hosted Exchange, SharePoint and other Microsoft applications, together with "finance [applications] and business information [data] warehouses".

"We have a large Microsoft investment, including a big mail Exchange organisation," Wilkinson said.

"We've just gone through a massive domain migration to get all the other Exchange organisations within the group talking to each other."

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