BCL buys an Axon refit

Plans to buy 180 desktops, 160 laptops and 23 servers

Axon is to replace the desktop, laptop and server infrastructure of Broadcast Communications (BCL), the State-owned communications network company that provides services to broadcasters, telecommunications providers and network operators.

BCL chief information officer John Benson says the contract will enable BCL to reduce IT infrastructure costs. It will also let the company provide more mobility to its workforce, and improve customer service by allowing major customers and suppliers to interface easily with BCL’s systems.

Axon will replace BCL’s 180 desktops, 160 laptops and 23 servers with a standardised Microsoft-based desktop build, running on IBM desktop and server hardware, including storage area networks, Bladecentres and Think Pads. The standardisation project enables mobile applications, intranet, extranet, management reporting, statutory email archiving and disaster recovery.

Axon won the contract in a tender process contested by eight IT service providers.

BCL has been running a Novell GroupWise environment, which is now aging and did not provide synchronisation for the company’s highly mobile workforce. BCL was also using a wide range of ‘white box’ unbranded hardware, which made it hard to configure a standardised desktop. This lack of standardisation drove up the company’s total cost of IT ownership.

The BCL business required an IT Infrastructure that demonstrated alignment and linkage to its business plan, positioned the IT Infrastructure to properly support ongoing business operations and initiatives (including legal obligations) and ensured that the total cost of ownership (TCO) conforms with industry norms and benchmarks.

“This project will enable us to give our many mobile workers — including the technical field force and sales teams — multiple forms of mobility, including integrated mobile phones, laptop broadband wireless connectivity, and the ability to work from home,” Benson says. “ Improvements in customer service will come primarily from giving staff fast and continuous access to business applications and data in the field.”

He says the new infrastructure easily integrates with all of BCL’s major customers and suppliers, and will provide an opportunity for better integration with BCL’s sister company THL Australia.

Axon will use VMware to virtualise BCL’s Field Services laptops. This will allow field service teams throughout New Zealand to use their laptops as a traditional corporate communication device, and as test equipment to configure network equipment for customers.

The laptops will run two Microsoft operating systems — for example, XP Pro plus a legacy system like Windows 95 — and also Linux. This means a BCL technician can quickly install or maintain diverse customer equipment such as routers, cell sites or microwave equipment with a single laptop. This replaces the use of separate laptops or multi-boot machines that needed to be rebooted in order to switch operating systems.

Axon will provide a platform that allows BCL to optimise the way it works, Benson says, and will shift the company from using multiple sources of information to a single system that does not have to be reconciled with other information silos.

The new platform will also support online "self service" information for customers, suppliers and sub contractors. Provisioning, fault handling and maintenance records, as well as project timelines, will be made available online.

As a network company, BCL also aims to make network alarms and performance data visible online to customers through improved IT systems, Benson.says.

“The work we’re embarking on with Axon will drive down our total cost of IT ownership year on year. It also positions us to be able to realise further cost savings by outsourcing some IT management functions. Most importantly for our customers, our mobile employees will have fast and continuous access to everything they need to do their job, no matter where they are.”

The rollout will begin in November, says BCL, and is expected to be completed by mid-2006. The company won't say what the project is worth.

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