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Telstra is transforming Australian IT infrastructure

Telco is transforming its IT operation to make better use of the cloud, data and application programming interfaces

Australia’s Telstra is transforming the IT infrastructure that supports its Global Enterprise and Services businesses-to-business (B2B) unit, which supplies services to large enterprise market internationally. The project will see the overall company become cloud first with a focus on better use of data and application programming interfaces (APIs).

The IT transformation project will be phased in over two years as the company tries to minimise disruption to customers on legacy platforms.

The International unit, as it is known, of Australia’s largest telco, which grew by 44% last year and has sales worth AUD 1.3bn, serves a customer base of enterprises and governments, largely in Asia.

It provides technology including data and IP networks as well as network application services, such as managed networks, unified communications and cloud services. It also has interests in software, video delivery, online sales and e-health.

As an IT and communications service provider, Telstra’s B2B arm is well positioned to support group adoption of modern technologies such as cloud computing, business intelligence and artificial intelligence.

The Telstra group’s main business is its AUD 17bn retail operation in Australia, which covers services such as fixed voice, mobile, PSTN and NBN across the consumer, small business and large enterprise markets. Telstra has 35,000 employees, including more than 3,000 across 20 countries outside of Australia.

The retail and International businesses used to operate autonomously, but after a move to the cloud its B2B operations, it was decided to do the same for the whole company.

“Telstra has a company-wide IT strategy and is organised in business engagement and platform groups,” said Sundi Balu, CIO at Telstra International. “Across the organisation, our IT focus is data-centric, cloud-based and API-driven,” added Balu, who works closely with overall CIO Erez Yarkoni, who heads IT in the retail business.  

“Telstra’s IT leadership team is tightly integrated,” said Balu. “We have moved from vertically integrated groups to engagement groups and platform capabilities to deliver reusable engines developed and prioritised based on business needs.” 

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Balu said Telstra’s B2B operation has led the way in modernising IT. “About three years ago, we completed a transformation internationally where we put most of the capability in the cloud, with an API-centric, data-driven approach,” he said. “Right now we are doing that in Australia and becoming a truly global organisation so customers have a seamless experience no matter where they are.”

Before the B2B operation completed its transformation, it was split among several regions.

Most of the company’s IT infrastructure supporting global customers is in Australia, with about 2,000 IT staff overall. Last year, Telstra B2B acquired Asian telecoms company Pacnet, which increased the scale and scope of its international connectivity business and doubled its customer base in Asia.

Balu said Telstra is going through a similar transformation as its business customers are, including harnessing the cloud. “Apart from the obvious business benefit of capital expenditure savings, cloud computing and software-as-a-service applications are helping us achieve better business agility across our global operations,” he added.

“For example, customer-facing team members can quickly access secure cloud-based resources to perform their job through any device and from any geographical location. This is a major shift from the slower practice of navigating several secure VPN connections, from desktops back to headquarters in Australia.”

Artificial intelligence (machine learning) is also enabling Telstra to understand customer behaviour and helping it ensure that customer service levels are met. “In the operations support, through the use of machine learning, Telstra systems are able to predict impending failure or the breach of service-level agreements through the analysis and prediction of network performance,” said Balu.

Australia is a good place to pioneer the use of new technology, he added. “Australia has always been a leader in terms of adopting technology, with 23 million people in a well-advanced society.”

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