4-page Case Study - Posted 12/2/2009
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Just Energy energizes database and staff productivity with help of SQL Server 2008
Just Energy is a leading independent energy supplier with more than 1.5 million electricity and natural gas customer accounts in North America. To accommodate a growing need for improved business continuity and real-time access to data, the company wanted to minimize the costs associated with maintaining and developing its data infrastructure. After analyzing various IT options, Just Energy determined that creating a data management platform based on Microsoft SQL Server® 2008 would represent a cost-effective method to improve its data compression and warehousing capabilities. Today, the company is using SQL Server® 2008 to operate within a cost-effective, secure and scalable IT infrastructure that features strong server consolidation and a higher availability of corporate data.
Just Energy has been providing price-protected and green energy to North American homes and businesses since 1997. The organization currently serves more than 1.5 million customers and operates in a number of U.S. states and Canadian provinces.
Just Energy’s business involves the sale of natural gas and electricity to residential and commercial customers under fixed-price or price-protected contracts. The company has over 7 million past, current and pending contracts online, submits over a quarter million enrolments to utilities every year and handles over thirty million transactions with over 130 utilities in 15 markets annually. The company’s 400 call centre agents provide customer service for new and existing gas, electricity, green energy and home services contracts. On the back-end, the company’s database administrators (DBAs) manage multiple databases and business servers to gain insights into business performance and day-to-day operations.
As an emerging business, however, Just Energy faced larger volumes of data and a growing number of users. The IT environment consists of a host of custom-developed applications that are at the heart of the company’s business strategy – handling mission-critical tasks such as utility data interchange, utility billing and settlements, direct customer billing, inbound inquiries, outbound dialing and customer management. The number of servers required to support these applications has grown significantly – forcing the IT staff to spend undue more time and resources maintaining the data environment.
The company operates within a mixed IT environment, says Mukta Soni, DBA Manager at Just Energy, including legacy applications and a database platform based on earlier versions of Microsoft® SQL Server®. As part of a technology refresh project, the company wanted to upgrade its database platform to better support its call centre business applications and incorporate data compression and resource management tools to accommodate future growth. “Our rationale for refreshing our technology was around helping our IT team, DBAs and call centre agents be more productive in carrying out their day to day tasks. By streamlining our database environment, we can hope to achieve greater cost efficiencies as well,” says Soni.
After reviewing its technology options, the company decided to upgrade to Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database software to leverage new features that make it easier to manage data, better utilize resources, and enhance information security.
The company is using SQL Server 2008 to run its mission-critical systems while lowering the cost of managing the data infrastructure and streamline information sharing between its various front-end and back-end applications. Moving to SQL Server 2008 promises to help staff enjoy easier report management, support better decision making, create more effective dashboards, and result in reduced reporting costs. The new platform also supports the company’s proprietary solution architecture and call centre applications.
||We’re using SQL Server 2008 to ensure more flexible and cost-effective data management, which is key to our current and future business success.
DBA Manager, Just Energy
The company was particularly interested in taking advantage of the new Resource Governor and Data Compression features of SQL Server 2008. Resource Governor SQL Server 2008 enables DBAs to define resource limits and priorities for different workloads, which enables concurrent workloads to provide consistent performance to end users. And with the Data Compression feature, the company can help reduce its storage costs and increase query performance.
“We really liked the fact that we could use SQL Server 2008 right out of the box to track and manage our growing volume of transactional data,” says Soni.
Just Energy is extending its database environment to leverage SQL Server 2008 features such as data compression, partitioning, snapshot isolation and 64-bit support. This helps the company better support its 300 call centre agents operate within a more cost-effective, secure and scalable IT infrastructure – one that features strong server consolidation and a higher availability of corporate data.
Enhanced data management
Previously, the IT team spent a lot of time maintaining and managing disk-based backups. With the backup compression features of SQL Server 2008, less disk I/O and storage is required to keep backups online – helping them run significantly faster. The company is also looking at leveraging the Data Partitioning feature to speed querying and archiving tasks by partitioning large data sets into more manageable chunks. Staff are also using Resource Governor to better control the resource utilization of concurrent workloads.
“We’re finding that SQL Server 2008 gives us stronger and more flexible support and management for our large database environment. With Resource Governor, we are able to consolidate more databases on one single instance and allocate resources more efficiently, which has been great for delivering stronger data management,” says Soni.
Improved staff productivity
The new database environment based on SQL Server 2008 also helps DBAs be more productive in running day-to-day business applications. DBAs, for example, previously had to navigate various source procedures to monitor performance; users are now taking advantage of the Activity Monitor feature to access a central display to view batch requests and waiting times.
In addition, SQL Server 2008 has built-in compression that helps DBAs compress database files and the transaction log files associated with the compressed database, which helps to boost productivity. As a result, call centre agents benefit from a platform that is highly available – which helps to translate into stronger customer service delivery.
“Our DBAs are now better able to drill down on processes and view statistics. This helps to ensure that our front-end applications are always running at optimum efficiency to support our customer support staff,” says Soni.
Foundation for future growth
The call centre is absolutely mission-critical to the business; the new data management platform based on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 is helping Just Energy improve its data compression and warehousing capabilities DBAs face far fewer workarounds and customizations. This means the company’s call centre agents can leverage a highly available and secure business application platform and focus more on growing the customer base. And as the company works to enhance its administration and financial applications, it can better ensure a database environment that can scale to accommodate rising amounts of transactional data.
“We’re using SQL Server 2008 to ensure more flexible and cost-effective data management, which is key to our current and future business success. This helps our agents deliver a higher level of customer service and improve day-to-day staff processes as well,” says Soni.