IT Innovation

Stability and Change

In Japan’s dynamic mobile telecom market, KDDI charts a steady course with Oracle SuperCluster T5-8 and Oracle Exadata Database Machine.

By Philip J. Gill

September/October 2014

Today’s dynamic global telecommunications market is a business in which new competitors arrive, new technologies displace existing ones, and new devices—from laptops to smartphones and tablets—sign onto networks seemingly every day. It is also one in which customers expect from their carriers just the opposite—stability.

“Technology innovation, globalization, and the entrance of new players are causing rapid changes to Japan’s mobile telecommunications market,” explains Kato Toshio, general manager of the EPC Network Technology Division at KDDI, one of Japan’s leading mobile and fixed-line telecom providers.

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Industry: Communications
Employees: 27,073
Revenue: ¥4,333,628 (for fiscal year ending March 31, 2014)
Oracle Products: Oracle SuperCluster T5-8, Oracle Exadata Database Machine, Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, Oracle Solaris, Oracle TimesTen In-Memory Database, Oracle Database

“Technology and markets might be in constant flux, but for mobile phone users, service must be stable,” Toshio continues. “So our mission is to provide a greater range of services and connectivity options—supporting multiple uses, multiple networks, and multiple devices—while providing stable mobile services that meet the increased number of subscribers and data transactions.”

KDDI was put to the test when it introduced its newest high-speed mobile service, called au 4G LTE. Like other such next-generation mobile services, it is built on the international GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) standards. In addition to delivering speeds up to four times faster than its previous 3G services, KDDI anticipated a major uptick in subscribers and data volumes on its network. By the end of 2013, KDDI had garnered 29 percent of the Japanese mobile telecom market, thanks in part to its 4G offering.

The move to 4G LTE and the accompanying increased subscriber base and data volumes required as many changes behind the scenes as they did to the company’s networks. This was especially true for its mission-critical User Authentication System, its subscribers’ most frequent interface to the company and its services. That system, Toshio explains, “is used for the three As—authentication, authorization, and accounting. Maintaining the stability of our User Authentication System is absolutely essential.”

Behind the Scenes

With that goal in mind, KDDI looked for the least disruptive way to expand the authentication system’s capacity and capabilities to meet growing demand. At first, the EPC Network Technology Division—a longtime Oracle SPARC and Oracle Solaris IT shop—expanded its server farm to 40 SPARC Enterprise M3000 servers from Oracle to handle the increased number of subscribers and the growing data volume.

Although that expansion provided the performance KDDI needed, at least temporarily, it eventually also brought management complexity. “When we scaled up our server farm to 40 units, the management workload and costs got out of hand,” says Toshio. “Updating server software, for example, would take many hours to complete because there were so many physical servers.”

To reduce complexity and costs, KDDI decided to consolidate its 40 servers onto three Oracle SuperCluster T5-8 engineered systems, built specifically for high-throughput, high-performance applications. The decision to go with Oracle SuperCluster was designed to minimize disruption and maintain stable, transparent services to subscribers.

“Staying with Oracle Solaris and SPARC was our first choice because the system is mission-critical and it would require little or no changes to our existing software,” says Toshio. Besides, he adds, “Oracle Solaris also has better troubleshooting tools, such as DTrace, and SPARC systems are more reliable than commodity Intel servers.”

Back-End Boost

While the Oracle SuperCluster T5-8 server has dramatically improved KDDI’s User Authentication System performance, what’s at the back end of that system is equally important. For KDDI, that back end is an Oracle Exadata Database Machine.

“The User Authentication System needs to access the users’ history of the services, which are stored on the back-end database server at all times,” says Kato Toshio, general manager of the EPC Network Technology Division at KDDI.

When initially installed at KDDI, the Oracle Exadata Database Machine consolidated 2 TB of data previously on two SPARC Enterprise M3000 servers from Oracle onto a single system and provided four times greater transaction performance. “By replacing those servers with a single Oracle Exadata Database Machine, we also reduced floor space by 25 percent and power consumption by 15 percent,” Toshio adds.

“Of course, what matters most is database performance,” Toshio concludes. “Thanks to Oracle Exadata, the SQL processing speed of our Oracle database is approximately 20 times faster.”

Toshio admits that KDDI took on additional schedule and deployment challenges when choosing Oracle SuperCluster T5-8. “Planning and implementation required very close coordination between all parties, particularly because when KDDI selected Oracle SuperCluster T5-8, the product had not yet begun shipping, so pretesting on the actual equipment was not possible,” he says.

“To overcome this challenge,” he continues, “Oracle assembled servers, storage, InfiniBand switches, and other required components to create a simulated Oracle SuperCluster. Testing proceeded successfully with the simulation, and when the just-released Oracle SuperCluster T5-8 engineered system was deployed, it became the first one in use as a production solution.”

The Payoff

Today the expanded authentication system sits between the mobile devices and the subscriber database, says Toshio. “Actual subscriber data is stored on our core back-end Oracle Database on Oracle Exadata Database Machine, while the same subscriber data is also loaded into a user data cache that runs in Oracle TimesTen In-Memory Database on the Oracle SuperCluster T5-8 server,” Toshio explains.

“The core Oracle Exadata database updates the Oracle TimesTen In-Memory Database automatically, which enables quicker authentication between mobile devices and Oracle SuperCluster,” he continues. “The access log is also stored and passed along to the billing system, which runs on another system.”

For added safety, KDDI has installed not one but three Oracle SuperCluster T5-8 servers, explains Toshio. All three are production machines, and any one machine working alone can maintain continuous, uninterrupted service.

Besides the extra level of availability, Toshio says the new Oracle SuperCluster T5-8–based User Authentication System provides 12 times faster performance than the previous system, while reducing floor space by 50 percent and electricity consumption by 15 percent.

“We were very concerned about whether we would get the system performance we needed to stably handle the transition from 40 servers, while maintaining sufficient disk I/O,” says Toshio. “But through careful preparation, we confirmed that the Oracle SuperCluster T5-8 and Oracle Exadata Database Machine engineered systems had more than enough performance for our needs.”

For KDDI, Oracle engineered systems provide benefits beyond reliability, transaction performance, and high availability. “Oracle engineered systems are pretested, preconfigured, and proven by Oracle,” Toshio says. “For a rapidly changing environment and industry such as ours, it is a huge benefit to build and run the system quickly without having to take the extra time for tuning, configuring, and testing.”

Next Steps

LEARN more about
 Oracle SuperCluster
 Oracle Exadata


Photography by thr3 eyes,Unsplash