Investment corp standardises intranets and reaps dividends

A decision by one of Australia's three largest wholesale funds managers to standardise its intranet environment is paying dividends.

Queensland Investment Corp took action when it realised the confused intranet face it presented to its 150 corporate users was threatening the free flow of information.

A daunting variety of styles, colours and formats had sprung up within the organisation as different departments independently developed Web sites.

QIC cut through the problem by imposing uniformity on intranet information access, style and formats through a standardised infrastructure and browser environment.

However, the intranet solution implemented by systems integrator Sunrise Computer Systems includes two applications that are producing extra dividends for QIC.

The first is video streaming to the desktop that delivers training or corporate information videos on demand to individual employees.

QIC has $20 billion under management and conducts most of its business via seminars, presentations and conference videos. As a result, the ability to incorporate video streaming in its intranet proved an instant hit with QIC executives.

The initial offering on the network, a corporate promotional video, has been viewed by "just about everyone in the corporation", said IT infrastructure services manager Mark Tsang.

Adding icing to QIC's cake, the core support software, MS Netshow Services, is a free module from Microsoft, which is trying to build demand for video streaming.

It lets QIC convert a videotape to an Advanced Video Streaming (ASF) format file stored on a server. The file is then delivered to the desktop as a video stream taking up 100Kbits of bandwidth.

The QIC's 100Mbit/sec switched network backbone and 10Mbit/sec desktop links allow 10 to 30 on-demand users to view videos concurrently.

To date, the video streaming facility has not generated any bandwidth bottleneck problems, Tsang said.

A second new application delivered via the intranet is a central phone book which uses Microsoft's Active Directory System Interface (ADSI) technology to link directory text from an Exchange database to a speech engine.

When users request a phone number, the speech engine delivers the information in audio form via their browser screen.

QIC's biggest surprise since it implemented the standardised infrastructure several months ago is the speed at which intranet demand is growing, said Tsang.

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