4-page Case Study
Posted: 4/24/2012
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SoftBank Mobile Corporation Japanese Cellular Provider Gains High Availability and Improves Performance

SoftBank Mobile Corporation is a fast-growing cellular service provider in Japan. When management set a goal of doubling its cellular transmission points within a year, the SoftBank Mobile IT staff knew that it needed to shore up the company’s database infrastructure to handle the increased data. SoftBank Mobile upgraded to Microsoft SQL Server 2012 data management software to gain greater availability and performance. By using SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn, the company has gained nonstop availability and reduced query times on 3 billion records by 80 percent—while cutting its server infrastructure by 60 percent. SoftBank Mobile also reduced its IT workload with automated efficiencies in SQL Server 2012. The company is evaluating Power View as a way to simplify report creation and is using SQL Server 2012 to build a very large GIS application that it could sell to other companies.

Situation

SoftBank Mobile Corporation began offering cellular services in Japan in April 1994. Since becoming a subsidiary of the SoftBank Group in October 2006, SoftBank Mobile has aimed to become Japan’s premier cell phone provider by offering a broad cellular network, a full line of Wi-Fi hotspots for mobile Internet access, and enhanced content services.

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* By switching to SQL Server 2012, we were able to consolidate 10 servers to 4 while boosting performance. Spatial analysis queries that before took 10 seconds now take 2 seconds. *

Mr. Hiroshi Matsumoto
Area Information Development Section
SoftBank Mobile Corporation

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Delivering excellent cellular services requires a robust and expanding national network of cellular transmission equipment—cell towers, Wi-Fi hotspots, and micro base stations. In 2010, SoftBank Mobile management set a goal to double the number of field cellular stations within a year. However, the more network equipment the company installed, the more communications traffic data it had to analyze to determine where it needed additional equipment.

“The amount of communications traffic has exploded with the increased number of smartphones and tablet PCs,” says Mr. Kazuhisa Shibayama, General Manager of the Information Planning Management Department, SoftBank Mobile Corporation. “Precisely judging where to install new equipment for the best result is critical to our company's growth. But we need data to make these decisions.”

SoftBank Mobile used a geographic information systems (GIS) application based on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 data management software to perform this data analysis. However, SoftBank Mobile wanted to make sure that the database foundation for this application could deliver high performance and high availability in the face of rising data volumes. It also wanted better business intelligence (BI) tools that its 1,000 planners and strategists could use to glean insight from the data.

“With the increase in the number of micro base stations, such as Wi-Fi hotspots, we need to conduct pinpoint data analysis to determine the usage and signal strength in a single building or store, as well as across a neighborhood,” Mr. Shibayama says. “Our planners and analysts needed visualization tools to help them sift through reams of communications data and quickly determine equipment upgrade or replacement needs.”

Database reporting experts had to create reports for these users, which limited report frequency to once a month.

Solution

When Microsoft announced Microsoft SQL Server 2012, SoftBank Mobile asked to join the early adopter program. “Initially, since SQL Server 2008 R2 was performing so well, we did not think about upgrading,” says Mr. Shibayama. However, Microsoft Japan urged the company to evaluate the new software specifically to enhance the capabilities of a Signal Status Pinpoint Search service that SoftBank Mobile employees use to manipulate and analyze spatial data such as maps.

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* Since SQL Server 2012 automatically corrects and directly incorporates irregularly shaped data into the database, we don’t have unnecessary operations when registering data, which simplifies data management. *

Mr. Nobuo Miyabe
Area Information Development Section
SoftBank Mobile Corporation

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SoftBank Mobile agreed to evaluate the software and in early 2012 upgraded to a release candidate of SQL Server 2012 running on the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system. “SQL Server 2012 exceeded our expectations for early-stage software,” says Mr. Shibayama. “There were none of the problems typically associated with release-candidate versions. SQL Server 2012 made quick work of nearly 3 billion records in our GIS application.”

SoftBank Mobile specifically wanted to test SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn, an enhancement of database mirroring that supports as many as four secondary databases. If a database failure occurs, AlwaysOn automatically switches the production database to a secondary server in seconds.

Spatial indexing was a manual process and something of an art with SQL Server 2008. However, using the Auto Grid function of SQL Server 2012, SoftBank Mobile was able to automate spatial indexing, which relieved the IT staff of manual database tuning and resulted in better performance.

“With SQL Server 2008, if there was data such as polygons that could not be registered, an error would occur, and we had to manually correct or leave out data in the GIS software,” says Mr. Nobuo Miyabe, Area Information Development Section, SoftBank Mobile Corporation. “However, since SQL Server 2012 automatically corrects and directly incorporates irregularly shaped data into the database, we don’t have unnecessary operations when registering data, which simplifies data management.”

SoftBank Mobile is just beginning to evaluate Power View, a self-service BI reporting tool in SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services. Power View is an interactive web-based tool that gives nontechnical business users the ability to manipulate and visualize data without the help of the IT staff.

“While we haven’t yet started full-scale verification of this feature, we can already see its great potential,” says Mr. Yuji Soga, Acting Manager of the Information Planning Development Department, SoftBank Mobile Corporation. SoftBank Mobile plans to use Power View in conjunction with the Microsoft Silverlight browser plug-in and Bing Maps to create highly graphical reports.

Benefits

By upgrading to SQL Server 2012, SoftBank Mobile has dramatically increased GIS application performance with fewer database servers and gained nonstop availability. It has also reduced the IT staff’s work and will soon be able to give business users easy access to rich data visualization. SoftBank Mobile also plans to use SQL Server 2012 to build a very large GIS application that could lead to new business opportunities.

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* Since Power View can provide real-time data analysis for large amounts of spatial data and express results dynamically, we feel that it can contribute greatly to the speedup of customer service and service quality. *

Mr. Yuji Soga
Acting Manager, Information Planning Development Department
SoftBank Mobile Corporation

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Increased Performance and Availability with 60 Percent Fewer Servers

With SQL Server 2012, SoftBank Mobile was able to enhance the performance and availability of its GIS application while reducing the number of database servers. “By switching to SQL Server 2012, we were able to consolidate 10 servers to 4 while boosting performance,” says Mr. Hiroshi Matsumoto, Area Information Development Section, SoftBank Mobile Corporation. “Spatial analysis queries that before took 10 seconds now take 2 seconds. Also, we achieved this speedup without any special tuning. By using AlwaysOn, we can deliver high availability for an environment of approximately 1,000 users and 3 billion records.”

Previously, to process spatial data, SoftBank Mobile had to run the GIS application on an application server that sat between the SQL Server 2008 R2 database server and the web interface that employees used to perform the visualization processing. This configuration caused performance bottlenecks. “The GIS engine became unnecessary with SQL Server 2012,” says Mr. Toshiaki Semba, Manager of the Data Planning Section, SoftBank Mobile Corporation. “We were able to simplify our infrastructure and deliver better performance.”

Reduced IT Workload

SoftBank Mobile not only streamlined its database infrastructure but significantly reduced data management time. For example, because the maximum number of mirroring servers in SQL Server 2012 increased from two to four, the IT staff has greater freedom and less work in distributing data. The IT staff was thus able to shift some staff members to more important areas such as analysis and system planning.

“Previously, we were forced to spend a great deal of staff time on database tuning, data distribution, and other operations,” says Mr. Shibayama. “That type of work has all become unnecessary with SQL Server 2012. Our IT staff can now concentrate on providing our customers with a better communications environment.”

Delivered Easier Data Visualization

By using Power View, SoftBank Mobile planners and analysts will be able to more easily and quickly turn raw data into meaningful reports. “Although we were able to achieve a high level of visualization using our previous setup, Power View will give our employees even greater dynamic visualization,” says Mr. Soga.

With Power View, business users can extract needed data from the GIS database with point-and-click simplicity and can browse and manipulate the data freely. “Since Power View can provide real-time data analysis for large amounts of spatial data and express results dynamically, we feel that it can contribute greatly to the speedup of customer service and service quality,” Mr. Soga adds.

Opened Up New Business Opportunities

Beginning in June 2012, SoftBank Mobile will begin creating an even more ambitious GIS application called the Integrated Area Measures System. SoftBank Mobile will use SQL Server 2012 to build a very large database that contains not only the company’s field-equipment data but also its cellular traffic data, operations management data, and operational data from other SoftBank Group divisions. From this one massive database, SoftBank Mobile hopes to bring all of its data to bear on better managing equipment, expanding service areas, improving cellular service quality, and enhancing customer service. In addition, since many companies can benefit from this integrated database system, Agoop Corporation, a SoftBank Group company, will provide it to other industries on behalf of Softbank Mobile.

Mr. Shibayama says, “Creating this Integrated Area Measures System is our primary objective in the near term, and SQL Server 2012 gives us an excellent foundation for such a massive, integrated database.”

Microsoft Server Product Portfolio

For more information about the Microsoft server product portfolio, go to:
www.microsoft.com/servers

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at(800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at(800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about SoftBank Mobile Corporation products and services, visit the website at:
www.softbank.jp

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview




Organization Profile

A subsidiary of the SoftBank Group, SoftBank Mobile Corporation is a fast-growing mobile service provider in Japan. The company is based in Tokyo and employs 6,300 people.


Business Situation

To meet aggressive growth goals, SoftBank Mobile wanted to strengthen the database engine of its mission-critical geographic information systems (GIS) application so it could process more data.


Solution

SoftBank Mobile upgraded to Microsoft SQL Server 2012 and used AlwaysOn to improve availability and performance. It is evaluating Power View as a way to expand self-service reporting.


Benefits

  • Increased performance and availability with fewer servers
  • Reduced IT workload
  • Delivered easier data visualization
  • Opened up new business opportunities


Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise

Vertical Industries
Telecommunications

Country/Region
Japan

Business Need
Business Intelligence and Reporting

IT Issue
High Availability

Languages
English

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