Würth transforms its SAP landscape to IBM POWER7 technology while delivering continuous production

Published on 14-Feb-2011

Validated on 05 Jun 2013

"With support for up to 32 POWER7 processor cores and 512 GB of memory, IBM Power 750 servers provide comprehensive configuration flexibility. These systems will be able to meet our challenging capacity and growth requirements. " - Harald Holl, Head of Systems Technology at Adolf Würth GmbH & Co

Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG

Industrial Products

Deployment country:

IT/infrastructure, Business Resiliency, Enabling Business Flexibility, Enterprise Resource Planning, High Availability , Information Infrastructure, Optimizing IT, Optimizing IT, Virtualization, Virtualization - Server

IBM Business Partner:


Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG, the largest individual company of the global Würth Group, is a leading German specialist in the assembly and fastening materials trade. The company offers more than 100,000 high-quality products such as screws, screw accessories, anchors, chemical-technical products, furniture and construction fittings, tools, storage and retrieval systems, as well as personal protective equipment, sold to over 400,000 customers.

Business need:
At Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG, specialist in industrial fastenings for professional use, increased business volumes generated by the company’s web shop and field sales force were taxing existing infrastructure to its limit. With 3,500 users depending on SAP applications, the company wanted to find a way to upgrade to a more powerful infrastructure without interrupting mission-critical daily operations.

Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG chose to upgrade from POWER6 to POWER7 processor-based systems using IBM Live Partition Mobility. The entire infrastructure upgrade and transition process (covering 80 logical partitions on IBM Power servers) took less than four months, and thanks to LPM did not affect the 3,500 SAP users.

Compared with conventional methods, the platform modernization effort was very low and the procedure avoided weekend work. Using the IBM virtualization technology, there was no downtime during the migration. The new systems offer double or triple the performance at half the total footprint, and have also reduced power consumption.

Case Study

To read a German version of this case study, click here.

Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG, the largest individual company of the global Würth Group, is a leading German specialist in the assembly and fastening materials trade. The company offers more than 100,000 high-quality products such as screws, screw accessories, anchors, chemical-technical products, furniture and construction fittings, tools, storage and retrieval systems, as well as personal protective equipment, sold to over 400,000 customers. Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG is continuing to expand its nation-wide network of sales branches consistently, and customer service, reliability and speed of delivery constitute key demands for the company.

Demanding and promoting performance is an integral element of Würth’s corporate culture. Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG currently has more than 5,000 employees in Germany, and in 2010 generated sales of EUR 1.23 billion according to the preliminary annual statement.

Comprehensive SAP ERP solution requires powerful system base
To meet its customers’ demands in terms of speed and reliability, the Würth group has been using a comprehensive SAP ERP solution, supporting a current total of approximately 3,500 concurrent SAP users. In addition to the central departments, a substantial web shop and about 2,500 German sales people are connected to the system. Würth’s SAP environment is able to handle about 30,000 orders per day with a total of 120,000 order positions.

The SAP ERP solution portfolio includes finance, controlling, materials management, quality management, sales and distribution, and warehouse management. The company also uses SAP ERP Human Capital Management, SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse and SAP NetWeaver Portal. In addition to the operation of the domestic business, the IT center in Künzelsau provides services to foreign subsidiaries, for example, in Portugal and the Netherlands.

The SAP applications are deployed in approximately 80 logical partitions (shared processor LPARs) on IBM Power servers. The high degree of virtualization enables optimal utilization and fair allocation of the available hardware resources. About 20 percent of the applications use about 80 percent of the CPU and main memory resources. The four major SAP systems are used for order processing and logistics. A maximum of 1024 GB of main memory and 48 CPUs are assigned to these four applications. To fulfill their task, the SAP applications access a 6 TB Oracle database, managed and monitored by the Oracle Grid Control™ utility.

To provide automated network management, and to ensure direct and efficient resolution of potential network incidents, Würth uses the Nagios-based NetEye™ software (www.wuerth-phoenix.com/neteye), developed by WÜRTHPHOENIX, a Würth Group subsidiary, as the central monitoring and notification system. For performance monitoring and performance analysis of the AIX LPARs, the Open Source tool Ganglia is used.

Experienced team keeps IT under control
Harald Holl, Head of Systems Technology at Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG, leads a highly qualified team of experienced professionals. Ongoing education and training as well as many years of close collaboration with IBM sales and service staff at all levels have put his team in a position to solve the vast majority of tasks during daily operations independently and without assistance from IBM personnel. Regular exchange with other IBM users also ensures that high-level experiences and best practices are acquired and constantly refreshed. The same applies to the team’s excellent application know-how, which made it possible to establish a company-owned SAP competence center.

IBM Power servers provide round-the-clock operations
Würth uses IBM Power Enterprise servers running the Unix operation system AIX to provide a high-performance system base for its SAP ERP solutions, having moved in 2004 from third-party systems to IBM POWER5 servers after detailed market analysis. Three years on, owing to increasing workload and user numbers, the performance limitations of these systems were reached. Würth chose to move to the next generation of technology with POWER6 processors. According to Harald Holl, the new servers offered exactly the desired “combination of excellent performance, flexibility and cost efficiency”.

By using IBM POWER6 technology and PowerVM, Würth has achieved higher availability regarding planned downtimes, greater reliability and better response times for its SAP applications. Altogether there were six IBM Power 570 systems in use since 2007.

The company operates three separate data centers at the headquarters site in Künzelsau, Germany. Two of these are clustered using IBM PowerHA to form a single high-availability unit for Würth’s business-critical SAP applications. The third data center in Künzelsau comprises the backup infrastructure (tape libraries and tape drives) and contains the backups of the existing data in case restores are needed.

New IBM POWER7 servers provide the necessary performance boost
As workload continued to rise in the summer of 2010, it became clear that system expansion was necessary. To accommodate the current and foreseeable additional capacities, Harald Holl’s team decided to upgrade to the latest IBM server technology based on POWER7 processors.

Harald Holl says: “With support for up to 32 POWER7 processor cores and 512 GB of memory, IBM Power 750 servers provide comprehensive configuration flexibility. These systems will be able to meet our challenging capacity and growth requirements. The PowerVM technology and the AIX V6 operating system provide outstanding availability to help us to fully exploit the performance of the servers and to ensure smooth transfer of our SAP applications and IT processes.”

Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG invested in eight IBM Power 750 Express servers, increasing main memory and CPU capacity by a factor of three, providing more than enough power in reserve for the new challenges.

In addition to the activities in Künzelsau, Würth Group plans to build a data center for global disaster recovery in Chur, Switzerland. For this purpose, two further Power servers, model 770, were ordered, each equipped with 48 POWER7 processor cores and 768 GB of memory. In these systems only 18 POWER7 CPUs and 512 GB of memory are activated, and the unused resources can be activated on demand when needed.

Live Partition Mobility reduces the upgrade to a few clicks
The upgrade challenge was to move more than 80 LPARs residing on six IBM POWER6 servers to the new environment, consisting of eight IBM POWER7 servers, within four months. During the process, the daily operation of the SAP applications should be interrupted as little as possible.

To add to the complications, several team members were on their summer holidays, implying a heavy workload for the rest of the team. Conventional homogeneous SAP system copies – making backups, rebuilding partitions and restoring the applications to the new servers – would have required a great deal of time to complete, requiring significant weekend work, and would have incurred system downtime.

PowerVM Live Partition Mobility (LPM) functionality offered a solution to both the time and the downtime issues. LPM enables the transfer of complete partitions, including running applications and I/O connections, between two physical IBM Power servers using POWER6 and POWER7 processors, on the fly. Using LPM allows application downtime during system moves to be entirely avoided.

A prerequisite for the transfer, however, is full virtualization of system resources. The LPM process is controlled by a Hardware Management Console (HMC). At transfer start, the essential parameters of the source partition (CPU, memory, disk storage and network adapters as well as virtualization settings) are identified and then – after a prior validation of the available resources – created identically on the target system. During this process the applications continue running normally on the originating partition. Via the shared network, a complete copy of the real memory to the target LPAR is now performed in the background.

All the memory pages that changed during the LPAR creation process are copied to the target LPAR. To complete the procedure, LPM switches all external connections to the new LPAR; the source partition can now be disabled or deleted.

Smooth migration confirms validity of process
Because the Würth IT team had already virtualized the main system components such as memory, CPU and I/O in 2007 during the server migration to POWER6, the conditions for using LPM technology were met. At the time of the migration, there was limited customer or IBM experience in Europe around performing an LPM migration in such a complex and business-critical system environment. Nevertheless, this route was chosen – and the success of the project proves that Harald Holl and his team were right.

After timely installation and connection of the eight new IBM Power 750 Express servers in the Würth data center by IBM engineers, the Würth IT staff performed the upgrade to the new systems almost completely independently. Only a few special cases due to the use of third-party hardware drivers or the conversion of the SAP licenses led to requests for help from the IBM and SAP development centers. In all cases, the ongoing upgrade activities could continue as planned after a short time due to rapid vendor assistance. It was possible to carry out the migration activities at an average speed of 1 minute 24 seconds per GB, where network bandwidth proved to be a significant factor. This was in line with IBM‘s own projections, which stated that server load and memory consumption would have only a moderate influence on the migration time. For migrations within a single subnet, rates of up to 18 seconds per GB were achieved, which confirms the values predicted by IBM. Würth also observed that database servers could be migrated faster than application servers using this method. The users were not affected by any of the upgrade steps.

Going live, on time
Slightly less than four months later, by the end of October 2010, the six former systems could be uninstalled in the Würth data center. The migration was completed and the customer is absolutely satisfied with the project.

Harald Holl concludes: “The upgrade using Live Partition Mobility was the right step in helping us to finish the project successfully and on time, despite the challenging requirements. IBM has proven itself as a strong partner in the background, able to clear little stumbling blocks rapidly from the road. Through a structured approach and timely upgrade preparations before the hardware delivery, the whole process was completed without affecting current operations.” The close collaboration with IBM has proven to Harald Holl, once again: “IBM as a manufacturer and reliable partner is our guarantee for continuity and growth. We will continue to rely on the performance of IBM’s products and services in future, and we are already planning several new projects.”

Products and services used

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

Power 750, Power 770, Power Systems, Power Systems running AIX 6

PowerVM, PowerVM Enterprise (VIOS), AIX

Operating system:

GTS Integrated Technology Services, GTS ITS Server: Server Product Services for Power Systems, IBM-SAP Alliance, GTS Data Center Services

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