Low-cost airline Jetstar today revealed plans to implement a multi-pronged email strategy that will see most head office staff continue to use Microsoft’s Outlook/Exchange platform, but about 2,200 support staff shifted onto Google’s Apps alternative, which features as its core the Gmail email service.
The airline currently provides an Outlook/Exchange-based service to all of its staff from a Jetstar-built server in one of the airline’s datacentres, maintained as a managed service by an external provider. However, the company’s chief information officer Stephen Tame confirmed in an interview this morning that he had put together a new approach for sign-off by the company’s management.
Tame pointed out that Jetstar had a significant population of staff who didn’t have their own dedicated PCs, such as cabin and tech crews and customer service officers at airports. “They’re probably hindered by having a central solution,” he said. “They’d get far better service if they had something in the cloud.”
However, unlike most other Australian organisations who have adopted Google Apps (one large example being AAPT) Jetstar will not shift the entirety of its staff onto the search giant’s collaboration platform if the strategy is approved. Tame noted that some 300 to 400 head office staff would continue to use Outlook/Exchange Microsoft platform, with the jump to Google being “probably too big” at this stage. There were a number of features which Microsoft’s full-featured suite currently did better, he said, such as integration with local storage, dealing with large attachments and so on.
In addition, with Jetstar using Microsoft’s broader Lync, Office and Active Directory products, Tame noted moving off the Exchange platform would diminish the value achieved through using Microsoft’s wider integrated product set, which was a valid suite for what those head office staff needed in their work.
Under Tame’s strategy, a number of other technologies will be used to bind the two competing suites together into one unified platform.
The CIO noted that all of Jetstar’s mail was currently processed through the cloud-based email security suite offered by MessageLabs, which has recently been re-branded under the Symantec.Cloud banner. The MessageLabs solution delivers email security to Jetstar, catching viruses and spam, for example, but it also conducts journaling and archiving activities on the company’s email.
When the Google Apps rollout takes place, MessageLabs will still handle all of Jetstar’s email, but it will route email to either the Microsoft or Google platforms, depending on which platform the recipient uses. Email addresses will remain the same, under the Jetstar.com domain, a single secure sign-on service will front-end both, and calendaring and directory integration (through Active Directory) will also be unified.
Tame said with Microsoft also providing a cloud email service, and the archiving, journaling and security constraints taken out of the puzzle, his decision on which provider to go with for the support staff came down to which one could give him “the best commodity price for a commodity service”.
“We wanted to make sure we had a negotiable position so that it didn’t matter which way we went,” he said of the strategy. After executive sign-off, the plan is that the email migration would take place by the end of the current financial year.
Asked whether he was concerned about the fact that much of Jetstar’s email will now be stored offshore, as Google does not operate an Australian datacentre, Tame pointed out that his company already used a number of other offshore cloud computing services — MessageLabs being a good example.
The airline has also implemented the performance management software provided by SuccessFactors, which runs on a software as a service model. “If you’ve got all your HR records hosted overseas, why are you concerned about email?” asked Tame, noting that as long as security controls were implemented (in this case, through MessageLabs), location was a moot point.
When Jetstar was first created back in 2003, the company was already using a cloud-based email platform supplied by Australian hosting company WebCentral (now part of MelbourneIT), Tame said. It had migrated off the platform when it ‘outgrew’ it.
Jetstar’s adoption of Google Apps will make it one of the few top-tier Australian corporate brands known to have rolled out the platform so far. The cloud email technology has mainly seen adoption in the education sector, as well as medium-sized businesses such as Mortgage Choice, Flight Centre and Ray White. AAPT is one large company known to have deployed the technology.
Other major corporations have typically deployed Microsoft’s Outlook/Exchange platform in a hosted setting in an on-shore datacentre, where they have rolled out a new email system over the past couple of years.
The dual-pronged email strategy proposed by Jetstar is not without precedent in Australia.
In early 2010, Peter Carr, the managing director of analyst firm Longhaus, noted there were a number of examples where cloud email was being used in Australian corporates for staff who were on the edge of the corporate network. Examples could be the student populations of schools and universities or nurses in hospitals.
At the time, Carr pointed out that Jetstar parent Qantas had actually decided to stop providing Qantas flight attendants with an official company email account — instead, the staff provide Qantas with their own personal email address, which was often a Gmail or Hotmail free account. They are then paid an annual fee for their professional use of personal technology. The reason this sort of system works, according to Carr, is the low volume of official company email Qantas flight attendants need to deal with — just work schedules and so on. The analyst calls this type of staff “boundary workers”, because they work on the edges of the corporate technology footprint.