The five minute CIO: Peter Hendrick, AirSpeed Telecom

6 Mar 2015

“To have an understanding of where budget should be spent you really need to know where the inefficiencies are,” says Peter Hendrick, technical director at AirSpeed Telecom.

AirSpeed was founded in 2003 by CEO, Liam O’Kelly.

The company has built a carrier class wireless and fibre network with extensive reach across Ireland. AirSpeed’s is the largest licensed wireless network in Ireland outside the mobile operators.

It has a strong client base with a well balanced exposure to multinationals, SMEs, Government and carriers.

In November telecoms and media investment firm Granahan McCourt acquired a majority shareholding in AirSpeed.

Can you outline the breadth and scope of the technology roll-out across your organisation and what improvements it will bring to the company?

AirSpeed Telecom is the leading provider of managed telecommunication services to a multiple of enterprise, public sector and SME businesses in Ireland. We deliver reliable, secure and scalable connectivity, including fibre and wireless up to multi-Gigabit level, as well as managed voice, data, UC, cloud and security services regardless of where your business is located nationwide.

We operate across the island of Ireland, with infrastructure in the UK and interconnect arrangements internationally which are used to service Irish companies who have global communications needs. Our clients include Zurich, Dairygold, Rusal, Kostal, Keelings Group, RTÉ, TG4, HEANet, OPW, NCSS (BreastCheck),, Irish Distillers and Vhi Healthcare.

As a technology company, our total focus is on delivering best of breed communications service and infrastructure to our customers which provides highly engineered solutions for their emerging ICT needs. As a result, we have invested significantly in our network and hardware infrastructure and have built a platform that is ready for the application revolution.

Like any well-run business, we are always looking for operational efficiencies, and utilise cloud based infrastructure and applications to this end. As we are a customer service focused enterprise, our Sales and Engineering resources are mobile, and hosted infrastructure and applications deliver time and planning efficiencies.

What are the main points of your company’s IT strategy?

At AirSpeed Telecom we have a blend of the best Networking, Security and Software Development engineers in the telecoms market. We have the flexibility to design, build and support many new products and services, but we will always make decisions based on a fundamental analysis of resources. As a result, the main points of our IT strategy are

  • Are we meeting our business goals?
  • Delivering on customer service level agreements (SLAs)
  • Achieving internal objectives with product/service delivery and availability
  • Delivering reliability to the business, both internally and to customers
  • Capacity planning for products and services
  • Ensuring we have sufficient network, security, data-centre, VM infrastructure to deliver on products and services offered
  • Consolidation of applications
  • Utilisation of third party applications with our CRM (Salesforce) for effective service delivery/support, asset management and customer billing
  • Development of website, customer portal and applications for real-time customer communication

Can you give a snapshot of how extensive your IT infrastructure is?

Within AirSpeed Telecom we support significant IT services for our internal operation and for our customer requirements. When planning new infrastructure, we always take a medium to long term view, as the growth and utilisation of bandwidth / applications has accelerated significantly in recent times.

Our infrastructure includes service provider routing and switching vendors, high-end security appliances and applications, geo-diverse virtualised blade centres delivering real-time communication applications, and services. All of this is managed within our private cloud Network Management System and monitored on a 24/7/365 basis. Whilst our suppliers and partners are important, the most important element of our IT infrastructure is our people- training, continuous review and assessment with all team members is vital.

In terms of managing IT budgets, what are your key thoughts on how CIOs/heads of technology should achieve their goals?

This is always a challenging task, and in order to have an understanding of where budget should be spent, you really need to know where the inefficiencies are, both in terms of people and infrastructure resources. Once your budget has been set, the next important step is to do it right first time as this will save a lot of heartache down the road. Always select the best of breed and then negotiate the best possible service and price.

How complex is the infrastructure, are you taking steps to simplify it?

Our infrastructure is quite complex, so in recent years we have chosen third party applications in place of internal software development. As our engineers understand the applications in great detail, it has simplified the process in project delivery.

Do you have a large in-house IT team, or do you look to strategically outsource where possible?

We have a large team across multiple disciplines such as networking, security, IT systems, and software development. We don’t outsource these engineering or IT roles but we will always look to suppliers for infrastructure or applications which will deliver greater efficiencies.

What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on deep technical issues compared to the management and business side?

My main responsibility is the operational aspect of our business, from infrastructure planning and budgeting to people management and customer service delivery and support. I would describe myself as a technically minded problem solver who is passionate about delivering innovative services to our customers. However, the key to success in the operation of any business is ensuring that you allocate sufficient time to your team and to budget planning and management. This is where the real work pays off.

What are the big trends and challenges in your sector, and how do you plan to use IT to address them?

We’re at a time where connectivity is a given, with people expecting high-speed, reliable connectivity wherever they are. This ubiquitous connectivity is a key enabler of new technologies, and is a critical factor in driving technological trends – from enterprise apps and the Internet of Things to Wi-Fi analytics and contactless mobile payments – and making them more viable to the enterprise market.

The application revolution, where applications sourced from different developers and channels are deployed on a range of devices, will definitely pick up pace in 2015 and will play a greater role in the enterprise market. This change brings a clear opportunity for telecoms service providers who I expect will roll out app stores to their business customers, providing access to apps – from security and storage to video and unified communications – via a web browser. As bandwidth increases, businesses no longer need servers and hardware in their building, they just need an internet connection, and all of these business applications can be delivered on demand via the cloud.

As more services are delivered via mobile, enterprise demand for high availability and connectivity will rise. Redundancy, resilience and always-on connectivity will become paramount, and that’s where we’re continuing to invest, as well as in security and unified communications. Wrapped around all of this is our Service Level Agreement, which facilitates our business customers’ move towards the cloud, apps, Internet of Things and contactless payments. Realistically, bandwidth speeds are no longer a differentiator – what matters are the SLAs and the services an operator offers, including applications, and that’s what we’re focused on.

What metrics or measurement tools do you use to gauge how well IT is performing?

As we operate on 24/7/365 basis, it is vital all aspects of our networking and IT infrastructure is managed and measured. We have dedicated tools for these tasks, and accurately measure real-time utilisation and availability.

Are there any areas you’ve identified where IT can improve, and what are they?

Our infrastructure management and monitoring tools are extremely in-depth, and we want to bring greater visibility of these reporting tools to our customers through a single application portal, which would include billing, voice / internet traffic analysis and security reports.

What other projects do you have lined up for the year, and what will they contribute to the business?

Delivering 1Gbps of connectivity to customers is becoming the norm and we have additional fibre infrastructure projects planned for this year which will see a huge increase in scalability options for our customers on a national basis. We are delivering a broader product set to our customers with hosted security services and we are also planning a unique single customer portal to view all aspects of the products and services we deliver to them.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years