Red Hat Solutions Become a Strategic Advantage for tw telecom

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October 24, 2013

tw telecom faced a range of IT challenges, including replacing aging hardware and outdated software, and automating key IT functions.

Customer: tw telecom

“Red Hat is a fantastic provider. We’ve been able to bring new products and services to the market that really enable our customers and their networks and the needs of their businesses." - Sosheel Samuel, VP IT Operations and Infrastructure, tw telecom

Industry: Telecomm
Geography: North America
Country: United States


Business Challenge:

tw telecom faced a range of IT challenges, including replacing aging hardware and outdated software, and automating key IT functions.

Migration Path:

From Sun Solaris to Red Hat Enterprise Linux; and from JBoss jBPM to Red Hat JBoss SOA Platform

Hardware:

Cisco UCS B series blade servers

Benefits:

tw telecom enhanced system performance, availability, and security. The company also improved the productivity of its IT staff and cut costs by using Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® solutions.

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Background:

tw telecom, headquartered in Littleton, Colo., is a leading national provider of managed services, including Business Ethernet, converged and IP VPN solutions for enterprises throughout the U.S. and globally. tw telecom also delivers secure, scalable private connections for transport data networking, Internet access, voice, VPN, VoIP and security to large organizations and communications services companies. Employing a resilient fiber network infrastructure, robust product portfolio and its own Intelligent Network capabilities, tw telecom delivers customers overall economic value, an industry-leading quality service experience, and improved business productivity.

Business Challenge:

Starting small, turning strategic

In 2005, as its SPARC stations began reaching end of life, tw telecom began migrating its applications to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0 on x86 servers. One of the company’s primary reasons to migrate was to lower costs.

The first workload tw telecom migrated was its customer service activation module. Once that smooth transition was complete, tw telecom next migrated an Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) database, and then another database for off-net pricing.

“We weren’t targeting any particular area, just migrating applications as our existing machines aged,” said Ed Finnegan, director of technology services at tw telecom.

While cost savings were a major consideration, ease of management was also critical. tw telecom was experiencing turnover on its Sun SPARC workstations support team, and had fewer resources overall to support its enterprise servers.

In 2007, tw telecom’s IT department began using a JBoss community business management tool, JBoss jBPM. The company used jBPM to automate its Service Application System (SAS). SAS automatically activates new customer accounts in the IP and network domains.

Then, in 2011, the company needed to upgrade SAS, which was running on hardware and software that had reached end-of-life. Because of the importance and complexity of SAS, the upgrading process “was like replacing the engine of a jet while flying,” said Craig Tystad, principal architect at tw telecom.

tw telecom asked Red Hat Consulting to assess its system and recommend a new business process automation architectural framework.

Red Hat Consulting recommended deploying Red Hat JBoss SOA Platform, Red Hat’s cost-effective solution for flexibly integrating applications and services, handling business events, and efficiently automating business processes.
 

Solution:

Red Hat is a strategic component in the enterprise

Today, tw telecom has more than 250 servers running Red Hat Enterprise Linux on Cisco UCS servers — of which, nearly 200 are virtual servers.

By 2010, the number of Red Hat Enterprise Linux servers had outgrown the number of existing SPARC servers, and had become the standard operating platform at tw telecom. “My goal is to have 280 Red Hat [servers] and 50 of our existing servers by the end of 2012,” said Mike Stahl, IT manager, Linux support, at tw telecom.

tw telecom’s middleware migration also went well. “The migration from JBoss jBPM to Red Hat’s JBoss SOA Platform went smoothly,” said Tystad. “We finished it in about two months, with one month of testing, which is about half the time of a normal migration. Red Hat Consulting helped with the migration and with making architectural recommendations. We got SAS up and running on Red Hat JBoss SOA Platform, and it continues to run and perform very nicely.”

Today, tw telecom has 16 cores running Red Hat JBoss SOA Platform, and has asked Red Hat Consulting to increase that number to 32 cores.
 

Benefits:

Realizing huge performance, supportability, availability improvements

The new Red Hat Enterprise Linux environment dramatically reduced costs for tw telecom and produced notable performance gains.

Finnegan noticed improvements in the move from SPARC to Red Hat Enterprise Linux during the company’s PeopleSoft Financials software upgrade. “On the database side, we saw significant improvements in many of the processes,” said Finnegan. “We had four bill cycles per month, each taking between 4-10 hours to complete. After the migration to Red Hat Enterprise Linux on x86 systems, it only took about 20 minutes per bill cycle. And while we expected some performance gains, we didn’t expect gains that were this huge.”

In addition to the performance increase for the PeopleSoft Financials bill cycles , tw telecom also saw similar performance improvements when it moved other applications over such as Ordering – 45%, Resource and Circuit inventory — 55%, and Ticketing — 53%!

“The old environment simply didn’t scale well,” said Finnegan. “After moving to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, we had needed redundancies for our PeopleSoft application.”

tw telecom has improved productivity by migrating to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. “It would be difficult to support our operations with our current staff if we were still running on our old SPARCS systems,” said Stahl. “For one, OS patching has changed from requiring all-night working sessions to quick and easy initiatives accomplished in a couple of hours.”

Red Hat solutions helped tw telecom achieve its strategic goals, improve performance, and gain hardware utilization improvements. One strategic mandate that tw telecom imposed upon its IT team is to virtualize as much of the infrastructure as possible, which both reduces cost and aids in disaster recovery.

Security is another mandate for the company. “We have internal audits throughout the year and external audits that are critical for our financial systems in particular,” said Stahl. “Security is much easier to maintain with Red Hat solutions.”

Finally, application availability has also been dramatically enhanced. “Availability is our number one goal,” said Stahl. “It’s critical to our business, and always has been.” Stahl’s team is currently migrating its Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) from SPARC to Red Hat Enterprise Linux to gain additional flexibility in managing users and security. “This makes it easy for us to achieve high availability,” added Stahl.

Productivity and performance gains lead to increased revenue

tw telecom has also received powerful returns from its Red Hat JBoss SOA Platform initiatives. The company has been able to significantly reduce the time it takes to provision new services for its customers. “Today, customers can request changes in their bandwidth via our customer portal and the bandwidth is changed in near-real time,” said Tystad. “Previously, it could take days or up to a week. We are making more sales as the result of this new automated capability without having to add staff.”

tw telecom’s internal developers are now much more productive. “We had to worry about a lot of plumbing and functionality, and now we can focus on the business logic,” said Wei Sun, enterprise architect at tw telecom. “The new system is wonderful.”

tw telecom has also reduced costs by using the same platform for all activation domain systems.

The network: Connecting the dots

Of course, for these solutions to work, a private, predictable, highly available network was needed for the key assets to communicate. tw telecom accomplished this by using its own award winning network. IP VPN is used to connect the over 300 field locations with a variety of speeds, and E-Line services are used to connect to more than 4000 third-party data centers.
 

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