Driving Innovation Through Consolidation and Virtualization
Consolidating your infrastructure and bringing everything under one umbrella has tremendous benefits when you're a telecommunications provider. It's much easier and far more effective to manage your assets from a single platform, and that makes service much more seamless for customers.
But that wasn't the only advantage for O2 Czech Republic. Consolidating our messaging and VAS platform had the added benefit of introducing us to the brave new world of virtualization.
A Multi-Vendor, Multi-Platform Environment
O2 is the biggest fixed and mobile telecommunications operator in the Czech market. We are wholly owned by the PFF Telecom Group. This private equity firm operates the O2 franchises in the Czech and Slovakian republics and a handful of other operators in Hungary, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Serbia. Our services include fixed and mobile telephony, IPTV, and digital cable comprising premium pay TV and sports channels.
I'm O2 Czech Republic's Manager of Service Platforms and I am responsible for the engineering and operation of all our service platforms. This includes messaging, voice, prepaid plans, mobile payments, and value-added services (VAS).
In the past, O2 Czech Republic used a handful of different vendors and applications to operate and manage our messaging services. Everything worked, but we wanted to consolidate everything under a single platform, using common hardware. We started looking at vendors who could offer a single-source VAS and messaging solution. But we had to move fast—two of our vendors announced that crucial components of our previous messaging services setup were approaching end of life. At the time, virtualization was relatively new for the telco industry, but we knew we could forge a new path by pursuing this new technology.
A New Technology and an Excellent Value Proposition
To start the process, we evaluated multiple vendors who offered all-in-one VAS solutions. Each of these companies presented technologies that fit the bill, but in the end, the total cost of ownership tipped the scale in favor of a Mobile VAS Consolidation platform from Jinny Software, which was eventually acquired by Enghouse Networks.
Reducing our operational expenses was a major reason for moving to a consolidated platform, and Enghouse Networks offered the best value for our money. Even though Enghouse Networks’ Mobile VAS Consolidation had an excellent value proposition, the solution was new in the Czech Republic and there were some concerns about putting all of our eggs into that one basket. Still, the combination of benefits convinced us to move forward.
With the Mobile VAS Consolidation platform, Enghouse Networks offered a new breed of telecommunications solution. It was a virtualized platform that ran on off-the-shelf X86 servers. Instead of swapping out rack after rack of telco-grade infrastructure, we'd be replacing our end-of-life hardware with cost-effective servers that ran virtual versions of the equipment we needed.
The benefits of switching to this new platform far outweighed the risks. It was easier to manage, and the space and energy savings alone represented a significant cost reduction. The move also simplified our future upgrade path. We could increase capacity or add new functions by adding software-based devices instead of bare-metal hardware.
Enghouse Networks has a reputation of excellent technical support, and knowing they would come through if any issue arose helped cement our decision. We also knew we could rely on their engineers to help us migrate to the new platform. Our previous VAS infrastructure had been in place for nearly a decade, and we had to move slowly and deliberately to prevent any service interruptions. We planned to roll out the Mobile VAS Consolidation platform in phases.
We started the tender process in the second half of 2014. By March 2015, we had installed the new servers and were ready to migrate our messaging hardware to a virtualized environment. We started by migrating our voicemail and call notification services, which took us through the end of the year. There are huge dependencies with other systems, so as we moved everything to the new platform, we also had to integrate our ID, provisioning, and billing platforms systems.
In 2016, we continued with the migration of our SMS and MMS services. It was a complex process because we moved multiple applications and our extensive network of hardware-based SMS gateways to the virtual environment. By 2016, we had completed our migration and due to our satisfaction with the services, we moved our USSD center to Enghouse Networks’ Mobile VAS Consolidation platform.
A Relationship Based on Trust and Mutual Support
Throughout the process, we felt the benefits of our long-standing relationship with Enghouse Networks. Our partnership is built on trust, open communications, and an ongoing dialogue about our changing infrastructure needs. Moving to their Mobile VAS Consolidation platform was not a one-and-done scenario. Mobile telecommunications technology is constantly evolving, and Enghouse Networks helps us evolve and provide our customers with the services they want.
We're bringing 5G to cities across the country, but there are other changes behind the scenes, too. One of these is upgrading our IP SMS gateway to support native SMS services. Thanks to Enghouse Networks’ Mobile VAS Consolidation platform, we can make these changes quickly and easily while ensuring continuity of service. The upgrade process is entirely transparent to our customers.
Over the years, we’ve always felt that Enghouse Networks respects our priorities. Other vendors might take a month or two to implement a change request, but Enghouse Networks delivers in a couple of weeks. They listen to us, recognize our needs, and respect our timelines. They deliver what we need when we need it. Their engineers help with customizations, integrations, and troubleshooting.
Before deploying Enghouse Networks' Mobile VAS Consolidation platform in our production environment, we set up a test environment and tried to "break it" by performing crash and failover tests. In another show of outstanding technical support, Enghouse Network engineers helped us analyze the test results to better understand and tweak our production environment before going live. That’s the kind of service all telco companies deserve, and Enghouse comes through every time.
Moving Beyond Our Comfort Zone and Inspiring Change
Consolidating our VAS and messaging services took my team out of our comfort zone. However, our experience served as an example and inspiration to other O2 Czech Republic teams, who continue to work with multiple vendors and platforms. Our successive deployments went off without a hitch and became a test case that paved the way for other virtualization projects. While each of these new deployments is different, my team has used our newfound experience to provide technical support to other units moving from bare metal to virtualized environments.
As we roll out new features and functionalities, including our 5G network, O2 Czech Republic will continue to work with Enghouse Networks. Our partnership has helped shape our infrastructure and will continue to drive our evolution as we move into a new era of network technology and telecommunications services.