Fotis Karonis, vice-president IT at Everything Everywhere, talks to Computer Weekly about the challenges of consolidating Orange and T-Mobile's IT infrastructure and embracing the cloud.
The joint venture between Orange and T-Mobile, known as Everything Everywhere, has an opportunity to differentiate itself in a highly competitive market, with IT the driving force.
The merger of two companies, which comes at a time when cloud computing has reached a level of maturity desired by corporates, means IT cost savings are inevitable. But the benefits should not end at consolidating IT, because it is also an opportunity to build a new IT infrastructure that delivers business benefits.
Mobile operators T-Mobile and Orange set up a joint venture in the UK in 2009. The agreement formed the UK's largest mobile operator with around 30 million customers.
This meant bringing together two separate IT estates, which presented an opportunity to consolidate IT, make it more efficient and improve customer services. Everything Everywhere decided that the merging of IT was an opportunity to move to the cloud. As Gartner recently said, "If you have not already got a cloud strategy, get one now."
Cloud computing ambitions
Everything Everywhere is perhaps a pace-setter in terms of cloud computing, through its publicly stated target to put 40% of IT in the cloud within three years.
T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom moved the CIO of its Romanian operation, Romtelecom, to the UK to complete the task.
Fotis Karonis (pictured), who was the CIO at Athens airport for 10 years, where he worked on the build-up to the 2004 Athens Olympics, arrived in the UK when Orange and T-Mobile announced the merger of UK operations in late 2009.
Karonis, now Everything Everywhere vice-president IT, says he arrived to find two completely different IT operations and the vision of a single IT backbone. The added challenge of having 40% of internal systems in the cloud within three years soon followed. About 12% is now in its private cloud, but there is a long way to go before it reaches 100%.
The company selected T-Systems, also part of Deutsche Telekom, to support the move to the cloud as part of a massive outsourcing deal. It outsourced its IT to T-Systems in a deal worth £700m over seven years. Part of this was to move to T-Systems' Dynamic Cloud architecture.
Improved efficiency and customer services
Karonis said the company first had to build a service-oriented architecture (SOA), with the rules and standards that will enable it to share application and development across the company and with suppliers, in a private cloud.
"We eventually want a single SOA with 50 applications," says Karonis. This is part of a project known internally as Telco 50, which aims to have 50 internal applications in the cloud-based SOA which will run the company. For example, there will only be one instance of applications such as CRM, finance and accounting, supply chain, HR, business intelligence and campaign management.
Karonis says the rapid growth of mobile operators has led to the creation of a plethora of new applications. "Companies grew very rapidly and people were keen to bring in new applications."
Reducing the number of internal applications to 50 is a huge goal. When Karonis arrived, the merged organisation used about 660 internal applications. This has already been cut to 500.
Although IT savings of 25% are expected from the integration of the two companies, it is not just about becoming more efficient internally. The reduction of applications will improve the level of service offered to customers. "For example a consolidated CRM system will give you a better picture of the customer." The company is also consolidating its 13 datacentres to just two. Virtualisation, as well as a reduction in overlap, makes this possible.
Karonis is evangelical about IT's role in increasing customer satisfaction. "The customer needs a single point of contact," he says. This will help the company better target customers with offers and bespoke experiences, which will increase customer retention, customer wins and help Everything Everywhere position new services.
Building an agile IT infrastructure
To this end the SOA infrastructure in the cloud will enable Everything Everywhere to react quickly to a business requirement through rapid development of new systems or tweaks to existing systems. New systems and changes to existing systems are required to support any new product that is launched. If this takes too long the mobile company will lose advantages and potential business.
The SOA in the cloud enables third party suppliers to provide applications and application development services. This is key, says Karonis. "There is no point developing these applications in-house because it will not be as quick to market. We are agile and look at off-the-shelf options." He says applications provided by suppliers will be tweaked and configured.
But there is work to be done on the existing applications before they are moved into the cloud.
Sam Kingston, UK head at T-Systems, says the work is underway. T-Systems took control of the complete IT infrastructure of the joint venture in July, and on 1 October it took over the desktop services and support for about 10,000 users.
T-Systems is also preparing applications to be migrated to the dynamic cloud. It will begin moving existing applications to the cloud in the first half of next year, followed by more complicated migrations in the second half of 2012.
Kingston says a lot of work is going into preparing applications for the cloud. "Some are easy to move because they are not part of a complex infrastructure. We have to understand how the applications work and which systems they interact with." For example, a CRM system will interact with a complex infrastructure of systems, including billing systems, of which there can be many. Kingston says the front-end of applications will have to be re-written before they move into the cloud.
Everything Everywhere has brought together two companies that were previously in competition. It has set out its stall, and in doing so demonstrated how technology will enable the new company to differentiate through lower overheads and increased agility.
This is a story of both faces of IT: technology is making seamless integration possible, and cutting costs in the process; while the increased agility of the cloud-based infrastructure will make it quicker and less costly to introduce new services for customers.