Unify Mobile facilitates the mobile revolution with Citrix XenServer
Based in the Netherlands, Unify Mobile is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that delivers a portfolio of mobile services tailored to individuals and companies with an international profile. With mobile infrastructures in Switzerland (Inphone) and Liechtenstein (Alpmobile) and MVNO arrangements in Germany and the United Kingdom, the company is planning further expansion with a new pre-paid offering that provides worldwide coverage for roaming users at greatly reduced prices. With this new solution, Unify Mobile is poised for rapid growth in subscribers and anticipates a rapid expansion in its infrastructure to support that growing customer base.
The challenge; reducing infrastructure requirements and TCO
Unify Mobile excels in providing affordable, high-quality service. Leveraging a portfolio of patented technologies, Unify is able to deliver a consistent user experience with a single number and subscriber identity module (SIM) card and offer substantial savings, especially when subscribers are operating outside their home country.
Although innovative technologies are crucial to the services Unify Mobile provides, they are not sufficient to ensure a profitable business. To deliver meaningful savings to its customers yet still maintain adequate margins for itself, its resellers and its partners the company must also find new ways to control costs.
“We were faced with a troubling and costly situation,” explained Paul Kempers, chief operations officer at Unify Mobile. “For each network point of presence, we were deploying approximately 10 servers to implement the networking, security and general computing services that we needed, such as routing, firewalling, systems monitoring, DNS, file transfer and web applications.”
Implementing a Citrix server virtualization solution
Unify Mobile implemented Citrix XenServer 5.6 in its datacenters. With this server virtualization solution, Unify Mobile was able to cut per-site requirements from10 to two servers, achieving a consolidation ratio of 5 to 1. The first server at each site hosts virtual machines for all of the required services – including Vyatta software routers, DNS servers from Nixu Software and Opsera Opsview for system monitoring – while the second server is used to host copies of any critical services requiring redundancy.
“With XenServer, we were able to start out with a minimum investment,” said Bart Helbers, technical counsel. “We can easily upgrade to take advantage of premium features such as automated workload balancing and high availability for our critical billing and CRM applications.”
Cutting costs and time
“Another benefit of the XenServer approach is the time savings it provides,” added Helbers. “With the ability to deploy multiple software appliance solutions on a single platform, configuration and setup for a new site are simple and straightforward. With XenServer, we have been able to reduce provisioning time from weeks to a matter of hours.” This agility and speed are critical for a company like Unify Mobile that is anticipating rapid growth.
Unify Mobile has also started to achieve similar consolidation at its datacenter in Krakow, Poland, where it conducts software development and hosts numerous business-critical applications, including its customer care and billing solutions. Initially concerned about the impact of adding a hypervisor to the software stack, datacenter staff were impressed with the performance of the XenServer implementations at the company’s distributed sites. Now, they too are embracing server virtualization to simplify the infrastructure and obtain substantial savings from reduced energy usage and overhead.
The company also put XenServer to work in a lab environment, where it was able to re-create its complete IP network on a single server. Configuration and change promotion processes were also streamlined based on the ability to use the same configuration templates for both the lab and production systems. As a result Unify established an extremely cost-effective way to boost the reliability of its mobile services without having to incur the expense of deploying redundant, parallel infrastructure.
Delivering flexibility, reliability and scalability
Openness and flexibility were important characteristics that led Unify Mobile to select XenServer for its server virtualization needs. “Competing products are proprietary and closed,” indicated Helbers. “If you want to stick your fingers in and try to understand why something is not working, it’s difficult.” In comparison, XenServer is an open, highly customizable solution that is easy to integrate with other products and technologies.
Providing a platform for core DDI services
A key component of the Unify solution is a virtual appliance from Nixu Software which provides DNS, DHCP and IP address management. The Nixu appliance is hosted on a virtual server allowing Unify to quickly scale by deploying additional DNS server instances in new network nodes as needed, while managing all remote server instances via a centralized management console. Unify now has the ability to run its address management solutions as virtual appliances alongside a wide range of other core network services – eliminating the need to have numerous, independent devices. “We are very pleased with the Nixu Software virtual appliance address management solution,” stated Helbers. “Combined with XenServer, this stack is allowing us to quickly scale our operations and to do so at a very reasonable cost.”
Supporting rapid expansion of services
Having recently added pre-paid and highly affordable global roaming services to its product portfolio, Unify Mobile expects its subscriber base to quadruple or more in the coming year. Accommodating this type of growth is easy and affordable with XenServer. Additional XenServer capabilities Unify will use as the company grows include XenMotion live migration for zero-downtime system maintenance; XenCenter multi-server management; Citrix provisioning services for centralized, single-image management and on-demand workload delivery; and dynamic workload balancing and memory optimization for even better performance.
By implementing Citrix XenServer, Unify Mobile is able to create a mobile virtual network that allows SME employees, cross-border commuters, and guest travelers to carry their mobile phones across multiple mobile service providers’ networks without incurring additional roaming costs.