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BT global managed services bring innovation and collaboration even to some of the planet’s most inhospitable places
When Anglo American increased its shareholding in De Beers to 85 per cent, work began on aligning management and governance systems. As part of the integration process, Craig Charlton, newly-appointed CIO at De Beers, developed an IT strategy to optimise service and value across the De Beers Group of Companies.
Central to this was evaluation of Anglo American strategic service partnerships, including the global managed network services contract with BT. In fact as its original architect, no one was better qualified than Craig to extract the value in that deal.
Merging our separate worldwide networks onto a single BT global platform was part of the strategy to globalise our infrastructure service at De Beers.”
- Craig Charlton, Chief Information Officer, De Beers Group of Companies
Connectivity counts in a complex industry
From the smartphone that runs your life to the railway that takes you to work, products from mining play vital roles in today’s world. But their sources are unevenly spread around the planet and they’re seldom conveniently placed. That poses peculiar problems for the firms that find and extract them.
Anglo American is just such a company: in fact, one of the world’s largest. David Heppenstall, its chief information technology officer and head of global infrastructure, explains: “We work in the remotest corners of the globe, like 3,500 metres up in the Chilean Andes or hard to reach parts of Africa. It means we face connectivity challenges seldom found in other industries.”
Recently extended to 2018, a global managed services deal between BT and Anglo American originally swept away a large number of different service providers to create a single BT IP Connect global infrastructure. “That assures us of a fast and resilient network anywhere to increase asset automation, improve productivity and drive collaboration across and between our businesses,” adds David.
Many-times-faster network at much less cost
Now, that global wide area network reaches 160 Anglo American sites across 31 countries linking five regional data centres and nearly 160,000 employees and contractors. Of the five regional data centres, two – in Hortolândia, Brazil, and Dublin, Ireland – are BT Compute facilities. BT Internet Connect at the BT data centres provides high-speed internet access on a global basis.
“One of the great strengths of BT is its strong relationships with local service providers,” says Craig Charlton, CIO at the De Beers Group of Companies. “That’s complemented by its knowledge of our industry and the technical expertise it puts at our disposal.”
The demands on the network have changed in recent times. While at first the primary goal was a joined-up business, Anglo American has since added voice, video and other collaborative apps. The six classes of service (CoS) inherent in BT IP Connect global allow prioritisation of those different types of traffic.
A more recent development has seen BT Connect Optimisation used to drive up the infrastructure’s speed and cost effectiveness. Some 68 appliances have been installed at Anglo American sites globally, including two in each data centre. Based on Cisco technology these perform their magic in two ways: first by using advanced data compression techniques to make better use of bandwidth; and second by locally-caching large files to prevent their repeated transmission across the wide area.
David Walls, global infrastructure architecture manager, says: “We’ve moved from routinely adding expensive bandwidth by ordering ever-larger pipes to putting in smaller pipes that are more efficient, cost us much less and are many times faster.” Anglo American estimates BT Connect Optimisation will save it tens of millions of pounds in network costs over the lifetime of the contract.
Collaborative technology cements global cohesion
An end-to-end BT IP Connect global infrastructure comes with another major plus: the ease of introducing collaborative tools. For a start, a convergence programme has seen the replacement of hundreds of legacy PBXs with BT One Enterprise. This uses Cisco Unified Communications Manager (UCM) technology. Some 20,000 users are served by UCM hubs in each of the company’s four regions, with full eight-digit desk-to-desk dialling throughout the world.
Meanwhile, BT One Voice ensures that (where regulations permit) international fixed and mobile calls are carried over the BT network and incur only local call charges. Taken together with BT One Enterprise, the company is seeing a significant reduction in its annual call charges.
“As well as the cost savings, we’re now able to operate as a truly global community,” says David Heppenstall. “Connecting with colleagues anywhere in the world can be as simple as picking up the phone and hitting a few keys. That means we share ideas and knowledge much more readily.”
TelePresence brings a stronger ecosystem and best practice sharing
As another collaborative tool, Anglo American uses managed BT One Collaborate video conferencing running over the BT IP Connect global infrastructure.
Six fully-immersive Cisco TelePresence suites (two in London, two in Johannesburg and one each in Rio de Janeiro and Santiago) are achieving 100 per cent utilisation and 99 per cent customer satisfaction. The CoS functionality in the BT IP Connect global infrastructure contributes to that great satisfaction score by speeding the video conferencing traffic ahead of less time-sensitive data. Globally, some 160 other video conferencing devices are in use.
David Heppenstall continues: “A major aim is to help find and share best practice across our businesses wherever it occurs in the world. For example, if someone in Chile has found a way of better utilising our large fleet of haul trucks we need to be able to share that learning across the globe as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
As part of the BT One Collaborate service, the BT global video exchange is used to interconnect video conferences with an ecosystem of partners and suppliers, while the BT video bridging service provides interoperability with legacy video endpoints.
“One of our senior executives has installed a video conferencing suite in his house,” says David Wall. “Now he can collaborate with colleagues anywhere in the world from home rather than spend his life at 35,000 feet. Our vision is for people with smartphones, desk phones, iPads, soft clients, TelePresence, in the office, at home, on the move, to connect and share and fully collaborate.”
Worldwide mining innovation master class
BT is also supporting a move to cloud services. However, with the majority of Anglo American operations in the southern hemisphere, but apps like Microsoft Office 365, Box and Jive hosted in the northern hemisphere, latency was a potential showstopper.
To overcome the issue, BT designed and deployed a secure internet gateway in its Croydon data centre and negotiated peering arrangements with Microsoft, Amazon and the rest. Now Anglo American cloud traffic travels at high speed over the BT IP Connect global infrastructure, hustled over long distances by the CoS technology. When it arrives at Croydon, it’s a short hop to the app provider through a lightning-fast BT Internet Connect service. Problem solved.
“The BT secure internet gateway’s an amazing solution and we absolutely love it,” says David Walls. “We recently re-routed our cloud-based internal job posting and recruitment app through it and the positive response was overwhelming.”
De Beers joins the party for glittering technology prizes
In 2012, Anglo American increased its shareholding in De Beers from 45 per cent to 85 per cent (the Government of the Republic of Botswana holds the remaining 15 per cent). Like many metals and minerals, diamonds don’t exactly pop up in handy places. De Beers has brought with it Canadian sites that operate in extreme conditions in winter months where supplies need to be driven thousands of miles across frozen lakes and icy terrains.
Craig Charlton says: “With its Anglo American track record, and working with other major energy and resources players, BT has acquired a wealth of knowledge in dealing with harsh environments. We’re now bringing that experience to bear for the benefit of De Beers.”
For example, long-ago geological shifts have given the coast of Africa far more than its fair share of the world’s rough diamonds. Purpose-built vessels – recovering that wealth from the ocean bed, and permanently at sea off the coast of Namibia – will soon benefit from BT Connect line-of-sight microwave bearers. This will enable, for example, ship-to-shore video conferences to plan and monitor mining operations.
Flexible contract helps comb out the network spaghetti
In many respects De Beers is in the self-same situation that Anglo American was five years ago; the one that gave rise to the BT managed services contract in the first place. With a mix of service providers around the world and three separate global backbone networks, the De Beers infrastructure lacks flexibility and is expensive to run.
Plans are afoot to collapse the three De Beers backbones into one. Serving 70 sites around the world, connectivity will then be transitioned to the Anglo American BT IP Connect global network. The new BT contract enshrines clauses necessary to eliminate the need for constant renegotiation, avoiding effort and delays on all sides.
“Such a network migration is something one doesn’t undertake lightly,” says Craig Charlton. “Apart from the sheer logistics, there are darker elements like the possibility of IP address clashes with the potential to bring the whole thing crashing down. BT has an exemplary track record in such projects and a team of BT Advise experts is working on the 12-month programme. When it’s complete our IT team will have more time to move up the value chain instead of constantly fixing the infrastructure.”
With data networks in Africa more robust and reliable than the continent’s voice networks, Microsoft Lync has been a preferred medium for De Beers. Adoption of the BT IP Connect global network will further improve communications. At the same time over 10,000 De Beers employees worldwide will be moved onto the BT One Enterprise voice platform. Similarly, the new secure remote access available to 4,500 Anglo American users will be adopted in De Beers too.
The complexity and culture shock of bringing the two companies together should not be underestimated. Says Craig Charlton: “The support of BT in the internal communications programme has been much appreciated, while the quality and technical expertise of its staff have set our people’s minds at rest.”
Co-operation and collaboration come to the fore
The merger between the two companies is bringing other benefits. For instance, a recent supply chain systems issue with its roots deep in the De Beers infrastructure was resulting in slow responses, affecting morale and productivity. With the problem persisting for two weeks, a BT Advise team was brought in. Application performance management probes isolated the problem to the application layer rather than the network layer. With that clarity, fast resolution followed.
During 2013, sorting of the more than 30 million carats of diamonds De Beers produces every year was moved to Botswana from London. Meanwhile corporate offices remain in London. The Anglo American BT Collaborate video conferencing facilities will soon be ensuring that the necessary close co-operation between the two units continues.
“When I took up the job, getting high-definition TelePresence operating in Africa and other emerging regions was regarded as undoable due to bandwidth, stability and cost constraints,” says Craig Charlton. “Yet here we are 18-months later making that happen over a BT infrastructure. That’s a clear demonstration of the ability of BT to work closely with local providers and deliver cost competitive solutions.”
BT Global Customer Service, there to ensure that stringent SLAs are met and exceeded, is a final vital piece in the jigsaw. The overall network is controlled from the BT Network Operations Centre in Durban for English-speaking users and São Paulo for Spanish, Portuguese and other languages. A BT Global Service Manager is located in London, running a team that includes members in every country in which Anglo American has a presence.
- BT IP Connect global including satellite and microwave technologies
- BT Connect Optimisation
- BT Internet Connect
- BT One Voice
- BT One Enterprise
- BT One Collaborate featuring global video exchange and video bridging services
- BT Unified Trading
- BT Compute data centre services
- BT Advise Connect
- Service and network management