Stories by James Hutchinson

NBN CIO: The IT leadership strategy of Australia's new telco

NBN Co has a head start that would leave many telcos green with envy. Armed with $27 billion in government funding, and at least $9 billion from debt markets, the two-year old National Broadband Network wholesaler has the resources and backing that could catapult it ahead many of its decades-old equivalents.

Ex-iSoft CEO's case against sale thrown out by NSW Supreme Court

Former iSoft chief executive Gary Cohen’s attempts to delay the medical software group’s sale to CSC have been dismissed by the New South Wales Supreme Court as without foundation, enabling the sale to go ahead.
iSoft stakeholder Ocean Capital announced in an ASX statement this week that the case brought against it by Cohen’s family company RJL Investments was dismissed on Friday 20 May.
Cohen, who led the company for a decade until resigning in the face of drastically falling revenues last year, had filed for litigation against Ocean Capital last month.
At the time, the company claimed Ocean Capital was required to give four weeks’ notice to Cohen before it could sell 15 per cent of its 24 per cent stake in the company as part of a pre-emption deed acquired by Cohen during negotiations in 2007.
However, the NSW Supreme Court found CSC’s proposed acquisition, reportedly worth $180 million, did not fall under the provisions of Cohen’s ability to pre-empt the sale. Ocean Capital reaffirmed in the ASX statement that it was open to bids superior to CSC’s current standing offer of 17c per share.
“We remain free to deal with our shares in iSoft at any time,” the company stated.
It is unknown whether RJL Investments will appeal the decision.
The sale would provide CSC with 3300 iSoft employees and access to the 13,000 healthcare providers in 40 countries currently using the company’s e-health products, when the deal is finalised by the end of CSC’s second quarter in September this year.
iSoft will be delisted from the ASX as part of the deal, though CSC is yet to confirm whether it will retain the brand or assimilate contracts and products under the wider CSC umbrella.
CSC has committed to continuing internal transition programs outlined by iSoft over the past few years to eliminate cash burn, but is yet to confirm whether any further reductions in headcount will be made among iSoft staff. The provider had already flagged plans to lay off 800 staff or 17 per cent of its original workforce of 4500.
Cohen resigned in September last year following $383 million statutory loss in the 2009-2010 fiscal period. He was replaced at the time by chief operating officer, Andrea Fiumicelli.
Most District Health Boards in New Zealand are iSoft customers.
- Additional reporting by David Watson

Vodafone Oz complaints still a problem: TIO

Complaints about Vodafone’s Australian mobile network have doubled in the first three months of 2011 as customers struggled to deal with continued dropouts and signal issues, according to the telco industry ombudsman.

Myki remains as Vic Govt spares IT

The Victorian Government will retain the myki public transport smart card system, despite cost blowouts and failure to satisfy commuters.

Black markets sprout in IPv4 addresses

With only days passed since the Asia Pacific regional internet registry initiated a severely reduced allocation policy for Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4), ‘black’ markets have begun to appear for operators and address holders to trade address between themselves.
One such example, Trade IPv4, was established last Friday; the same day APNIC announced each member would only receive a single allotment of 1024 IPv4 address. The site purports to act as a public stock exchange, independent of regional registries for trading or leasing unused IPv4 addresses between operators at a set price, with the site’s founders taking a one per cent commission on all sales.
In an email interview with Computerworld Australia, site operator Dr. Martin v. Löwis said TradeIPv4 was the first public trading site to his knowledge, though lent to reports of closed-door black market trading having been long-established in the industry.
The site ultimately has ambitions to provide an automated price index based on use, but for the meantime would likely be traded at a fixed price of $US10 ($AUD9.45) per IPv4 address, a price determined largely by Microsoft’s recent agreement to purchase 660,000 addresses from ailing Canadian telco Nortel for $7.5 million.
“For the regions in which you can still regularly apply for address, no price will be quoted for the foreseeable future,” v. Löwis said.
The registries handling allocation of unique IPv4 addresses have long resigned themselves to the notion of secondary markets trading addresses once space became scarce.
In an interview at the beginning of the year - prior to the “IPocalypse” - APNIC chief scientist, Geoff Huston, told Computerworld Australia that such a market was inevitable, but warned of the potential game of “roulette” those who traded behind closed doors would be playing.
“If you have chaos in addressing... you don’t know who’s got that address on any particular day or if its even unique,” he said. “This network only works because addresses are unique.”
The chief executive of the North American registry, John Curran, threatened a revocation of addresses from operators found guilty of violating registry policy on address transfers through closed-door negotiations.
In an open letter released following the APNIC depletion, Internet Society president and chief executive, Lynn St Amour, urged operators to follow the established policies of their regional registry on transfers of addresses.
“It is imperative that these re-used addresses are administered responsibly,” she wrote. “If addresses are transferred outside the scope of the processes defined by the RIRs, it could negatively impact internet routing table sizes as transfers cause de-aggregation of address blocks.”
She argued improper use of anonymous address space was potentially insecure and a target for improper routing and corraling for botnets.
However, despite attempts from regional registries to create an open “white market”, trading has begun to occur, even in public.
The Microsoft-Nortel deal became one of the biggest known moves to capitalise on waning IP address space, but talks of address “hoarding” from some of the more established operators has been to occur even through legitimate means.
APNIC reported income from IP applications peaking at nearly $1.2 million in 2009; a significant jump on the $351,188 spent on address space in the region five years earlier in 2004.
Huston, too, warned that any form of address trading, even through company acquisitions, was unlikely to meet growing demand for address space.
“I’m rolling out a network to support even next month’s requirements for broadband services, I’m in a rather difficult place in that even anything I can buy on the market won’t meet my requirements; I need more,” he said.
In an effort to “play by the rules”, the TradeIPv4 market also outlines the up-to-date policies on address transfers. All five registries lack a coherent policy on leasing addresses, though some have become stronger than others when addressing transfers between regions or outside of the registry itself.
V. Löwis argued registries had become unwilling to prohibit secondary trading markets.
“Reality has settled in that people would be doing black-market trading in the absence of policies,” he said. “We hope that our customers will also recognise the value of making the actual transfer public, although the negotiated price and other conditions remain private.”

AARNet unleashes Cloud storage on educated masses

The Australian Academic Research Network (AARNet) has pushed its storage-as-a-service offering, CloudStor, into general availability for all members of the service provider’s network, following a year-long alpha test.

iSoft R&D division a key attraction for CSC: exec

CSC Australia’s director of health services this week pinpointed the research and development portfolio of ailing e-health provider iSoft as a key attraction of the company’s $US188 million takeover bid.
In a teleconference to media following the proposal announcement, CSC Australia’s director of health services, Lisa Pettigrew, said the buyout proposal looked primarily to the company’s research and development program. This included the research and development staff in particular, as well as the 200 consulting clinicians iSoft currently claims.
Pettigrew said the iSoft buy would also provide CSC access to New Zealand as a new e-health arena, as well as a number of acquisitions made by the provider recently including UltraGenda, Patient Safety International and BridgeForward.
Most of New Zealand's district health boards are iSoft customers.
“We know this company really well and we’ve run the ruler over it a number of times; you don’t enter a transaction of this size and complexity without looking at all of its elements,” she said.
The California-based parent company of CSC Australia confirmed buyout talks with iSoft over the weekend, offering 17c Australian per share and ending a week-long freeze on iSoft shares pending completion of takeover talks. The bid values the company beyond the 5.2c per share at which it traded prior to suspending trade on the ASX.
iSoft shareholders will vote on the deal in May following unanimous approval from the company board, with CSC expecting to complete integration of the company and its 3300 employees by the end of its second quarter in September. iSoft will be delisted from the ASX as part of the deal, though CSC is yet to confirm whether it will retain the brand or assimilate contracts and products under the wider CSC umbrella.
CSC has committed to continuing internal transition programmes outlined by iSoft over the past few years to eliminate cash burn, but is yet to confirm whether any further reductions in headcount will be made among iSoft staff. The provider had already flagged plans to lay off 800 staff or 17 per cent of its original workforce of 4500.
The company is yet to speak to iSoft clients about the deal.
According to CSC, the offer is part of a wider play on the e-health market, including a move on the 13,000 healthcare providers in 40 countries currently using iSoft products.
“The combination of these companies will further establish CSC as an innovative leader in global healthcare IT,” CSC chairman and chief executive, Michael W Laphen, said in a statement at the weekend.
The buyout proposal follows a run of increasingly bad news from the company. In February, it reported an $84.1 million net loss in the first half of the 2011 financial year due to restructuring costs and impairment charges. The company, which had made a $4.8 million profit in 1H10, spent the most recent half attempting to restore the financial health of the business.
In December it began selling off parts of its business to pay down its debts. The first to go was its financial management solutions unit, iSoft Business Solutions (iBS), to Capita Group PLC.
Earlier in the month it appointed acting chief executive, Andrea Fiumicelli, as its new permanent CEO. Fiumicelli was named acting CEO in September, following the resignation of Gary Cohen from the position.
However, Cohen is known to retain a substantial holding in the company, with speculation he could try to block the buyout.
- Additional repoting by David Watson

Queensland looks to NBN for service relocation

The Queensland Government has flagged a potential relocation of key state government services to regional centres as a means of maximising the benefits afforded by the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout.

Optus eyes NBN wholesale aggregator role

Optus has flagged plans to aggregate and on-sell wholesale fibre, wireless and satellite services under the National Broadband Network (NBN) as a virtual ISP, as part of an attempt to maintain the viability of its fixed wholesale division into the future.

CIOs: The eternal nomads

In many ways CIOs are like nomads: They might set up camp for a short while, but before you know it they’re off in search of other pastures.