Vilnius waters: IT infrastructure upgrade saves not only costs but also time

A year ago, Vilnius waters, the largest water management company in Lithuania, launched an innovative project to connect more than 8,000 cold water meters to an IoT network. An equally important project was launched in July with the renewal of the infrastructure that ensures the operation of key IT systems. The major change, implemented together with IT partner Blue Bridge, has reduced the cost of database licences and the risk of disruptions, as well as the reliability of the core ERP system.

End-of-life products prompted a review of TCO

Evaldas Stankūnas, Head of IT Department of Vilnius waters, and Algirdas Lunys, Head of Infrastructure Management Solutions Department of Blue Bridge, talk about the SQL infrastructure upgrade, its challenges and results.
Around a dozen systems used by 700 employees every day – this is what the Vilnius Waters farm looks like. These systems include not only the latest one for remote monitoring of meter readings, but also a customer accounting system based on Microsoft Dynamics NAV.
It was the end of support for the SQL infrastructure that keeps this critical system running that prompted the idea of a wider renewal.
„When we were considering upgrading our MS Dynamics NAV infrastructure, we saw that this could be an opportunity to reduce the cost of leasing all SQL licences and IT resources. In addition, such a refresh project would allow us to ensure that NAV and other systems run more reliably on the latest possible versions of SQL. Thus, in addition to the goal of taking care of NAV’s infrastructure, we decided to achieve a lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) for the software”, says Evaldas Stankūnas.

Upgrading the infrastructure of a system built up over many years

Blue Bridge was awarded the public tender for the project. According to Algirdas Lunys, Head of Infrastructure Management Solutions at the company, the project consisted of three main phases: analysis of the existing infrastructure, testing of the upgrades, and the implementation of the actual upgrade.
„In the case of newer systems, the likelihood of failures caused by the upgrade was low. However, upgrading the MS Dynamics NAV infrastructure, which was launched more than a decade ago and had many integrations, was not straightforward. This was primarily because it was difficult to predict exactly what impact an upgrade would have on the performance of the application. Especially since it was planned to „jump” through several versions of SQL Server and databases,” says Lunys.
Algirdas Lunys, Head of Infrastructure Management Solutions, Blue Bridge
E. Stankūnas adds to this by noting that the information gathered during the planning of the upgrade assumed that the newer version of SQL, to which it was intended to migrate, would be compatible with MS Dynamics NAV 2009. However, only actual testing could provide more detailed insights.
„When the compatibility of the upgrade was tested, we were satisfied that the core functionality of the system was working. However, we had in mind that the volumes of data used for testing are much smaller than the volumes that the system has to process in reality. Therefore, even after a successful test, the migration was partly based on theoretical assumptions”, he smiles.
The implementation of the upgrade did not really avoid challenges. Although the upgrade was technically successful, the performance of the system’s core functions slowed down considerably.
„We worked together with the developers who contributed to the system and the Blue Bridge team to find a solution to the problem, which required additional work not only on the usual aspects of SQL, but also on the nuances of the application. Without these joint efforts, we would probably not have had such good results and a stable system”, – says Stankūnas.

Reduced costs and increased resilience to IT disasters

Despite the inconveniences experienced immediately after the upgrade of the SQL infrastructure, the project was completed within the expected timeframe of five months and the value created by the consolidation and upgrade of the SQL servers is lasting.
„The consolidation of the servers allowed us to achieve the key objective of reducing the number of licensed objects from 25 to 12, and thus the cost of the IT infrastructure,” says E. Stankūnas.
„Algirdas Lunys of Blue Bridge explains that the reduction in IT infrastructure maintenance costs has been achieved by carrying out a number of key works. First of all, by removing the dedicated server for each system and merging them, thus combining 16 servers into 5: „Since the number of licences was directly related to the number of cores assigned to the systems, by collecting the SQL Server system performance indicators, analysing and correlating them, we managed to reduce the number of cores without damaging the performance of the systems.”
Another important result achieved is that newer versions of SQL have enabled the standardisation of the SQL Server infrastructure. In the future, this will not only allow the functionality of the new versions to be exploited, but also reduce the cost and time spent on maintaining systems and testing new functionality for applications.

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