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Like any rapidly growing business, Singaporean internet service provider (ISP) MyRepublic faced bottlenecks with its legacy infrastructure that hampered its ability to enter new markets quickly.
“When we get into new markets, our plan is to be operational within 100 days,” says Eugene Yeo, group chief information officer at MyRepublic. “But getting our critical workloads running across our infrastructure quickly became a challenge for us.”
With subscriber numbers far exceeding its expectations when it started entering new markets such as Indonesia and Australia, MyRepublic had to act quickly to remain competitive. That was when it decided to review the design of its IT infrastructure.
Yeo was keen to replace the infrastructure with OpenStack, an open source cloud operating system that controls large pools of compute, storage and networking resources throughout a datacentre. After evaluating several suppliers, of which some had tied OpenStack to their hardware, Yeo decided to go with Red Hat’s OpenStack platform.
“One of the things that attracted us to Red Hat was that it doesn’t really sell hardware to us,” says Yeo, adding that it took just two weeks to deploy MyRepublic’s on-premise cloud infrastructure. “Red Hat’s OpenStack platform can also work with any hardware, such as our Dell and HP servers,” he says.
The results have been phenomenal so far. The new infrastructure enables MyRepublic to scale up and add resources to handle spikes in demand, resulting in higher system availability and lower latency.
More importantly, Yeo says MyRepublic’s infrastructure is more resilient with improved stability, providing added value for customers. By further automating deployments, planned downtime can be minimised when changes are made to production.
The new infrastructure has also allowed MyRepublic to introduce new services quickly, enabling it to address new requirements better. It can now be more agile, capitalising on the shorter time to market and the ability to host different workloads on the same cluster.
And MyRepublic did not stop at OpenStack. The ISP is also a big fan of containers and microservices as a way to develop more cost-effective applications that meet its needs. “We didn’t have millions of dollars to pay for expensive business support systems, so we decided to build one on our own,” says Yeo.
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The company is currently running its business support system on Red Hat’s OpenShift platform to fulfil customer orders and billing requirements. “We roll out new enhancements and features every week, and it takes just a single click of a button to publish our code on our staging environment with zero downtime,” says Yeo.
Asked about the impact of OpenStack and OpenShift on MyRepublic’s business, Yeo pointed out the S$49.90 1Gbps fibre broadband plan that disrupted Singapore’s home broadband market in 2014.
“It took Singtel, M1 and StarHub about a year before they could compete with us with a similar plan, but if you look at their books, they’re competing with us at a loss,” he says.
Yeo says much of MyRepublic’s success is down to its flexible infrastructure and its ability to fully automate the on-boarding process for fibre broadband customers, where ISPs will typically check whether a customer’s premises are fibre-ready before provisioning a connection and arranging an appointment to install the necessary broadband equipment.
“The incumbent telcos have huge teams doing this,” says Yeo. “Singtel has 300 people orchestrating on-boarding processes, while we have only two people who manage any problems with orders.”
MyRepublic can also bill customers from the first day they sign up for a service, rather than pro-rata bills based on fixed billing cycles. This has also reduced the need to beef up call-centre resources during peak billing periods, says Yeo.
Although the challenges faced by companies like MyRepublic are not new, it is only in recent years that technologies such as Red Hat’s OpenStack and OpenShift platforms have stepped up to address those challenges.
“We didn’t dream of all those technologies in a lab,” says Damien Wong, vice-president and general manager for Red Hat in the ASEAN region. “They are a response to the rapidly evolving needs of enterprises that are looking for ways to scale and develop applications in an agile manner.”