Belarusian Railways transforms operations and reporting with SAP and IBM

Published on 07-Jan-2009

Validated on 18 Jul 2013

"With the SAP ERP application running on IBM System z and IBM Power servers, we also have the scalability we need to cope with the enormous growth in volumes on our rail network." - Igor Otliga, Data Centre Manager at Belarusian Railways

Belarusian Railways

Travel & Transportation

Deployment country:

Enterprise Resource Planning, Optimizing IT

IBM Business Partner:


Belarusian Railways is the organization responsible for the maintenance and operation of the 5,500km rail network in Belarus. Situated in the centre of Europe, Belarus is a vital hub for the flow of people and cargo across the continent.

Business need:
The more than 200 enterprises that constitute Belarusian Railways each have their own business processes and reporting methods. The constant growth in freight volumes and passenger numbers was making it difficult to maintain a clear view of business activity across the organizational structure. Manual consolidation of financial data across the rail network was unable to keep pace with expansion. It was vital to ensure efficient mutual operations by transforming information management.

Belarusian Railways selected the SAP ERP application, implementing the database tier on IBM System z and the application servers on IBM Power Systems servers. The organization has one z800 and two IBM System z9 Business Class servers for the SAP environment, supported by IBM DB2 9. The z9 BC servers have two standard engines and two IBM System z9 Integrated Information Processor engines. Two further z800 servers run ticketing and freight management applications.

SAP ERP provides a consistent view of activity and financial information across the organization, enabling faster, more accurate reporting and an improved level of control in mutual operations. With the SAP databases running on the IBM System z platform, Belarusian Railways ensures round-the-clock availability and is able to handle spikes in demand with no loss of productivity. The IBM and SAP solution will enable Belarusian Railways to continue its rapid growth cost-effectively.

Case Study

Belarusian Railways is the organization responsible for the maintenance and operation of the 5,500km rail network in Belarus. Situated in the centre of Europe, Belarus is a vital hub for the flow of people and cargo across the continent.

The Belarusian rail network is directly linked with those in Poland (via a break-of-gauge), Lithuania, Latvia, Russia and Ukraine – and onwards to Western Europe and Asia. Cargo traffic on the network is currently doubling every 36 months, and both domestic and international passenger numbers are growing.

Belarusian Railways is an umbrella organization covering more than 200 different enterprises, and its responsibility is to integrate their activities and enable consolidated management. For example, a cargo consignment will pass through many different operating regions, with appropriate transfers and, of course, revenue allocations, involving extremely complex material and financial flows.

Igor Otliga, Data Centre Manager at Belarusian Railways, explains: “We needed to support highly complex financial and material flows across the rail network, and to be able to eliminate the fragmentation and delays in reporting. In order to orchestrate the mutual activities of the enterprises that operate the rail network, it was vital to have a single software tool capable of linking together the underlying business processes and enabling rapid, transparent top-level reporting.”

Need for speedy information delivery

The fragmented organizational structure of the participating rail companies made reporting slow and inconsistent. It took a long time for paper-based information to travel from the lower-level business units up to the top-level management, and it was difficult to develop and monitor any meaningful performance-management metrics.

Even when all the information had been collected, there was still considerable work required to validate it and create an accurate view.

“As part of our selection process, we looked at how other national railway networks were approaching similar challenges, and found that they were using SAP ERP,” says Igor Otliga. “Following a successful pilot project, we worked with International Business Alliance and IBM to roll out SAP ERP across our entire organization.”

Choosing the right platform

Belarusian Railways was already relying on the IBM System z mainframe platform to run its high-volume, mission-critical ticketing and freight management systems. As the new SAP environment would need to offer round-the-clock availability and the ability to manage enormous peaks in transactions, Belarusian Railways realized that only the mainframe would provide a suitable platform for the SAP databases.

“Almost every functional aspect of our distributed organization runs 24 hour a day, seven days a week,” explains Igor Otliga. “We need to have continuous access to data at all times – not just financial data, but also data for materials management, asset management, maintenance, and so on. In our opinion, only IBM System z could reliably handle the enormous number of transactions and offer permanent availability. Equally, System z was the only platform that could handle unpredictable peaks in demand without any risk of failure.”

IBM engines: ideal for heavy workload

As a pilot project, Belarusian Railways implemented a financial application based on SAP ERP on one of three IBM System z model 800 servers – the other two being used for ticketing and freight management.

For the full deployment of SAP applications – including financial and cost accounting, materials management, sales and distribution, and further modules customized by International Business Alliance – Belarusian Railways implemented two IBM System z9 Business Class servers. These run DB2 9 for z/OS to support the SAP databases, and each have two standard engines and two IBM System z9 Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) engines. The zIIP engines deliver high-performance transaction processing at reduced cost, freeing up general computing capacity and improving resource optimization.

For the SAP application servers, Belarusian Railways uses IBM System p5 570 servers and IBM Power 570 servers. The IBM Power 570 servers use the latest IBM POWER6 processor technology, offering class-leading performance and efficiency. Data storage is also handled by IBM hardware: Belarusian Railways has three IBM TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server systems and two IBM System Storage DS8300s, and will introduce an IBM System Storage DS8100 in the coming months.

“IBM System z provides a totally stable and reliable platform for our mission-critical SAP data, enabling us to manage enormous transactional volumes with ease,” says Igor Otliga. “The performance of IBM Power servers is also very impressive, and the same goes for the IBM storage technologies.”

He adds: “One of the key advantages of running the SAP databases on the mainframe is that DB2 9 for z/OS is certified by SAP and offers very close integration with the ERP software. There are more than 50 embedded features in DB2 that help optimize SAP requests, ensuring that it delivers optimal performance.”

Belarusian Railways has added IBM System x servers to its infrastructure to run the SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence component. The System x servers offer excellent price-performance for running complex business intelligence queries.

One of the major advantages of the solution is the tight integration with the IBM software stack: Belarusian Railways uses IBM Tivoli Storage Manager to automate the backup and recovery processes for all system.

The highly automated Tivoli Storage Manager solution provides flexibility in backup and recovery, delivers detailed information on backup and performance status, and eliminates a great deal of repetitive administrative workload. To improve its business continuity capabilities, the organization is working with IBM to plan a dual-data-centre architecture that will use IBM PowerHA (formerly HACMP) and IBM Geographically Dispersed Parallel Sysplex (GDPS) to mirror its IBM Power Systems and System z servers respectively.

“IBM was the only vendor able to provide the entire solution architecture – spanning hardware, software and services – from a single source,” says Igor Otliga.

Rapid information provides clear signals

With SAP ERP in place, Belarusian Railways now has a consistent, standardized environment for business process management and a ‘single version of the truth.’ All information entered by subsidiary companies is immediately available in centralized reporting, and all business activities are transparent.

The practical elimination of manual consolidation and information exchange not only pushes down administrative costs but also makes the entire organization more scalable – an important factor giving the continuous rise in business volumes.

“The key benefit of using SAP ERP is that it maintains a consistent set of information about all business activities in a single place,” says Igor Otliga. “There is no longer any need for lengthy manual consolidation of data, which not only accelerates reporting and reduces administration costs but also significantly improves accuracy by eliminating re-keying errors. With consolidated information provided by the SAP solution, we have achieved the required transparency and unification of business processes across the railway network.”

Running a better railway

Belarusian Railways continues to work closely with IBA, both to roll out new SAP functionality and to modernize its freight management application. This is being re-written to support different pricing options, multiple currencies and routing optimization, and is moving from CICS to IBM WebSphere.

“The support from IBA, IBM and SAP is excellent, and we feel we have the right partners in place to help us tackle future challenges,” concludes Igor Otliga. “With the SAP ERP application running on IBM System z and IBM Power servers, we also have the scalability we need to cope with the enormous growth in volumes on our rail network. The IBM and SAP solution is therefore helping us to cement Belarus’ status as one of the principal hubs for rail transport in Europe.”

Products and services used

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

Power Systems, Storage: DS8100, Storage: DS8300, Storage: Enterprise Storage Server, System p: System p5 570, System x, System z: System z9 Business Class (z9 BC)

DB2 for z/OS, Tivoli Storage Manager

Operating system:
AIX, z/OS and OS/390

GTS ITS Server: Server Optimization & Integration Services, IBM-SAP Alliance, GTS Data Center Services

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