The Cnam scores high with IBM XIV and SAP

Cuts out 90 percent of storage administration and accelerates response to student needs

Published on 20-May-2011

Validated on 06 Nov 2012

"The XIV concept enables us to manage the capacity, not the technology. The management burden is 90 percent less than before, so we have much more time to dedicate to higher-value activities." - Olivier Villin, Technical Manager, the Cnam

Customer:
Cnam - Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers

Industry:
Education, Government

Deployment country:
France

Solution:
Small & Medium Business, Optimizing IT

IBM Business Partner:
INETD

Overview

Founded in 1794 in a medieval monastery and a purveyor of learning ever since, the Cnam (Conservatoire national des arts et métiers) is France’s highly respected institution for continuing adult education. With a motto of “teaching everyone, everywhere,” the Cnam network spans 150 cities, 27 regional centers, and online, providing 100,000 students with academic degrees and career training.

Business need:
The Cnam's existing storage was running out of space, which was an administrative burden and meant the infrastructure was unable to support an innovative SAP module. The Cnam sought a solution that would make life simple and improve responsiveness to students and staff.

Solution:
Implemented the IBM XIV® Storage System, synchronously mirrored and running a full SAP production chain in a virtualized environment.

Benefits:
Reduced storage administration by 90 percent and total cost of ownership by 60 percent, and rapidly deployed SAP in a high performing environment.

Case Study

Founded in 1794 in a medieval monastery and a purveyor of learning ever since, the Cnam (Conservatoire national des arts et métiers) is France’s highly respected institution for continuing adult education. With a motto of “teaching everyone, everywhere,” the Cnam network spans 150 cities, 27 regional centers, and online, providing 100,000 students with academic degrees and career training.

Itself a champion of innovation and technology, the Cnam had a storage environment that was cramping its style: unable to scale effectively, difficult to manage, and unreliable. Its performance didn’t make the grade, either. Recalls Olivier Villin, Technical Manager at the Cnam: “We were running out of space on our EMC Clariion boxes—frustrating, because much of the capacity was poorly utilized. We were also spending significant time managing storage. And as we added capacity, performance kept deteriorating.”

With SAP Financials already in use, the Cnam had an ambitious goal that would speed up enrollments: to implement the SAP Higher Education and Research application—the first in France to do so—and in one year. The labor-intensive project called for 25 extra servers for development, testing, quality assurance and production.

Denis Corée, CIO, describes the challenge: “Our IT team of 40 manages all our technology projects, applications and teaching resources, the entire network and more than 1,000 workstations. To roll out our new SAP solution for student enrollment, we needed to free up the team. That meant finding fast, reliable, and efficient storage.”

Extraordinary migration

The Cnam issued a public tender to make its SAP project a reality. Villin explains: “The IBM XIV Storage System met all our requirements: scalability, performance, rapid migration, data protection and ease of management in a compact solution.”

Notes Coree: “The system is really well thought out: everything is included, so no budgetary surprises or managing of licenses. Migration was another reason: we couldn't tolerate downtime. Using the XIV tool, we did a hot migration of our entire application suite in two weeks—payroll management, email, you name it—and with no break in service. That’s extraordinary!”

Coree continues: “It also has the lowest operating overhead, with high data protection. The ‘IBM factor’ was also key, ensuring solution continuity, as was the quality of the IBM Business Partner, INETD.” Villin adds: “INETD is the most professional partner we've worked with... in fact, the whole introduction of XIV technology went smoothly.”

The Cnam deployed two XIV units: one for production, with a second acting as a synchronous mirror for essential applications. The environment supports 180 servers (physical and virtual) running Microsoft® Windows® Server 2008, Linux® and IBM AIX®. The VMware ESX Server 3.5 environment runs on 14 physical machines, supporting 80 virtual servers. Coree: “We put XIV in production in just two months—our previous system would have taken two years. IBM XIV enabled us to achieve our ambitious one-year SAP implementation deadline.”

Cashing in on virtualization

Says Villin: “XIV’s virtualized environment gives us several advantages: on-the-fly provisioning and de-provisioning, including for our virtual server environment. We can create virtual servers very rapidly and dynamically reclaim the disk space when no longer required. So when you back up a virtual server of 1 TB, after a few hours you have recovered 500 GB, giving excellent space savings.” Adds Coree: “With our previous solution, we lost as much as 70 percent of useable capacity to RAID. With XIV, we’re utilizing our useable capacity 100 percent.”

Coree notes that XIV thin provisioning allows them to “never have limits on capacity.” The team uses thin provisioning to flexibly keep pace with user demands, creating approximate virtual volumes knowing they can be easily resized should requirements change.

Villin adds: “We're also enjoying huge savings because all the administration and reporting software is bundled. With XIV, we've saved perhaps 60 percent on total cost of ownership—and enabled extremely rapid SAP deployment.”

Unleashing SAP power…safely

Explains Coree: “We have all our applications on the IBM XIV, including the entire SAP production chain: test, development, preproduction and production environments.”

The Cnam uses the XIV snapshot capability in different phases of development to protect its production data before making changes, operating system upgrades, or applying the frequent SAP vendor updates. Should anything go wrong, the organization can simply “roll back” to the snapshot version. Coree jests: “We use snapshots so much, it’s almost abuse!” He adds: “You can revert back almost instantly, and they definitely do not slow down the system.”

He notes: “Performance is another XIV strong point: we're only using about 10 percent of available performance despite having 80 virtual servers. Everyone, even the SAP integrator, is amazed by the performance with the SAP education module. Usually what slows you down is provisioning. With XIV, it took a quarter of an hour. When it takes one quarter of an hour to deploy a server instead of two days, you gain a lot of productivity. And we are done with bottlenecks, hotspots—they aren’t in our vocabulary anymore.”

“Rebuild times are astonishing with XIV: they take just minutes. Previously, a disk rebuild would take hours,” says Coree.

Life made simple

True to its goal, the Cnam dramatically reduced its storage administration. Says Villin: “The XIV system offers the simplest interface on the market, and yet is extremely powerful. The XIV concept enables us to manage the capacity, not the technology. Our management burden is 90 percent less than before, so we have much more time for higher-value activities, such as supporting the SAP rollout.”

“We chose XIV to simplify our lives. Zero administration is an XIV ‘wow factor’—all the complexity is handled automatically,” summarizes Corée. “In three clicks, for example, we know the health of our system. We’ve achieved a level of storage efficiency we’ve never known before. After a couple of months, you just forget about XIV and tend to more important things… storage is not an issue anymore.”

Products and services used

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

Hardware:
Storage: XIV

Software:
AIX

Operating system:
Linux

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2011. IBM Systems and Technology Group, Route 100, Somers, New York 10589, U.S.A. Produced in the United States of America, May 2011. All Rights Reserved. IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, AIX and XIV are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries or both. If these and other IBM trademarked terms are marked on their first occurrence in this information with a trademark symbol (® or ™), these symbols indicate U.S. registered or common law trademarks owned by IBM at the time this information was published. Such trademarks may also be registered or common law trademarks in other countries. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries, or both. Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. Other company, product and service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. IBM and INETD are separate companies and each is responsible for its own products. Neither IBM nor INETD makes any warranties, express or implied, concerning the other’s products. References in this publication to IBM products or services do not imply that IBM intends to make them available in all countries in which IBM operates. Offerings are subject to change, extension or withdrawal without notice. The information in this document is provided “as-is” without any warranty, either expressed or implied.