Slowed growth prompts consolidation for Internode

CIO looks to consolidate internal tech with high priority on the end user

Internode is no longer the speeding bullet of its youthful days.

Though ranked South Australia’s fastest growing technology company by Deloitte in 2005, what has been labelled the “point five” of a consolidating ISP sector has in the past years become a larger - and ultimately more mature - service provider.

That’s not to say the pressures of growth have waned - managing director, Simon Hackett, is quick to point out that the company’s continued high growth rates poise further challenges for staff, systems and priorities. However, as the company does reposition itself to suit a changing market, its internal technology must ultimately be polished, or scrapped for something better.

Since coming to the role of CIO in January, Frank Falco has embarked on just that challenge.

“We do a good job now, despite some legacy systems from the fast-growth phase,” he said on his appointment at the beginning of the year. “My role is to build and refine that solid infrastructure base to deliver both better customer service and introduce innovative new services.”

The number of major projects already underway stands testament to that consolidation. The company completed the initial implementation of its $4 million NetSuite Business solution and is currently customising it as cloud-based front-end to its existing operating and billing systems over a four year timeframe. The service provider’s IPv6 trials have also reportedly resulted in further internal changes.

Under Falco, however, the company has spent the past year forging relationships with tech giants IBM and Oracle in order to aid its internal transformation, resulting in new storage and data grid systems designed with both the customer experience and back-end support in mind.

“We are constantly trying to enhance our systems and we’re looking at better ways to build newer and more efficient tools that we can use to both manage our infrastructure and help our support team to support our customers,” Falco told Computerworld Australia. “We’re obviously spending a lot of time and are, particularly at the moment, for the last year or so and for the next few years going forward, looking very hard at all of our systems and our infrastructure, to enhance all of those things.”

In February, Internode completed a deployment of an Oracle Coherence solution, a data grid providing real-time analysis for technical calls required by call centre support staff to determine the state of a customer’s modem connection. The new database replaced three “very specific” tools built in-house by Internode.

“Historically you would have, in... almost all cases, ask people to turn off and turn their modem back on again, to watch what happens,” Falco said. “That’s not really a great customer experience, for somebody sitting there for about a minute, waiting for this thing to happen.”

The real-time aspect of the solution enabled support staff to determine the state of an internet connection without the regular “power cycle” processes, ultimately reducing technical call times by up to 80 per cent.

“There’s a lot of data about every customer connection coming through over a couple of hours,” he said. “We’re looking at it for other types of systems where we need high availability and high data throughput, like we do in this one.”

Internode also became one of the first companies in South Australia to adopt the IBM XIV Storage System, a non-tiered data rack used by the provider to upgrade mail storage capacities for its customers.

Though Falco said the previous storage system worked well, the high overheads for maintenance and inflexibility in storage expansion were causes for concern. The storage selection process was important as a means of getting better value of the end product.

“What we didn’t do was just say, ‘well let’s buy the bigger, shinier version of the one that we had before’,” he said. “We took this opportunity to sit back and say ‘look this is not about storage, it’s about a whole raft of things that are influenced by the storage system and can be influenced by the storage system that you select’.”

Falco has used the past year as a means to carefully revamp internal technology within Internode by collaboration with end users, rather than technologists. It’s “just not using technology for the sake of technology”.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAu

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