Flight Centre taps Interactive to keep the lights on

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Flight Centre taps Interactive to keep the lights on

Flight Centre is outsourcing infrastructure management to its IT provider, Interactive, so the travel company's in-house team can focus on business outcomes, not just keeping the lights on.

The CIO of Flight Centre, Peter Wataman, revealed the shift from co-location to managed services during a panel discussion at Interactive's customer event in Sydney on Thursday 20 August.

"Today, we signed a contract where Interactive takes on the management of our infrastructure environment, so we won't have an infrastructure team moving forward," said Wataman.

Melbourne-headquartered MSP Interactive will take responsibility for a data centre environment that includes legacy IBM compute and, more recently, Cisco; Dell storage and CommVault backup.

Flight Centre employs about 120-150 people in its IT shop, 30 of whom focus on operations such as infrastructure.

The outsourcing deal chimes with a broader industry trend as providers such as Interactive look to take over back-office IT functions – keeping the lights on – allowing IT departments to prove they are driving business outcomes, not burdening the bottom line.

For Flight Centre, "it is not so much how infrastructure is operating but what the infrastructure is doing for the business", Wataman told CRN.

"For us, it might be the number of quotes or bookings that can be produced with the appropriate performance."

Flight Centre may not be alone: another Interactive customer, Austbrokers CIO Theo Stevens, told the audience he was also considering considering a move to managed infrastructure services.

"We are on a similar journey to Flight Centre. Being in that six- to seven-year relationship with Interactive, it has been positive once for us, and we are entertaining the same processes… that is to outsource as much as we can into that framework and that will free up [resources] to focus on more business-driven activities rather than focus on the hardware and the management of that," said Stevens.

"That is not our bread and butter; our bread and butter is to generate income through insurance premiums and the rest."

Flight Centre has proved itself an early adopter of new technology and models around IT; it was one of the first big Australian companies to switch from Microsoft to Google Apps.

The Interactive Bridge event was supported by Lenovo and NetApp, and shows the managed service provider keen to grow its reputation, having largely flown under the radar despite being Australia's largest privately owned IT company.

Since being founded in 1988 to provide third-party hardware maintenance for IBM mid-range and mainframe computer equipment, Interactive has evolved into disaster recovery, co-location and full managed services from a network of data centres in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Interactive turned over $135 million in the 2014 financial year, and has more than 400 employees.

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