Mobile telecommunications providers in Europe face a constant barrage of customer data. Some of the data, such as itemized customer bills, must be stored for several months. Merely managing the data flood is daunting, let alone trying to mine and analyze data for tailoring new product or service offerings to mobile customers.
By integrating storage area network (SAN) technology into its customer care and billing software, Frankfurt, Germany-based SchlumbergerSema is trying to help European mobile operators squeeze more profits out of existing customer data. SchlumbergerSema provides customer care and billing products to about 120 telecommunications firms in Europe.
When SchlumbergerSema released the latest version of its Business Support and Control System (BSCS) software in April, the product combined San Jose, Calif.-based Compaq Corp. (now Hewlett-Packard) StorageWorks' SAN technology to give mobile operators the option of boosting storage capacity and scaling up their networks for next-generation data applications.
So far, about 25 of SchlumbergerSema's 120 client companies have opted to install Compaq's SAN technology along with BSCS 7.0. Anecdotally, the SAN migrations appear to be helping some of SchlumberSema's customers reduce overhead for storage management, as well as do more "what-if" analysis of stored data, according to Jens Troetscher, vice president of revenue management and billing solutions for SchlumbergerSema. He
"We have statements from some companies that there were a certain number of database administrators (they) needed in the past for low-quality tasks, and that they have been able to reduce staff sizes significantly," says Troetscher, who declined to name the companies. However, comparative cost savings have not yet been done between SAN technology and the older, more established EMC products.
European operators use Europe's de facto wireless standard, known as global systems for mobile communications, or GSM. This digital system for mobile telephones digitizes and compresses data and streams it along special transmission channels at scheduled intervals. Carriers need to store both starting data -- such as customer contact information, bill images and band connections -- and customer "event records," which may be kept in a physically separate database. On average, European mobile operators receive five to 10 customer calls per day, says Troetscher. That may not sound like a lot, but each call amounts to about 1kilobyte of data. "When you look at operators who have one million subscribers or so," says Troetscher, "they will easily have to manage about 100T Bytes of (total) stored data."
Telecommunications providers perform three massive operations: collecting rate-plan information, providing online customer care, and performing bill runs. Each task competes for database-server horsepower. The bill cycle, especially, drains a lot of database power, so scheduling tasks becomes hypercritical. SAN technology enables operators to perform multiple tasks simultaneously, Troetscher says. SchlumbergerSema's clients are using SAN technology to "clone" transactional databases, thus enabling more flexible scheduling of time-consuming tasks like backup and restore.
"These are processes that usually take hours but with SAN technology could be shrinking to a matter of minutes," says Troetscher.
When demonstrating Compaq's StorageWorks SAN technology to its customers, SchlumbergerSema notes how the product could enable empty "waiting-for-the-backup-to-finish" intervals to be turned into more productive time, Troetscher says. For instance, while the SAN is backing up and restoring data, the marketing team isn't cut off from real-time access to data. They can access customer data for statistical analysis of individual users, and then develop product-marketing campaigns aimed at specific customers, based on their preferences.
"In this hour you save from (doing) the backup, you could do some statistical analysis that contributes to growing the business," Troetscher says. "You would never do that on your transactional database."
For more on SchlumbergerSema visit their Web site.
To learn more about Compaq's StorageWorks SAN take a look here.
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This was first published in July 2002