Tired of paying exorbitant licensing and maintenance fees for proprietary middleware, Sprint embarked on an open source initiative with Red Hat® JBoss® Enterprise Application Platform that significantly cut costs while delivering enhanced flexibility and agility to the company’s critical business applications.
Overland Park, KS
- Existing Sprint architecture
The standards that Sprint has created with Red Hat Consulting have provided our applications with the fundamental enterprise architecture framework that will allow them to have more flexibility, and less dependency on expensive, closed source technologies in the future.Jamie Williams, director of IT middleware, Sprint
Sprint Nextel offers a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline communications services bringing the freedom of mobility to consumers, businesses, and government users. Sprint Nextel is widely recognized for developing, engineering, and deploying innovative technologies. Sprint offered the first wireless 4G service from a national carrier in the United States. It developed industry-leading mobile data services and leading prepaid brands including Virgin Mobile USA, Boost Mobile, and Assurance Wireless. Sprint has instant push-to-talk capabilities for national and international markets, and a global Tier 1 Internet backbone.
Carrier fights proprietary lock-in
Before 2011, Sprint was locked into expensive and proprietary middleware platforms Oracle WebLogic and IBM WebSphere for its key business applications. The high costs of license maintenance and support diverted funds away from other business-driven IT opportunities. It was difficult to keep multiple versions of the numerous middleware products current.
"We had several applications on non-supported EOL [end-of-life] versions of WebSphere and WebLogic," said Jamie Williams, director of IT middleware at Sprint. The company reached a point where it needed either a costly and labor-intensive upgrade of all existing middleware environments or a new middleware platform.
Sprint seeks open source solution
The Sprint IT team leaned toward deploying a new solution but had some very specific requirements. First, the middleware would need to support a transition to a new platform with low total cost of ownership. The transition had to be done without disrupting production operations or business-critical projects in the IT development pipeline.
"We also needed middleware that was based on innovative open standards, was flexible enough to meet the needs of our many diverse applications, had been 'battle-tested' for production stability in carrier grade implementations, and—finally—could be implemented in a standard way to make it easy to keep software current down the road," said Williams.
Carrier seizes time to modernize infrastructure
In addition to replacing middleware, Sprint also decided to modernize related infrastructure components while "already under the hood" of its IT environment. "We simultaneously sought to migrate applications from standalone physical servers into virtualized environments, from proprietary operating systems to Linux®, and from proprietary web servers to Apache," said Williams.
After extensive due diligence and proof-of-concept testing, Sprint chose Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Application Platform as its new middleware. The company also picked Red Hat Enterprise Linux as its new operating system environment. In April of 2011, Sprint approved and funded a major project to replace all legacy WebLogic and WebSphere middleware with Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Middleware from Red Hat, and began migrating those applications to a virtualized Red Hat Enterprise Linux environment. Going forward, all new applications developed at Sprint would use JBoss Enterprise Application Platform.
As part of the two-year project, Sprint utilized Red Hat Consulting to help with application migrations, defining best practices, and designing a future-state architecture.
Massive migration touches every department
Sprint IT began the migration that eventually would move more than 100 Sprint applications from the proprietary legacy middleware platforms to the new JBoss standard. The massive scope of this migration means it will ultimately touch every area of Sprint’s business, including sales, HR, finance, IT, and engineering.
Williams worked with his peers throughout IT to build consensus, given all the critical applications that would be affected by the migration. The team of Red Hat consultants guided and mentored internal Sprint IT personnel to develop Sprint-specific standards that would promote application portability, architecture flexibility, reliability, and performance while reducing vendor lock-in.
Modernization includes infrastructure
Sprint IT has successfully migrated 57 of Sprint’s most business- and mission-critical applications. Those applications had consumed more than 600 CPUs of WebLogic and nearly 24,000 PVUs of WebSphere. "The applications we have migrated include service and repair management in our retail stores, prepaid online purchasing, secure file transfer to Sprint partners, asset and inventory management for the Sprint wireless network, and many more," said Williams. "At the completion of the program, we expect to have migrated more than 100 applications that were previously utilizing 1,000 CPUs of WebLogic and 100,000 PVUs of WebSphere."
Sprint at the same time modernized its infrastructure by transforming standalone servers into virtual machines running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and replacing legacy web servers with Apache web servers.
Sprint expects to save more than US$4 million annually through reductions in proprietary license and maintenance costs alone, simply by moving to Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Middleware. Williams' team also embraced implementation standards and management tools like Red Hat JBoss Operations Network. That enabled Sprint developers, middleware administrators, and systems support staff to be more productive, leading to even more savings. These cost reductions allow Sprint to fund more IT projects for business-driven functionality. That's a big step up from simply supporting the infrastructure by "keeping the lights on," said Williams.
Flexibility gives Sprint more control
"Since the environment we’ve created is rooted in open source standards, it will allow us to grow our middleware platform at a rational cost and allow us to focus on delivering applications to our business," said Williams. "Additionally, the flexibility and choice we have now with applications that have been successfully migrated will allow Sprint to have more control over the evolution of its infrastructure hosting, whether it be internally, externally, or a hybrid environment."
Developers work faster
Developers learned how to more quickly debug their code locally and in 'low-commitment’ development environments. "The standards that Sprint has created with Red Hat Consulting have provided our applications with the fundamental enterprise architecture framework that will allow them to have more flexibility, and less dependency on expensive, closed source technologies in the future," said Williams.
Red Hat support is key
Sprint has used Red Hat Global Support Services and Red Hat Training during the migrations. Red Hat Training provided several Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Middleware courses that brought Sprint application developers up to speed on the new platform. "Completing these training courses early in the program gave the Sprint application development teams the background and confidence they needed to take on the challenge of migrating their applications," said Williams. "And our Red Hat TAM [technical account manager] is actively involved as applications complete production migrations onto the new platform."
Sprint stays nimble
Sprint has reaped more than just financial rewards with this migration project, Williams said. Standardizing and modernizing the infrastructure of many critical applications will improve developer productivity. It will also reduce time to market for key Sprint products and improve automation of crucial business processes. "In today’s market, these are all key factors helping Sprint remain nimble and enabling us to deliver cutting-edge solutions to the market," says Williams.