MDS Global provides business support systems (BSS) as a service for telecommunications companies around the world. Their solutions help companies manage all aspects of monetization, assurance, and customer steering for complex products and services. They offer a digital operating model in a DevOps context, which enhances stakeholder experiences and provides unprecedented business agility.
MDS Global made its name around a highly successful high-performance application that has been adopted by many of the world’s largest telecommunications providers. As the company looked to expand into new markets, it was faced with two challenges: The legacy architecture of its flagship product - which was based on a DB2 database management system - was proving to be a detractor in sales cycles, while a companion application architected on Oracle was too costly for the emerging markets MDS Global was targeting for its next phase of growth.
As part of a comprehensive application modernization initiative, the team re-architected their flagship Cloud Monetisation Platform (CMP) to run on Postgres, which has not only provided customers much needed choice when it comes to hardware, but has given the development team more flexibility as they look at future growth.
In addition, MDS Global has since migrated another product, Spend Analyser, onto Postgres as well, enabling them to dramatically reduce the cost of the application by eliminating Oracle’s hefty database licensing fees.
- Modernized both applications, providing greater development agility which has accelerated innovation
- Reduced solution costs, enabling MDS Global to more competitively target smaller companies and emerging markets
- Simplified the maintenance burden due to the widespread availability of Postgres resources and the speed of community development
Legacy technology in need of a refresh
In 1995, MDS Global built the first iteration of a billing and customer care system that would eventually become known as the Cloud Monetisation Platform (CMP). In 2016, MDS Global realized that - despite the tremendous advancements it had made to CMP in the 20+ years since its initial launch - the legacy architecture, using an embedded DB2 database management system, was becoming a burden. While existing customers recognized the value that the platform provided, new prospects often questioned the use of such older infrastructure as the backbone of a modern application. Meanwhile, that same infrastructure had become troublesome and expensive to develop against as the engineering team continued to innovate.
MDS Global CTO Stephen Randall explains: “We were looking to expand our reach both globally and into smaller telecommunications providers. These smaller customers had different budget expectations, so we also needed to figure out how to reduce costs.”
The team recognized the opportunity not only to eliminate prospect concerns, but also to provide more deployment flexibility and accelerate development by embarking on a dramatic application modernization initiative. As part of that effort, MDS Global embraced virtualization and allowed CMP to run on virtually any hardware platform. That also enabled MDS Global to move away from DB2 as an embedded database and adopt a lower cost, but widely supported database: Postgres.
A modern application gets a modern foundation
The MDS Global team chose to tackle the re-architecture of the CMP application completely in- house. By using the open source community and its widely available resources, the team not only managed the migration quickly and successfully, they also praised the ease of upgrades. Since initially going live on Postgres 11, the team has been through a number of different upgrades without incident.
Randall says: “For some of our customers, we offer the platform as a managed service while other customers prefer to manage it themselves. In the past, our self-managed customers had to have a big team, because everything was so complex and required very specialized knowledge. Now, it’s not only painless for them to get up and running on the platform, they can easily find local people with Postgres experience. The result is that our team can really focus on helping with the product rather than the infrastructure.”
That focus on the product can be seen in other ways as well, explains Randall further: “We have so much more flexibility now. These days, each developer can spin up a new environment for development and testing, making it easier to identify and correct errors at the developer level. With the Community Edition, we effectively have no barriers, and the team can experiment, innovate, and generally move faster. We can get more done because, for the same budget, we now have more resources and money to spend on functionality as a direct result of the migration.”
Capitalizing on Success: A Second Migration
With the success of CMP’s migration to Postgres, Randall and the team identified a second migration project related to their Spend Analyser offering, which would address customer concerns around cost and database vendor lock-in. Spend Analyser provides a telecommunication company’s B2B customers valuable insight into their spend and allows them to capitalize on that knowledge to save costs.
As MDS Global continued to gain traction in emerging markets, those customers expressed a great deal of interest in what Spend Analyser could do for them, but often balked at the cost of running it on the Oracle database on which it was architected.
“In some of our new regions, there’s a resistance to both vendor lock-in and just the general cost of running an Oracle database,” explains Randall. “We knew that to increase adoption of Spend Analyser, we needed to eliminate both those objections. Even our larger customers were looking for additional price flexibility.”
Unlike the CMP database migration, which had included a number of other application modernization elements, the Spend Analyser migration was solely focused on the database migration itself. Having been architected on Oracle, there were a number of areas of the application that had been written specifically to Oracle’s exacting specifications.
Randall admits: “We needed specific help around the conversion. With CMP, we were able to manage everything in-house because we were rearchitecting the application all together. For Spend Analyser, we realized that we needed more help than the free open source tools could provide. EDB’s robust Oracle conversion tools significantly reduced the amount of work we would have spent on reducing the dependency on Oracle.”
With the help of EDB’s pre-sales and engineering teams, MDS Global was not only able to make a seamless migration, but to do so cost-effectively, while saving customers time and money that would previously have been incurred with an Oracle-based infrastructure.
“We’ve been so impressed with how quickly things moved, and the quality answers we got from real people supporting us that got to the nub of a problem. EDB gives us support at a consultative level rather than a ticket level - and that really showed in how we had the same contact person we worked directly with whenever we had a challenge, rather than having to go through a generic helpdesk all the time.”
After the Migration: Continued Benefits
The cost advantages weren’t the only benefit to the migration. As MDS Global increasingly targeted smaller organizations with more limited budgets, the company also expected an uptick in customers choosing MDS Global’s cloud-based offering rather than its on-premises one.
“We were anxious to have a database that we could take into the cloud with minimal effort,” remembers Randall. “What we didn’t fully appreciate, however, was how the move to Postgres would improve our ability to innovate faster and try new things. Today, we have more flexibility to change and more agility to progress our product more readily. We can get more done because we have more resources and money to spend for the same global budget.”
In fact, as a result of the migration, MDS Global’s developers can now easily spin up new environments - complete with the database and data - for development and testing. It’s now easier for developers to identify errors earlier and to use the Community Edition to gain comprehensive insights into the impact of changes.
Concludes Randall: “We’ve experienced so many benefits that trace back to the move to Postgres. On the technological side, we have far more flexibility and functionality with each new Postgres release. We move faster and can be confident that any issues will be addressed quickly either through the Community or with the help of EDB’s support. In addition, the lower costs across both applications give us the price flexibility we need to pursue smaller firms, giving us a foundation to grow with them.”