2012 Red Hat Innovation Award Winner: Sprint Makes the Right Call by Replacing Costly Proprietary Middleware with JBoss Enterprise Middleware

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June 25, 2012

Tired of paying exorbitant licensing and maintenance fees for proprietary middleware, Sprint embarked on an open source initiative with JBoss Enterprise Application Platform that significantly cut costs.

Customer: Sprint Nextel

“Since the environment we have 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.” -Jamie Williams, IT Director, Sprint

Industry: Telecomm
Geography: North America
Country: United States

Business Challenge:

Tired of paying exorbitant licensing and maintenance fees for proprietary middleware, Sprint embarked on an open source initiative with JBoss Enterprise Application Platform that significantly cut costs while delivering enhanced flexibility and agility to the company’s mission-critical business applications.

Migration Path:

Oracle WebLogic and IBM WebSphere middleware platforms to JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, JBoss Operations Network, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux


Red Hat ® Enterprise Linux®
Red Hat Consulting
Red Hat Training
JBoss ® Enterprise Application Platform
JBoss Operations Network


Saved $4 million annually in licensing and maintenance fees, improved developer productivity, reduced time-to-market of Sprint products


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 served more than 56 million customers at the end of the first quarter of 2012 and is widely recognized for developing, engineering, and deploying innovative technologies, including the first wireless 4G service from a national carrier in the United States; offering industry-leading mobile data services, leading prepaid brands including Virgin Mobile USA, Boost Mobile, and Assurance Wireless; instant national and international push-to-talk capabilities; and a global Tier 1 Internet backbone. The American Customer Satisfaction Index rated Sprint No. 1 among all national carriers and most improved in customer satisfaction across all industries during the last four years. Newsweek ranked Sprint No. 3 in its 2011 Green Rankings, listing it as one of the nation’s greenest companies, the highest of any telecommunications company. You can learn more and visit Sprint at www.sprint.com or www.facebook.com/sprint and www.twitter.com/sprint.

Business Challenge:

Costly Middleware a Drain on Business-Focused IT Opportunities
Prior to 2011, Sprint was locked into expensive and proprietary Oracle WebLogic and IBM WebSphere middleware platforms for its key business applications. The high license maintenance and support costs diverted funds away from other business-driven IT opportunities, and it was very difficult to keep multiple versions of the multiple 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 finally reached a point where it either needed to embark upon a costly and labor-intensive upgrade of all existing middleware environments, or standardize on a new middleware platform.

The Sprint IT team was leaning toward deploying a new solution, but had some very specific requirements. First, the middleware would need to support a transition to a new, low total cost of ownership (TCO) platform 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.

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.


JBoss Enterprise Middleware Best Solution for Next-Generation IT Platform
After extensive due diligence and proof-of-concept testing, Sprint chose JBoss® Enterprise Application Platform as its new middleware solution and 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 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.

Sprint IT began the migration, which would eventually involve moving more than 100 Sprint applications from the proprietary legacy middleware platforms to the new JBoss standard. The massive scope of this migration effort is such that it will ultimately touch every area of Sprint’s business, including sales, HR, finance, IT, and engineering.

Williams worked closely with his peers throughout IT to build consensus, given all the critical applications that would ultimately be impacted 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.

Today, Sprint IT has successfully migrated 57 of Sprint’s most business- and mission-critical applications. Previously, those applications 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.


JBoss Delivers Millions in Savings and the Ability to Focus on Strategic IT Initiatives
Sprint expects to save more than $4 million annually through reductions in license and maintenance costs alone, simply by replacing the proprietary middleware environment with JBoss Enterprise Middleware. Because Williams’ team also embraced implementation standards and management tools like JBoss Operations Network, Sprint developers, middleware administrators, and systems support staff are much more productive, leading to even more savings. These cost reductions allow Sprint to fund more IT projects for business-driven functionality, rather than simply supporting the infrastructure by “keeping the lights on,” said Williams.

“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 have learned how to more quickly debug their code locally and in ’low-commitment’ development environments. Additionally, “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.

Sprint has extensively utilized Red Hat Global Support Services and Red Hat Training during the migrations. Red Hat Training provided several JBoss Enterprise Middleware courses that were Sprint Makes the Right Call by Replacing Costly Proprietary Middleware with JBoss Enterprise Middleware a key part of bringing such a large group of 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.”

In the end, says Williams, Sprint has reaped more than just financial rewards with this migration project. Standardizing and modernizing the infrastructure of many mission and business critical applications was also a key success that will promote improved developer productivity, reduced time-to-market for key Sprint products, and improved automation of crucial business processes in the future. “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.

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