TelstraClear has completed a year-long, $3.5 million integration and upgrade to its email systems bringing all services onto a standard resilient platform — and cutting spam in the process.
CIO Andrew Crabb says the project began just over a year ago, driven by rapidly increasing volumes of mail and the complexity of the company’s mail product — caused in part by acquisitions such as Paradise.net, acquired by the then-Telstra Saturn in 2000.
Crabb says between the Christmases of 2005 and 2006, email volumes increased 500%, with more than 95% of that spam or phishing emails.
The company went in search of a single standard scalable infrastructure on which to consolidate its disparate legacy email platforms. That process meant looking at best practice in the industry, talking to analysts and research houses and looking across the Tasman to see what parent Telstra was doing.
At the end of that process the architecture chosen was based on one already in place — that used by the ClearNet. It consists of Sun hardware running Solaris, Sun Mail and protection from Symantec Brightmail. TelstraClear also added Ironport as an extra layer of protection.
The consolidation project cost $3.5 million and involved 10 to 15 internal staff plus external people, mainly from Sun.
In December customers on the old Paradise.net platform were migrated to the new infrastructure, followed in February by customers on the ClearNet platform.Crabb says the biggest challenge in the consolidation was switching customers in parallel, with virtually no impact. Apart from a minute or two when mailboxes refilled, customers did not even know they had been switched, he says.
“We spent a lot of time preparing duplicate mailboxes in synch. There was significant testing before going,” Crabb says.
He says the project has delivered simplicity and performance improvements as well as enhanced reporting capabilities. It has also delivered the scale and resilience TelstraClear will need for its email services over the next three to five years.
The simplicity of the system assists staff training and allows resources to be shifted from operational roles to more strategic initiatives. In the datacentre it has saved power and space, cutting four racks of hardware back to just over one.
The dual layering of spam protection, with Brightmail and Ironport, has also delivered real bonuses.
“Ironport blocks 85% of the spam at the front door. Brightmail blocks the rest. We have been congratulated by customers on that,” Crabb says.