Vocus consolidates networks, looks to SDN

Vocus is preparing for the final stages of consolidating its core networks to a single ‘Supercore’ as it deals with the complex legacy of a string of acquisitions, particularly following the 2015-16 period of the M2 merger and acquisition of Nextgen.

After its incorporation in 2008, Vocus engaged in a string of acquisitions including the 2015 purchase of Amcom and the 2016 merger with merger with M2. M2 had itself made a number of acquisitions over the half-decade leading up to the merger. Those included the 2012 acquisition of Primus, the 2013 acquisition of Dodo and Eftel and the 2015 buyout of New Zealand’s Call Plus and 2Talk.

Later in 2016 Vocus acquired Nextgen Networks (in a deal that included the North West Cable System (NWCS) and the Australia Singapore Cable (ASC) projects) and gave the telco an additional 17,000 kilometres of domestic fibre. Picking up Nextgen’s fibre assets provided Vocus “with the missing piece in our existing infrastructure network,” the company’s then-CEO Geoff Horth said in June 2016 when the deal was announced.

The Supercore project involved the consolidation of half-a-dozen networks, with the group having already completed the migration of Amcom and Vocus, and the M2 migration expected to be completed in September.

Vocus has already consolidated its network operations centres, moving from four NOCs to a single Melbourne-based NOC.

“We have tech debt from having six or so networks,” Vocus Group chief operating officer Ellie Sweeney last week told a strategy briefing. “We've got a lot of manual intervention at the moment to provide a good level of service delivery.”

The Supercore consolidation gives Vocus the opportunity to “take the next step,” the COO said.

Over the last seven months the telco has had a project underway to consolidate its six edge networks.

“Not only are we simplifying into one new network, we’re also simplifying the edge,” she said. “At the moment, we have multiple boxes that would be serving different products. Again in future, there'll be one box that serves all of our products.”

Vocus also expects to cut costs through consolidating eight business support systems (BSSes) into two non-customised, cloud-based systems.

Eight BSS stacks “just drives complexity,” Sweeney said. “I was with our team in Perth last week and actually sat down and said, ‘Can you actually show me how you deliver an order? How do you deliver a circuit?’... It's highly manual, highly reliant on great people to do a great job.”

Vocus is implementing a programmable network based on software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV), the COO said.

“They are not new things in any regard, but it’s probably nice not to be in the vanguard, but to really be able to utilise what is now a lot of open source and a lot of common standards across the world,” Sweeney said.

The “future state” Vocus network will help speed up provisioning and deliver more self-service options for customers, and is also expected to offer opex savings of $30 million and capex savings of $30 million by FY23.

Sweeney said a programmable network will also open up options for new products, which could include bandwidth on demand, pay by the minute services, and services with varied SLAs, capacity and latency characteristics.

Vocus Group CEO Kevin Russell used the strategy briefing to detail the company’s new structure, which will see the company operate autonomous consumer, enterprise, and New Zealand business units.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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