Transport provider settles in for the long haul with Big Blue
IBM and Vodafone’s tie-up has yielded its first flagship customer, with National Express agreeing an eight-year contract with the duo to overhaul its fragmented international IT estate, shift on-premises data centres to the cloud and modernise applications.
UK-based National Express Ltd. operates transportation services in eight countries, handling 898 million journeys in 2018, with UK market revenues of some £577 million. (It dominates long haul coach transport in Spain and the UK, and is the second largest school bus provider in the US, with further operations in Morocco and Canada).
It is not disclosing contract terms, but Michael Valocchi, IBM General Manager of the venture with Vodafone, told Computer Business Review that the deal was substantial.
“It has been an acquisitive company…”
He said: “National Express has been an acquisitive company and it has infrastructure that has not really been built from a future-proof perspective. There are islands of data across its estate and it wants to be able to get those of out silos and realise the operational benefits and fleet management benefits of an explosion of data.”
“It will be a very technical implementation that will start with an in-depth analysis of the estate. The modernisation work includes everything from customer experience to back office, operations systems that keep coaches running, payments and more. We’ll be moving it to a hybrid cloud architecture; these are mission-critical applications and you want a seamless customer experience. We’re excited about the potential.”
The IBM Vodafone partnership, which launched in May after being announced at the start of 2019, will build on the existing connectivity services provided by Vodafone Business, they said in a release today. (Vodafone currently furnishes National Express with services including wide area network connectivity and a secure internet gateway.)
Greg Hyttenrauch, cloud and security director, Vodafone Business commented, “As cloud services and connectivity become ever more inseparable, there is a clear need for the combined expertise we can deliver. We will provide National Express with the holistic solution it requires to drive digital innovation across its business.”
The win follows some eight months of talks, which started shortly after IBM and Vodafone announced the new venture. (Not strictly a joint venture, and characterised by some as the simple off-loading by Vodafone of its cloud business to IBM, in a $550 million outsourcing deal. The two parties have set up a discrete office and team however and are using the venture to open doors to each others’ customers).
National Express: Wants a Unified IT Estate, Analytics, 5G
The two will “enable National Express to effectively manage multiple clouds in different locations and from different vendors; and to seamlessly scale up and down to support usage spikes. Additional security and risk management will be added to protect the transport operator’s technology infrastructure and provide greater resilience” they said.
The coach firm says it is eyeing “personalised passenger experiences, flexible payment options and always-connected vehicles” as the work beds in.
Valocchi told Computer Business Review: “Vodafone has been innovating like no other telco; software-defined networking, 5G; frankly you can’t have a journey to the cloud without strong connectivity. With IBM’s multi-cloud manager and our recent acquisition of Red Hat we really are the leaders when it comes to that journey to the cloud.”