Yarra Valley Water simplifies IT with Oracle Exadata, Exalogic

By Andrew Collins
Monday, 11 March, 2013

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Yarra Valley Water (YVW) has implemented Oracle’s Exadata and Exalogic to simplify its overly complex IT environments.

The company has used Oracle’s Customer Care & Billing for some time, previously running it on Sun M-series boxes. But after four or five years, the company found that these systems were “getting a bit long in the tooth”, according to YVW CIO Leigh Berrell.

“We were starting to see some issues with data growth and application performance creeping in that we were able to do nothing about. It was clear for various reasons - risk mitigation, better performance - that we needed to put new systems in to replace those,” Berrell said.

The company considered doing a ‘like-for-like’ renewal, replacing the old Sun systems with servers built on newer, faster technology. But Berrell also wanted to address another problem that had been plaguing the company’s IT - complexity.

“Like most IT environments, ours is getting more complex rather than simpler. The more of these tier-one systems that we put in place, the more middleware connections we have between systems and integration layers, and the more customer-facing systems that we build, the more we’ve got to manage,” he said.

This makes it harder to spin up environments and deal with disaster recovery, among other things.

The company felt a like-for-like server replacement would not address this problem with complexity. Berrell wanted something that would provide a better outcome, be easier to manage and “be able to make us much more reactive to the needs of our business” by creating environments faster.

YVW implemented a system combining an Exadata database appliance and an Exalogic Elastic Cloud system, both from Oracle. Berrell describes the new system as an end-to-end approach, where the two boxes tied together “pretty much manage everything”.

He said it gives YVW a “much more streamlined way of managing our Oracle stack” than a system that used multiple boxes, and required YVW to manage the integration layers, would have.

The solution has provided speed benefits. “Spinning up new environments is definitely much quicker. It used to take us a week or two to spin up an environment. Now we can pretty much do it in hours, rather than days.”

The system did not require tinkering with code or tuning databases to achieve this speed increase. Berrell describes the system as “a bit of a black box”.

“We really haven’t had to play with it. The box is performing as fast as we need it to perform. We pretty much let the boxes run as they need to run.”

However, he said there is a downside to this black box approach. “Sometimes you really just don’t know what’s going on under the covers.” So if you have some odd or unusual problem, “it can be a little more difficult to drill in and find out what that is”.

“We have found ways of doing it, but we’ve had to learn a little bit about how the system works, and understand how to … pull information out of the Exalogic boxes in particular to do that,” he said.

Such diagnosis might be easier when dealing with a bunch of discrete systems, according to Berrell. But “you can’t have both” the ease of a black box and the visibility of discrete systems, he said.

The system has also “made a huge difference to the way we operate”, Berrell said. The new system completes overnight batch processes much faster, meaning Berrell’s team has more time available that can potentially be used to do software or systems upgrades.

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