3i Infotech: Pioneering the IMS Arena
Date: Wednesday , July 02, 2008
When Manoj Appully conceived the idea many IT companies in the U.S.A. were optimizing their operational costs using strategies like offshore delivery model or global delivery model, and a large chunk of money was spent on optimally managing IT infrastructure. About 45 percent of total operational cost of these companies was on hardware, software, data center operations, and application development or management. Appully, who envisioned the huge market opportunity for Infrastructure Management Services (IMS), which remains untapped, formed Lanterncorp, now a part of 3i Infotech, in 2001, with corporate office in Georgia in the U.S.A. Once he started, there was no looking back for him.
Lanterncorp was able to grow within a short time from a small services firm to a corporation with over $9 million in revenue. A niche player in Infrastructure Optimization Services (IOS), it utilizes a methodology based on industry leading technologies and is supporting and optimizing enterprise scale applications like Oracle 11/11i eBusiness suite, Peoplesoft, Siebel, Remedy, and Mercator. Now, a proud Manoj Appully, President, Infrastructure Management Services, 3i Infotech, U.S.A, says, “We managed to develop a very comprehensive frame work in terms of virtualizing, consolidating, and creating a shared infrastructure platform. Our niche approach uses industry standard methods, and an automated data capture to model and access the existing resources, perform capacity planning for today, tomorrow, and for future needs.” Hence, when 3i Infotech was searching for a niche player in this segment, to foray into IMS space, it acquired Lanterncorp in March 2007.
3i Infotech offers several infrastructure management services like data center optimization, Green IT, and business service management, which are always in the forefront of every CIO or COO’s mind. “We expect that our infrastructure management services would enable 3i Infotech to go back to our existing clients base and offer wide ranging solutions to enhance the productivity and go beyond offshore or global delivery model to achieve the competitive operational cost efficiency and per employee productivity. Importantly, our ability to partner with our clients and execute the transformational services will definitely add value to 3i Infotech’s offerings,” observes Appully.
However, if we go back to BPO history in India, when Indian IT services players began their BPO offerings, though they believed that they would succeed in bringing their existing customers to their BPO section as well, it proved wrong. They were compelled to bring in new customers to survive. Hence there is a concern, whether the history will repeat here as well. Explains Appully, “What was lacking in services like BPO or global delivery model was the transformational capability, where we partner with our clients to bring in the productivity enhancement. We believe that since 3i Infotech is offering a matured and proven technology to their customers, and as partnership model based transformational services are gaining momentum nowadays, the company is achieving traction from their existing customers in this space.” The Transformation In the new era of technology business, 3i Infotech quickly realized that betting on transformational deals would contribute to its mission to increase its footprint in IMS arena. It is very interesting to know about how the company carried out transformational deal for one of its Fortune 100 telecommunications firms in the U.S.A. When this firm decided to focus on improving customer retention by better understanding their customer base and buying patterns for their DSL-Broadband services, whose customer data was scattered across multiple disparate applications, with over 40 million customers, 80,000 employees, and more than 40 operating entities, it needed a partner who could ensure seamless delivery of the enterprise data warehouse and guarantee performance of the system.
They chose 3i Infotech to take up the task. With such a gigantic setup, it was a true challenge to provide a centralized view of each customer. The environment consisted of four Oracle Datamarts that were each 200GB in size. These were fed by CRM, Billing, Product-Promotions, and Sales compensation applications. Data extracted from this had to be fed into a 1.7 TB Sybase environment containing 27 database instances. “The goal was to combine customer information from these disparate sources, to provide a better understanding of customer trends and requirement for custom presentation of the data,” says Appully. For this purpose they used Informatica Power Center tools.
Next, 3i Infotech used its open IOS framework that enables companies to deploy solution components in a containerized fashion to move enterprise IT, one step closer to the utility computing paradigm. One of the key benefits of such a deployment process is the ability to increase server usage by stacking disparate components on the same shared infrastructure. “Server utilization drive ups considerably reduced the cost of operation since the IOS framework easily provides the virtualization needed at every layer. This helps decouple the application stack from the infrastructure and brings in a new flexibility to run anywhere in a cluster and thus reuse and repurpose the same servers for true multi-environments,” explicates Appully. The result was awesome; now, the customer saves about $350,000 annually.
Interestingly, unlike top virtualization solution providers like Vmware or Citrix, which saw the concept of virtualization from a device specific mode of view, 3i Infotech pioneered the concept of virtualization from an application center point of view, where ultimately application is the one that is consumed by the business.
However, the fact remains that despite its uniqueness, application-centric virtualization is not as hot as the concept of device-centric virtualization provided by players like Vmware or Citrix. Appully reasons out, “There is a perception that by implementing these solutions, one can achieve what they needed from such solutions easily and these solutions boomed only because of the easy conceptualization of what these firms could offer. But when it comes to managing such complex applications, it’s not an easy task. Virtualization is a concept that existed since Mainframe days where we saw the concept of a single machine carved into multiple logical partitions. Before, we dealt with a ‘single machine‘, now we need to deal with ‘virtual machines’. However, the beauty of our solution is that we can treat Vmware or Citrix as another infrastructure component and hence apply our IOS framework to ease their provisioning and management. And through our solutions we are providing an alternative method that enhances the use of one’s existing computing setup and making it a seamless infrastructure. In short we are making the mid-range computing platform look like a mainframe with policy based provisioning, metering and ability to deploy change rapidly yet predictably.” Going Forward After successful development of applications, 3i Infotech is now planning to execute the infrastructure management services remotely, from India. Companies like HCL and 3i Infotech have entered this segment in a big way and are witnessing enormous traction. Recently, the company has invested in a state-of-the-art QSD data center in Chennai, India, with highly sophisticated hosting facility as well as global security and network operation center. 3i Infotech has also developed specialized products like “i-enable” to support remote management of infrastructure along with process maturity based on ITIL, ISO 27001 (BS7799) and ISO 20000 (BS15000). Lately, 3i Infotech acquired another firm, namely Locus, based in Hyderabad, India, which also provides system integration solutions, high performance computing platform, which could be a valuable addition to the company’s existing overall IMS strategy.
Today, within 3i Infotech, the IMS domain alone employs around 1,000 people and about 130 senior professionals working onshore projects. Since 3i Infotech has a strong BFSI background, it understands the space far better than others. Appully states, “All the services we offer to our customers clearly articulate our BFSI strategy. Also, because of our prior work and good reference we have in the space, we believe we can do the job better than any other providers and become a true one stop shop in the BFSI segment.” Going forward, 3i Infotech is very keen on Green IT aspect of the IMS, as many companies are realizing the need for implementing Green IT infrastructure. “We are planning to provide viable comprehensive solutions in this area as we foresee there is a strong potential to do business. During our research on this subject, we found out that about 55-60 percent of the spending on power and cooling aspects of a data center can be saved by implementing Green IT infrastructures,” concludes Appully.