Posts Tagged 'Tiscali'

The mess that is Tiscali

It’s been an interesting last few months for all connected with Tiscali. Back in January last year, there was a glow of positivity surrounding the Tiscali group, as they went ahead with their phased roll out of Annex M ADSL2+, helping them to get a foothold ahead of their competitors. Coupled with their new wholesale programme, things were looking up for the group. Their PR team was doing a good job of diverting attention away from the internal issues that were surrounding the amalgamation of so many conflicting systems, obtained through the acquisition of smaller ISP’s. And their marketing team loved to portray their beleaguered employers as a victim in the row with BT back in the summer of 2008. So where did it all go wrong for Tiscali?

Well, first of all, some connected with the group refuse to even admit that the group is in trouble. Despite being left with a battered reputation after being passed around between Carphone Warehouse and Sky for the best part of a year, they have been relentless in their pursuit of new customers. Witness the mess with 186K/Eezee DSL/Mailbox which left their clients without Internet access for as long as two weeks. Unless they changed to a Tiscali-owned supplier (ie Nildram or Pipex). Still there has been no official word from Tiscali as to the reasons behind the mess with 186K. However, this has been merely one of the number of issues effecting the group.

It is well known that there are a number of big hawks circling Tiscali’s carcass. Last year, Vodafone had a £1.3bn bid for the global group rejected. This set the wheels in motion for both Sky and Carphone Warehouse to test the waters of the UK arm, with bids in the region of £450mil coming thick and fast…and ultimately being rejected. However, only recently the Group has now relinquished it’s International Network (TiNet) to a private equity firm. Whilst in a statement made during the acquisition Mario Rosso, CEO of the group stated that he hoped to conclude the sale of Tiscali UK by the end of march.

So where does this leave Tiscali? Well if you have a service through them, expect a different name on your bill for starters. I doubt much else will change, as TiNet will still supply Tiscali (Both Italy and UK) with IP services, and Sky or Carphone will now probably have a unique agreement with an international carrier to extend it’s product portfolio. However, it will have a major bearing on the ISP sector within the UK, as no longer will there be just Virgin and BT offering triple play, but by acquiring Tiscali, Sky will also have that ability to provide triple play services. And what if they are a supplier to you? Well tread carefully. Very carefully, as they could be here today, but gone tomorrow.

The advent of Cloud Computing…

Partial map of the Internet based on the Janua...
Image via Wikipedia

Working for an Internet Service Provider, it is imperative we understand the requirements of our clients. Why do they need low contention? How is resilience going to benefit them? Why are they trying to reduce their Capex? These are all issues that are prevalent in this day and age, as IT Managers/Directors try and increase the efficiency of their WAN solutions without exploding their budget. One method of doing just that, which I feel will be a big market for ISP’s in 2009 is the general shift to Cloud Computing.

First of, what is Cloud Computing? Well there are various definitions of it, however, generally it is the means by which an individual or company moves their IT portfolio into the cloud. Why cloud? Well if you’re an old-school comms person, then the ‘cloud’ was the symbol which denotes the Internet. Another term for Cloud Computing is virtualisation, as you are moving into a virtual environment. Now the term itself is extremely general, as already there are many different ‘versions’ of cloud computing. The Register recently ran a workshop, where they broke down cloud computing into more specific areas; software as a service, utility computing and onlin

e platform provision. All offering different services to the end user within the cloud.

Lets not kid ourselves. Virtualisation has been around for years in various guises. However, its popularity is suddenly beginning to rise as internet users require more bandwidth, security and processing power. However, how does this effect ISP’s?

As more and more companies move to hosted environments, it becomes more and more imperative that they have robust stable connectivity to be able to access their business critical applications 24/7. This can be shown in the rise in attractiveness of virtual network operators and the use in data centres. One method of connectivity that is becoming more attractive to end users is Leased lines via fibre, which is markedly cheaper than it was a few years ago. However, still there are lengthy time delays, spiralling hidden costs and complicated installs associated with true leased lines. So what is the solution?

Step forward ADSL2+. Although BT has been traditionally late to the party with their deployment, many incumbents such as O2/Be, Tiscali and Cable and Wireless have been offering ADSL2+ products for the best part of 3 years. And although BT are finally getting their act together with the roll out of their 21CN, many operators have already got such a head start with the diversity of their product portfolios that it will be hard for BT to catch up. I don’t usually praise the government, but if there is one thing that we should give them credit for, it is the deregulation of the telecomms industry. As without doubt, the number of innovative solutions now available is testament to that policy change.

Without blowing our own trumpet too much, Fluidata is a prime example. Not only have we been offering ADSL2+ for the best part of 2 years, but we also standardise on the AnnexM variant, meaning more bandwidth on the upstream. Perfect for applications such as video conferencing and VOIP. With national coverage of 1200 exchanges and growing, this already out-does BT’s own 21CN, and by their own admittance, they will not have this number of exchanges ready until at the earliest least 2010. Because of the knowledge and experience we have of using AnnexM, we’ve been able to manipulate it to provide a synchronous solution, comparative to SDSL, but more robust and at a cheaper cost to end users.

However, the area in which we’ve been particularly unique in has been deploying a true bonded solution, comprising carrier resilience, true aggregation at the IP level and low contention. Different from bonded solutions, we’re unique in being able to offer high amounts of bandwidth with 1IP address/range and one termination unit, unlike others who provide up to 4 routers and then a bonding ‘device’. This has proved to be ideal for people who need the functionality of a leased line without the costs involved. Also ideal for FD’s who need to reduce their Capex. And more importantly, it has proved to be very attractive for those looking to move into the cloud.

There are still a number of issues that fully need to be addressed with Cloud Computing. Will my data be secure? How will I be invoiced for it? How much control will I have over the underlying infrastructure? What happens if the DC goes bust? As yet, no one has definite answers for the above, and it may be some time until someone does. However, what can firmly be said is that finally there are a number of cost effective robust solutions, enabling one to connect to a hosted server. And while that underlying structure remains, I am sure that the uptake in virtualisation and Cloud Computing will continue.

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