ConnectedBy David A. Kelly
One telecommunications company depends on Oracle Exadata to cover a nation.
Sometimes, when you tackle one problem, you solve another. Take the case of Digicel Haiti. Launched in 2006, Digicel Haiti is now the largest mobile communications operator for Haiti, serving 4 million customers across the country as well as several additional subscriber bases around the Caribbean and Pacific, including Jamaica and Trinidad.
In 2011, the organization set out to solve a problem with its data warehouse—the nightly data collection processes were simply taking too long for the company’s existing server infrastructure to process, and the business-critical daily reports were not reliably delivered on time. To overcome that problem and support substantial growth in its subscriber base, Digicel migrated its 38 TB data warehouse to Oracle’s Exadata Database Machine X2-2 Half Rack with high-capacity disks.
But Oracle Exadata is also helping Digicel address a key strategic requirement for growth and customer retention that the company simply couldn’t address without a robust, highly scalable, and integrated engineered system. On its old systems, Digicel couldn’t run antichurn reports. Now, antichurn reports allow the company to identify situations of potential customer loss and attempt to address them.
“To keep subscribers, we needed to understand their behavior,” says Marwan Salman, head of IT at Digicel. “Oracle Exadata and our ability to run new antichurn reports on the system are key to doing that.”
Meeting New Challenges
A relative newcomer to the communications field, Digicel Haiti is part of the privately owned Digicel Group, which was launched in 2001 and currently serves more than 11 million subscribers across several markets in the Caribbean, Central America, and the Pacific. Digicel Haiti’s goal is to provide customers with reliable cellular service. It’s an important mission, because for many Haitians, their cell phone is the only phone they have.
Digicel knew that its existing data warehouse would not scale effectively enough for the rapid expansion of services it needed to provide. “To be able to grow and accommodate all our new subscribers, we needed a system that could handle an increase in the amount of data,” says Salman.
The company also needed its data warehouse infrastructure to support significantly greater analysis of data by Digicel managers. The company’s data warehouse is used to analyze call data records and generate customer-related reports for greater business insight.
Stepping Up to an Engineered System
Upon its founding in 2006, Digicel Haiti’s data warehouse was deployed on a set of Sun servers. Digicel later scaled up the data warehouse and server cluster to four servers as the company grew, but eventually it became clear that the solution would not be able to scale with Digicel’s long-term growth—especially after the influx of new customers over the last two years.
Specifically, while Digicel could continue to scale out its server cluster, the company found that adding new servers didn’t provide linear scalability. As they examined expanding the cluster even more, Salman and his team realized that an increasing portion of the server capacity would be consumed in overhead. That’s when Digicel’s IT group started looking for a solution that could grow more efficiently.
After an in-depth evaluation of data warehouse options, the company chose Oracle Exadata, based primarily on the engineered system’s performance.
Digicel was able to migrate its existing data warehouse to Oracle Exadata in less than two months, even under very difficult postearthquake conditions. The migration was also completed without interruption of day-to-day business operations. The result was a significant improvement over Digicel’s legacy data warehousing infrastructure.
The Oracle Exadata Experience
Oracle Exadata has transformed Digicel’s report operations. “Oracle Exadata really delivered the benefits we were looking for,” says Salman.
The migration also simplified the management of Digicel’s IT environment, which encompassed more than 300 servers and many databases. “Oracle Exadata is much more manageable than our old system,” says Salman. “One reason is that we don’t have to have external storage, so everything is managed inside one system.”
With Oracle Exadata, Digicel also improved recoverability in case of any system problems.
Oracle Exadata Business Benefits
Oracle Exadata not only helped Digicel reduce report times, save data center power and floor space, consolidate existing systems, increase manageability, and provide greater recoverability; it also helped the company generate business growth.
“Oracle Exadata has given us the ability to provide our business units with better and more-dynamic models of our customer base, so they can create business offers that have the biggest positive impact,” says Salman.
Oracle Exadata also gives Salman and his team a way to ensure that critical corporate reports and key performance indicators can be put on managers’ desks first thing in the morning.
And Oracle Exadata has made it possible for Digicel’s IT group to be more responsive to the business. “It has enabled us to provide business units with solutions and reports that meet their needs and plans,” says Salman. “Now we can build new data mining procedures using the power of Oracle Exadata that would have been too complicated for our previous systems to handle. It’s a huge benefit for our company.”
A Platform for the Future
Digicel continues to grow. Over the past year, the company has expanded its customer base by 25 percent. Supporting that type of expansion is exactly why Digicel chose Oracle Exadata, with its ability to move from a half-rack implementation to a full-rack implementation.
Digicel is also in the planning stages of creating a secondary Oracle Exadata site for recoverability. “The earthquake taught us a lesson on the importance of having a redundant site as well as being able to recover more quickly in the case of a major catastrophe,” says Salman.
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