Vodafone keeps IT aligned

The motto "monitor, manage, model and maintain" is helping Vodafone New Zealand keep its IT spending in line with business needs, and saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.

The motto “monitor, manage, model and maintain” is helping Vodafone New Zealand keep its IT spending in line with business needs, and saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.

Annette Caldwell, who monitors and analyses Vodafone’s IT systems, is one of the few people in the country devoted fulltime to the task of capacity planning. Caldwell, who originally did capacity planning in the mainframe environment, says it’s important to work closely with the business and project teams to find out what is likely to affect workloads and capacity. Being highly analytical helps, she says.

Caldwell collects machine usage data and analyses workloads such as times of work, the day, the month, what batches are running and throughput. She collects business forecasts from the business units and keeps an eye on which IT projects are likely to impact upon systems.

Caldwell’s analysis, using BMC’s Patrol Predict and Perform tool, allows her to create forecasts for any day, week or month, which can be modelled to find breaking points in the infrastructure before they occur.

The upshot is that the company has improved software performance and has a better understanding of its service level agreements, says Vodafone infrastructure delivery manager Ken Dixon, the person in charge of the IT capex budget. It also helps keep IT spending directly in line with business needs.

“Customer numbers are a good indicator of resource requirements. It’s very important to have sales forecasts,” he says. “If you say, we need a new system by October next year, and the board says you can’t have one, and then you say, we’re only doing it to support your sales figures, you have a very powerful argument.”

In November 1998, when Vodafone was BellSouth, it had 130,000 customers. In July 2001 it reached one million. Dixon says the focus now is on increasing the number of services being rolled out to customers.

Vodafone, which has 1400 staff and contractors, built two technology centres in Auckland connected by fibre channel technology, encompassing 25 Unix systems with a large SAN environment and 64TB of disk. It runs an environment of large Hewlett-Packard, Sun and SGI Unix servers with Oracle and Informix databases.

An example of cost savings is Lydia, a server used for small business-critical services which had two 550MHz CPUs. Vodafone wanted to add another database but needed more processing power, RAM and disk. For CPUs there was a choice of either adding two more 550MHz CPUs or, more expensively, replacing the existing processors with two 850MHz versions. Caldwell was able to show which option was viable. It came down to Oracle licensing, which is done per pro-cessor so buying the two faster CPUs was more cost-effective by $80,000 to $100,000.

One factor to take into account when running analysis tools is how much processing power it takes, because they can need “a fair bit of grunt”, says Dixon.

“And schedule data collection very carefully. You can’t collect everything because you’d put an enormous load on your system.”

Vodafone keeps its monitoring load to 1 – 2% but Dixon has heard of loads of up to 30%.

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