Vodacom’s CRM system, Integrated Customer Administration and Provisioning (iCAP), implements the administrative functionality required to manage the majority of their 50 million plus subscriber base. The application integrates to over 50 different systems in Vodacom’s broader eco-system, and processes millions of requests daily. iCAP is a core application in Vodacom’s environment.
The iCAP system, initiated in 1996, is a comprehensive and diverse application tailored to meet Vodacom’s needs, minimising cost per subscriber, and achieving market-leading performance.
Vodacom is a leading and purpose-led African connectivity, digital and financial services company.
The Group, including Safaricom, serves 130 million customers spanning across the consumer and enterprise segments. From their roots in South Africa, they have grown their business to include operations in Tanzania, the DRC, Mozambique, Lesotho and Kenya. Their mobile networks cover a total population of over 303 million people.
Through Vodacom Business Africa (VBA), they offer business-managed services to enterprises in 48 countries. Vodacom is majority-owned by Vodafone (60.5% holding), one of the world’s largest communications companies by revenue.
The Telecommunication industry is dealing with exponential growth in users and connections. In addition to higher demands from users, the industry’s competitive nature forces businesses to address various challenges in their development process.
One of these challenges are high operational costs with limited efficiencies. Using old, legacy tools can result in experience disruption and delays as workloads increase. To address this, a software solution driven by emerging technologies was required to drive efficiency and reduce costs. The ICAP system had to evolve to become more scalable and sustainable in that it needed to grow with the increasing volume of queries, orders, and interactions.
The ICAP system made use of non-standard interfaces which required the development team to reinvent and reintegrate with each new feature or innovation they adopted. A solution was needed that would allow data and application architects across projects to “plug and play” their systems with ease, thereby reducing time and money spent integrating ICAP with other systems, and vice versa.
In the digital era, organisations are becoming more dependent on their applications to run their business 24/7. The impact of planned and unplanned application downtime resulted in revenue loss and business disruption for our customer, which prevailed even when having ample resources and skills available. To reduce the amount of overall downtime, a solution was needed, delivering a highly available application experience.
A specialist provider, leveraging world-class technology and leading practices to architect, implement and support sustainable ICT-based business solutions which are strategically aligned, fit for purpose, cost effective and optimised for performance.
We have highly skilled, experienced professionals directed at solving business critical customer problems through consultative approach. We also bring our collective knowledge to every deployment engagement. From legacy integration to digital transformation, our solutions catalogue includes the full spectrum of ICT services.
The Evolve CRM platform runs on AWS and is based on a microservices architecture aligning to TM Forum’s Open APIs. The Altron Systems Integration development team adopted the strangler pattern approach, providing the ability to incrementally transform the monolithic application, thereby reducing systemic risk through smaller, discrete episodes of change. The monolith was divided into different business domains based on functionality and purpose. The development of business domains was prioritised and selected on size, functionality, and impact, and implemented as microservices in AWS. In following the strangler pattern approach, the monolith gradually shrinks as new business domains are delivered as microservices.
Based on the tools and technologies required, appropriate AWS services were selected replacing on-premises services. The application was developed with an API-first approach, using the AWS API Gateway introducing a level of abstraction for upstream systems, providing a modern façade simplifying integration with existing legacy and third-party applications, and by exposing data and functionalities through well documented APIs. AWS Cognito was used to simplify authorisation and tokenisation.
Due to its proven performance, scalability and open-source nature, AWS Aurora MySQL was selected as database for the first microservice, storing a vast amount of relational data. The data was migrated using the AWS DMS service leveraging the continuous replication feature during the cutover period. In keeping with microservices best practice, each microservice implements its own purpose-built database.
EKS, together with docker containers, were used to replace the on-premises virtual machines. AWS ECR was implemented as the container registry and used to do vulnerability scanning. As part of the microservices implementation, a circuit breaker design pattern was adopted to assist with service availability, and to provide a failure and retry mechanism. Event streams in the form of AWS SQS provided a suitable replacement for the monolith’s single orchestration layer that relied on queuing mechanisms to operate effectively.
When logging microservices, we had to consider that logs are coming from several services. AWS CloudTrail was used to track changes in the microservices. It enabled API calls made in AWS to be logged and sent to either Cloudwatch logs in real time, or to S3 within a few minutes. Storing audit trails in Cloudwatch provided the added advantage that it was easy to route information to Amazon ES for search and visualisation.
The first business domain was launched into production late 2021 with the intent of providing a Resource and Service Inventory Management Service, with the ability to scale as and when required, meeting growing demand on compute resources, without the need to go through a time-consuming procurement process for additional hardware.
Production deployments can now occur more frequently and with minimal or no service disruption, without forgoing user experience. The use of TM Forum Open APIs also enable our customer to leverage services across their ecosystem, providing the option to monetise APIs, as well as providing greater flexibility.
Using the AWS API Gateway together with the strangler pattern, implementing an API façade, ensure that we may continue to strangle the monolith by incrementally creating and deploying additional business domain microservices to AWS.
With AWS managed services, most of the operational burden that existed on premise such as backups, patches, etc. are now being handled, which leaves the team to focus on new features and innovations for our customer.
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