Rio Tinto commits to deploy Azure Stack

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Rio Tinto commits to deploy Azure Stack

Reveals it will employ 59 new IT staff in Australia.

Rio Tinto has become the second major Australian firm to publicly commit to deploying Microsoft's Azure Stack on-premises cloud appliances.

The miner disclosed the project yesterday as it launched its largest IT recruitment drive in several years, creating 59 new roles - all of which are based in Australia.

The centralisation of core IT capability in Australia is likely to be a flow-on effect of the miner’s recent decision to base its global chief information officer in Brisbane instead of Singapore.

The enormous number of vacancies listed - which fall under IT operations, solutions development, strategy and governance - also provide significant clues as to where Rio Tinto is building out its capability.

Notably, the job descriptions list a direct application requirement and say that "any other method of application will not be considered."

Azure Stack commitment

That Rio Tinto is increasing its commitment to the Microsoft cloud ecosystem is perhaps no surprise given it revealed earlier this year that it had “moved its huge SAP estate” to Azure and handed its 55,000 employees “secure mobile access to business information through Microsoft 365 Enterprise.”

SAP is a cornerstone of many industrial operations. Rio Tinto actually put 24 SAP modules and 35TB of data into production Azure instances back in August 2016, though the project was not disclosed until 2018.

Its commitment to Azure appears set to expand further with the use of Azure Stack - which is essentially a family of appliances that run a version of Azure’s operating system, allowing customers to host a slice of Azure within their own data centres.

The technology is seen as a game-changer because it allows customers to host workloads on Azure both in their own data centres as well as in Microsoft’s facilities - enabling a hybrid cloud operating model.

One of the company’s Brisbane-based advertisements seeks a specialist to “implement and operate industry leading compute solutions including Dell and NetApp hyperconverged infrastructure [and] Azure Stack.”

Another role with the same reporting line notes the miner is using virtualised compute and containerisation technologies including “VMware, Docker, Kubernetes, [and] Azure Stack”.

Rio Tinto is only the second major Australian end user to publicly disclose plans to run in both Azure and Azure Stack. Retail bank ANZ disclosed similar plans last year.

Data analytics in AWS?

Also in Brisbane, Rio Tinto is looking to deploy a “cloud-based, enterprise-scale data integration and analytics platform”.

It appears that platform is to run in the rival AWS cloud ecosystem; the miner is hoping to bring onboard a “specialist DevOps engineer” specific to AWS that will report through to a “principal advisor for analytics enablement”.

The company is known to have been building out a data analytics platform for most of this year.

It has previously warned that it was having trouble finding data science skills to meet its ambitions.

Network ‘blueprints’

A second set of interesting roles are based out of Perth, where it appears the company will concentrate skills for its network architecture and applications environment.

It is set to create four new “specialist” roles covering the voice architecture, internet architecture, LAN/wireless architecture, and unified communications domains.

All four specialists will take control of domain “blueprints” that are expected to deliver value to Rio Tinto’s global operations over a five-year period.

The voice specialist will oversee global IP telephony operations, while the internet-focused specialist will run gateway architecture “for connectivity with key business and information systems externally hosted [as well as] remote access”.

Getting the internet and wireless LAN components right globally will be critically important to the company’s multi-cloud ambitions, ensuring systems perform for employees, many of whom will work from remote sites.

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