Deutscher Ring goes virtual with IBM System p for cost savings and increased performance

Published on 03-Jan-2008

Validated on 01 Aug 2013

"By virtualizing our SAP software environment and running it on the highly flexible IBM System p5 servers, we have seen impressive reductions in our total cost of ownership while simultaneously boosting performance and availability for the business." - Werner Rave, Manager of IT Architecture Department at Deutscher Ring

Deutscher Ring AG


Deployment country:

Enterprise Resource Planning, Information Infrastructure, Infrastructure Simplification, Server Consolidation, Virtualization

IBM Business Partner:


Deutscher Ring AG is a major private insurance firm, headquartered in Hamburg and with branch offices throughout Germany. The company employs more than 1,700 people to manage around 2.8 million contracts, with total annual booked gross fees and deposits of approximately €1.5 billion.

Business need:
With SAP software divided between various platforms and servers, Deutscher Ring’s infrastructure was complex, inefficient and costly to run. There was limited flexibility in allocating resources to changing business requirements, and performance was deteriorating as workload grew.

Deutscher Ring worked with IBM Global Technology Services to migrate its entire SAP software landscape, both databases and applications, onto two IBM System p5 570 servers running IBM AIX 5L and IBM DB2. The company also implemented IBM Tivoli Storage Manager and IBM DB2 Content Manager with DB2 CommonStore for SAP software, and plans to introduce IBM Tivoli System Automation.

Reduced costs by around 33 per cent, while cutting some batch runs from 90 minutes to just 30 minutes and delivering a 40 per cent improvement in general SAP software response times; gained significant flexibility with IBM Virtual I/O Server; improved operational efficiency with SAP Insurance Collections and Disbursements and strengthened strategic management by delivering Balanced Scorecards using SAP Business Information Warehouse and SAP Strategic Enterprise Management.

Case Study

Auf Deutsche

Deutscher Ring AG is a major private insurance firm, headquartered in Hamburg and with branch offices throughout Germany. The company employs more than 1,700 people to manage around 2.8 million contracts, with total annual booked gross fees and deposits of approximately €1.5 billion.

With an SAP software environment divided between a number of IBM and HP Intel® processor-based servers Deutscher Ring had a relatively complex infrastructure that required multiple different skill sets to manage.

Aiming to standardize on a single platform that would offer a high degree of flexibility, excellent performance for both batch and interactive workload, and low management costs, Deutscher Ring selected the IBM System p5 platform running IBM AIX 5L for its entire SAP software landscape.

Werner Rave, Manager of IT Architecture Department at Deutscher Ring, comments: “The IBM System p5 platform provides a high-performance environment for our SAP software, with excellent flexibility. We use advanced virtualization features to run multiple independent systems on each p5 server, and we can automatically increase or reduce the computing power as business demands fluctuate.”

Flexible choice

Deutscher Ring worked with IBM Global Technology Services to migrate its SAP databases and applications to two IBM System p5 570 servers running AIX 5L V5.3. Each p5-570 has a total of eight IBM POWER5 processors, of which four are permanently active on each server. The remaining four processors on each p5-570 can be activated on a temporary basis using IBM On/Off Capacity on Demand, giving Deutscher Ring ample headroom for both unexpected spikes in demand and ongoing business growth, without requiring the company to permanently invest in the additional capacity. Similarly, each p5-570 has 64GB of main memory, of which 40GB on each is permanently active, with the remainder available on demand.

Deutscher Ring has two separate data centers – one in-house and one operated by a service provider several kilometers away. The new System p5 architecture is split between the two, with workload balanced across both servers. Deutscher Ring supports 1,800 named users of SAP applications on the two p5-570s, with typically 400 concurrent users. All production, quality assurance, test and development systems run in LPARs on these two systems. In the unlikely event of a failure at one data centre, the remaining p5-570 can run the entire workload of the productive system, ensuring business continuity.

“We aimed to divide batch-intensive workload between the two System p5 servers to provide high performance with built-in protection against unplanned downtime,” says Werner Rave. “The sophisticated Dynamic LPAR and Micro-Partitioning capabilities of the System p5 platform were a major factor in our choice of solution, making it easy to run multiple SAP software environments side-by-side in a single footprint. They also allow us to re-allocate resources on the fly, so that we can prioritize batch workload overnight, then switch the power back to live users during the working day.”

Virtualization for efficiency

Dynamic Logical Partitioning (DLPAR) and Micro-Partitioning are both features of IBM Advanced POWER Virtualization for System p. Deutscher Ring also takes advantage of another feature: Virtual I/O Server. Each p5-570 uses a combination of redundant Virtual I/O Servers and physical I/O adapters connecting to both enterprise LAN and SAN. While the Virtual I/O Servers provide access for multiple SAP LPARs across shared I/O adapters, the physical adapters are dedicated to those partitions which constantly require a high volume of I/O. Each time a new LPAR is created, it can simply be connected to a Virtual I/O Server rather than a physical adapter, saving time and reducing complexity.

Says Werner Rave, “With Virtual I/O Server, we no longer need to install, connect and configure physical adapters when building a new partition. This saves a great deal of time and money, and reduces the downtime by avoiding the need for a physical installation with cabling. Additionally, we can pool the total bandwidth and share it between virtual systems, automatically providing more capacity for systems that need it.”

Without Virtual I/O Server technology, Deutscher Ring would require a large number of physical adapters, some of which would be underused while others would occasionally lack bandwidth – making for a costly and inefficient solution.

Performance gains

By consolidating from multiple systems on different hardware platforms to just two p5-570s, Deutscher Ring simplified its infrastructure and reduced hardware administration and maintenance costs.

“Our costs relating to hardware are now about 33 per cent lower with the System p5 solution, and at the same time we have seen clear improvements in both batch performance and system response times,” says Werner Rave. “The POWER5 processors in the p5-570s offer very good price-performance. Some queries in SAP BW and SAP Strategic Enterprise Management that previously took 90 minutes now take just 30 minutes, and users are experiencing a 40 per cent improvement in general SAP R/3 response times.”

Deutscher Ring made a strategic decision to adopt IBM DB2 optimized for SAP software on AIX, partly for its innate scalability and partly for its close adaptation to the demands of SAP software. The company uses DB2 to manage around 3.8TB of data for 1,800 users. Werner Rave comments, “DB2 optimized for SAP software is now the main development database at SAP, and the close cooperation between IBM and SAP makes it an excellent choice for us.”

Standardized functionality from SAP

In addition to its core ERP functionality from SAP, Deutscher Ring runs its SAP Insurance Collections and Disbursements (SAP FS-CD) application on the p5-570s – a special integrated environment for managing inbound and outbound insurance payments. Previously, the company had a third-party mainframe-based solution written in COBOL to handle these payments.

“The previous payments management solution was becoming increasingly difficult to manage,” says Werner Rave. “We saw SAP FS-CD as the best-of-breed solution, and we certainly value having a standard solution that integrates easily with our ERP systems. With better control over our policies and payments through SAP Insurance Collections and Disbursements, our business risk is lower, and the SAP application helps internal users work more efficiently.

Balanced Scorecards

Deutscher Ring uses SAP BW as the basis for its SAP SEM application, which it uses to run Balanced Scorecards. The Balanced Scorecard is a technique that aims to translate business strategy into terms that can be easily understood, communicated and acted upon, by clearly defining the meaning of concepts such as quality, customer satisfaction and growth.

Says Werner Rave, “In the past, management information was rather technical and poorly presented in visual terms. Our senior management wanted to deploy a new strategic steering system that would enable at-a-glance views of performance across the whole enterprise. Once a month, managers receive a range of scores based on predefined measures, enabling them to identify potential issues and react to them in a timely and informed manner.”

The Balanced Scorecard has 200 named users, and is built using complex queries on around 50GB of data. The POWER5 processors in the p5-570 ensure that the multidimensional queries on highly interdependent data sets run quickly so that reports are delivered to users on time.

Automatic management

Deutscher Ring uses IBM Tivoli Storage Manager to automate the backup of the DB2 databases that support its SAP software, and has deployed IBM DB2 Content Manager with DB2 CommonStore for SAP software to handle the archival and retrieval of SAP documents. The full IBM DB2 Content Manager environment stores 3.8TB, of which approximately 11 GB are SAP documents.

In the near future, Deutscher Ring plans to extend its deployment of IBM Tivoli System Automation (Tivoli SA) – currently implemented in its mainframe environment – to cover its AIX environment also. Based on a “desired state” and goals defined by an administrator, Tivoli SA monitors system operations and automatically corrects deviations from the predefined state, helping to ensure high system availability.

Says Werner Rave, “There are still significant links between our SAP software systems and systems running on our mainframes, and managing the interfaces is very important. We plan to deploy Tivoli SA to manage all business-critical systems with a single set of tools, which will enable us to offer better service with the same IT administration team.

Building long-term benefits on System p5

By migrating its SAP software landscape entirely to the IBM System p5 platform with DB2 database, Deutscher Ring has successfully reduced the number of servers in the data centre, bringing down total cost of ownership while improving performance, availability and flexibility. The addition of Tivoli and DB2 tools for automating backup, document management and systems management will help the company to keep long-term support costs low and keep skilled staff available for high-value work.

Werner Rave concludes, “By virtualizing our SAP software environment and running it on the highly flexible IBM System p5 servers, we have seen impressive reductions in our total cost of ownership while simultaneously boosting performance and availability for the business.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

System p: System p5 570

DB2 CommonStore for SAP Entry Offering, DB2 Universal Database for Linux, UNIX and Windows, DB2 Content Manager CommonStore for SAP, Tivoli Storage Manager, Tivoli System Automation for Multiplatforms

Operating system:

IBM-SAP Alliance, GTS Integrated Technology Services

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