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VOO Decreases TCO for Database Environments by 30%, Gains Unified Customer Insights Using Amazon Redshift

2020

Prior to 2019, Belgian telecommunications operator VOO was losing insight into critical business intelligence (BI) and analytics data due to its siloed approach to data storage and management. Using an on-premises platform, VOO was housing BI data in multiple legacy databases across several environments, including Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server. This separation made data management and technical maintenance complicated, redundant, and inefficient. As a result, the work of VOO’s enterprise information management team, or BI team, slowed to a frustrating crawl. The team sought a solution in two parts and turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for support. First, the team transformed its BI and analytics architectures into a unified data platform to combine traditional BI processes with advanced analytical capabilities. Second, the team redefined data organization and processes by introducing data governance at a corporate level.

The transformation helped VOO eliminate unnecessary staff overlap, which enabled it to optimize company time and staff resources. VOO then easily migrated its BI and analytics architecture to Amazon Redshift, a fully managed, petabyte-scale cloud data warehouse. On AWS, VOO eliminated data storage and access issues, gained 360-degree insight into critical BI and analytics data, and decreased the total cost of ownership (TCO) for its database environments by 30 percent. “Compared to what we were used to working with in the past, the performance of Amazon Redshift was just amazing,” says Candice Schueremans, enterprise information management director at VOO.

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The AWS team collaborated with us throughout the transformation journey. It helped us develop the BI and analytics platform we needed and get it running and performing optimally.” 

Candice Schueremans
Enterprise Information Management Director, VOO

Engineering a Plan for Eliminating Data Silos

VOO is the second largest telecom operator in Brussels and the Belgian region of Wallonia, where it serves approximately 35 percent of the market. The company offers a full suite of service packages, which include ultrafast internet and data-generous smartphone plans. To support VOO in the continuous, unrestrained delivery of high-quality services to its 800,000 subscribers, Schueremans and her team needed to find a way to eliminate the disorderly separation of VOO’s critical BI and analytics data. “What we had before resembled a plate of spaghetti,” explains Schueremans. “Data was spread out everywhere and not easily observable, so it got difficult to have a clear, real view of our data on all clients.”

The BI team determined that VOO needed a complete “from-scratch” transformation of its legacy BI platform. The platform needed to meet not only the BI team’s needs but also those of VOO’s business operations team, which relies on BI support to keep the organization running. In the early stages of the transformation, the BI team members met with their operations team counterparts to learn about their strategic and urgent needs and use cases. Then VOO began looking for a cloud service to which it could migrate the newly transformed platform. After comparing different providers, including Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, VOO concluded that all BI-related services were more advanced on AWS than any other cloud provider and so chose AWS for the complete migration of its BI, big data, and artificial intelligence landscape to the cloud. 

Transforming the Legacy BI and Analytics Platform by Migrating to the Cloud

VOO addressed organizational and technical challenges by migrating to Amazon Redshift and deploying a cloud-based, enterprise-wide data platform combining traditional BI processes with advanced analytical capabilities. It started the transformation in late 2017. The first new use cases occurred after 6 months, followed by a migration of existing business critical use cases. This was combined with implementation of brand-new use cases not possible before and integration of data coming from new projects. The entire process was completed in June 2020 without ever causing service interruptions for customers. “The AWS team collaborated with us throughout the transformation journey,” says Schueremans. “It helped us develop the BI and analytics platform we needed and get it running and performing optimally.” 

The company’s new platform features a data lake housing more than 600 TB of data. This data lake is built on Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. Some data files are preprocessed on Amazon EMR, a hosted Hadoop framework enabling VOO to run petabyte-scale analysis at less than half the cost of traditional on-premises solutions and at over three times the speed of standard Apache Spark.

The Amazon Redshift cloud data warehouse enables VOO to store data in the warehouse and to query and combine petabytes of structured and semistructured data from the Amazon S3 data lake. These capabilities make it possible to easily manage and gain new insights with BI across all of VOO’s data. The company uses Amazon Redshift’s data lake export feature to save results back to the Amazon S3 data lake in open data formats like Apache Parquet for further analysis using Amazon EMR and machine learning using Amazon SageMaker. The latter, a cloud machine learning platform, enables VOO to create, train, and deploy machine learning models quickly for a wide range of use cases, such as predicting churn, or cancellation of services. “This integrated solution provides a lot of flexibility for Amazon SageMaker users,” says Schueremans. “For machine learning, historical data is quite valuable, and this enables users to easily combine data available in Amazon Redshift and historical data stored on Amazon S3.”

For database management, the architecture uses Amazon DynamoDB, a fully managed multiregion, multimaster durable database with built-in security and backup and restore for internet-scale applications. Using Amazon DynamoDB, VOO built new databases that offer real-time processing of customer logs for call center tech support. This enables call center tech agents to detect a potential problem immediately and help the client resolve it as soon as possible.

VOO’s cloud-based platform has enabled the company to scale quickly in response to the shifting product and service demands of customers forced to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. “During COVID, we have been under government pressure to make sure our network doesn’t fail,” says Schueremans. “Since we are able to scale quickly and have better access to more organized data, we can support increased network usage and maintenance. This wouldn’t have been possible on our previous infrastructure. AWS has made all the difference.”

In sum, the new BI and analytics platform enables VOO’s BI team to take advantage of new resources and capabilities, such as a data lake for capturing fine-grained raw data in native format at different paces as well as machine learning for use cases like predictive maintenance on the network. The platform also enables advanced analytics, managed self service BI, sandboxing, and data exploration. In addition, VOO’s BI team can make use of big data processing for streams of highly detailed data and can use NoSQL databases for high frequency, low-latency queries from operational systems on fine-grained data. Further, the team benefits from automated enterprise data warehousing for data integration and governance.

VOO Architecture Diagram

Regaining Unfettered Management of Critical BI and Analytics Data

Schueremans’s team can now support a broad range of urgent business needs and use cases. The new platform has positioned the team to help VOO increase customer insights (thereby speeding up acquisition and improving loyalty and retention), gain a unified vision of customers and their behavior, meet new compliancy challenges from the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, and introduce company-wide data governance to address shadow BI—that is, BI that makes use of data not integrated into the larger system.

The transformation has also reduced the TCO for database environments by 30 percent and has created a centralized data solution. As a result, the BI team has regained the oversight and management of critical BI and analytics data that it needs to support the business. In addition, the integrated nature of tools and services on AWS enables VOO to operate nimbly and adaptably: the BI team is more efficient and productive, capable of completing routine tasks much more quickly than before.


About VOO

VOO is a leading Belgian telecom operator serving Brussels and Wallonia. Its offerings include ultrafast internet, standard-definition and high-definition TV, data-generous smartphone plans, and unlimited 24/7 landline subscriptions. 

Benefits of AWS

  • Decreased the TCO of its database environments by 30%
  • Enabled a centralized data solution
  • Reduced staff inefficiencies and redundancies and increased staff productivity
  • Scaled data management capabilities
  • Scaled network maintenance and support during the COVID-19 pandemic


AWS Services Used

Amazon Redshift

Amazon Redshift is a fully managed, petabyte-scale data warehouse service in the cloud.

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Amazon S3

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.

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Amazon EMR

Amazon EMR is the industry-leading cloud big data platform for processing vast amounts of data using open source tools such as Apache Spark, Apache Hive, Apache HBase, Apache Flink, Apache Hudi, and Presto.

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Amazon DynamoDB

Amazon DynamoDB is a key-value database that delivers single-digit millisecond performance at any scale. 

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