Toll's IT goes global with network refresh

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Toll's IT goes global with network refresh
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Data centre refresh and consolidation

Alongside its global backbone network project, Toll has undergone a complete refresh of networking infrastructure within its Australian data centre.

It also is reviewing its data centre assets across its entire operations with a view to consolidating down to two key facilities – one in Australia and another in active-active configuration in a location yet to be determined.

Toll’s Australian data centre had for some years predominantly been a Nortel shop, but was coming to end-of-life on much of the core switching and routing used to connect its WANs.

Nortel entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2009 and has since been auctioning off its assets.

"The Chapter 11 was the straw that broke the camel's back," Marcakis said.

After taking on some advice from analyst group Gartner, the company chose Cisco for its depth of product range and proven R&D record.

Toll has since replaced its entire data centre with Cisco's Nexus 7000 and 5000 switches, and by attrition will also replace all routers with Cisco Nexus 2000's at the edge of its network over the next two to three years as this kit reaches end-of-life.

"We are 95 percent complete in terms of transferring from Nortel to Cisco in the data centre," Marcakis said.

"The big risk pieces of work are done. We'll do the edge routers spread around the network by attrition - as they come to require a refresh, this is the standard that will apply."

Already, the data centre refresh has resulted in reduced footprint and power consumption in Toll’s Australian facilities.

"We've saved about $100,000 a year in two data centres in power reductions alone," Marcakis said.

"We are also a scalable, inherently more expandable business now that we have set a foundation," he said.

In terms of compute and storage, Toll predominantly runs HP blade servers and NetApp storage and runs virtual servers based on VMware.

The data centre refresh will enable Toll’s IS division to offer services in a "cloud-like" fashion to Toll businesses - calculating the computing costs according to IP subnet, for example.

Whether that is explicitly "charged back" to these business units is less relevant, Marcakis said, than the transparency such a strategy provides management.

Marcakis is also confident the company will spend enough on Cisco kit for Toll to become a "global Cisco customer" and be eligible for commercial discounts.

Evolving with Optus

Marcakis’ third major project was to sign a new agreement with Optus to connect Toll’s 400+ Australian sites to the Evolve network.

The MPLS-based network offers a wide choice of connection speeds for different business units and a shared cost of network use across the domestic business.

Some 360 Toll sites are connected, he said, with another 40 to come on board.

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