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Cochlear achieves agile IT workforce with modernised infrastructure


For over 30 years, Cochlear has been a pioneer in helping people hear and be heard. And although Australians are renowned for our innovative mindset, of all the inventions it is perhaps the hearing implant, developed by Cochlear, which has had one of the most significant impacts for the people around the world.

With innovation at the heart of everything it does, it is crucial that Cochlear is underpinned by a technology backbone that is capable of delivering the stability and power required to install and service the invention that has delivered the gift of hearing to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.






Cloud Management

The Challenge

Cochlear has an expansive IT footprint owing to its geographically diverse offices throughout Australia, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas. The ASX listed company has an estate of 900+ servers, of which approximately 85 per cent are virtualised.

18 months ago, Cochlear’s IT team started planning the migration from Windows Server 2003 to a modern platform for the business. A project was initiated to undertake this server migration that would see Cochlear move its global applications from Windows Server 2003 onto newer versions which could support the continued growth of the company.

The urgency for the migration was driven by the upcoming end of support deadline on July 14 2015 for Windows Server 2003. As a direct result of being on the front foot, the company will be migrated onto the new platform Windows Server 2012 R2 before the deadline avoiding any compliance and security risks associated with running critical business apps on an unsupported server infrastructure.

The Decision

The Windows Server 2003 migration created the perfect opportunity to further virtualise – to move applications that were currently running on physical servers to virtual servers. It was also an opportunity to consolidate applications within the company, to retire programs that were being used regionally that could be migrated to global applications, simplifying management for Cochlear’s IT team.

In fact, during the initial phase of the migration Cochlear identified 20 virtual machines that they could retire immediately, across 10 physical servers. This process of consolidation of applications and servers has continued throughout the migration process. Cochlear has estimated that the migration has so far led to a 10 per cent reduction in hardware and associated costs.

“We started this journey 18 months ago with a view to create a more robust IT strategy. More than a refresh, we wanted to focus on more strategic IT outputs and leverage the cloud where possible. Thanks to Microsoft and Dilignet (now Xello), we are well on the way to achieving this vision.“

Geoff van Herten

Senior Manager, IT Infrastructure Services at Cochlear

The Solution

Cochlear worked closely with systems integrator and Microsoft Partner, Dilignet (now re-branded as Xello) throughout the migration process. Specifically, Xello was able to work with the migration team at Cochlear to conduct a discovery study on how the organisation could best utilise System Centre 2012 R2 to manage Cochlear’s application portfolio, infrastructure and ability to deploy virtual machines. In fact, thanks to the integration work done by Xello, Cochlear now has the ability to deploy standardised, secured virtual servers consistently across the globe, twice as fast as previously.

Migration tool AppZero has been a key factor for the migration – assisting Cochlear’s team with migrations for unfamiliar apps. AppZero basically automates the extraction and movement of server-side applications to a new machine. The team at Cochlear have already utilised the tool to help them migrate six key applications with a view to leverage it for an additional ten applications.

Anil Kalra, Project Manager at Cochlear said, “Dilignet (now Xello) introduced us to Appzero and we utilised the tool to migrate complex applications without engaging application vendors to perform the migration resulting in considerable cost savings. AppZero has provided a key advantage for us. For those programs which require a specific configuration or that were bound by the IP address and DNS, the only way we were able to successfully migrate those programs was by using AppZero.”

Peter Lillywhite, Director of Xello said, “As a great Australian story it has been fantastic working with Cochlear to modernise its business. As the integrator, our job has been made easier by Cochlear’s proactivity in preparing for the End of Support date well in advance. This has given us time to develop solutions that not only ensure a smooth migration but enable a more strategic IT outlook in 2015 and beyond.”

The Outcome

Despite its scale, the migration process has been extremely smooth. With all down-time scheduled for an agreed weekly change window, there has been almost zero disruption to the wider operations at Cochlear. Importantly, staff in departments such as research and manufacturing have seen no disruption, meaning no downtime in their vital work.

In most instances, applications running on Windows Server 2003 have been migrated to Windows Server 2012. Apart from the reduction in hardware costs the modernisation of its IT infrastructure has resulted in a more agile IT workforce. With Windows 2012 in place, the organisation has been able to deploy System Center, a server management tool that automates much of the manual tasks associated with managing enterprise IT infrastructure. IT staff are now able to focus on higher value tasks rather than ‘keeping the lights on’.

Another important benefit of the migration has been the personal development of Cochlear’s IT team, both at the Sydney head office and throughout its subsidiary offices, as employees were able to update skills. Further than that, though, the project also brought the company together from an IT perspective.

Geoff van Herten, Senior Manager, IT Infrastructure Services at Cochlear said, “The global coordination across the regions has been positive for us. It’s been an opportunity for us to get those other benefits in the people development and teamwork sense.”

The migration has modernised Cochlear’s server platform while also creating a greater awareness of its application estate. As a company with offices around the globe, it’s created stronger knowledge of all applications that are running meaning that IT is now much better equipped to support the organisation’s operations.

One of Cochlear’s underlying values is excellence in innovation. This migration project is an example of that value being demonstrated consistently throughout the business. The pro-activity and innovation shown by the IT team has enabled Cochlear’s core business of research and production of hearing devices to continue on delivering miracles to its customers around the world.

This article was originally published on Microsoft.comXello has obtained Microsoft’s highest Gold accreditation aligned to the Data Platform competency and is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner across existing competencies in Cloud Platform, Enterprise Management & Mobility, Cloud Productivity and Windows and Devices.