Thomas Cook CIO moves to service-based IT infrastructure

Travel agents Thomas Cook Group has agreed terms with Capgemini to move its IT to an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model.

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Travel agents Thomas Cook Group has agreed terms with Capgemini to move its IT to an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model.

“My role here is to do three things, firstly come up with a group wide IT structure; look at the IT organisational structure and think about where the business is going with online,” said Gary Edwards, group CIO for Thomas Cook.

The organisational structure at Thomas Cook is decentralised with 21 CIOs reporting into Edwards. The former banking CIO with experience at Barclays and Lloyds TSB said he is not looking to centralise Thomas Cook, but by opting for an IaaS IT structure aims to create a common IT infrastructure his 21 CIOs can draw resources from.

“We needed to industrialise the model in terms of desktops, networks and datacentres. In Europe I have 19 different datacentres and data-rooms; that is an opportunity to consolidate, as is simplifying the number of applications we use,” he said.

Edwards also plans carry out a “supplier optimisation” plan to reduce the number of group wide contracts Thomas Cook has with suppliers.

“All the local CIOs will know there is a deal there and they can work from it as a framework,” he said.

“The travel industry has severe peaks of demand and we need to manage that demand for those busy trading periods. So IaaS suits our needs as it has an economy of scale as the nature of our business means we can add capacity when we need to.”

Thomas Cook is also mid-way through its Globe project to create a single back end to its retail outlet IT and online booking services. Edwards explained: “Globe will allow the business to be a lot more flexible, especially as customers may not want the package type of holiday you see in a brochure and instead want to dynamically generate a holiday with their own choices.”

“The infrastructure is ready for a refresh,” Edwards said. The veteran CIO likened IaaS adoption to outsourcing and joint ventures, both of which he has previous experience of.

“You have to be pragmatic, so some of what we will do through this deal will actually look very traditional. This is a journey for the company to get to a baseline of infrastructure. “

Edwards expects to begin transitioning in the second quarter of 2011 and to have completed the move by the end of 2012.

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