Bank flexes muscles through big alliance

Western Australian financial services provider BankWest has made a solid play for a slice of the IT services market through a joint venture it formed this week with Unisys. The new operation, to be known as Unisys West, plans to provide a complete range of IT services and solutions to government departments and enterprises.

Chris Whitehead, BankWest's general manager of emerging businesses and systems, said the venture was part of the bank's strategy to diversify through the development of profitable new revenue streams. He claimed Unisys West would meet increasing demands from customers for creative solutions outside of core banking services, which are expected to result in a better return on investments in BankWest's technology infrastructure.

To expedite the formation of the venture, which is expected to begin operating on September 1, BankWest and Unisys will consolidate their respective Western Australian IT services groups. The new venture will initially service the WA market before expanding to other states.

"The linkage of our joint IT and e-commerce capabilities together with BankWest's strengths in payments processing offers clients of both organisations a unique capability," Whitehead said. "This provides significant potential to offer more to our existing customers and to extend current financial services to include IT solutions."

BankWest and Unisys have worked together for some time in a variety of fields, including cheque processing, desktop outsourcing, network integration services and management consulting. BankWest recently negotiated an Asia/Pacific reseller deal for its Core Banking System with IBM. Earlier this year Unisys bought Queensland business solution provider QCOM.

BankWest has also entered an EFT agreement with listed company DCS Technologies. Under the terms of the deal DCS will route transactions from its EFTPOS, ATM, kiosk and Internet sources to BankWest as the transaction acquirer for the national interchange between all financial institutions in Australia, as well as major international card suppliers.

In addition, BankWest will have access to DCS's switching network for its own financial services.

Telecom NZ wants all of AAPT

Another smallish player that made big noises this week was Telecom New Zealand, which announced that it intends to bid for the 20-odd per cent of AAPT that it does not already own. CEO Theresa Gattung said the bid would be made by Telecom subsidiary TCNZ Australia Investments, which will offer $A7.25 in cash for each share - a 23 per cent premium to the average trading price over the past three months. The cost of buying all the shares will be about A$444 million.

The offer was welcomed by AAPT. "As a full subsidiary the business will be strongly positioned to take full advantage of additional growth opportunities as they arise," explained Larry Williams, chief executive of AAPT. "It will be much easier and less costly to fund AAPT's future investment program going forward and the group will be able to present an absolutely seamless joint offering to the Australian corporate and super-corporate markets."

Prophecy wins sale to ANZ

Australian software developer Prophecy International has won a $A4 million sale of its e-Foundation rapid application assembly technology to the Asset Finance Division (AAF) of ANZ Banking Group. AAF intends to use the product for the development of Internet-based finance and investment systems.

In addition to the software, Prophecy will provide professional services, including training for staff in Australia and at a special development centre in Bangalore.

In the wake of the deal the two companies will market the AAF products around the world. "The software developed in this project has significant appeal internationally. Prophecy and AAF have agreed to work together to capitalise on these commercial opportunities," explained Alan Greig, executive director of Prophecy International.

Greig added that the bank's use of e-Foundation would be a significant boost to the acceptance of e-Foundation as the cornerstone of large development projects.

Davnet scores big deals in US

The US subsidiary of the Davnet communications group has negotiated an agreement that gives it access to 79 buildings in the FiberNet Telecom Group's portfolio. Davnet is now wiring five of the FiberNet buildings, beginning with the Chrysler Centre in New York, as a prelude to offering broadband communications services to the buildings' occupants.

Hal Turner, Davnet's COO explained that the agreement involves leasing dark fibre in FiberNet CBD office buildings amounting to about eight million square metres across the US. "Our vision is to deliver to businesses reliable, innovative, scalable, broadband solutions that are guaranteed," Turner said. "Our goal is to help businesses run their IT networks better, faster and more economically."

Telemedia scores coup with Cisco

Telemedia Networks - the Kiwi telecommunications software developer that is listed on the ASX -- has entered a significant marketing alliance with Cisco Systems. After being appointed a Cisco Voice-Application Partner, which allows it to combine its software with Cisco programmable switches, Telemedia will also have its products sold by Cisco's sales force.

"To be aligned with the market leader in end-to-end networking solutions will enable Telemedia to offer winning products and services to our customers and significantly expand our customer base," noted Chris Jones, chief executive of Telemedia.

"Cisco holds the number one or number two market share in virtually every market segment in which it participates, and there is Cisco equipment in almost every switch room around the world.

CSC puts muscle in e-business centre

Computer Sciences Corp has begun to build the storage networking infrastructure of its e-Business Centre in Canberra with equipment from Network Appliance. CSC installed an integrated F700 Series Filer and NetCache C1100, which will give the centre greater hardware flexibility and allow it to achieve maximum efficiency from its ISP link, according to Andrew Streeter, CSC's manager of e-business technology.

The new centre will be used to help companies define and develop strategic online directions, develop and test solutions, and demonstrate new and mature solutions, Streeter added.

"This is a great project to be involved in, particularly as we are enabling businesses to embrace the Web and giving them the opportunity to generate new ideas and showcase them working in reality," added Michael Bosch, managing director of Network Appliance Australia.

The end is nigh for the famous VAX

Compaq has announced the death knell for the famous DEC VAX range of computers and will accept its last orders for the machines on September 30 before shipping the last box on December 30. Support will be continued until 2010.

The end of the line was announced in a letter posted on Compaq's VAX Web site by Jesse Lipcon, vice president of Compaq's High Performance Server Division. Lipcon noted that the VAX CPU technology had been extended about as far as it could go and that most VAX customers had switched to 64-bit Alpha technology.

He also put his finger on one of the great strengths of the VAX - its endurance. "In an environment where computer technology becomes outdated in three to five years, VAX technology is still the heart of many businesses," Lipcon wrote. "VAX systems have been a 20-year industry standard in reliability, scalability, data integrity and continuous computing."

Lipcon also pointed out that Compaq is still providing support for PDP-11 products. His letter can be found at www.compaq.com/alphaserver/vax/vax_letter_final.htmlDoJ appeals to Supreme Court for hearingMicrosoft said its bit in July and this week the US Department of Justice responded by urging the Supreme Court to hear the antitrust case rather than wait for it to struggle through the Court of Appeals, which is considered likely to be more sympathetic to the software developer.

The DoJ claimed that the case was of "immense importance to our national economy" and in particular to "the rapidly developing high-technology sectors", which will be harmed by any delays in the case's resolution.

Microsoft will respond next week, but some observers agreed with the government's claims. "Any type of a cloud over the market does defer buying decisions," explained Rob Enderle, an analyst with Giga Information Group. "The case provides what I would call a significant drag on the industry by putting a cloud over the planning process."

He added that some software developers are gambling their livelihoods on the outcome of the case. "Right now they are enhancing their Linux plays because they are anticipating a much weaker Microsoft. If that is not the outcome then these efforts and those people are exposed," he noted.

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