Integrating big data capabilities with enterprise systems

Integrating big data capabilities with enterprise systems

How CenturyLink is combining, analyzing, and monetizing its abundance of data resources.

As one of the largest communications, hosting, cloud, and IT service providers on the planet, CenturyLink has a treasure trove of data. And the company is working to monetize its data riches.

  • Roughly 20 percent of the world’s Internet traffic flows through CenturyLink fiber.
  • 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies utilize its services, which are delivered from 60 data centers spread around the globe.

“All telecommunications companies are going through a transition,” says Shivkumar Thiagarajan, vice president of business development for CenturyLink Cognilytics, the company’s new big data and predictive analytics division. “We want to leverage our core assets to reach new markets and create higher value services for our customers.”

Beyond pilot projects
From its network, data center, and cloud footprints to its core IT and application services, CenturyLink has a wealth of data at its disposal. But to maximize the value within, it needed to find ways to combine and analyze those sources collectively.

  • Most big data projects—at least in the early stages—are simplified and limited by design, pulling together a few workloads and seeing what can be learned.
  • To get the most out of information assets, however, companies must move beyond discrete data lakes and finite pilot projects.

“When everything is the same or carefully curated, it’s easy to automate and scale,” says Richard Probst, vice president of architecture at SAP. “But at some point, you need to integrate big data capabilities and pilot projects with enterprise systems.”

With the help of SAP, Cisco, and Cloudera, CenturyLink did just that.

  • CenturyLink has created a large-scale Hadoop data lake using Cloudera Enterprise.
  • The data lake integrates with SAP HANA® and SAP HANA Vora, and runs on the Intel® Xeon® processor-based Cisco Unified Computing System (Cisco UCS®).

“It’s a platform that delivers the scalability of Hadoop, the intelligence of SAP HANA, and the power of Cisco UCS,” says Thiagarajan. “It’s very unique. No other architecture can do what it does.”

The platform can accommodate a variety of data sets from any number of systems. And it delivers policy-driven automation, scalability, and control using Vnomic software and Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (Cisco ACI).

“Policy-based governance is key,” says Probst, “transforming big data from a science project to an enterprise capability.”

Putting the platform to the test
CenturyLink is already using the platform for its own purposes.

  • The company is combining and analyzing finance and supply chain data to enhance operational performance and reporting.
  • It is scouring the entirety of its global fiber network to improve signal and anomaly detection.
  • It will soon collect data from its 1600-vehicle fleet in North America to improve preventive maintenance and reduce downtime and costs.

“We wanted to put the platform to the test, and it has performed exceptionally well,” says Thiagarajan. “All of our predetermined KPIs have been validated.”

CenturyLink is now in the process of developing industry-focused solutions that take advantage of the platform and can be delivered as a service. Manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and other data-driven services are all in the works.

“The infrastructure, plumbing, and governance used to be the hard parts, but we’ve got those covered,” says Thiagarajan. “Now it’s just a matter of identifying the business problems, the desired outcomes, and the data that can help. The platform is ready to go.”

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