CASE STUDY: Telstra builds its online SOE

Telstra continues to tread carefully to avoid been seen taking sides in any Java versus .Net turf war for developer community mindshare.

Since the July naming of Sun Microsystems as the key technology provider to build its largely Sun ONE-based Online Standard Operating Environment, Andrew Johnson, executive director of the newly formed Online Solutions Group (OSG) at Telstra, has been at pains to ensure that Microsoft is also described as a key partner, despite it having a lesser role in the overall architecture.

"[The OSG] was created to ensure a specific focus on the Online SOE program, but also to drive closer engagement with our key vendors including Sun and Microsoft," he said.

According to earlier reports, Telstra aims to create a next-generation communications network that will allow millions of subscribers to access Internet applications from virtually any device -- mobile phone, handheld device, PC or home broadband connection.

"We'll be working with a number of partners to make this happen, but we've selected Sun and Sun ONE because it most closely matched Telstra's requirement for open standards and the ability to interwork with other vendors' technologies," Johnson said.

"It's too early to reveal specifics, but it's worth considering what each of the players brings to the table," he said. "Sun brings its proven software stack and like Microsoft, an extensive network of innovative developers. The developers themselves can bring the ideas that become the next range of exciting fixed phone, mobile or data products for Telstra's customers.

"Telstra itself provides the stage for these applications, effectively opening our networks to the developers and giving them access to an extensive potential customer base," Johnson said.

"Our July release announced Sun Microsystems as the key provider in the delivery of Telstra's Online SOE (standard operating environment). Sun was already a hardware supplier to Telstra, so this announcement spoke to the closer relationship required to deliver this environment. Yes, we will continue to buy physical infrastructure and software from Sun, but the mutual benefit of the relationship will be our exchange of expertise and ideas. Just as Sun will influence the way Telstra builds the Online SOE, we will influence the ongoing development of the Sun ONE stack."

The Online SOE promises to speed delivery of new services and eliminate the cost of supporting its "one of everything" development environment, according to Johnson.

"The only real alternative [we] could consider here would be to maintain the status quo," Johnson said.

"While this would be manageable in the short to medium term, continuing to develop and support technology silos would be unsustainable in the longer term. Over the past few years the technology has matured, so the time is right for Telstra to undertake this sort of consolidation exercise.

"There are a number of reasons for the creation of an Online SOE," he said. "By consolidating multiple fixed and mobile platforms, Telstra will benefit from reduced duplication, improved product performance and reduced cost. Our customers will also be winners with more products and services available across a wider range of devices, [and], of course, these applications will also take less time to reach the marketplace."

"The standardisation will also lower costs for developer communities and businesses around the world while enabling them to quickly bring to market compelling online applications, such as unified messaging and convenient payment solutions on Telstra's networks, "Johnson said.

"The new services could be built by third-party developers [with] the open standards SOE [being available] anywhere, at anytime, anyplace and on any device," he said. "Once the integration gets rolling, it will let Telstra launch an array of Web services to the business and consumer markets to allow users to access content or check e-mail from a range of devices without requiring multiple log-ins.

"Our initial work has been focused on establishing the Online SOE, including getting all the key partners lined up, as well as delivering a common set of standards, processes and governance models," he said.

"We plan to deliver some new mobile or wireless data solutions midway through next calendar year," Johnson added.

"We've also been addressing the vendor and technology questions associated with the platform itself," he said. "Development and integration of new software is already well under way, [and] we're focused on issues of customer management, payments, and messaging and content management."

Johnson, formerly managing director, hosting & internet infrastructure services, has been working to pull Telstra's best online people from various teams across the Telstra into the OSG.

At the core of the new SOE is a three-layer architecture forming the Telstra Common Online Technology. The top layer includes device and portal management, with Sun providing the iPlanet Portal Server. The middle layer defines the development environment with support for open standards, J2EE, and Microsoft .Net. Underpinning these two layers is the infrastructure layer comprising Sun J2ee and Microsoft .Net application servers, and transactional systems to handle payments, messaging and content. The infrastructure layer also includes a common customer management environment to allow a single customer view, irrespective of which Telstra service the customer subscribes to.

In addition to running Solaris on Sun hardware, Telstra will use the Sun ONE Directory Server software, as a central repository for authentication and authorisation information, Sun ONE Identity Server for access management and identity administration, the J2ee- Sun ONE Application Server, Sun ONE Portal Server, Sun ONE Integration Server and the Sun ONE Communications Suite which includes messaging and calendar servers.

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