Pangea takes online teaching to China with SI Futures and IS

The Internet has driven a massive step change in the availability and manner in which education is provided to the global population as an increasing number of people around the world are turning to online training courses and study programmes. The availability of this content online, along with readily available tuition lets learners study where they want - all they need is a computer and an Internet connection when they want, as these services are available 24/7.

To enable this type of service training companies have created a global network of outsourced service providers that can deliver these online courses and live tuition on their behalf. One such provider is Pangea Outsourcing Services, a South African company based in Cape Town that is responsible for hosting approximately one third of the classes currently offered by their global client.

"The online outsourcing of services, or crowd-sourcing as it is also commonly known, has experienced huge growth of late, with successes like Mechanical Turk from Amazon, ODesk and Elance, to name a few." explains Jaco Delport, managing director of Pangea. "But despite the increased use of machine automation to fulfil certain tasks there are still a number of areas that are not easily defined in terms of computer processing and therefore require humans to effectively implement. This has given rise to the human computing or human intelligent tasks (HIT) trend, which is currently in high demand and continues to grow."

This led Delport to start another outsourcing company, Cloud-Source, which offers per use, task-based, outsourced services to corporate clients. Some of these services include recruitment, software testing, website updating services, including social media like Facebook and Twitter, call desk and telemarketing, to name a few.
To deliver the online classes and course material anywhere, anytime over the Internet from their offices in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, Pangea utilises Voice over IP (VoIP) technology and a team of trained staff who can deliver these services. "We currently have around 200 contracted employees who we select and train to deliver these training courses to learners across the globe through a virtual classroom." explains Delport. 

Following the success of the Pangea learning platform the company was tasked with expanding this service offering into the key growth market of China, where the demand for courses is burgeoning. However, due to the volume and the type of content being shared from the South African centres, using the Internet as the network infrastructure to provision these services soon became inefficient and ineffective. "We were also using multiple providers to provision a variety of connectivity solutions at our various offices. We therefore wanted to implement a solution from a single provider that would solve all of the technological challenges we faced," continues Delport.

Pangea approached leading systems integrator and Internet Solutions (IS) partner, SI Futures to find a suitable solution. "The latency from Pangea's connectivity provider at the time was too high, which made conducting the virtual classes and training over the Internet problematic. We therefore sought to provide an integrated infrastructure that could meet all of Pangea's data and voice requirements," says Geordie Hogarth, CEO at SI Futures.

Following an extensive audit SI Futures advised Pangea to implement a Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) virtual private network (VPN), with a Wi-Band tail using IS' established international MPLS infrastructure. "We partner with IS as the company's MPLS VPN offers guaranteed levels of service in terms of availability, packet loss, jitter and round trip time. The IS service is configured to a Cisco standard, ensuring that it is AVVID (architecture for voice, video and integrated data) compliant. IS also offers 16 local points of presence (POPs) and six International POPs, which enables IS to offer high quality MPLS connectivity to any location in the world that has suitable infrastructure in place," explains Hogarth.

"This MPLS solution enabled us to deliver the stable infrastructure Pangea required to conduct their virtual classes by sharing content and interacting over VoIP, all through a single service provider," he continues.

SI Futures implemented a 2Mb/s MPLS connection running on a 10 Mb/s Wi-Band tail circuit between Cape Town and China. "This level of connectivity offers Pangea sub-350 ms latency and also allows for future growth as and when demand dictates," explains Hogarth.  "The need to future-proof their connectivity capacity was another essential element as we need to be able to cater for up to three thousand Chinese users, with five concurrent connections per class. Due to this fact, as well as the 24/7 nature of their business. Pangea also required required failover connectivity for the last mile circuit, which will be catered for by installing fibre links between the Cape Town office and the IS Cape Town data centre with an IS Wi-Band LMDS failover for added resilience.'
Through the IS-based solution implemented by SI Futures Pangea was able to benefit from significant improvements in the speed, capacity and efficiency of their network, enabling them to deliver a rich collaborative experience to learners. It also provided Pangea with a single point of contact for all their connectivity requirements and support needs. The integrated solution that SI Futures implemented has positively impacted our business as we have significantly improved the quality of the service we can offer learners in China. We also have the capacity to meet future demand, which ensures that our company can continue to grow," concludes Delport.

According to Hogarth, Pangea is also looking to expand the scope of the services hosted within the IS data centre as the company looks at cloud-based business process management solutions to help streamline the administrative element of their business even further.