INTERSPORT boosts SAP application performance

With IBM i on IBM Power Systems and solid-state drive storage technologies

Published on 15-Dec-2010

Validated on 03 Dec 2013

"By using SSD technology instead of a traditional Fibre Channel setup, we have delivered a considerable performance improvement to our SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse environment, while also creating a more compact and cost-effective infrastructure." - Johann Reisinger, CIO, INTERSPORT Austria GmbH



Deployment country:

IT/infrastructure, BA - Business Intelligence, Data Warehouse, Enterprise Resource Planning, Information Infrastructure, Optimizing IT, Optimizing IT, Server Consolidation, Storage Consolidation, Virtualization

IBM Business Partner:


INTERSPORT is one of the world’s largest sporting goods retailers. INTERSPORT Austria is one of the INTERSPORT group’s most important national organizations in Central and Eastern Europe. The Austrian organization employs 5,700 people at 353 INTERSPORT stores in Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. The organization achieved sales of 667.7 million Euros in 2009/10.

Business need:
Objectives included: enable business expansion by providing headroom for growth in SAP ERP and SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse environments. Support peak workload of up to 350 concurrent SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse users. Encourage user adoption of business intelligence by improving SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse performance. Improve international capabilities by introducing Unicode for SAP ERP. Provide faster, more scalable storage for business-critical data.

Worked with IBM and Base-IT (an IBM Business Partner) to design, build, test and deploy a new infrastructure for SAP and other critical applications within 15 months. Upgraded to SAP ERP 6.0 with Unicode for financial accounting and controlling. Implemented two IBM Power 550 servers running IBM i. Introduced two IBM System Storage DS8700 storage systems, one at each data center, with solid-state drives (SSDs) for SAP NetWeaver BW workload. Mirrored the DS8700s via SAN fabric.

Accelerated average SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse report generation speed by more than 66 percent. Reduced data loading and data aggregation time by 75 percent. Improved storage utilization from 60 percent to around 90 percent. Reduced database licensing costs. Reduced rack-space, power and cooling requirements with SSD disks, instead of investing in eight additional Fibre Channel ranks. Enabled full recovery of core business systems within two hours.

Case Study

Background, starting point and objectives


INTERSPORT is one of the world’s largest sporting goods retailers. Operating via a network of more than 5,300 stores in 39 countries, the company generated 2009 revenues of 9.3 billion Euros.

INTERSPORT Austria is one of the group’s most important national organizations in Central and Eastern Europe. The Austrian organization employs 5,700 people at 353 INTERSPORT stores in Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. The organization achieved sales of 667.7 million Euros in 2009/10.

The IT team at INTERSPORT Austria provides support for each of the Austrian stores, as well as the shops in Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Besides the usual Microsoft business applications, the main systems that the team supports are:

A custom-built stock management system called ISIS

An SAP ERP system for financial accounting and controlling

An SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW) system that produces reports based on data extracted from the other two systems

For many years, the company has run these three solutions on the IBM i operating system and IBM Power Systems servers.

Initial IT environment

Before INTERSPORT Austria began the infrastructure update project that forms the subject of this paper, the technical architecture for its SAP and ISIS landscape was based on a combination of IBM server and storage technologies.

The production instances of the SAP ERP, SAP NetWeaver BW and ISIS applications were running on an IBM Power Systems i570 server with eight IBM POWER5 processor cores and 160 GB of memory, located at the company’s main data center. Storage for the production environment was provided by an IBM System Storage DS8100 with eight Fibre Channel disk ranks running at 15k RPM.

Test, development and backup instances of these applications ran on another Power Systems server – a smaller i550 with 4 processor cores and 64GB of memory – located at a second data center. Storage for these was provided by a second DS8100 with the same specifications as the first.

Business challenges and project objectives

Rapid domestic and international business growth, combined with an increasing need for real-time business intelligence within the organization, meant that INTERSPORT Austria’s SAP ERP and SAP NetWeaver BW environments were reaching the limits of the existing hardware platform.

As a result, performance was suffering, particularly in the business intelligence environment. Business users often had to wait several minutes for reports to be generated. The problem was particularly severe at the start of the working day, when up to 350 users log on simultaneously to access daily sales reports. Slow response times were creating dissatisfaction and reducing users’ willingness to access the system as part of their daily routine.

Looking to the future, INTERSPORT Austria realized that these performance issues were likely to become even more severe. To create a foundation for international expansion and improve multi-language support, the company was planning to upgrade to SAP ERP 6.0 with Unicode support. This upgrade was likely to increase data volumes and put even greater load on the company’s infrastructure.

To resolve these performance issues and create a more scalable platform for future growth, the company wanted to upgrade its servers and storage. As part of this project, the IT team also decided to redesign the server landscape in order to enable faster recovery in the event of a disaster at one of the company’s data centers.

Technical solution

Server architecture

Working with IBM and Base-IT, the INTERSPORT Austria IT team designed and deployed a new server architecture based on two IBM Power 550 servers running the IBM i 6.1 operating system. The primary server has eight IBM POWER6+ processor cores and 256 GB of memory, while the secondary server has six cores and 160 GB of memory.

The IBM i operating system includes an integrated version of IBM DB2, which is used as the database platform for the SAP and ISIS applications. DB2 for i is a strictly object-orientated, self-managing database that automatically distributes data across different drives according to an integrated algorithm. These features help to optimize performance for the SAP environment.

Business resilience

Unlike the previous landscape, where one main server supported the production workload while a second smaller server handled non-production workload, the new architecture distributes the logical partitions (LPARs) for production between the two machines.

The main advantage of this approach is its resilience: if a disaster occurs at one of the company’s data centers, business-critical production workload can be transferred to the other machine rapidly. In addition, it is simpler to increase system utilization when production and non-production workloads are running on the same physical server.

Storage architecture

INTERSPORT Austria upgraded its storage architecture to eliminate I/O bottlenecks that were affecting SAP NetWeaver BW performance. To increase throughput, the company considered expanding its existing IBM System Storage DS8100 disk systems with a further eight Fibre Channel disk ranks – but this would have required the introduction of a bulky expansion unit, occupying valuable rack-space and increasing power and cooling requirements.

Moreover, the IT team calculated that to achieve the required level of performance from the Fibre Channel ranks, it would not be possible to utilize more than 60 percent of the available disk capacity. As a result, 40 percent of the new disks would remain unused, reducing the value of the investment.

Instead, the company worked with IBM and Base-IT to migrate to two new DS8700 systems. Each of these storage systems contains 12 ranks of 15k RPM Fibre Channel disks for SAP ERP and ISIS production LPARs, as well as two ranks of Solid State Drives (SSDs) for SAP NetWeaver BW.

The company can utilize up to 98 percent of the available capacity of the SSDs, and provide far higher performance in terms of throughput and response times in the SAP NetWeaver BW environment. As a result, INTERSPORT Austria only needs two ranks of SSDs to provide the same level of performance as eight ranks of Fibre Channel disks.

For non-production storage (SAP development and test systems), the company uses an IBM System Storage DS4700 disk system located at the primary data center, which provides a lower-cost storage tier for systems that do not require the same level of I/O performance as the production environments. The DS4700 is connected to the Power 550 servers using IBM Virtual I/O Server (VIOS).

Project achievements

Performance improvements

The upgrade to IBM POWER6+ processor-based servers and IBM DS8700 disk systems with SSDs has resolved INTERSPORT Austria’s existing SAP NetWeaver BW performance issues, while also providing sufficient capacity to support future growth in data volumes and user numbers.

As a result, the average time taken to load data into SAP NetWeaver BW has been reduced from 120 minutes to just 30 minutes – a 75 percent improvement. The time taken to build aggregates has been reduced by approximately 75 percent, and the time taken to generate reports has been improved by approximately 66 percent.

Data compression speed in the DB2 environment also saw significant improvements. According to the SAP guidelines, the compression of 110 million datasets should take approximately 96 hours, but INTERSPORT Austria achieved it within 17 hours – 83 percent faster than expected.

User satisfaction

As a result of the performance improvement, the company’s 350 SAP users are able to access business intelligence data much more rapidly, even at times of peak load. This helps to improve their productivity, and also encourages them to use the SAP NetWeaver BW system as part of their daily routine.

By equipping more employees with the latest business information, INTERSPORT Austria improves their ability to make rapid and well-informed business decisions, which should ultimately result in improved efficiency and increased sales. The company has in fact experienced significant sales growth since the solution went live – although it is difficult to quantify the contribution of the new IT landscape to this achievement.

Faster recovery

By dividing the production workload for the SAP and ISIS applications between the two IBM Power 550 servers, INTERSPORT Austria has been able to significantly enhance its disaster recovery capability.

With the previous solution, it would have taken more than two days to re-configure the secondary server and recover all systems. Moreover, since the secondary server was less powerful than the primary server, the performance of the SAP and ISIS applications would have been significantly degraded.

With the new solution, a full recovery is possible within two hours, since both servers have identical specifications and are already configured to handle production workload.

Energy efficiency and environmental benefits

Choosing the more compact SSD-based storage solution has enabled INTERSPORT Austria to avoid purchasing a DS8000 expansion unit and eight additional Fibre Channel disk ranks, saving rack-space in the company’s data center.

The combination of the SSD solution with the new Power 550 servers has also reduced power and cooling requirements. The POWER6+ processors are considerably more energy-efficient than the older POWER5 processors, and two ranks of SSDs consume much less electricity than eight ranks of Fibre Channel disks. Overall, INTERSPORT Austria reports that the new solution has significantly reduced its electricity costs.

Future plans

INTERSPORT Austria foresees considerable growth in its SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse environment as it becomes more widely adopted by users across the business. The company is already working with SAP to investigate the possibilities of extending its business intelligence environment, and is considering introducing SAP BusinessObjects software.

The new IBM infrastructure will provide sufficient capacity to support all the projects that INTERSPORT Austria is currently planning. In the future, if new projects require additional resources, the INTERSPORT IT team is confident that the combination of IBM Power servers and DS8700 SSD storage will provide the flexibility and scalability required to meet these needs.

Products and services used

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

Power 550 Express, Power Systems, Power Systems running i, Storage: DS8700

IBM i, DB2 for i5/OS

Operating system:

IBM-SAP Alliance

Legal Information

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