IDS Scheer shows how virtualization dramatically simplifies a complex IT infrastructure

Published on 21-Dec-2009

Validated on 18 Jul 2013

IDS Scheer

Computer Services

Deployment country:

IT/infrastructure, Enterprise Resource Planning, Optimizing IT, Optimizing IT, Server Consolidation, Virtualization

IBM Business Partner:
SAP, VMware


IDS Scheer, a market leader in business process management (BPM) software, solutions and services for corporations and public organizations worldwide, has successfully deployed both server and storage virtualization technologies, achieving remarkable results in terms of increased performance and reduced total cost of ownership.

Business need:
Meet demanding customer service level agreements, including: capable of near-continuous operations; rapid recovery in case of unplanned outage; scalable systems able to meet unpredictable demand; commercially attractive pricing for growth; reduce system administration and management overhead and costs; redeploy technical staff from physical systems maintenance to proactive customer-facing tasks.

Simplified system architecture & systems management, virtualizing both servers and storage; reduced physical server estate from 131 physical servers to nine IBM System x3850 M2 servers, each with two Intel Xeon Quad core E7330 2 processors running at 2,4GHz with 128GB memory; implemented VMware VSphere server as the core server virtualization technology; introduced IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller (SVC) to manage 30 IBM System Storage devices, including DS3400, DS4300, DS4700 and DS4800.

Consolidation from 131 physical servers to just nine generates reduces costs; VMware allows production SAP systems to operate continuously, even during planned maintenance; virtual server creation, deployment and start enables IDS Scheer to recover failed systems within 15 minutes; IBM System x3850 M2 servers provide capacity for increase in workload; virtualized systems enable per-usage pricing model; virtualized storage from IBM delivers improved availability and efficiency.

Case Study

Solution overview

Particularly for its SAP applications, provided as managed services to customers, IDS Scheer found that virtualization through VMware® vSphere™ on the IBM System x platform delivered higher performance and greater resilience. The use of IBM DB2 for Linux, Unix and Windows (LUW) added further benefits to the SAP ERP and SAP BW landscapes, shrinking databases and improving response times.

The experience of IDS Scheer demonstrates the power of virtualization technologies on the x86 architecture to provide a stable, secure and scalable solution for even very large-scale SAP application landscapes. The solution also showcases the benefits of IBM storage virtualization technologies for SAP solutions: higher availability, increased mobility and reduced costs.

Executive summary
IDS Scheer is the market leader in Business Process Management (BPM) software, solutions and services for corporations and public organizations worldwide.

The company offers an integrated solution portfolio for the strategic planning, design, implementation and controlling of business processes. Managed service offerings include the provision and hosting of SAP applications, which include almost every SAP software component.

Historically, IDS Scheer has operated its hosting services with one server for each application, for all systems running UNIX, Linux and Microsoft Windows operating systems. Similarly, the storage model has been to add new devices to the SAN as requirements grew. The resulting infrastructure grew in complexity, which tended to reduce flexibility and increase total costs of operation. For example, if a customer workload outgrew a particular server, this prompted a cutover process, starting with new machine procurement and ending with a migration to the new platform. Inevitably there would be some service outage, and every migration carried a degree of risk. The temptation was to over-invest in technology to allow sufficient headroom for later expansion and avoid or delay costly migrations.

As each SAN device reached its capacity limits, new systems were added, resulting in a range of different technologies, performance and connections. In some cases, data would have to be moved to new storage servers, which would require new drivers, creating additional administrative workload as well as potential risk.

Recently, IDS Scheer made the strategic decision to virtualize both server and storage systems, and selected VMware vSphere on IBM System x3850 M2 servers, and IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller (SVC) for its IBM storage devices.

The result of the virtualization program has been a dramatic simplification of the technology infrastructure. IDS Scheer has been able to eliminate more than 120 servers, reduce the IT administration personnel significantly , and consolidate more than 30 storage systems into the single SVC management solution.

For two complete SAP landscapes, DB2 LUW built on the hardware-based savings by optimizing the database layer as well. DB2 reduced the database size significantly, improving performance and reducing administrative effort.

Based on the technology benefits, IDS Scheer is able to deliver higher availability to its customers, faster recovery in the case of disaster, faster scalability in times of increased—or reduced—workload, and more attractive variable pricing models.

Critically, the virtualization strategy gives IDS Scheer a clear roadmap for future development. By abstracting the physical infrastructure from the SAP landscape, new servers and storage systems may be added without requiring changes at the application level. Workload increases, new application instances and data growth can all be accommodated within the virtualized architecture, helping IDS Scheer to continue to enhance its customer service offering free of infrastructure constraints.

About IDS Scheer
Based in Saarbrücken, Germany, IDS Scheer is one of the market leaders in Business Process Management (BPM) software, solutions and services for corporations and public organizations worldwide. The company achieved sales of almost €400 million in 2008, and employs approximately 3,000 people. Serving more than 7,500 customers in over 70 countries, IDS Scheer is built on a strong history of innovation. The company was established in 1984 by Prof. Dr. August Wilhelm Scheer, regarded by many as the founder of BPM.

From small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to the Global 1000, IDS Scheer helps companies optimize their investments in strategic business and technology initiatives, including BPM, service-oriented architecture (SOA), and EA initiatives. The company offers consulting expertise and industry-specific experience with global competencies in consumer packaged goods, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, papers, metals, retail and textile industries, and managed service offerings support the entire business process lifecycle.

IDS Scheer offers customers a comprehensive service portfolio branded as SAP Managed Services, offering SAP application hosting, provision, operation, project, and support services. The organization handles all SAP software-related issues, such as software license management and maintenance, based on clearly defined processes and on a global partnership with SAP.

The challenge
IDS Scheer operates two data centers for its managed service offerings, at Freiburg, for both internal and external customers.

The company hosts a number of SAP small and medium business (SMB) customers in Freiburg. However, the company faced performance issues with its existing IT infrastructure. Because IDS Scheer delivers hosting services to end customers, performance is a critical success factor. The company worried that reduced performance would lead to customer dissatisfaction and harm the company’s business model. In addition, IDS Scheer wanted to focus on lowering its database administration costs, and wanted to implement a solution that would improve performance and lower administration requirements.

In the past, IDS Scheer had operated a one-server one-application model for its hosting services. Larger customers tend to be hosted on UNIX-based servers, while mid-sized and small SAP landscapes are mostly run on the Microsoft Windows operating systems (around 80 percent) with the remainder on Linux. The company manages almost the complete range of SAP components, from SAP R/3 Enterprise solutions up to the latest releases of SAP ERP software. The landscape includes SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse and SAP Customer Relationship Management, for example, and other SAP solution components as customer needs dictate.

To meet customer requirements, IDS Scheer has a continuing need for test and development platforms on which to build new client scenarios to demonstrate possible solutions. The test environments are also used as proving grounds for the IDS Scheer services themselves, such as proofs of concept for VMware products or changing system configurations, as well as release testing, for example.

Alongside the servers, the information storage model called for adding SAN devices as requirements grew. The resulting infrastructure grew in complexity, which tended to reduce flexibility and increase total costs of operation.

For example, if a customer workload outgrew a particular server, this prompted a cutover process, starting with new machine procurement and ending with a migration to the new platform. Inevitably there would be some service outage, and every migration carried a degree of risk. The temptation was to over-invest in technology to allow sufficient headroom for later expansion and avoid or delay costly migrations. This over-investment meant not only higher expenditure on physical hardware but also higher costs for powering, cooling and managing the infrastructure.

As each SAN device reached capacity new systems were added, resulting in a range of different technologies, performance and connections. The storage infrastructure was based on approximately 30 IBM System Storage products, including DS3400, DS4300, DS4700 and DS4800, providing a total data capacity of more than 120TB. Depending on the service level agreements with each customer, data was classified according to performance and availability requirements, and allocated to specific storage systems meeting or exceeding those needs.

As requirements changed, data would have to be moved between storage servers, which would require new drivers, creating additional administration workload as well as potential risk. The company wanted to consolidate its worldwide SAP infrastructure to increase hardware availability, lower administration costs and improve overall service quality. To accomplish its goals, IDS Scheer needed to adopt a robust server solution, with virtualization technologies, capable of consolidating the company’s 131 physical servers.

One SAP NetWeaver BW system was reaching the performance boundaries of the existing MaxDB database, making it necessary to find a new database platform. One important pre-requisite was full SAP support for the database when used in a VMware environment.

Server virtualization
The IDS Scheer Managed Services Operations team realized that over the long term, adding physical servers and storage capacity was not sustainable, and took the strategic decision to virtualize both server and storage systems.

The company chose to implement VMware vSphere on IBM System x3850 M2 servers, and IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller (SVC) to consolidate its IBM and other vendors’ storage devices.

The process has allowed IDS Scheer to consolidate 131 physical servers onto nine IBM System x3850 M2 servers, each with two Intel Xeon Quad core E7330 2 processors running at 2.4GHz, with 128 GB RAM. Using 15 instances of VMware VSphere virtualization technology, IDS Scheer has created 70 virtual servers – more than seven per physical server –supporting the entire internal and external customer landscape. The servers run a mix of Linux (20 percent) and Microsoft Windows (80 percent) operating systems, the latter in versions dating from Windows NT Server onwards.

The four-socket x3850 M2 server can be upgraded to become an x3950 M2 server, which itself scales from 2 to 16 processor sockets, enabling it to support very large data sets. Competing server offerings from other vendors scale only to 4 sockets. Both the x3850 M2 and x3950 M2 offer higher performance than competing offerings, while consuming up to 20 percent less electricity - an important benefit in an era of fast-rising energy prices and concerns about carbon footprints.

IBM System x enterprise servers feature IBM X-Architecture technology, bringing mainframe-inspired resilience, availability and scalability to the x86 architecture. Even large, complex SAP environments can now be reliably migrated to IBM System x, enabling enterprises to maintain the service levels and performance of a UNIX-based environment but at a fraction of the cost.

SAP database serving has long been seen as the preserve of high-end UNIX-based servers, both for its high resource demands and for its business-critical nature. The x3850 M2 and x3950 M2 combine high performance and scalability with high availability and fault-tolerant components, making it feasible even for large enterprises to run SAP databases on x86 hardware. The resilience and reliability of IBM System x are particularly important in a consolidated environment, where a failure would affect many systems.

“SAP databases are a demanding environment to support, and of course VMware offers better performance if more hardware resources are available,” says Mats Johansson, head of Managed Services Operations. “Due to its scalability and performance, the IBM System x3850 M2 is extremely well suited to server consolidation and virtualization - not least because VMware vSphere 4 was developed on this machine.”

IDS Scheer is currently operating the x3850 M2 servers with two processors, offering considerable capacity for growth. IDS Scheer updates its systems on a regular basis, and will use x3950 M2 in the future.

VMware vSphere brings cloud computing to IT infrastructure by insulating applications from the underlying hardware. Multiple servers can be grouped together and presented as a single computing resource through the infrastructure and application services layers, viewed and managed by the VMware vCenter™ suite (see Figure 1, below). Compared with the alternative approach of one-application-per-server, this model delivers better performance for high transactional loads, and easier management. As management tends to represent the largest single cost in SAP software operations, this is an important benefit.

Resources managed by VMware vSphere can be directed to applications as required, and individual hardware failures do not affect application continuity.

Storage virtualization with SVC
Based on the success of the server virtualization project, the IDS Managed Service Team decided, initially only for the Windows and VMware landscapes, to introduce SAN virtualization using SAN Volume Controller (SVC).

The storage virtualization program was principally defined with the same business objectives that led to the server virtualization strategy:

Higher availability

  • Increase the availability of synchronized data from either data center
  • Improve the level of mirror and snapshot functionality
  • Reduce planned downtime for maintenance
  • Introduce resilient systems with disaster recovery capabilities

  • Provide uniform management and monitoring of all storage

  • Simplify Phase-In, Phase-Out scenarios when changing storage systems, without the need to reconfigure any server
Cost Reductions
  • Cut costs through reductions in licenses for mirroring, partitioning, copying and similar products
  • Introduce provision of ‘Storage as a Service’ as a baseline for the calculations of new Managed Service Customers

Over time, IDS Scheer had gathered approximately 30 IBM System Storage products, including DS3400, DS4300, DS4700 and DS4800, providing a total data capacity of more than 120TB. Purchased at different times and according to the particular customer need, the devices offered varying performance, capabilities (such as mirroring, RAID and clustering), resulting in 50 different types of storage volumes (types of LUNs).

With the SVC solution, applications no longer attach directly to the physical hardware, and instead the available storage is pooled into and presented by SVC. Data can be moved from one physical device to another, even during production, without requiring any application-level changes.

According to SVC best practices, IDS Scheer created for every storage volume type one SVC Managed Disk Group (MDG). Out of these MDGs, Virtual Disks (LUNs) are created, provisioned to the applications. Now IDS Scheer is able to consolidate these multiple MDGs into just a few, in a way that is completely transparent to the applications.

It has become a straightforward matter to manage tiered storage requirements, or to introduce new and retire old physical systems for Phase-In Phase-Out, and the single SVC interface meets IDS Scheer’s request for centralized control. Being able to move data without disrupting production has also allowed IDS Scheer to reduce planned downtime for maintenance to near-zero, providing there is sufficient spare capacity to accommodate temporary needs.

Additionally, SVC allows ‘orphaned’ unused capacity on devices to be pooled and used as a single storage resource. On 30 systems, even modest recovery of unused space can contribute to very large extra capacity, and each device can therefore be used to its theoretical maximum.

SVC has also allowed IDS Scheer to introduce resilient systems with disaster recovery capabilities, through the Stretch-Cluster-Concept.

SVC VDisks technology makes ‘RAID1’ protection of data possible across the two computing centers, which are in fact 8km apart—and still seen as just one storage system by the applications. Without requiring anything other than a suitable dark fiber connection with sufficient capacity and low latency, SVC introduces what amounts to industry-standard data protection at a price point that other specialized solutions for geographically distant sites cannot match.

“We use IBM SAN Volume Controller in active/active configuration,” says Mats Johansson, Head of Managed Services Operations. “The benefit is the ability to transparently switch production in the event of a failure at one site. It’s a very elegant solution, and the VMware environment is completely “unaware” that anything has changed, even though its storage has moved 8km away! Using SVC in this way also saves time and effort compared to conventional failover solutions. We used to have a lot of stress in switching from primary to secondary sites, because it was easy to forget configuration changes that you had recently made on one side and needed to reflect on the other side.”

Carl-Philipp Müller, Data Center Manager, adds: “For us, storage virtualization based around IBM SAN Volume Controller is an essential addition to a modern, future-friendly IT infrastructure that allows us to respond flexibly to the dynamics of our customers’ outsourcing requirements.”

A “no-single-point-of-failure” concept was very important to IDS Scheer, and so two different dark fiber connections were ordered from the network service provider, with two different access points in every location (see figure 2, below).

Database selection
To host its customers’ SAP system databases, IDS Scheer implemented IBM DB2 version 9.5 for Linux, UNIX and Windows.

IDS Scheer had very positive experience of using DB2 on IBM Power Systems, in particular the stability and performance of the database on this platform. For this reason, DB2 on IBM System x with VMware was a logical consequence, especially given the excellent relationship between IBM and SAP based on the “DB2 Optimized for SAP Software” initiative.

IDS Scheer typically runs SAP ERP and SAP BW systems on Microsoft Windows and Linux as two- or three-tier implementations on DB2; the company recommends this solution for new customers. One of the major points in favor of DB2 is non-technical: it’s about the availability for production environments. DB2 is fully supported by IBM, SAP and VMware for virtualized environments (see SAP note: 1130801) which is currently not the case for Oracle.

“The “IBM DB2 optimized for SAP software” joint-initiative between IBM and SAP has provided numerous technological advantages to IDS Scheer,” says Holger Stasch, Senior Database Expert at IDS Scheer. “For new SAP implementations, we recommend IBM DB2 as the best database option based on innovative technology and unmatched SAP integration—resulting in best value for investment.”

Right from the outset, the SAP installation process includes DB2 installation, which therefore enables non-disruptive installations. This is followed by the DB2 configuration stage, which is also integrated in the installation process through the setting of the corresponding registry variable. This variable implicitly activates all settings that are important for an SAP system. The automation during the installation process helps avoid errors that can occur during manual configuration.

IDS Scheer uses most of the autonomic capabilities that DB2 offers for SAP installations as the default for new installations. These capabilities include: automatic tablespace resize, real-time statistics and STMM (self tuning memory management)—powerful tools that work together to reduce the administrative effort to a minimum.

Equally important is DB2 compression, which significantly reduces the required storage for SAP applications. It also significantly reduces the required main memory and I/Os, and can improve response times for end users. Finally, DB2 compression also ensures smaller backup images stored in the Tivoli Storage Manager system. Thanks to tight integration between the IBM middleware solutions, the free-of-charge interface between DB2 and Tivoli Storage Manager offers significant advantages over competing solutions. For example, DB2 can store logfiles automatically in Tivoli Storage Manager; this is not possible with Oracle and MaxDB, and may cause these databases to stop operations.

The installed solutions are all based on two virtual CPUs with a total of between 8GB and 16GB main memory, deployed as two- or three-tier implementations. The storage is mapped to one partition where all the sapdatas reside; this is then mapped via the VMware abstraction layer to the SAN LUNs.

IDS Scheer uses virtualization across the entire SAP landscape: production, development and test systems. This allows performance peaks to be handled using VMware VMotion, a tool that allows live SAP systems to be migrated to more powerful or less utilized servers in a way that is completely transparent to the end user. At present, this feature is not used automatically for production systems; IDS Scheer uses VMware VMotion to move SAP workloads for planned maintenance. In the case of a complete system failure, the VMware environment can be restarted on another machine rapidly enough to fulfill the negotiated SLAs. This process could be easily accelerated through the use of DB HADR, which would enable essentially downtime-free operation if the SLAs require this in the future.

Results achieved and future plans
IDS Scheer intends to exploit the scalability of the x3850 M2 to its full extent, by adding processors if required, or by upgrading to new models with Intel Xeon 7500 series processors when available in 2010 (codenamed Nehalem EX). Even though the virtualization of systems introduces a small workload overhead, the performance advantages available through flexible processor pooling and allocation mean that the VMware approach is now IDS Scheer’s long-term strategy for infrastructure management. Performance improvement is achieved because each x3850 M2, running several VMware virtual machines, utilizes 60 percent of available processor cycles, whereas processor utilization on unvirtualized servers is typically closer to 10 percent.

In practice, IDS Scheer has found that it is possible to over-commit processor capacity, and run the x3850 M2s at higher than expected density but continue to achieve excellent performance and meet service level agreements. Even where workloads coincide, VMware vSphere allocates tasks efficiently across the available processor resources, and the high-performance x3850 M2 infrastructure is capable of meeting the processor workload and main memory requirements.

For SAP instances clustered across several physical systems, the virtualized solution also provides remarkable resilience. At one time, a four-processor cluster experienced a processor failure, and yet the system continued to meet the agreed SLAs, auto-generating a request to replace the failed CPU.

A more common situation occurs when the team chooses to increase memory capacity, with the time of the change planned in advance. The server in question can be withdrawn from the cluster, upgraded, and rejoined with no service interruption. If the application happens to reside on a single server, IDS Scheer can use VMware VMotion to move the live application over the LAN to another virtual server while the maintenance is being completed, then move it back again.

With this kind of flexibility, IDS Scheer has been able to introduce new, more flexible ways to charge its internal and external commercial clients for its managed services. The combined capabilities of the x3850 M2 servers, SVC and VMware technologies mean that infrastructure resources can be matched more precisely to business needs. Capacity that had formerly been unused, such as the 90 percent or so of idle processor capacity in Windows-based systems, can be released for productive use to other customers.

Thanks to server and storage virtualization from VMware and IBM, IDS Scheer now has a more flexible, efficient and compact IT infrastructure. Power and cooling requirements have fallen on a per-server basis, because multiple virtual servers can run on each physical machine. For the same reason, rackspace requirements are also, in relative terms, lower. Due to business growth, the infrastructure and power consumption have actually increased at IDS Scheer, but by a much smaller amount than would have been necessary in a non-virtualized environment. Combined with an increase in staff productivity due to streamlined operations, IDS Scheer is a model of virtualized efficiency.

VMware (NYSE: VMW), the global leader in Business Infrastructure Virtualization, delivers proven virtualization solutions—from the desktop through the datacenter and to the cloud—that energize business, while saving energy. IT organizations in companies of all sizes rely on VMware and its industry-leading platform, VMware vSphere, to achieve a more efficient, controlled and flexible IT environment. With 2008 revenues of $1.9 billion and more than 150,000 customers and 22,000 partners, VMware delivers the world’s most trusted solutions for virtualization, a strategic initiative that consistently ranks as a top priority among CIOs.

Products and services used

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

Storage: DS3400, Storage: DS4000, Storage: DS4700 Express, Storage: DS4800, System x, System x: System x3850 M2

DB2 for Linux, UNIX and Windows

Operating system:
Novell SUSE Linux, Win NT/2003

IBM-SAP Alliance

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