The coming data-center crunch

Ross Milburn
11 Dec 2006

Improved agility, better system utilization and sourcing best practices top the list of data-center requirements

During a Telecom Asia executive roundtable in Hong Kong sponsored by HP, business and IT leaders detailed the challenges they faced in managing an IT infrastructure to cope with rapid market change, consolidation of business operations, plus ever more demanding customers.

Agnes Mak, senior VP mobile IT at mobile operator Sunday, outlined the challenges created by her company's acquisition by PCCW early this year: 'We're still two companies, with different cultures, and we need to show them that the mobile business, with 120% penetration of the population, personalized services, fast-changing technology and customers checking their billing information online in real-time, requires different management to fixed line.'

'We also have many compliance issues, like Sarbanes-Oxley, as we are listed in the US,' said Mak, 'Marketing projects can be a challenge, when they are presented to us without warning at a late stage. IT needs to get involved in product development from day one, so we can provide the expected services.'

Operating the new way was not easy to get used to. 'Previously, we just called or emailed the IT staff to make things happen,' said Mak, 'Using outsourced services demands a formal management discipline with contractual agreements, and we don't get any privileges compared to PCCW's other customers. A well-defined SLA is essential and we hold regular meetings to review it.'

Another company where IT staff had to cope with a recent merger is Hong Kong CSL, which merged with New World PCS.

'We are trying to move functions like HR and purchasing together, but it will take two or three years,' said Johnson Fan, manager for IT product, support and operations at CSL. 'Some of our servers have utilization as low as 5% to 6%, but it's difficult to maintain business continuity while consolidating the servers.'

Managing IT operations while getting products and services to market is a difficult balancing act, according to CPCNet CEO Stephen Ho. 'We built our network in four months and none of the IT worked perfectly. We had billing systems from different legacy networks on different platforms, with no integration. We had to pick up what was required on the IT side in parallel to marketing, and we were lucky to get our service to market.'

'We have an in-house requirement, but we also run the data center for customers in Hong Kong and Guangdong,' said Ho. 'The IT head manages the system, but the drive comes from the business projects. People scream: 'How come I have not got this yet‾' The IT guys say: 'We have ten requests today, which one shall we do first‾''

IT affects time to market
'Apart from time to market, the marketing people think the IT systems are inflexible,' continued Ho.

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