Sprint Nextel Corp. quickly creates new revenue channels

IBM WebSphere DataPower appliances support the company’s goals to rapidly and securely grow revenue

Published on 03-Jul-2013

"When the ad project came around, DataPower really helped us identify that opportunity mainly because the use case was very similar to our external access use cases." - Rick Rofail, systems architect, Sprint Nextel Corp.

Customer:
Sprint Nextel Corp.

Industry:
Telecommunications

Deployment country:
United States

Overview

Headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas, Sprint Nextel Corp. offers a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline communications services to consumers, businesses and government users.

Business need:
Sprint Nextel Corp. wanted to grow its revenue while protecting customer privacy, improving efficiency and cutting costs. To support this growth, it needed a scalable application infrastructure.

Solution:
Sprint used IBM® WebSphere® DataPower® devices to enhance security, provide an integration gateway and improve responsiveness for customers.

Benefits:
The solution delivered rapid time to value, helping the business launch a new mobile device and a new mobile ad platform, each within one month.

Case Study

Headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas, Sprint Nextel Corp. offers a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline communications services to consumers, businesses and government users. The company served more than 55 million customers at the end of 2012 and is widely recognized for developing, engineering and deploying innovative technologies, including the first wireless 4G service from a national carrier in the United States. Its offerings include mobile data services; prepaid brands including Virgin Mobile USA, Boost Mobile and Assurance Wireless; instant national and international push-to-talk capabilities; and a global Tier 1 Internet backbone.

Seeking to scale quickly to support spikes in demand

Aiming to be the number one cell phone company in the United States, Sprint is always looking at ways it can use technology to improve its services. The company needed to find a solution that would help it quickly scale to support spikes in demand associated with new product launches. “Most of the device launches that are iconic for Sprint are done under nondisclosure,” says Alan Krause, IT director for Sprint. “So within the IT organization, we don’t hear about the new iPhone launch or the new Samsung Galaxy launch until the product is announced. So we need the ability to be able to scale dramatically, dynamically within a week. We don’t have a lot of time to build out infrastructure for the next iconic device launch.”

Simultaneously, Sprint decided to enter the mobile advertising marketplace. “As a carrier, Sprint decided to get into the mobile advertising business because we have the advantage of having an audience of over 55 million viewers who are constantly interacting with their devices,” says Vicki Ryan, head of marketing for Pinsight Media+, the new mobile advertising service for Sprint. In developing the mobile advertising platform, Sprint wanted to make sure it thoroughly addressed its customers’ needs for privacy. “As we see more government oversight for customer privacy, we are looking for solutions where we can allow the customer to opt in and opt out of protecting their data, making sure that when we partner with new organizations, we are not sharing critical information,” says Krause.

In the past, Sprint used larger servers to support its enterprise application integration organization. However, it found over time that adding a large server took too much time and planning. The company needed a device that it could implement and move into production quickly.

Achieving phenomenal turnaround time implementing an IBM solution

Approximately two years ago, Sprint attended the IBM Impact global conference. “We saw this cool new appliance that fit well with our DataPower implementation,” says Krause. “The [IBM] team explained that you could quickly put it in within a day, have it up and running and start returning cached responses to your front ends. And we were skeptical, as I am sure most people in IT are, when you hear the sales team talk about that, so we had IBM ship us an appliance. [IBM] brought one of their experts on-site, and truly within an hour, we had racked it and put a simple interface in the [IBM WebSphere DataPower] XC10 and proved that it would work.” Within four months, Sprint purchased IBM WebSphere DataPower Integration Appliance XI52 and IBM WebSphere DataPower XC10 Appliance devices, put them into production, and then one month later, it launched the iPhone. For a large organization like Sprint to work that quickly is “phenomenal turnaround time,” according to Krause.

Sprint is using the WebSphere DataPower Integration Appliance XI52 device as a gateway to its enterprise service bus (ESB), helping to provide an extra layer of security between internal systems and external systems, such as Sprint partner applications. “We can secure the data; we can filter our responses so that we don’t return a customer’s credit card or social security number,” says Krause. “If we are working with a partner that’s selling on behalf of Sprint, we want to make sure that they have enough information to sell, but they don’t have enough information to phish for data on our customers and use that data inappropriately.”

Sprint uses the WebSphere DataPower XC10 Appliance devices to offload workloads, such as credit checks and the mobile advertising platform. “We use the caching appliances to offload credit checks,” says Krause. “We knew that a lot of customers would say, ‘Am I eligible for an upgrade?’ That’s why we brought in the XC10 and did it quickly, and we are successful with it.” Similarly, when customers who have opted in for targeted advertising access one of Sprint’s websites or applications, the WebSphere DataPower XC10 Appliance device quickly returns the appropriate advertising content.

Having the WebSphere DataPower devices was key to the company’s decision to jump on the mobile ad platform opportunity. “When the ad project came around, DataPower really helped us identify that opportunity, mainly because the use case was very similar to our external access use cases,” says Rick Rofail, systems architect for Sprint.

Gaining scalability and improving response times

Using the WebSphere DataPower devices, Sprint can quickly scale to support spikes in demand. “The one thing that I have come to really admire about DataPower is the ability to quickly scale,” says Kenneth Glenn, technology architect for Sprint. “I am able to take a device and, with the cooperation of our hardware teams, quickly stand up devices whether it be one or 10. I am able to get those on and draw up configuration and have a device up and running and in production, taking transactions within a couple of hours.”

This scalability helps Sprint process approximately 50 billion transactions per month for the mobile advertising platform and approximately one billion transactions per month for its internal users. Not only is Sprint supporting a large number of transactions, it is also processing these transactions extremely quickly. “The XC10 has an incredible response time,” says Krause. “We are seeing that on average, when you check your eligibility for a rebate, if you were to go through our typical interface, our goal is about 0.2 seconds for our response time. Using the XC10, we are getting it in milliseconds.”

The solution marks a change in the organization’s ability to handle spikes in demand. “With product launches in the past, when there was the iconic product launch in the past, the Sprint IT organization would have to purchase additional hardware for our web layer, our EAI [enterprise application integration] layer, our back-end systems,” says Krause. “And with the caching appliance, we were able to put this on the side of our existing EAI infrastructure, and the response times that we get from it allowed us to continue supporting our web layer without hardware there, offloaded the volume from our back-end systems and processed the transactions quickly.”

For more information

To learn more about IBM WebSphere DataPower appliances, please contact your IBM marketing representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/software/integration/datapower

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Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Software:
WebSphere DataPower Integration Appliance XI52, WebSphere DataPower XC10 Appliance

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2013 IBM Corporation Software Group Route 100 Somers, NY 10589 Produced in the United States of America July 2013 IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, DataPower, and WebSphere are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml . This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The performance data and client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided.