Published on 19-Jun-2008
Validated on 02 May 2012
"Being able to react to changing conditions faster than other companies gives Viessmann a competitive advantage. By following a service-oriented architecture approach with IBM we can now include business partners in internal processes noticeably faster and more economically than with other, traditional methods." - Dirk Klöckner, General Manager, Viessmann IT Service GmbH
Viessmann IT Service GmbH
Business Process Management (BPM), Enabling Business Flexibility, Enterprise Resource Planning, Information Infrastructure, Optimizing IT, Service Oriented Architecture, Virtualization
This technical brief describes a project to re-architect existing systems and processes within Viessmann, a German manufacturing business. With the Service Oriented Architecture approach, existing technology investments have been re-used to create a flexible, scalable infrastructure capable of serving around 10,000 concurrent users, worldwide.
Share common business information throughout the company. Standardize business processes by using centralized applications. Enable access to business systems for customers, business partners, suppliers, distributors and internal staff regardless of location. Reduce the costs of supporting multiple applications in each country. Simplify IT infrastructure, increase flexibility, and speed up time-to-market for new services. Help the company meet ambitious international expansion objectives.
IBM and c.a.r.u.s. worked with Viessmann to introduce a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) using the existing IBM Power Systems server landscape. They provided a staged transition from older, isolated applications through Application Integration Architecture to fully integrated SOA. They also re-purposed around 40 IBM Power Systems servers and IBM System Storage disk arrays to support 6,000 internal and 7,000 external users.
All partners, staff and customers can access appropriate services from anywhere. Flexible IT infrastructure allows new applications and services to be made available to all users. Robust architecture supports international operations. IBM PowerVM virtualization allows Viessmann to reassign capacity according to business needs. Scalable IT infrastructure supports international growth cost-effectively. Faster time-to-market for introducing new functionality increases competitive advantage.
Viessmann, a highly successful German manufacturing business, had built its IT infrastructure over time. Many applications had become isolated centres of excellence, with very limited capabilities to share business processes and data.
Ambitious international expansion plans created the requirement to use information globally, to support new overseas offices with shared central processes, such as workflow, helpdesk and sales order systems. The existing fragmented IT architecture was not able to meet the challenge, and Viessmann’s IT department undertook a root-and-branch review.
Working with c.a.r.u.s., an IBM Business Partner, and with IBM, Viessmann has implemented a fully flexible new architecture. Customers, business partners, suppliers and internal staff are all able to gain controlled access to the same business processes, information and resources, regardless of location. Viessmann has transformed a collection of isolated applications into an integrated business system, with minimum disruption and maximum re-use of existing investments.
By treating processes, applications and data as components that can be accessed as services, setting up and growing new overseas offices is greatly simplified. In effect, new offices simply plug in to the components and services they need, with no additional integration or implementation effort. Using the existing hardware technologies, the new IT architecture allows customers and worldwide distributors to place and monitor orders on the web, interacting directly with the Viessmann ERP systems.
Internally, this Service Oriented Architecture gives Viessmann executives real-time insight into group-wide financial data and business performance – again, by accessing the required components and services directly.
For this entire project, Viessmann has been able to re-use its existing investments in IBM technologies efficiently and effectively – a tribute to the flexibility of both IBM Power Systems servers and IBM System Storage disk arrays. The IBM Power Systems servers are able to scale up rapidly to meet demand, and the introduction of flexible IBM middleware software has created portals that connect people, applications and data as necessary.
The approximately 40 IBM Power Systems servers (with POWER5 and POWER6 processors) and the IBM System Storage disk arrays at the central IT location in Allendorf (Germany) have been re-purposed for the new Service Oriented Architecture. These systems serve more than 6,000 internal and 7,000 distributors with up to 10 IT users worldwide. At peak times during summer 2007, this infrastructure serviced nearly 10,000 users concurrently.
The result is that Viessmann is able to grow internationally rapidly and cost-effectively. Powerful, flexible central IT systems are able to scale up to meet demand, while sales offices and engineering departments are free to focus on revenue and innovation.
“Being able to react to changing conditions faster than other companies gives Viessmann a competitive advantage. By following a service-oriented architecture approach with IBM we can now include business partners in internal processes noticeably faster and more economically than with other, traditional methods. We can now provide our specialized departments with the new functions they need far more quickly than ever before,” says Dirk Klöckner, General Manager, Viessmann IT Service GmbH.
Winning team: Viessmann, c.a.r.u.s. and IBM
The Viessmann Group was founded in 1917 and is headquartered in Allendorf, Hessen.
Dr. Martin Viessmann is the third generation of the Viessmann family to manage the company. In 2006, the Group turned over €1,400 million and employed 7,400 people, with export sales accounting for more than 60 per cent of turnover.
Viessmann’s orientation is decidedly international – it maintains 12 factories in Germany, France, Canada, Poland, Austria and China, with sales organizations in Germany and 35 other countries, as well as 120 sales offices around the world.
Viessmann is well prepared for the challenges of the future. Apart from highly efficient condensing technology for oil and gas heating systems, it offers advanced heating systems for renewables, solar, wood and natural heat.
The comprehensive product range offers advanced heating systems for every type of fuel and for every output range, from 1.5kW to 20,000kW, including the controlling systems, data communication, and system peripherals such as radiators and floor heating systems.
Despite their diversity, the company’s products have one thing in common: a high standard of quality throughout the entire product line, which translates into reliability, energy savings, environmental friendliness and operational comfort. Having an international presence and being close to its customers is important for Viessmann.
For more information, visit http://www.viessmann.com.
c.a.r.u.s. Information Technology GmbH, Hannover
c.a.r.u.s. Information Technology GmbH Hannover was founded in 1995. Its comprehensive business activities include neutral and independent consultation, concept and project realization, as well as continuous support for IT infrastructures. c.a.r.u.s. is an authorized IBM Premier Business Partner, specialized in selling IBM systems and software. Large and small companies, as well as public authorities in northern and central Germany are among its customers.
The company’s main focus is on developing high-availability solutions for enterprise-critical applications, optimization of server and storage systems, data protection and archiving, Storage Area Networks (SAN), Network Attached Storage (NAS), Linux, and middleware such as IBM WebSphere. c.a.r.u.s. has many years of experience of SAP applications, and in this context it is a market leader in establishing virtualization technologies in the UNIX/AIX and storage areas. c.a.r.u.s. is certified by SAP for SAP NetWeaver 04 and OS/DB Migration for SAP Systems.
IBM was selected as a partner for both hardware and software solutions, owing to the long-term relationship developed with Viessmann over many years. IBM invests in technology roadmaps over decades, with an outstanding reputation for delivering reliable server and storage infrastructure. c.a.r.u.s. and IBM helped Viessmann to achieve the alignment between business process requirements and the availability of scalable, high-performance IT infrastructure.
The advantage for the IT department is the significant reduction of administrative effort in support cases. “A trusted relationship with both c.a.r.u.s. and IBM technical personnel, familiar with the local infrastructure, strengthened our decision. This is also the basis for joint projects in the future,” says Ulrich Strieder, Head of Unix systems and storage subsystems at Viessmann IT Service GmbH
Business and IT Vision of Viessmann
To ensure growth in the future, Viessmann is focusing on expanding internationally. The changes in market structures in almost all regional markets require an extension of the product portfolio and the development of additional market segments.
This is achieved not only through organic growth but also, increasingly, through corporate acquisition. The Viessmann IT Services Division plays an important role in achieving these ambitious business objectives, and has grown to become an innovator and business enabler.
The IT department focuses on the business needs, which involves a move from old-fashioned application-oriented thinking to the definition of a holistic information technology strategy, which focuses on business processes and is based on enterprise architecture. It delivers both a vision and a reliable and robust framework, and is therefore independent of the functions and features of various solutions by different vendors. This enables the development environment to cope easily with continuous changes. In general, the IT environment is not designed to be static but is under continuous, iterative improvement.
Mandatory for Viessmann’s application architecture is also the definition of principles such as abstraction layers, encapsulation, information hiding, loose coupling and modularization.
For example, for new applications the separation of presentation, process and persistence layers, or the interfaces for the integration of new components into the existing landscape, need to be defined for implementation governance purposes.
One of Viessmann’s first steps in implementing the new enterprise architecture was the decision to purchase a portal solution, IBM WebSphere Portal Server, at the end of 2002. This server is critical for Viessmann to create a company-wide process platform, as it provides a universal presentation layer as well as role-based access to all relevant business processes and information across the enterprise.
Additionally, new applications supported by the portal display centralized processes in their entirety. It provides internal and external users with a single common entry point to processes and related information. The portal provides the base infrastructure, and integrates the lifecycle of the business processes for suppliers, Viessmann manufacturing, sales, local service engineers, business partners and customers.
In 2006, the worldwide technical service department required a global solution to support the end-to-end business process for fixing technical problems at customer sites.
The requirements of the project demanded the use of a dedicated process engine, IBM WebSphere Process Server, as a missing piece to fulfill their vision of a service-oriented architecture. After a product evaluation and design phase, the INA project started at the end of 2006. INA stands for “Informationscenter Anfragen” or “Question Information and Support Center,” more loosely translated as a knowledge and support center for technical service information.
Viessmann IT adheres to its overall architecture by implementing an independent process level that contains a complete view of all the activities required to carry out Business Process Execution Language (BPEL)-based business processes. The process level controls the flow of these activities, and displays the entire lifecycle of a business process, from definition to setup, execution, measurement, change, and further development.
The foundation of Viessmann’s enterprise architecture is a flexible and high-performance system architecture. There is an interdependency between the business processes and the underlying hardware and software components: the wrong system architecture can be an inhibitor of innovative change and the growth of an enterprise architecture. Viessmann benefits from the flexibility of its IT infrastructure as an enabler.
Process-centric application: INA (Informationscenter Anfragen)
How it can be built
By the end of 2007, up to 50 technical service agents in Allendorf, Germany, were acting as a customer support call center for the field, dealing with approximately 5,000 service tickets per day.
The INA solution in place is being used as a demonstration of how a system that has touch points to several backend systems and that implements a heterogeneous business process could be built.
The Technical Service Department serves both Viessmann business partners and customers. Currently the main issues of the call center are that:
Workload of the support operators and engineers is not controllable
Workload on the support call center team and development departments is too high
Too many disjunct systems – customer support system, technical staff planning system, several knowledge resources, technical libraries, order system – have to be involved
Too many customer requests are not solved at the first level of the support call center
Lack of statistics giving details on workload, response time and customer satisfaction.
By re-designing and automating the call center business process, Viessmann solved all of its key issues.
The automation of the call center process is based on the integration of IBM WebSphere Portal Server, IBM WebSphere Process Server, Siemens Central Communication Server, Viessmann’s custom applications on SAP, and on Eclipse rich-client technology using a Service Oriented Architecture.
The call center solution consists of several systems, which are displayed in the figure below and described in following bullets:
SAP ERP applications, which store customer and product records
Eclipse-based rich-client front end to enter and edit customer support tickets
Siemens Central Communication Server, which manages the phone calls. This includes receiving and forwarding calls
A Tivoli-based user registry for providing authentication and authorization against WebSphere Process Server and Siemens Central Communication Server
The INA workflow application, which is based on WebSphere Process Server. The INA workflow application communicates with the Siemens Central Communication Server and the rich client using SOAP/HTTP. The communication to SAP uses the Viessmann middleware and is based on the SAP Java API and Remote Function Calls (RFC).
One requirement of this project was to provide an integrated workplace for the technical service agent, which displays all necessary application components in one place. The INA front-end is designed as a centrally managed client (Smart Client), technically based on Eclipse Rich Client Platform (RCP). At first sight this seems to run contrary to the portal strategy of Viessmann. The technical constraints of a telephony system (such as call handling) do not allow the connection to any Web- or portal-based user interface (UI).
Because Viessmann’s integration architecture separates the presentation layer from the process and application layer, it was easy to decide in favor of the Smart Client solution.
Of course, it was necessary to re-implement areas of the UI – for example the order plug-in or the customer plug-in – but the critical parts such as the application logic (re-use of business objects) of these components are untouched!
The automated process in detail
Following the Viessmann design principle, all connections to the back-end systems are consequently implemented using Web service interfaces and the Viessmann middleware. This includes encapsulating old components using Web service wrappers or native Web services.
The INA business process is started as soon as a new call is received:
First, the operator asks the customer for a customer number or name and enters the information into the rich-client front end. Every operator has this front end installed on his or her computer. The front end communicates with the INA business process. The business process retrieves the customer record and products related to that customer from the SAP applications. The customer and product information, which may contain former issues with the product, is displayed to the operator.
In a second step, the operator creates a problem ticket: The operator gathers the problem description from the customer and enters it into the front end. Also using the front-end client, the operator categorizes the problem and assigns it to a so-called skill set.
The operator may solve the problem ad hoc. In some cases he or she needs to order a spare part as part of the problem solution. For this, the operator opens the order process plug-in, which reuses an existing order process component. Then the operator saves the solution and notifies the customer directly in the existing call.
If the operator cannot solve the problem, the problem ticket is forwarded to a Support Engineer based on the assigned skill set. The ticket forwarding is conducted by the INA business process based on WebSphere Process Server. In parallel, the call is forwarded by the Siemens Central Communication Server. If no Support Engineers are available at that moment, the call is closed and the customer will be called back within a defined time. If the customer is not called back within the defined time, the INA process escalates to a call center manager. The manager can then increase the priority of the ticket to make sure the customer is called back as soon as possible.
The Support Engineer receives the problem ticket and tries to solve it. If the Support Engineer cannot solve it, he or she will forward it to the next level and so forth. The highest level of support is the Viessmann development department.
As soon as the problem is solved, the customer is notified and the ticket is stored in a Knowledge Base, which can be accessed by operators and engineers. The Knowledge Base helps to improve the productivity and problem-solving efforts.
“The advantages of a service-oriented architecture are easy to see here. INA is a good example of the reuse of business processes and services in different contexts. We are reusing the telephony plug-in of the smart client for the internal IT service desk solution.
“In the near future we plan to deploy INA world wide. We designed the solution for about 100 call center operators with an estimated workload of more than 8,000 customer support requests per day. In this case the solution can prove its advantages because it is multi-language and independent of local phone installations or other IT infrastructure. The only thing necessary is a PC, a headset and a WAN connection!”
– Dirk Klöckner, General Manager, Viessmann IT Service GmbH.
Viessmann system architecture
Applications in Viessmann IT
Enterprise Resource Planning: SAP ERP (1 client)
Groupware: Lotus Notes
Office productivity: StarOffice
Enterprise Content Management (ECM): Filenet (Document & Web Content Management), Document Archive: Easy Archive
Business Intelligence (BI): Data Warehouse by Business Objects, Business Analytics and OLAP-DB TM/1
Other systems: CAD, Image Processing, Manufacturing Control, etc.
The main back-end system landscape runs on IBM Power Systems and AIX infrastructure. The central IT location in Allendorf has two data centers hosting multiple applications on IBM Power Systems servers and IBM System Storage disk arrays. These serve more than 6,000 internal and 7,000 external IT users (business partners) worldwide. At peak times during summer 2007, this infrastructure serviced nearly 10,000 users concurrently.
The server infrastructure comprises approximately 40 Power Systems servers, mainly IBM POWER5 processor-based and (so far) four IBM POWER6 processor-based systems, where the availability of the applications is key to Viessmann.
The storage infrastructure consists of a SAN (based on an IBM DS8300) and various NAS devices (including N7600, N5500 and N5200 systems). The use of Remote Mirror and Copy (RMC) and MetroCluster technology is key to data availability and compliance requirements.
The IT requirements are derived from the following workload:
Total IT Users (internal): 7,000 (this includes 2,500 named SAP ERP users and 4,100 portal users)
Extranet Users (business partners): 7,000
In July 2007 Viessmann measured a peak load of nearly 10,000 concurrent users on the portal overall (internal and external).
Software release combination (and related SAP components):
Database Oracle 10 g
Operating System AIX 5.3
All applications run on 64-bit technology
SAP application: SAP ERP 2005 on Unicode
The physical server infrastructure is continuously growing, consisting mainly of POWER5 processor-based systems, some remaining POWER4 and the first POWER6 systems today.
In general 8GB main memory per core is installed. All important applications are configured in pairs, which can provide application availability in case of a disaster, such as a fire at one location. The two datacenters are roughly 300m apart. Failover from one system to another is currently a manual process, not yet using automated services from cluster software.
Viessmann had replaced its complete storage environment by the end of 2006. The SAN and NAS infrastructure was continuously improved during 2007.
The underlying strategy for the SAN infrastructure is to divide the storage into three classes:
Class 1: data is mirrored by the storage sub-system by the “remote mirror and copy” (RMC) technology.
Class 2: data is mirrored by the application, for example Lotus Notes replication mechanisms
Class 3: data is not mirrored at all (such as data on non-critical test systems)
Everything is defined as RAID 5, which ensures the data availability within one location.
Capacity: Two DS8300 central SAN storage 27TB net each. One system has RAID capacity net total of 26.5TB. The capacity assigned to all application systems total is 17.5TB, and roughly 80 to 90 per cent is in use by the applications.
For class 1, RMC is licensed via a DS8300 feature. RMC has the advantage of being operating-system independent. That means there is one central front end where the redundancy is configured for the whole SAN, for example on the DS8000 storage manager.
To avoid performance bottlenecks, the 24 DS8300 I/O adapters are split into three groups. There are 8 connected to the AIX servers, 6 to the Windows servers and 10 are reserved for the RMC traffic.
Experience gained with other customers has shown that if DS8300 I/O adapters are connected to servers running different operating systems, unpredictable errors could occur on the I/O adapters. Splitting the adapters into the three groups avoids this issue.
Monitoring the SAN
Viessmann uses the IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center to monitor the usage and trends for the SAN infrastructure.
In addition to the usage of TotalStorage Productivity Center, the DS systems have a direct dial-up connection to IBM. Regular status and health information is sent to IBM to enable preventive maintenance.
The NAS storage covers the tasks of archiving and Windows file services. Each task is assigned its own N series cluster. The -A20 models come with two heads, which allows the physical separation over two locations by activating the “stretched MetroCluster” functionality. SyncMirror is a part of MetroCluster and is used for data replication between the two locations. The direction of the arrow shows the source (data) and target (mirror) volume.
Key requirements: entry-level performance, high capacity, low-cost hardware : N5200–A20.
The SnapLock feature is used for data retention, where the data cannot be changed nor deleted for a defined period of time (typically 10 years). This complies with GDPdU, a regulatory requirement issued by the German Ministry of Finance concerning data retention.
Windows file services
Key requirements: high-performance disks, entailing more and smaller spindles, fiber channel attached
Initially this was N5500–A20 sharing directories for user data, home and profile directories, and so on. At a later point in time it was decided to extend and offload the N5500 system with a newly announced N7600-A20 cluster model.
Monitoring is manual, using the built-in “Filer At-A-Glance” functionality of IBM System Storage N series. This activity is planned to be executed with the central front-end application operations manager in the near future.
Additionally, regular status and health information is sent via email to selected user IDs and to IBM to enable preventive maintenance.
Backup / Recovery infrastructure
For Viessmann, IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) is the tool of choice for backup and recovery for all applications running in the system landscape. The N series systems are also backed up using NDMP (Network Data Management Protocol) directly without involving the connected servers.
TSM servers are located in both data centers, connected via redundant network paths to a third location hosting a 3494 tape library. The tape library is equipped with 2,000 cassettes, each providing an average capacity of 700GB. With fourteen 3590 tape drives, Viessmann can write data extensively in parallel; the SAP ERP database of 1.7TB can be backed up (online and LANfree) in less than two hours.
One of the motivations for Viessmann to look at IBM virtualization technologies was the observation of server sprawl (multi-tier application structures and system landscapes, standby and failover systems, etc).
IBM PowerVM provides leading functionalities such as Micro-Partitioning, shared processor pools and virtual I/O servers. Viessmann currently leverages only parts of this functionality. The CPUs in the systems are setup in a shared pool and the applications are defined in LPARs (see table in chapter 5.3). This has the advantage that the LPARs balance each other out when there are peaks at different times in the systems, and thus the hardware is better utilized over time.
Another benefit of implementing virtualization technologies is the very short reaction time to workload changes. A measurement during summer 2007 discovered peaks in the range of seconds in CPU utilization. Only PowerVM can cope with this in a 10 millisecond adjustment timeframe. Other mechanisms like software-based provisioning or orchestration tools have much longer reaction times, and because of that response behavior do not offer a valid option.
Besides the usual product-centric requirements such as change management, testing, extensions and release upgrades of software components, a more fundamental strategy is pursued by Viessmann: The cooperation of lines of business and the IT organization will be further intensified. As a result of this process-centric way of thinking and working, a new team with the role of business analysts was defined.
The “Requirements engineering and consulting” team is the partner and focal point within the business department to define the solution. This group initiates the project and accompanies the necessary iterative steps until the hand-over of the solution. For Viessmann this is a mandatory part of the SOA governance strategy.
Accounting and charge back
It is planned to implement a full charge-back solution for disk space, and c.a.r.u.s. offers this integrated into the SAP solution manager.
To improve the data availability, the usage of LVM (logical volume manager in AIX) is planned, which will possibly replace the Remote Mirror and Copy feature. In this context, the implementation of IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller (SVC) is under discussion as well.
Even if one of the DS8300 storage subsystems is not available, the application systems should continue to run without interruption. RMC already provides full data availability, but in case of maintenance, operational actions are necessary. Both LVM (from an OS perspective) as well as SVC (with its advanced storage virtualization features) provide suitable capabilities.
Scalability and application expansion
To cover future growth, four POWER6 processor-based IBM Power servers were recently delivered, which are going to run SAP PI (process integration) among other applications. They will replace 10 old systems and help to fulfill the strategy of consolidation and virtualization.
Products and services used
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