Virgin Mobile turns to Q9 for hosting

“A mobile phone company with a fresh new take,” is how Virgin Mobile likes to portray itself.

When it entered the Canadian market, the company did several things to live up to that description.

Among other things, Virgin Mobile Canada – a joint venture between Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Bell Mobility – chose to outsource all of its online ordering and vital backend processes.

The company shopped around for a service provider that could meet its two key requirements: for security and availability. It eventually selected Toronto, Ontario-based Q9 Networks for the job.

Q9 will provide Virgin Mobile Canada with physical space as well as managed services, including firewalls and remote links.

Q9’s proximity to Virgin’s Toronto offices and its ability to meet specified timelines were points in its favour, according to Virgin Mobile Canada CTO Valdis Martinsons. “We needed our infrastructure built and ready to go within five months,” he said, adding Q9 was able to meet this need.

Now, from a high security data centre, Q9 Networks hosts Virgin Mobile’s Canadian Web site, its online ordering system, and other critical processes.

Q9 Network’s CEO Osama Arafat said that his company has three data centres, in Toronto, Brampton and Calgary respectively, but he would not say which one managed the Virgin infrastructure.

According to the company, its data centres provide a secure physical infrastructure, including biometric authentication, video surveillance, and round-the-clock security officers. The centres are engineered to eliminate any single point of failure, with multiple layers of redundancy in power systems, HVAC, and fire detection and suppression.

The long-term outsourcing deal, which was in place on March 1 to coordinate with Virgin’s Canadian launch, sees Q9 providing both physical space and managed services, including firewall and remote links that will ensure security, reliability and availability for Virgin Mobile customers. According to Martinsons, Virgin Mobile’s footprint extends across 80 per cent of Canada. “We will be launching in Atlantic Canada in spring and in Manitoba and Saskatchewan in late summer.”

Martinsons said Virgin would compete with all the mobile companies in Canada, including Rogers, Fido, Telus and Bell.

Q9 meanwhile has already beefed up its facilities to stay ahead of Virgin’s needs and those of its other customers. “We have 275 customers,” Arafat said. “In October we extended services at our downtown Toronto data centre. We will continue to build new data centres to meet (customer) needs.”

He said the Brampton centre has also recently increased capacity and added an anchor tenant.

IDC senior analyst Leslie Rosenblood said Q9 networks is a Canadian company, but with a growing portion of their revenues coming from the U.S.

He said as the Virgin initiative is Canadian in scope, it made sense for the company to go with a Canadian provider to run some of their non-core backend processes. “This is a win for Q9 Networks. They have just recently had a couple of [good] quarters and achieved the scale required to be profitable in the Web hosting infrastructure industry. High profile contracts like this are going to be a boon to the company.”

All Q9 and customer systems are monitored from the Q9 Network Operations Centre (NOC) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. NOC experts are available to customers on an around-the-clock basis to resolve issues and provide advice.

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