Etisalat Sri Lanka Transforms I.T. Infrastructure with Scalability and Cost Savings of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization

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April 20, 2010

Customer: Sri Lanka Telecom

Industry: Telecomm
Geography: APAC
Country: Sri Lanka


Business Challenge:

To set up a scalable, flexible, and cost-effective IT infrastructure to support the organization’s objective of rapidly increasing its telecommunications operations in Sri Lanka

Solution:

Etisalat Sri Lanka selected Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization to resolve its business challenges by providing on-demand business scalability with significant cost savings and enhanced operational efficiencies

Software:

Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization; guest operating systems, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Microsoft Windows 2003 and 2008 Server Edition; Microsoft SQL Database Server 2005 and 2008

Hardware:

IBM and HP Intel Xeon processor-based Blade Servers (2 Quad Core and 8 GB / 24 GB memory)

Benefits:

Achieved significant cost and time savings; gained the ability for real-time provisioning of servers; improved operational efficiencies and development of a highly consistent and scalable virtualized IT infrastructure; reduced power, space, and management overhead costs; gained significant internal.“Etisalat Sri Lanka experienced an increase in stability, flexibility, and scalability by using Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization. We were able to reduce our footprint from 40 to six servers, and witnessed a drastic reduction in TCO, enabling our IT team to concentrate more on improving the current infrastructure.” -Chandrakanth Jayasinghe, Head of IT Systems, Etisalat Sri Lanka

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Background:

Etisalat Sri Lanka was the first cellular network to be established in the island nation. Having commenced its operations in 1989, Etisalat is well-known for providing wide coverage, unprecedented customer care, and a broad range of Value Added Services. Etisalat Sri Lanka was founded as Celltel in June 1989 on a Motorola TACS system. It was then re-branded by Millicom International in January 2007, as Tigo (Sri Lanka). Etisalat acquired Tigo (Sri Lanka) on 16th October 2009 for USD 207 million. On 25th February 2010, Tigo was rebranded Etisalat. Etisalat Sri Lanka aims to provide mobile services that are affordable, accessible, and available to a larger footprint. The companyand#x2019;s primary mission is to enable customers to communicate over long distances and to stay informed. As an organization that merges integrity, respect, and passion to create sustainable success, Etisalat Sri Lankaand#x2019;s integrated distribution system currently supports inventory management and distribution services at over 30,000 retail outlets all over Sri Lanka. Currently Etisalat Sri Lanka connects 2.4 million subscribers. Headquartered in U.A.E. and currently operating in 18 countries, Etisalat is the thirteenth largest mobile network operator in the world, with a total customer base of 94 million as of November 2009.

Business Challenge:

Previously, Etisalat Sri Lanka maintained a heterogeneous IT infrastructure with a variety of hardware and software solutions from various vendors, each presenting different levels of management complexity for its IT team. As a result, a large portion of its computing resources went underutilized. Etisalat Sri Lanka needed to leverage its existing IT assets and prevent cost escalation arising from hardware procurement.

As Etisalat Sri Lanka’s business continued to expand, so did its IT needs. The IT team was constantly in a race against time seeking approvals for procuring hardware. Typically, hardware took about four to six weeks to obtain and deploy. The team also had to deal with increased demand for space, power, and cooling needs for the datacenter as a result of the procurement.

“Approximately 50 servers purchased a few years back were approaching the end of their warranty. Recurring fees for renewing licenses, rising power costs, and shrinking space to accommodate hardware forced us to seek smarter alternatives. Each server would have cost us anywhere between $4,000 to $6,000, often presenting a huge hurdle in getting financial approvals,” said Chandrakanth Jayasinghe, head of IT Systems, Etisalat Sri Lanka.

The key priority wasn’t solely to lower costs precipitated by budget pressures, but also to respond to valid provisioning requirements. Strengthened computing power is a mandate to support a large subscription base efficiently.

Amidst these challenges, Etisalat Sri Lanka continued its goal of increasing system manageability.

“We could not afford any disruption in services while the servers were being migrated. We needed an elegant, simple, and powerful IT infrastructure that could eliminate multiple levels of cost and support and dramatically increase efficiency. We were confident that Red Hat® Enterprise Virtualization would help us achieve these objectives,” said Jayasinghe.

Solution:

Etisalat Sri Lanka carried out a pilot project using Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization to move a few of its physical servers over to the virtualized platform. During the pilot, the team was able to increase the number of virtual servers without any negative impact on the applications that run on the servers. With its Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) technology base, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization was able to deliver a hypervisor and corresponding management tools that offered performance and scalability benefits over alternatives.

“What irrefutably places the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization platform several notches above alternatives is the phenomenal scalability in terms of active virtual machines per host that it can deliver,” said Hemesh Fernando, Senior Manager Marketing, Visual Computing Systems (Pvt.) Ltd. (VCS) of Informatics Group of Companies, the Red Hat partner that aided in the implementation.

The datacenter to be virtualized with Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization hosted a 100 GB database with 110 concurrent users. A critical resource in the datacenter is the mediation distribution server that transfers caller detail records to many billing-related systems at high speeds. The corporate intranet is hosted on Microsoft SharePoint and accounts for 150 GB of data with more than 100 concurrent users.

“We were able to resolve implementation issues smoothly from the initial proof-of-concept stage to the final implementation with timely back-end support provided by Red Hat, and it was key in making the customer satisfied with the product,” said Yajith Dayarathna (RHCT®), Systems Engineer, Visual Computing Systems (Pvt.) Ltd.

Additionally, the datacenter has financial application servers, workflow automation servers, and purchase-order workflow systems that service an average of 50 concurrent users.

The virtualized platform also hosts an online post-paid billing view system where post-paid customers are able to view their bills over the Internet.

Within a month, Etisalat Sri Lanka successfully implemented Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization for its critical datacenter. With the Red Hat solution, the company was able to reduce its previous 40 servers down to just six servers, while hosting the same extensive amount of data. The Etisalat Sri Lanka IT team was also able to quickly set up high-availability clusters of applications, improving the reliability of the datacenter.

“This is the first-ever implementation of the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization platform in Sri Lanka. We are extremely pleased that we could successfully overcome several IT challenges in such a short timeframe,” said Chandrakanth.

Compatibility of Microsoft Windows with Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization and the seamless transformation of systems from standalone, aged hardware platforms to the Red Hat platform greatly simplified Etisalat Sri Lanka’s IT management tasks.

“By implementing a server consolidation strategy, space utilization and efficiency increased exponentially in our datacenter. By having each application within its own virtual server, we managed to prevent one application from impacting another during upgrading or making changes,” said Shantha Vithanaarachchige, a Red Hat Certified Technician (RHCT®) who was fully involved in this implementation project.

Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization allowed system migration with no downtime or disruption to the organization’s production systems. Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Microsoft Windows solutions could now be seamlessly run and managed on a common virtualization platform.

“The rollout of virtual machines accelerated infrastructural growth and enterprise performance and, more importantly, promises customers a whole new level of contentment,” said Jayasinghe.

Benefits:

“Etisalat Sri Lanka experienced an increase in stability, flexibility, and scalability by using Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization. We were able to reduce our footprint from 40 to six servers, and witnessed a drastic reduction in TCO, enabling our IT team to concentrate more on improving the current infrastructure,” said Jayasinghe.

With this solution, multiple virtual servers that run on each server completely utilize the available processing power. The consolidation of servers onto fewer machines resulted in a dramatic reduction in space, cooling, and power needs.

“We opted for virtualization and today, 90 percent of our recovery center runs on virtualization,” said Jayasinghe.

“Our biggest achievement to-date is the ability to address server deployment requirements with short notice, saving time and money for our business. Deploying Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization was a smart move. The future of Etisalat is now looking bright as we encounter our continuously expanding customer base.” he continued.

Etisalat’s new lean datacenter also complements the organization’s global push for environment-friendly initiatives to reduce carbon footprint by encouraging customers to use electronic channels for viewing and paying their bills.

“We have largely diminished the number of servers used, thus phenomenally decreased power consumption and have subsequently contributed to less environmental degradation,” states Sanath Pilapitiya, Chief Technical Officer of Etisalat Sri Lanka.

“In sync with ‘greening’ our IT infrastructure, Red Hat has shown us a way to protect the environment by eliminating energy consumption by underutilized servers, which limits frequent disposal of electronic waste.”

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