Thiess hungry for bandwidth without the big fat pipes

Mining and construction giant Thiess willingly admits it is a struggle to match telecommunications solutions with project needs because ubiquitous broadband coverage in Australia is seriously lacking.

In a candid address to delegates at the Australian Telecommunications User Group (ATUG) conference in Sydney yesterday, the company's corporate telecommunications manager Ben Creevey said Thiess will use anything it can for connectivity.

He said this can range from provisioning satellites in remote locations to using wireless in metropolitan areas to manage load provisioning and tight project timeframes.

Thiess already has 180 connected sites on a converged data, video and voice network as well as 10 satellites in Australia.

However, Creevey said the company is not interested in owning "big fat pipes" unless they can be guaranteed to get communication services where, and when, they need them.

Instead, Thiess concentrates more on bandwidth management.

"We would rather concentrate on effective bandwidth management than buy the big fat pipe," he said, adding that there is no shortage of players that can offer gigabit trunks.

"But our problem is getting the bandwidth to remote project sites where our people are, because they have the same bandwidth needs as the rest of the organization. At this stage we really don't have any significant applications that stream or run at 10Mbps; videoconferencing is kept quite lean but that is not a factor in getting a big fat pipe and only using one-tenth of it.

"It is all well and good to have our own trunk, but if the latency is high it is going to get you.

"A lot of our remote operations that use satellite networks find TCP does not deal with latency very well and there is the potential for wasted bandwidth as it sits there and waits for messages to come back."

To try and deal with latency and satelllite-based performance improvements, Creevey said the company is currently assessing a trial with Packateer for Web acceleration.

Creevey warned against promoting rich and streaming media in the enterprise space, adding that while many view such services as aiding employee productivity and efficiency, the cost of bandwidth is a goldmine for carriers.

It might be great at home, Creevey said but it creates costly demands on the IT team and impacts other applications.

Thiess migrated to a converged network from legacy ATM 12 months ago.

"A snapshot of our inbound bandwidth in January 2005 found we were using 250Gig per month, and this year that figure is just shy of 800Gig; quite a lot of it is media and Web, not all of it business-critical," Creevey said.

"Music is one of the biggest demands we have seen at the enterprise level, about 60Gig per month from various radio stations is downloaded, but as soon as we block one site another one comes up. Google earth was also a major hit on the network, but we did not block it because there are business applications for its use."

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