How an innovative team at IBM created a modern hybrid-cloud platform

The IBM CIO Sales Incentive Systems team engineered a robust developer-friendly environment
by Brittany King
5-minute read
Data server

On-premises to cloud migration projects are complex. The upheaval often requires intense reengineering of processes and applications, taking into consideration a company’s budget, employee knowledge and timeline. The IBM CIO Sales Incentive Systems (SIS) team embarked on a journey to do just that.

The SIS team manages the systems that pay commissions to IBM sales professionals, which involves a lot of moving parts and working with vast quantities of data. The team oversees high-stakes data input covering financial data, employee data and commission payment data from 103 countries.

“The SIS team’s mission is to pay IBM’s sales teams accurately, on time and securely,” explains Andrew Baines, Leader, CIO Sales Incentive Systems at IBM. “We have very rigorous financial and payroll-driven deadlines, and we must maintain accuracy.”

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Charges dropped by as much as USD

200,000

per month

Effort spent running jobs and platform maintenance is now

> 50%

less

Because of the shrinking skill base, it was very difficult to manage the existing application, and we really wanted to move to a more modern platform. It’s easier to recruit for cloud, so that started us down the journey into a technology change.
Andrew Baines
Leader, CIO Sales Incentive Systems, IBM

The infrastructure SIS was running its environment on consisted of large multi-technology on-premises hardware installations out of Dallas, Texas, and Boulder, Colorado. The team recently found that its traditional batch architecture and ever-increasing workload couldn’t keep pace with business needs. It would require a new platform that could match up to the on-premises hardware, sustain the large volumes and high processing demands of large batches of data and not buckle under the load. Difficulties also unfolded when finding and hiring the right skilled developers to maintain the prior systems.

“When we were hosted on premises, we had the parallelism we wanted, but it was getting expensive. It was a vertically-scaled environment and required significant downtimes for maintenance,” says Kapil Jadon, IBM CIO Sales and Marketing Platform Leader. “Whenever our load increased, we had to take outages to scale our resources vertically and that was unacceptable. With the number of tight deadlines that we have for our application, it was always a showstopper for us.”

With so much data to store, transform and manage, the SIS team began researching how to reengineer its solution to be more event-driven. As a result, the group evaluated the opportunity to iteratively replace the system and move to IBM Cloud®. SIS was prepared to do a lot of heavy lifting as moving the existing workload to a cloud environment would be no simple task. With increasing business need, there would be a need to engineer a scalable, industrial-strength solution with capabilities greater than the traditional solution, coupled with the need to run the application on a hybrid platform on its way to the cloud.

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We took a shot, and it was very successful because its performance hadn’t before been tested at such a massive scale. We were positively surprised when we saw it implemented and in production.
Kapil Jadon
Leader, CIO Sales and Marketing Platform, IBM
A powerful combination
We took a shot, and it was very successful because its performance hadn’t before been tested at such a massive scale. We were positively surprised when we saw it implemented and in production.
Kapil Jadon
Leader, CIO Sales and Marketing Platform, IBM

One of the goals was to create a platform that would enable developers to work with data across environments seamlessly. The SIS team had large traditional batch applications that needed to be reengineered over time, so the new solution needed a scalable hybrid cloud platform.

After searching for a database to fit the needs of such an ideal system, Jadon and his team took matters into their own hands. With extensive experience with IBM’s offerings, the team came up with a plan to create a platform using multiple IBM components: the IBM® Db2® pureScale® and IBM Cloud Object Storage solutions.

“We were looking to reengineer our application to be more event-driven and provide a solution and platform that can provide a massive parallelism, and that’s why we chose DataMaze,” says Jadon. “It’s a wonderful creation. It gives huge parallelism, and with that, it’s a challenge to have an equally robust back end.”

IBM Db2 pureScale, together with IBM Cloud Object Storage provided the ideal scalable storage solution, with the power to match the parallelism from DataMaze.

To integrate all the platform components, the team successfully built IBM DataMaze, a managed big data cloud platform offered as a platform as a service (PaaS), a powerhouse for data and compute-intensive enterprise applications.

Chetan Deka, CIO DataMaze Development Leader and Lead Architect of IBM DataMaze, explains: “When building the solution, we wanted it for sales incentives. We always had in mind, ‘How can everyone with the same skills use this?’ Thus, we ended up building a platform that is very usable and developer centric. Now we actually have hundreds of development squads from all over IBM using this platform and taking advantage of all the features that it’s providing.”

DataMaze — low maintenance times and high availability

With Db2 pureScale, DataMaze and IBM Cloud Object Storage in place, data from over 100 countries flows to the event-driven system, where financial transactions are seamlessly matched to seller territories before commission is calculated and then sent to payroll. Sandwiched between the financial close and payroll cut-off, the parallel workload exceeds 14,000 pods. Because of the dynamic scaling of RedHat® OpenShift® and IBM DataMaze, SIS only pays for capacity when it’s needed.

The platform was first used to model hundreds of financial budgets for quota setting. Using the traditional architecture, it took 100 hours to develop each model and four days to run the workload. Using the IBM DataMaze platform, it takes just 37 hours to develop each model and 12 hours to run — making a huge difference in developer productivity and the way the business team can execute models.

The hybrid cloud environment brought another challenge to developers — to manage different formats of data as it hops from one environment to the other. Using Hybrid Automation Services, IBM DataMaze abstracted the nitty gritty of data conversion across formats and databases. The mission of most of the SIS developers was to deliver business value to production at speed.

“We didn’t want them to focus on managing the platform,” says Baines. “So, we built integration tools that enabled them to move and manage data using APIs.”

Using DataMaze Hybrid Automation Services, a network of APIs each month automates thousands of requests to invoke Db2 utilities, transfer and translate data, and manage access, providing a secure, self-service experience for developers.

When combined, the components that make up IBM DataMaze deliver impactful business results. The new geographically dispersed Db2 pureScale cluster (GDPC) configuration, designed for high availability, provides a single database view with fast and security-rich options for storing data. Improved capacity and workload balancing are additional benefits.

“The teams used to take weeks getting the server and hardware ready. Then making sure all software gets installed within the environment and given back to developers could sometimes take months,” says Jadon. “Today, we can proudly say we can bring up our whole environment as early as 40 minutes.”

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About IBM Global Sales Incentives

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) organization owns IBM’s internal IT strategy and provides the tools, computers, devices and infrastructure that IBMers use to do their jobs every day. The organization also owns more than 4,000 applications that keep IBM running, from supply chain and logistics to sales and marketing and finance systems. Its mission is to deliver Future of IT to propel IBM’s success and growth.

Solution components
IBM logo
About IBM Global Sales Incentives

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) organization owns IBM’s internal IT strategy and provides the tools, computers, devices and infrastructure that IBMers use to do their jobs every day. The organization also owns more than 4,000 applications that keep IBM running, from supply chain and logistics to sales and marketing and finance systems. Its mission is to deliver Future of IT to propel IBM’s success and growth.

Solution components