Published on 28-Nov-2010
Validated on 09 Dec 2013
"The complete integration of the DB2 database with the IBM i operating system is a major advantage of the SAP solution. With DB2 on i, there’s literally nothing to do! We don’t have to mess around with table spaces and optimization as we would with other databases. This helps to keep our operational costs low. " - Joel Kienlen, Infrastructure Manager, Knauf
Construction / Architecture / Engineering, Industrial Products
Business Resiliency, Enterprise Resource Planning, High Availability , Infrastructure Simplification, Optimizing IT, Optimizing IT
IBM Business Partner:
Knauf is a multinational manufacturer of building materials and construction systems. In total, the company employs 23,000 people across more than 150 production sites in 40 countries. Its Wolfgantzen site in France acts as the headquarters for Knauf la Rhénane operations, and also controls the group‘s global activities across injection molding and molded parts. The data center in Wolfgantzen, one of the most important for the group, supports 700 SAP users worldwide on SAP ERP.
With growing business operations on three continents and users in multiple time zones to support, Knauf needed to ensure round-the-clock availability for its business-critical SAP applications. The existing dual-site IT infrastructure enabled the company to fail over production systems from the primary to the backup site but with a delay of at least three hours. Knauf wanted to reduce the potential downtime for planned or unplanned outages to less than one hour.
Knauf upgraded from two IBM System i5 570 servers to two IBM Power 560 servers based on IBM POWER6 technology, and mirrored the internal disks on the IBM Power 560 servers using IBM iCluster technology for operational resilience. The entire SAP software solution – basis, IBM DB2 databases and applications – runs on the IBM Power Systems platform, while auxiliary business applications run on IBM BladeCenter servers.
Moving to the IBM Power 560 servers with IBM POWER6 processors has cut response times for SAP users to just 50 percent of the previous level, enabling greater efficiency, productivity and business responsiveness. The solution has significantly reduced infrastructure complexity and costs. IBM iCluster technology provides real-time replication of SAP data from the production to the backup environment, and enables Knauf to fail over within just 30 minutes.
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Established in 1932, Knauf is a multinational manufacturer of building materials and construction systems. In total, the company employs 23,000 people across more than 150 production sites in 40 countries, generating more than EUR 5 billion in annual turnover. Its Wolfgantzen site in France acts as the headquarters for Knauf la Rhénane operations, and also controls the group‘s global activities across injection molding and molded parts. The data center in Wolfgantzen, one of the most important for the group, supports 700 SAP users worldwide on SAP ERP.
Knauf is continuing to expand its international footprint, opening new production and sales sites across the world. For the Wolfgantzen site, the requirement to support a growing number of operations across three continents translated into a higher demand for availability for the business-critical SAP applications. With hundreds of users across multiple different time zones to support, there was a significantly smaller window for planned downtime and much less tolerance for unplanned downtime. For example, in some countries in which Knauf operates, Sunday is a normal working day - making it impractical to schedule system updates or application enhancements on what would be a non-working day in France.
The existing dual-site IT infrastructure enabled the company to fail over production systems from the primary to the backup site, but enforced a delay of at least three hours while the systems were restarted. Knauf needed to reduce the potential downtime for planned or unplanned outages, and set a target failover time of less than one hour.
Joel Kienlen, Infrastructure Manager, comments: “In finding a new solution that would reduce potential downtime, we also wanted to get more processing power and faster response times for our SAP applications, even while using less energy. In addition, we wanted a simplified infrastructure that would be easier and less costly to operate.”
The existing Knauf infrastructure at Wolfgantzen was based on two IBM System i5 570 servers with IBM POWER5 processors, running IBM i5/OS. The production environment for the SAP applications was running entirely on an i5 570 with 12 active processors, while the backup/disaster recovery machine - located in a second data center - had eight active processors. Data storage was handled on two mirrored IBM System Storage DS8100 devices, one in each data center, with an IBM tape library in the secondary site for data archive. The company also has an IBM BladeCenter solution with an IBM System Storage DS4800 in each of the two sites, running “bolt-on” applications that supplement the SAP systems, covering functions such as fax, Electronic Data Interchange and transportation management. This secondary environment was not within the scope of the planned upgrade.
Convinced by the long-term roadmap for IBM i and IBM Power Systems, Knauf elected to replace its existing i5 570 servers with two new IBM Power 560 servers with IBM POWER6 processors (12 activated out of a total of 16 on the production server, and two activated out of 16 on the backup/DR machine).
The major change for us was the ability to go from two servers and two storage arrays to just two servers,” says Joel Kienlen. “By moving entirely to internal disks in the IBM Power 560 servers, we were able to make the storage architecture technically simpler and more elegant. What‘s more, the new mirroring technology based on iCluster enables us to recover our production systems much faster - typically within just 30 minutes.”
With iCluster on the IBM Power 560 servers, Knauf can replicate SAP data in real time, and no longer needs to spend time and effort configuring the backup server to take over in the event of downtime on the production server.
Says Joel Kienlen, “iCluster provides a perfect fit with SAP software, enabling us to fail over production faster and more easily in the event of any kind of problem or to allow us to perform routine maintenance on the production server. We now have better assurance of high availability for our SAP environment, helping to keep important business systems available for our 700 SAP users worldwide.”
He adds, “The quality of the POWER6 technology was an important factor in our decision, as was the strength of our relationship with IBM, who provide a very attentive service. Of course, we did not really consider any alternatives to the IBM i operating system. We have been using it for a number of years now, building up valuable internal skills and experience, and we find it to be a very stable platform with limited requirements for maintenance.”
The combination of newer, faster POWER6 processors, operating system enhancements and the move to internal disks has delivered a significant boost in performance: response times for SAP applications have been cut in half.
Knauf has been running SAP ERP applications on the IBM i platform for almost ten years, using a broad scope of functionality across sales and distribution management, production, finance and accounting, controlling, warehouse management, materials management and project planning
Prior to using SAP, the company had relied on a variety of internally developed systems, also running on IBM i. As the company grew internationally, it became clear that the cost of adapting these home-grown applications to meet local needs in multiple different countries would be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. Says Joel Kienlen, “Choosing SAP ERP meant we could quickly roll out our existing business process flows and best practices regardless of the country, language or local legal framework. That‘s not something you can realistically do with an internal solution - after all, our core business is not software development!”
With SAP ERP, Knauf can deploy standardized systems and processes in each new country in which it operates, speeding time to market and reducing costs. Equally, the use of a single, global ERP solution makes it fast and easy for senior management to access consolidated financial figures.
More important, a common set of templates and tools for managing all business processes ensures consistency and efficiency across Knauf‘s global operations. Employees can share information, knowledge and best practices more easily, and customers can be sure of the same high standards of service wherever they choose to engage with Knauf.
To further assure high availability for its business-critical SAP environment, Knauf signed a new Enhanced Technical Support contract with IBM Global Technology Services, providing comprehensive maintenance and technical support across IBM hardware and software. IBM Global Technology Services provides regular firmware updates to avoid compatibility issues, and provides a highly responsive service, delivering support within 30 minutes of an issue being raised.
Says Joel Kienlen, “The technical support from IBM is good both for preventing future problems and curing existing ones. The IBM team are highly skilled people and provide a good level of service. In general terms, we‘re very satisfied with the new IBM Power Systems environment; availability and performance were already high on the servers we replaced. The new POWER6 servers build on that, giving us more processing power and better response times with the same security and reliability we have always had from
He adds: “The complete integration of the DB2 database with the IBM i operating system is a major advantage of the SAP solution. With DB2 on i, there‘s literally nothing to do! We don‘t have to mess around with table spaces and optimization as we would with other databases. This helps to keep our operational costs low.”
Smooth, efficient, cost-effective
The move to SAP applications on IBM Power 560 servers with iCluster has created a simpler and more manageable infrastructure at Knauf. In particular, the increased technical simplicity will translate into lower long-term operational costs and reduced demands on technicians. With SAP ERP running on software-replicated IBM Power Systems servers, Knauf has a highly reliable, high-performing yet low-cost platform for consistent global business operations. What‘s more, the solution enabled it to remove a costly tier of storage from its infrastructure, for significant long-term reductions in both capital and operational expenditure.
Joel Kienlen concludes: “The adoption of POWER6 technology and iCluster ran very smoothly, and we are pleased with the performance and efficiency of the IBM Power 560 servers for the SAP applications. The increased performance for our SAP users on IBM i is a significant benefit, and the greater speed and ease of moving to the backup server gives us greater assurance of business continuity.”
Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
Power 560 Express, Power Systems, Power Systems running i
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