Modernizing with AWS

How Globe Telecom is modernizing with open source on AWS

A swelling number of organizations are turning to open source, and running it in the cloud, to modernize their infrastructure. Globe Telecom (“Globe”), a major telecommunications (“telco”) services provider in the Philippines, is no different, and has embraced AWS to increase the company’s pace of innovation, allowing them to actively experiment with different applications designed to improve the lives of Filipinos, according to Globe CEO Ernest Cu. In embracing the cloud, said Globe’s CIO, Pebbles Sy-Manalang in an interview, the company has particularly sought ways to use more open source “to free ourselves from vendor lock-in. It’s really about agility. We needed to move faster and scale faster.”

As Globe has modernized with open source solutions on AWS, by moving applications from on-premises, proprietary infrastructure to open source databases running on AWS, the company “is seeing better performance at 1/10 the cost,” according to Sy-Manalang. Let’s look at how Globe managed their modernization efforts, and achieved their infrastructure and business goals.

Bogged down in proprietary databases

Corporate transformation often needs an executive mandate. AWS CEO, Andy Jassy, said at AWS re:Invent 2019: “Most of the big initial challenges of making a transformation to the cloud are not technical.” Instead, they’re a function of leadership. “You have to set an aggressive top-down goal that forces the organization to move faster than it organically otherwise would.”

For Globe, that mandate came in 2014, when Cu declared a cloud-first policy with a goal to put most of its IT systems on the cloud. This policy aimed to shift Globe’s IT spend from a CapEx model, which is dependent on constant server acquisition, to an OpEx model, which is easily scalable. Cu wanted to focus on optimizing for development costs without incurring unnecessary “throwaway costs” associated with over-provisioning of on-premises hardware.” Doing so would put Globe in a position to more flexibly scale to meet customer needs.

At that time, 90% of Globe’s enterprise systems used Oracle databases. While the company can’t yet move all applications to the cloud, according to Sy-Manalang, “We need to deliver scalable and reliable platforms, and increase agility while keeping our costs down.” According to Cu, AWS stepped in early on to provide training, thereby preparing Globe to think strategically about their cloud adoption.

The cloud model, while a significant enabler of Globe’s innovation, was made complete for Globe with the addition of open source infrastructure. The company is “doing as much as we can to get out of proprietary databases,” Sy-Manalang noted, and embracing lower-cost, higher-value open source innovation running on AWS.

Saving money, improving lives

Globe quickly reaped the benefits of modernization. One year into their modernization initiative, Globe had migrated 50% of their infrastructure for this application to AWS, reducing provisioning time from 80 days to five days. A year later in 2016, Globe dropped provisioning time to two days, and had shifted 90% of their new infrastructure to the cloud. In 2019 the company focused on completing migration of their legacy systems and the rearchitecture of critical applications to be cloud native. The result? Provisioning time, which once took months, now takes hours. Today, the company runs over 3,000 Amazon EC2 instances and more than 8 petabytes of storage, and is quickly approaching Cu’s goal to be cloud-first.

Globe chose to pace their modernization efforts with a phased approach. But moving their management application from proprietary databases to open source PostgreSQL running on Amazon EC2 was much faster. At the outset, Globe freed up 20 processors and 40 cores that previously ran a particularly expensive proprietary database in both production and development environments. The initial 10% reduction of this footprint netted a 4x performance boost, and cut license and support fees by $1 million. Encouraged by such results, Globe moved even faster, migrating their telco-grade workload in seven months, with no interruptions to service quality.

Globe realized massive cost savings and performance improvements by shifting workloads from proprietary databases to PostgreSQL on Amazon EC2. So far, Globe has saved 30% total cost of ownership and gained 15X improvements in application performance, all while maintaining 99.99% uptime. After shifting workloads from proprietary databases, Sy-Manalang said, “We are seeing better performance at 1/10 the cost.“ Money saved on proprietary database licenses is now being used to help fund innovation elsewhere.

Nor is this confined to one particular application. According to Cu, Globe has seen “significant performance improvements” after moving applications to AWS, including 2x performance improvements in the company’s self-service application, with zero downtime. In addition, he notes that the company gets better response time in their applications running on AWS than on their on-premises hardware, despite being “closer.”

Cost savings go beyond infrastructure costs, Sy-Manalang said in an interview:  “The expectation is when you go to the cloud, at the minimum you’ll save 30% to 40%, and that’s just on infrastructure. But if you start developing your applications [as] cloud-ready, you actually can save more.” Not only has Globe saved more by modernizing with AWS, Sy-Manalang noted, but they’ve also gained agility and speed: “The reason really to go to [AWS] is speed. Like time to market….Once an application is in the cloud, you become more flexible.”

Working together

In this effort to modernize Globe’s infrastructure, AWS has been a constant partner. “AWS support has been very strong,” said Melissa Banzon, Head of ISG Transformation Office at Globe. “We are still new at this, so it’s critical that we are given guidance in terms of how to go about our digital transformation journey.” AWS support always put Globe first: “I was surprised that they gave us recommendations from the start on how to cut costs. It proved that AWS truly believes in customer obsession and is in it for a long-term strategic partnership,” stressed Banzon.

Cu agreed, saying in an interview that Globe’s relationship with AWS is “deeper” than is typical with IT vendors. “They don’t treat us like we’re a mere customer. It’s more than that. It’s a deeper relationship. They truly have our interests in mind.”

Globe saves more money by embracing AWS and leaving proprietary infrastructure, Sy-Manalang concluded: “If you’re locked into a specific vendor you can’t move as fast as you want.” But “with AWS and our partner community, we see a true digital future for the Philippines.”

More to come

Please continue to join me as I regularly highlight companies on their modernization journeys onto AWS. As you do, I hope you’ll also ask the question, “What’s your plan for moving off Windows Server?” Or off Oracle? Or whatever old-guard technology keeps you from modernizing to better care for your customers?

Let AWS help you assess how your company can get the most out of cloud. Join all the AWS customers that trust us to run their most important applications in the best cloud. To have us create an assessment for your Oracle applications or all your applications, email us at WhatsYourModernizationPlan@amazon.com, and please consider joining the conversation using the #WhatsYourModernizationPlan hashtag.

To learn more on modernizing your Oracle database, visit our Migrate from Oracle to Amazon Aurora page.

Matt Asay

Matt Asay

Matt Asay (pronounced "Ay-see") has been involved in open source and all that it enables (cloud, machine learning, data infrastructure, mobile, etc.) for nearly two decades, working for a variety of open source companies and writing regularly for InfoWorld and TechRepublic. You can follow him on Twitter (@mjasay).