Achieving rapid high-volume billing with SAP and IBM

Published on 03-Jul-2008

Validated on 01 Aug 2013

Customer:
Government and Retail Clients

Industry:
Government, Retail, Travel & Transportation

Deployment country:
Germany

Solution:
Business-to-Consumer, Enterprise Resource Planning, Optimizing IT, Virtualization

IBM Business Partner:
SAP AG

Overview

The emergence of incremental charging – for services as diverse as music downloads and road billing – has led to an explosion in billing transaction volumes. Transactions generated from multiple sources (such as phones, the Internet, traffic cameras, shops and public transport pass cards) can create a complex payment scenario composed of numerous steps.

Business need:
Industries such as road and congestion charging, public transport, postal services, telecommunications and Internet shopping all face similar mass billing challenges, with enormous numbers of service events to process. Handling these mass volumes requires the creation of a highly scalable billing engine. This is a significant IT challenge – and IBM and SAP can provide the solution.

Solution:
The SAP Event Detail Billing engine is able to store, handle and process the millions of records received by the back office on a daily basis. An IBM and SAP proof of concept for the solution, running on IBM Power Systems hardware with PowerVM virtualization and DB2 database technologies, has demonstrated that the engine is able to process enormous volumes of transactions rapidly and reliably.

Benefits:
For businesses facing the challenge of running a complex, high-volume billing environment, the implication of this proof of concept is clear: IBM and SAP can provide a rapid, robust and highly economical solution that makes the most of hardware resources by leveraging IBM virtualization technologies and the highly optimized DB2 database platform. Using this infrastructure, the Event Detail Billing engine can run a same-day billing system even with relatively modest IT resources.

Case Study

Meeting an exceptional need

The emergence of incremental charging – for services as diverse as music downloads and road billing – has led to an explosion in billing transaction volumes. Transactions generated from multiple sources (such as phones, the Internet, traffic cameras, shops and public transport pass cards) can create a complex payment scenario composed of numerous steps.

For example, in music downloads there may be fees for several different copyright owners, the Internet shop, and the service provider. For road billing the source might be toll cameras, booths and transponders collecting movement information on hundreds of vehicles from different fleet operators, requiring consolidated billing and aggregated invoicing. The revenue collected may generate payments to the local and state authorities, the bank card and network operators, and the traffic systems operator.

Industries such as road and congestion charging, public transport, postal services, telecommunications and Internet shopping all have similar challenges, with enormous numbers of service events.

Handling these mass volumes requires the creation of a highly scalable billing engine. This is a significant IT challenge – and IBM and SAP can provide the solution.

Handling massive volumes
The new mass billing and convergent invoicing solution from SAP is an extension to the contracts accounts receivable and payable component of SAP ERP 6.0.

The Event Detail Billing engine is able to store, handle and process the millions of records received by the back office on a daily basis. Such records are typically received from external systems, rated and then transferred to the billing system in the SAP ERP application – where they are stored, billed with the next bill cycle, and then invoiced.

To understand how this works, take the example of a road tolling system – one of the most complex and challenging high-volume billing scenarios. Each vehicle’s license plate number (LPN) or onboard unit (such as a transponder) is assigned to one billing account. One or multiple billing accounts can be assigned to a contract account, and the contract account is linked to the individual or company that owns the vehicles.

The contract account is the level at which invoicing takes place. Event Detail Records (EDRs) are transferred into SAP ERP using an API (the most appropriate interface for such high data volumes), and each EDR is processed by the billing engine, similar records are aggregated to one invoice line item, and processed further in the SAP ERP financial systems.

This architecture offers great adaptability and flexibility, and is able to adjust to specific project needs. Several billing systems can feed into a single convergent invoicing system – for example, orders from sales and distribution systems, from other billing systems, and from external sources. The solution is able to perform consolidated billing for different services from different providers and send a single invoice to each account holder. This can greatly simplify process management and reduce costs, while providing a solution that is able to scale up rapidly and cost-effectively.

Flexible, adaptable solution
The solution is an extremely flexible and adaptable billing and invoicing engine that allows additional services to be added easily, and is absolutely independent of the technology used to collect the EDRs.

The system provides a powerful backbone that helps to keep your business compliant with present requirements, and can be easily adapted to meet future requirements, too. The solution allows interoperability with other tolling providers and third-party service partners. It offers integration with SAP customer relationship management and business intelligence, delivering a real value-add.

Proving the concept
At the request of the SAP Industry Business Units for Travel and Logistics and for Communications – two sectors that share a need for very high-volume billing capabilities – SAP and IBM conducted a Proof of Concept (PoC) to test the performance and scalability of the EDB system.

The PoC was a collaborative project, completed within the scope of the IBM and SAP Alliance Co-Innovation Initiative for product enablement. Such projects can pave the way for a new SAP product rollout, or a first-of-a-kind high-end implementation using scalable IBM infrastructure.

The objective of the PoC was to reduce risk for customer implementations by ensuring the stability, scalability and performance of the application design, and confirming the database integration functionality. The result would help to define best practices for implementation, verify the design of the database and infrastructure, and generate expert sizing data for the end-to-end solution.

Proof of Concept based on reality
The PoC called on skills across a number of specialty areas within SAP and IBM, and was driven by the IBM SAP International Competence Center (ISICC) in Walldorf. Teams from SAP and IBM Germany provided the specific skills around the application, business processes and SAP performance.

The IBM manufacturing and benchmark center in Montpellier, which traditionally supports major customer stress tests and high-end benchmark requirements, and is also the home of the SAP Customer Solutions Center, provided the high-end landscape and the infrastructure expertise.

The PoC was set up as an ‘enablement project,’ based on known real-world requirements coming from active SAP engagements, rather than on one customer’s specific requirements. This approach enables a single PoC to provide input for many different customer situations, creating reusable collateral around a new SAP product or first-of-a-kind implementation that can help real-world customers to deal with their sizing and implementation challenges.

Key performance indicators tested
The EDB performance and scalability PoC consisted of trials designed to test the new billing engine in typical high-volume billing scenarios, to determine the following key performance indicators (KPIs):

1. The maximum number of EDRs that can be processed per hour by a given hardware platform, by running an end-to-end “service to cash” business process for one million business accounts a day
2. The potential scalability, capacity requirements and processing window for the billing engine with a span of volumes between 50 and 100 million EDRs.

For a scenario with 50 million EDRs per day and a requirement for same-day billing:

3. The minimum hardware investment required to process the EDRs and complete the billing within a daily processing window of eight to ten hours
4. The smallest possible window of time required to process the EDRs and complete the billing.

These KPIs were chosen to map the typical needs of scenarios ranging from road-billing systems for trucks and metropolitan congestion charging systems, all the way up to national all-vehicle road-billing systems.

Proof of Concept achievements
The PoC was designed around simulating a “service to cash” business process with one million business accounts, each of which had 50 EDRs per day, and which needed to provide same-day billing. The maximum window for processing was set at between eight and ten hours. This would simulate a large national all-vehicle road-billing scenario – the most challenging scenario – and would enable the determination of KPIs 1 and 3.

The figures used in the chart below are based on a study completed for an actual large national vehicle road tolling scenario in Europe. The processing workload for contract accounts receivable and payable for billing and invoicing comes to a total of 74,455,200,000 items per year.

This model equates to an average of 200 million EDRs per day, with an expected four million contract accounts to be processed per day, using a monthly billing cycle.

The PoC of the “service to cash” business process demonstrated that the system was able to deliver end-to-end processing of one million billing accounts and 50 million EDRs in 1.5 hours. Based on the IBM infrastructure used in the PoC, the processing of large national all vehicle scenario depicted in the table would take six hours.

Proven ability to handle very large volumes
To ensure high-end throughput, the PoC focused on the new business processes that handle the mass volumes for the billing engine. The data-flow into the system needed to be able to handle extremely high volumes of raw input coming from the collection points.

The EDRs created by the transfer process were aggregated to the appropriate billing accounts in the billing step, and billing documents were created. The invoicing step merged all billing documents from multiple sources into invoice documents for each contract account.

Although the project focused on the known requirements of active road billing and congestion charging scenarios, the same processing model can be applied in many other industries. Telecommunications, postal services (for example, billing for letters, parcels and courier express), public transport smartcard and Internet purchasing scenarios can all be addressed using this solution.

The scalability PoC fulfilled all of the defined KPIs, and demonstrated the solution’s ability to address extremely large billing scenarios. The PoC answered one critical question: can the solution handle the enormous volumes of data that such applications will generate? The answer is that we know now that it can.

Benefits of the IBM Power Systems infrastructure
The PoC was executed using IBM Power Systems servers and IBM PowerVM hardware virtualization, which enables the creation of a shared processor pool. With processor sharing, the system automatically and immediately realigns itself to changes in the load profile and load distribution.

Looking at the CPU utilization graph, we can see how the CPU requirements (and the distribution of these requirements across the database and application) servers vary between the multiple steps of the processing chain. In a three-tier architecture, with dedicated resources, around 60 CPUs would be required to support the peak workload of both the application servers (which occurs during the printing of correspondence) and of the database servers (which occurs during invoicing).

The shared processor pool reacts with flexible resource redistribution to cover the peak workloads, using just 50 physical CPUs. The CPU capacity is not reserved, so it can also be shared with other workloads resident on the same server. Resource distribution can be easily controlled using a simple priority scheme, or through more complex resource guarantees, depending on the service level agreements of the competing workloads. The benefit is the flexibility of dynamically realigning processing capacity, which ensures the most productive use of resources.

Benefits of DB2 database technology
The EDR billing scenario has several characteristics which directly relate to database technology. The influx of mass billing data (EDRs) into the system results in the creation of several extremely large database tables. The table holding the EDR data could be expected to reach several terabytes. The entries in this table will need to be maintained for a given period of time, depending on legal requirements, and then dropped after a set period. In order to facilitate this periodic dropping of data, some type of table partitioning is recommended.

IBM DB2 offers two solutions which fulfill the table data management requirements: range partitioning and Multi Dimensional Clustering (MDC). Of the two, MDC is the preferred approach for SAP solutions and is unique to DB2. MDC not only provides improved query performance, but also offers fast roll-out operations that can facilitate the dropping of data by period grouping, and reduce the data maintenance overhead.

The DB2 Deep Compression feature was used in this proof of concept to compress these very large tables, saving disk and memory space, and reducing I/O overhead. Savings of 75-85% for most of the key largest tables have been realized which would translate into an overall savings of 30 to 40% of the total database size.

Conclusion and information
The PoC has shown that by running the new EDB solution for SAP ERP on Power Systems hardware and DB2, it is possible to process enormous EDR volumes and run a same-day billing system even with relatively modest IT resources.

For businesses facing the challenge of running a complex, high-volume billing environment, the implication of the PoC is clear: IBM and SAP can provide a rapid, robust and highly economical solution that makes the most of hardware resources by leveraging IBM virtualization technologies and the highly optimized DB2 database platform.

To learn more about the solutions from IBM and SAP, visit ibm-sap.com

For more information about SAP products and services, contact an SAP representative or visit sap.com

For more information about IBM products and services, contact an IBM representative or visit ibm.com

For more information on this specific solution, visit ibm.com/support/techdocs/atsmastr.nsf/WebIndex/WP101231

Contacts:
SAP
www.sap.com/contactsap for enquiries/requests
www.sap.com/telecommunications for further info

IBM
For further questions please contact the IBM SAP International Competency Center via isicc@de.ibm.com

Products and services used

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

Service:
IBM-SAP Alliance

Legal Information

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