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CASE STUDY : RCom: Redefining Storage

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DQC News Bureau
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Reliance Communications (RCom) one of India's largest integrated telecom

service providers, were seeking a storage solution for CDR storage. A CDR is

generated whenever a subscriber makes a phone call, and Indian telecom

regulations require CDR storage for at least seven years. As call volumes grew

at a pace of 1.5 million subscribers each month for the company, the storage

required to house CDRs escalated.

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Since every call generates a significant amount of data for RCom's business

and operational support applications, data storage became a critical factor in

controlling IT costs, improving productivity, and handling call volume growth.

The challenge



A key business support system for any telecom company is its mediation

application, which converts raw CDRs generated by telecom switches into a format

accepted by “downstream” appli­ca­tions such as billing, inter-carrier

settlements, fraud control, and business intelli­gence systems. If a mediation

applica­tion is not able to process CDRs in real-time, it can negatively impact

the business. CDRs don't get “flushed” out of telecom switches on time, which

leads to telecom switches dropping more CDRs. This can lead to a revenue loss

for the carrier, as unrecorded CDRs cannot be converted to a call charge.

Downstream applica­tions also become sluggish, impacting billing, inter-carrier

settlements, and fraud detection/revenue assurance as well as revenue and

customer satisfaction.

RCom's previous SAN storage platforms supporting the mediation application,

Intec Mediation (IME), was limited in supporting only 500 million CDRs per day,

and this traffic led to slow CDR processing and a six to eight-hour backlog for

downstream applications. With the addition of 1.5 million subscribers per month,

it was getting difficult to carry on with the existing storage platform

supporting the Mediation application.

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RCom can now

support 1.6 billion CDRs a day, more than three times the previous

throughput, without any additional investment in server resources

Sumit Chowdhury, CIO,

Reliance Communications

Another core telecom process that was experiencing capacity limitations was

the provisioning and CRM issue ticketing operation support systems (OSS). The

previous SAN architecture supporting the OSS applications, Clarity and Clarify

had the same sever performing both provisioning/trouble ticketing as well as the

business intelligence reporting, pushing CPU utilization near 100 percent. Dr

Sumit Chowdhury, CIO, Reliance Communications believed that creating additional

capacity to support the subscriber growth and an additional investment in

compute resources was “a business necessity.”

The solution



RCom took an innovative approach, employing NAS (NFS) for primary storage to
support core telecom business and operation systems as well as backup. Once RCom

decided on an NFS protocol, NetApp was bench­marked against compe­titors EMC and

HP.

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“NetApp proved to be superior in performance and ease of management. After

rigorous live benchmarking, it was clear that NetApp was exactly what we

needed,” said Chowdhury.

A NetApp FAS3070 active-active cluster with over 110TB of capacity was

deployed. The clustered NetApp system now supports mission-critical

applica­tions including IME and FCRA as well as business intelligence reporting

for applications including Clarity provisioning and network alarm systems,

Clarify CRM, and the Uninter­rupted Customer Service (UCS) application. Moving

to NAS helped RCOM free up server resources to support business growth, instead

of supporting backup and other operations in the previous SAN environment.

The data on NetApp is directly backed up onto tape using NDMP so that the

backup process does not load the IME servers. The backup speed is sustained at

234GB per hour, eight times faster than the previous architecture. Snapshot

copies are now created on the NetApp storage system for quick restores compared

to the previous business continuous volumes (BCV) approach on the HP SAN system,

requiring only 20 percent of primary storage space.

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Business benefits



With this deployment, RCom has saved over estimated $4.25 million with

NetApp, which includes $950,000 savings in annual storage spend, $1.5 million by

avoiding an upgrade to a more powerful server (and all the operational costs

associated with it), and $1.8 million in terms of the impact on customer

satisfaction index and brand value due to any customer response performance

issues.

“RCom can now support 1.6 billion CDRs a day, more than three times the

previous throughput, without any additio­nal investment in server resources,”

said Chowdhury. Downstream applications such as billing, intercarrier

settlements, business intelligence, and CRM now receive CDRs instantly, speeding

up the throughput of the mission-critical applications by 140 percent. By moving

the business intelligence workload off the main server, RCOM can now support a

staggering 70 million subscribers compared to the previous capacity of 23

million.

“With NetApp we have tripled the capacity for customer provisioning and

support processes,” Chowdhury said. “This was achieved by reducing CPU

utilization on the main server from 99 percent to 35 percent.”

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On the deployment of this innovative solution, Chowdhury said, “Having it

perform flawlessly has given RCom the opportunity to rearchitect other pieces of

our systems and infrastructure and continue to beat our own TCO benchmarks.” A

willingness to step outside of a traditional IT approach and do what is best for

the business has opened the door for even more innovations with NetApp storage

in the future.

NR Sethuraman



sethuramannr@cybermedia.co.in

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