‘Into Tomorrow’ – Harbour City Ferries revamp infrastructure

Harbour City Ferries (HCF) maintains and operates Sydney’s ferry services on behalf of the NSW Government. Around 650 staff are committed to ‘putting the customer first to deliver a world-class ferry service’, delivering 170,000 services each year across Sydney Harbour and its waterways.

Datacom worked with HCF to demonstrate how a hybrid cloud solution could support service transition.

The Challenge

Harbour City Ferries (HCF) inherited ageing and obsolete equipment from the previous incumbent when it took over the operation in 2012, and quickly found that unreliability, outages and equipment failures critically impeded daily operations. Worse still, the infrastructure was incapable of supporting the development of any new cutting edge services for Sydney’s travelling public.

Unable to update and renew the total environment due to tight capital expenditure budgets and demanding uptime requirements, HCF was looking for smart ways to transition its most essential applications to new, high performing infrastructure, and to keep lower priority applications functioning as well as possible until they could be transitioned or retired.

The Solution

Datacom worked with HCF to demonstrate how a hybrid cloud solution could support service transition – with rapid initial deployment for the most critical business systems and then a staged migration of other applications and services as it was operationally and financially possible.

The hybrid cloud approach would provide HCF with the ongoing flexibility to deploy the right applications to the right environment – public or private cloud – with a level of scalability and cost-effectiveness not possible before.

With a complex, poorly documented existing environment and small windows of opportunity to migrate the real-time systems that support ferry operations, planning was paramount.

Datacom and HCF first identified legacy applications that needed to be carefully managed in the cloud environment rather than being tied to physical hardware, and then started to identify other workloads to move to the cloud.

Datacom’s robust cloud methodology underpinned the entire project through nearly six months of strategic designs, proof of concepts and staged deployments – work that was critical in minimising downtime and potential deployment issues.

Focusing on the oldest infrastructure first, Datacom created a private cloud environment and transitioned Microsoft Windows-based workloads from the HCF unsupported infrastructure into the Datacom cloud. To maximise hardware utilisation and improve scalability in the IT environment, Datacom’s cloud provided ‘right-sized’ virtualisation of all servers.

This had an immediate impact on reliability, reducing the number of outages being experienced. Datacom also transitioned HCF’s telecommunications arrangements to increase performance and deliver improvements to the network infrastructure that enhanced the end-user experience. They also helped implement other changes such as implementing a disk-to-disk backup environment over a disaster recovery site to support vastly improved continuity of service.

An ongoing managed support programme ensures new services can be quickly and efficiently delivered as required, which will continue to deliver productivity improvements for users.

“When this project was first proposed, Hybrid Cloud solutions were still quite rare. Datacom were able to demonstrate real cloud expertise and experience, giving us the confidence to undertake this transition. The trust we put into Datacom was well and truly rewarded with a very successful project outcome.”

Adam O’Halloran – IT Manager, Harbour City Ferries


HCF received immediate operational benefits from reduced downtime and improved reliability, and it is continuing to benefit from financial improvements with reduced support costs on the ageing infrastructure and the gradual shift from capital to operational expenditure as more workloads are transitioned to the cloud.

Datacom’s commitment to ‘proving the promise’ and ability to work with multiple providers meant that the end-user experience at HCF during the project was never affected and any challenges encountered were quickly resolved.

The project has given the business the confidence to look at new technology. We can now provide end-users with faster access to current applications like Office 365 to achieve their work tasks on different devices from anywhere – even the middle of the harbour.