Revealed: NBN Co's IT strategy

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Revealed: NBN Co's IT strategy
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Leading the way on cloud computing

NBN Co seeks to be an aggressive adopter of cloud computing, primarily for scalability and speed to market, but to exploit the capabilities of the network it is building.

The company has chosen SaaS solutions hosted on Australian soil to date.

NBN Co product development head Jim Hassell described the cloud as one of the network builder’s major propositions for businesses at Salesforce.com’s customer conference last week.

Speaking with iTnews after his keynote speech, Hassell said NBN Co often considered cloud solutions so as to reduce time spent building software, but faced the usual data sovereignty concerns.

CIO Claire Rawlins said all of NBN Co’s “business critical data” was stored in Australia.

“I think using the cloud is a very positive message,” Rawlins told iTnews, highlighting flexibility, cost, and a reduced capital expenditure as benefits.

“That’s the whole point of what we’re doing, in terms of NBN as an enabler for the digital, networked economy.

“I think we’re sort of eating our own dog food, or drinking our own champagne as I prefer to say.”

This week,  NBN Co’s sales team of 50 will begin using Oracle on-Demand customer relationship management software, alongside an Oracle E-Business ERP suite, deployed last year.

The hosted CRM will be delivered from a partner’s data centre in Sydney.

IT staff also use JIRA bug tracking and project management tools from Sydney start-up Atlassian, and a cloud-based interactive voice response (IVR) service from contact centre service provider IPscape.

NBN Co typically required five nines of availability, Rawlins said, which meant its service providers were only allowed 5.26 minutes of downtime per year.

While cloud e-mail services by Google and Microsoft have gained traction in some Australian enterprises, these options haven't been embraced by the network builder as the services are hosted offshore.

Cloud computing giants Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure currently serve the Asia-Pacific region from facilities in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Salesforce.com, which hosted some 1,300 delegates in Sydney last week, has data centres in the US and Singapore. It has offered no concrete plans to back up promises of a local facility.

While Hassell expected vendors to be drawn to Australia’s land availability and customer base, he said it would be up to those vendors and regulators to discuss data sovereignty and location issues.

Enterprise architecture general manager Barnett agreed that the network builder was “not focused on broader innovation topics” like attracting cloud service providers to Australia.

“We’ve got a pretty tight focus on getting the infrastructure built out and providing the core network services,” he said, “but it obviously would be a good outcome if NBN Co enabled [the build of local data centres] to happen faster.”

When built, NBN Co’s IT infrastructure head Gordon McMillan expected the NBN to provide enough bandwidth to allow Australian businesses to seamlessly consume cloud applications over the wire.

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