Virgin Mobile Canada hands off IT infrastructure to Q9

Virgin Mobile will focus its IT resources on creating applications to serve the Canadian market by outsourcing the management of its infrastructure to Q9 Networks, the companies said Monday.

The agreement will see Virgin Mobile Canada hand off firewalls, remote links and other managed services to staff at Q9, which has two data centres in Ontario and another in Calgary. Financial terms and the length of the contract were not disclosed. 

Virgin Mobile made a high-profile entry into Canada earlier this month in a bid to lure young Canadians to its prepaid cellular phone service. The company has struck an agreement to use Bell Canada’s network, making it among the first mobile virtual network operators in the country.

Valdis Martinsons, Virgin Mobile Canada’s chief technology officer, said it was initially challenging to find a hosting provider that could provide the kind of resources it needed within approximately four month’s notice. Q9 made the cut, he said, in part because its reputation for reliability and because of its diverse Internet connections into many buildings. 

Key applications on the Virgin infrastructure include its customer care, which is comprised of a Web-based self-help system as well as a system that connects to Virgin’s North American headquarters, Martinsons said.

“What we are using (Q9) is for the hosting environment and managing the low-level infrastructure – the power, the racks, all of the connectivity,” he said. “The applications themselves, because they are unique and we integrate them with partners, we maintain those ourselves.”

Q9 chief executive Osama Aarafat said Virgin Mobile Canada did extensive due diligence before deciding Q9 could provide it with 100 per cent uptime. 

“It’s the same whether it’s a virtual or regular cellular carrier,” he said. “They can’t allow the service to go down.”

Martinsons said Virgin Mobile Canada hopes the Q9 arrangement will provide it with more flexibility to react as the market changes.

“An outsourcer has a great appeal, which is obviously the ability to be able to scale up,” he said. “There are additional racks there, so if all of a sudden the Web sees greater volume we can increase the pipe.”

Q9’s downtown proximity was an advantage too, Martinsons added. “When we were setting up equipment, it was a matter of getting people in there to do it,” he said. “That probably limited (our choice of provider) to the greater Toronto area.”

Arafat said that while some customers hand over all their managed services, others make specific choices around network security or remote connectivity. “This one happens to fall in the middle,” he said.

Martinsons said Virgin Mobile will consider outsourcing more of its IT infrastructure depending on how its business needs evolve.

“As we’re increasing our offering across Canada, there’s a lot of first-time stuff where you have to have your hands on it,” he said.

Comment: [email protected]


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