When Minerals and Mining Group (MMG) swallowed most of Oz Minerals, which in turn was created from the merger of Oxiana and Zinifex, CIO Peter McLure had to grapple with two infrastructure backbones.
"People logged in to two different domains in the morning. Depending on which side of the house they came from, communications across the domains didn't work very well. It was all getting in the way, and it wasn't globally scalable, so we had to address that," he said.
"The executive was telling me that the ambition of the company was to grow very rapidly and to grow globally, so therefore we needed to put in place the right kind of platform for a global mining business."
It was this which led to McLure finally sealing a multimillion-dollar deal with Hewlett-Packard (HP) to standardise and grow the company's systems globally in an IT transformation, which will see it adopt a hybrid infrastructure strategy. Business critical applications will be provided via traditional datacentre hosting, while the company will leverage cloud for back-end operational applications for the ability to scale easily.
"We've moved from buying a hosting service, where we buy the computers and we provide the applications, to a situation where we're just buying a service. We're specifying the service and HP are providing it for us," McLure said.
Under the agreement, which came into effect in June, the mining company has already moved its service desk, previously provided by Empired, to HP. It will also undertake a complete replacement of its software and desktop hardware between next month and the first quarter of next year.
While McLure was hesitant to provide a firm number on the deal, he said that the four-year contract was worth between $10 million and $50 million, and had the option for two one-year extensions.
"Given that we were going to go globally, we needed a company that could follow us wherever we were going, and given that the executives were saying, 'Acquisitions are coming — you have to be ready,' we didn't have a lot of time," he said.
HP currently hosts some of MMG's systems, such as SAP and corporate email in Melbourne datacentres. With the contract in place, these services will run out of HP's Next Generation Data Centre in Sydney when it opens later this year.
"All our major [back-end] enterprise applications will move to [HP's Sydney] datacentre. They'll all be running on a virtualised workspace. The only ones that wouldn't be would be applications that currently sit at sites that we can't move. For example, if we're running a processing plant in a mine site, it might need a [programmable logic controller] system ... [which is] difficult to run anywhere else," he said.
When asked about challenges that the new agreement would present, McLure said that the refresh of its desktop hardware and software was going to create significant hurdles. As an example, McLure said that its financial system contained hundreds of Excel spreadsheets that were created using Office 2003. He said that these were created by staff who may have left years ago, with information that pointed to domains that won't exist when the company upgrades to Office 2010 and Windows 7.
"To even get to that point, there's a lot of discovery work to find out exactly what applications are going to be impacted by this change. How are they going to be impacted, and how are we going to run [them]?"