Yarra Valley Water (YVW) is the largest of three water corporations in Melbourne, Australia. It provides water supplies and sewerage services to more than 1.7 million people and 50,000 businesses in the northern and eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The organization owns and maintains more than 9,000 kilometers of water mains and nearly 9,000 kilometers of sewer mains, spanning approximately 4,000 square kilometers.
YVW needed to upgrade its IT infrastructure to better support its Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing system and its plans for creating customer-facing Web portals. In mid-2012, the organization developed a private cloud infrastructure, based on Oracle Exadata Database Machine, Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, and Oracle Enterprise Manager. The infrastructure includes a pair of Oracle Exadata and Oracle Exalogic engineered systems at YVW’s production and disaster recovery centers.
By taking advantage of Oracle Exadata and Oracle Exalogic’s high performance and stability, YVW ensured its Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing applications can reach their full potential. It reduced application response times from up to 9 seconds to a subsecond, lowered average customer call times by 30 seconds, and cut the overnight batch processing time by 71%. It has also reduced the time required for development, testing, and production tasks by 30%.
YVW provides customers with a variety of services, including managing water supplies, processing meter readings, and repairing leaks and blockages in main water and sewage pipes. The organization also works with the construction, plumbing, engineering, and conveyancing industries on commercial infrastructure and land development projects.
Each year, YVW processes 10,000 development applications and 100,000 property information requests; manages the installation of 14,000 new water meters; helps develop around 23,000 properties; and provides 34,000 other plumbing services.
The organization previously managed customer account details, application, approval, and development data, and all its billing information in 27 separate applications that ran on 17 older T-series and M-series servers, and two Hitachi Data Systems storage area network units. YVW had maintained this infrastructure for more than 15 years, and the servers and storage units had reached end of life.
“The infrastructure was experiencing a number of performance issues and had become inefficient and costly to maintain,” said Ramesh Subramaniam, IT strategy and architecture manager, Yarra Valley Water.
In 2010, YVW implemented Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing Base for Commercial and Industrial Customers, Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing Base for Residential Customers, Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing Rating and Billing for Commercial and Industrial Customers, and Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing Rating and Billing for Residential Customers to manage customers’ account details, meter readings, and billing information, as well as the fees paid by developers, plumbers, and conveyance providers. However, due to the end-of-life infrastructure, the system experienced performance issues.
“We were very pleased with the overall business improvements we received from the Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing system, but our outdated infrastructure prevented the application from reaching its full potential,” said Subramaniam.
The legacy infrastructure took up to 14 hours to complete overnight batch processing. Poorly performing hardware also meant that Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing application’s response times often took eight or nine seconds.
Meanwhile, overnight and regular reindexing of the data warehouse was taking 6 to 8 hours and a complete reindex or rebuild of the data warehouse could take a whole day. The batch window to complete overall, automated batch processing tasks was also up to 24 hours. Batch processing was encroaching into business hours and impacted system performance to increase the average customer-call time to 390 seconds, creating unnecessary call-center costs and affecting customer satisfaction.
“We considered a like-for-like replacement for our previous integrated billing and satellite systems, but we had pushed our existing hardware and software as far as we could. A direct replacement would have yielded limited results,” said Subramaniam. “Instead, we developed our ‘Beyond Easy Applications Program,’ replacing the systems with several Web portals.”
YVW wanted to adopt a standardized, scalable, enterprise-strength architecture to develop new portals and support five-yearly upgrades of core systems, such as Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing. The organization wanted to consolidate its business systems to drive more business from less hardware, reducing total cost of ownership (TCO) while ensuring it continued to meet its service-level agreements.
YVW also wanted to reduce the amount of manual patching and system maintenance required, cut time and cost of deploying new hardware and applications and future infrastructure upgrades,, and conduct system administration and maintenance in-house.
By providing high performance and stability, Oracle Exadata and Oracle Exalogic have significantly helped YVW’s Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing application reach its full potential.
The organization can now complete its overnight Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing run in four hours. Application response has also been reduced from up to 9 seconds to just 0.5 seconds.
“Cutting application response times from up to nine seconds to a subsecond, and shortening the overnight billing run by 71% improves staff productivity and satisfaction,” said Subramaniam. “It also enables staff to more quickly enter and manage customer account data, such as contact details and bill payments, and respond to customer queries faster, which will improve customer satisfaction.”
The Oracle Exadata and Oracle Exalogic infrastructure has cut the time taken to complete regular and overnight data warehouse re-indexing by 6x—from 8 hours to just over 1 hour. YVW can also conduct complete data re-indexing across its data warehouse, including six applications (such as billing, customer management, and finance), 6x faster—in 3.5 hours, compared to 24 hours, previously.
The improvements in the billing run and reindexing times have helped shorten the time for overall batch processing tasks—including customer billing and profiling, reindexing, and other reporting tasks—from between 21 hours and 24 hours, to around 6 hours.
“Previously, the extended batch window affected system performance during business hours,” said Subramaniam. “With batch jobs still running during the day, the system was less stable, and response times were slower. This affected average call times, as it took longer for call-center staff to access and process customer account details and service information.”
With the new solution in place, YVW can ensure it meets its service level agreements by enabling seamless online performance for more than 80 concurrent call-center staff. This has shortened the average customer call time by 30 seconds—from 390 seconds to 360 seconds.
“The reduced call times are also expected to improve customer satisfaction, as call-center staff can more quickly complete customer requests for help with their water or sewage supplies, or for information about their accounts,” said Subramaniam.
YVW has also eliminated the need for overnight operational management staff, saving the company additional labor costs and improving staff working conditions.
By deploying Oracle Exadata and Oracle Exalogic systems at its production data center and its disaster recovery center, YVW reduced the time required for development, testing, and production tasks—such as modifying or migrating data—by 30%.
By reducing provisioning times and the effort required for performance tuning, IT staff can more easily manage system, database, and server testing and development. This improves productivity and frees staff to complete other valuable tasks.
“We can also apply patches and system enhancements when required, rather than waiting for major outage windows, such as during the weekend,” said Subramaniam. “In the past, we would have needed a major justification to complete system maintenance during the week, as it would have significant implications on subsequent batch windows. Now, we can deploy patches far more quickly and ensure we don’t fall behind on our maintenance work.”
By implementing integrated Oracle products for its private cloud and Web-based systems, YVW has saved on its TCO over five years.
In addition, the improved performance, availability, and system management capabilities enabled YVW to make better use of internal resources and move from a costly, managed-service contract to an in-house management structure.
“Now we only have two, paired boxes, rather than 12, disparate databases; storage appliances; and servers. This makes the infrastructure much easier to manage,” said Subramaniam. “It has reduced the costs and space required for our data centers and cut the variety of staff skill sets required from 8 to 12, to just 4.
By adopting a standardized and scalable infrastructure, YVW has also increased the business value of its mission-critical applications, such as the Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing system, as it can now focus its time and resources on the applications rather than supporting infrastructure.
YVW considered a number of other product combinations from other vendors, including Wintel X series and IBM Xiv storage, but realized that combining Oracle Exadata and Oracle Exalogic would be the most cost-effective.
YVW also chose Oracle Exadata and Oracle Exalogic, as they were robust, stable, and would help the organization complete more business processes using less hardware.
YVW began implementing Oracle Exadata Database Machine Quarter Rack and Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud Quarter Rack at its production and disaster recovery centers in January 2012.
“We reduced the test time from six to eight weeks, to only two weeks,” said Subramaniam. “We pushed the machines to 300% of their maximum load with no problems, and as performance is quicker on Oracle Exadata, we didn’t really need to tune the stress volume performance.”
YWV worked with Oracle Advanced Customer Support Services on the delivery and configuration of the Exadata and Exalogic platforms.
“Oracle Advanced Customer Support Services’ resources and the delivery were well structured and met all our expectations,” said Subramaniam. “The methodical yet flexible manner in which the team worked aligned well with our preferred way of working.”
YVW went live with the upgraded Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing application in its development environment in March 2012. The application went fully live in the production environment in June 2012.