by Byron Connolly

Cancer Council in IT overhaul

Dec 07, 2015
Big DataCRM SystemsTechnology Industry

Cancer Council NSW has completed the first phase of an IT overhaul that is seeing the company adopt a cloud and mobile-only strategy.

The charity organisation has moved 400 workers at head office, regional sites and retail shops to Microsoft Office 365, delivered from Microsoft’s Azure cloud at NextDC’s data centres. A portion of the organisation’s 2,500 volunteers may also get access to the product.

During the next phase, the company will adopt Microsoft SharePoint, Power BI, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM in the cloud. SharePoint is currently running out of its data centre at its head office in Woolloomooloo in Sydney. Around 60 different on-premise databases will also be consolidated and moved up into Azure, said Cancer Council NSW CIO, Branko Ceran. This phase will run throughout calendar 2016.

“We’ve already moved 90 per cent of our workloads across and the final 10 per cent will be move once we start the CRM phase,” Ceran said.

Ceran said the organisation also has plans to take advantage of the Microsoft Azure machine learning offering, a cloud-based predictive analytics service for big data mining and artificial intelligence.

The organisation employs four data scientists who examine demographics and other data related to various cancers to uncover trends.

“We do a lot of number crunching ourselves so there’s an opportunity to load the data into [Azure] and see what happens. Rather than building 40 servers downstairs to run our research data, we can now do that in the cloud, run reports using Power BI and have them available any device, anywhere,” he said.

“It’s amazing the level of knowledge around here we have around data [analysis] that we are not tapping,” he said.

The IT infrastructure overhaul was driven by the need for workers across 14 offices to spend more time in the community, said Ceran.

A key part of the overhaul was to rebuild the organisation’s underlying network infrastructure to overcome its limitations which left volunteers and staff unable to access the applications and databases crucial to their work.

“We needed to refresh our infrastructure with new switches and routers and we also had to upgrade our network bandwidth and ended up going with Telstra’s 4GX mobile solution, except for our head office where we have optic fibre [connectivity],” he said.

The organisation also deployed Riverbed Technology’s Steelhead WAN optimisation appliances at all its sites to improve the performance of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps. That does benefit Office 365 and will benefit our Azure [connection].

“That backbone and network foundation is there and really without that, if we can’t access [services] in the cloud in a timely manner, it’s just not going to work.

“Being a charity, you don’t want to go crazy [on IT spending]. We’re not a bank, we need to be really careful and considered as at how we spend our money. Riverbed gives us an opportunity to maximise our network performance and make sure that our applications in our systems – even our legacy ones – are working optimally. We can expect that when we go to the next phase with CRM [network performance] will be even better,” he said.

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