Published on 27-Jun-2011
Validated on 04 Nov 2013
"We chose IBM as our partner for implementing SAP NetWeaver BWA, because their pre-contract assessment allowed us to estimate how effective it would be and we relied on the know-how they had gained from IBM’s wealth of experience. " - Akiyoshi Yamada, Team Leader, Enterprise Information Management Team, IT Planning and Promotion Department, Sumitomo Corporation
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Sumitomo Corporation (Sumitomo Corp.) is a worldwide general trading company with approximately 150 offices in seventy countries. With over 900 companies and 60,000 employees, the group’s global network operates in a large variety of business sectors.
As early as 1998, and in order to promote the most advanced use of information for the management of its businesses, Sumitomo Corp. set up an ‘Information Systems Advancing Committee’. The company decided to use SAP ERP as the backbone for this project to standardize operations and optimize data sharing across the group’s vast array of businesses.
In 2002, Sumitomo Corp. constructed a multi-dimensional database using SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse. In order to provide detailed and flexible analytical functionality, Sumitomo Corp. had previously used an aggregate cube. Producing an aggregate cube for a data warehouse that updates daily, however, requires a vast amount of processing resources. Sumitomo Corp. adopted SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator (BWA) in order to replace the aggregate cube, speed up batch processes and retain analytical functionality.
SAP NetWeaver BWA reduced the daily burden that the aggregate cube put on Sumitomo Corp.’s servers, shortened the time taken by overnight batch processing, and retained system reliability. Sumitomo Corp. had previously produced an aggregate cube using overnight batch processing. The size and demands of the data often caused delays of batch completion in the beginning or the end of month, when the amount of data that needed processing reached peak levels. SAP NetWeaver BWA now provides swift and detailed analyses.
Customer requirements: Improving performance without producing an aggregate cube
When starting the upgrading project of Sumitomo Corporation's information systems from 1998, one of the most critical issues was legacy systems. With the added complication caused by many disparate systems in each division, gathering consolidated data took long time and required a lot of manual processes.
Sumitomo Corp. first introduced SAP ERP platform in order to create a single backbone for all its data requirements across the group. It also improved the sharing of information by standardizing processes, systems, and codes, and created smoother more efficient operational systems. The solution also offers a variety of data to support management decision-making and sales activities within each division.
A multi-dimensional database, the Operational Data Store (ODS), was also launched using SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW), providing data analysis functions that are accessible by all employees. Accurate and speedy data analyses on a system with as many as 300,000 company codes across the company are very important requirements.
The ODS data warehouse is updated daily, and Sumitomo Corp. originally produced an aggregate cube to ensure it could provide high quality data analysis for its employees. An aggregate cube, however, requires a vast amount of processing resources, and the data recovery by enterprise system trouble was very difficult, in some cases impossible. Sometimes the overnight batch processing of an aggregate cube would also run into the next day.
Sumitomo Corp. needed an alternative way of producing reliable data without aggregate cubes while improving speed and performance. SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator (BWA) provided the answer as it could improve performance without compromising data analysis and without the need to reconfigure SAP NetWeaver BW.
“We looked at a variety of software to replace the aggregate cube, including other data warehouse packages, but we decided to use SAP NetWeaver BWA, because we were already using SAP NetWeaver BW,” says Mr. Akiyoshi Yamada, Team Leader of the Enterprise Information Management Team in Sumitomo Corp.’s IT Planning and Promotion Department.
Selecting SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator
Sumitomo Corp. planned to upgrade to the next version of SAP NetWeaver BW, on which the ODS was based, in 2009. It looked at improving performance with SAP NetWeaver BWA as an alternative to the existing aggregate cube. However, the company was uncertain that the solution could replace the strong analytical functionality or the loads by several thousand concurrent users.
To settle any doubts, IBM proposed a pre-contract assessment to evaluate the performance of the NetWeaver BWA. IBM prepared actual data used in real scenarios and compared performance with, and without the aggregate cube, to generate good comparisons. The results were enough to convince Sumitomo Corp. to use SAP NetWeaver BWA. The company found that the same performance levels of analysis could be maintained by replacing the aggregate cube with SAP NetWeaver BWA.
Sumitomo Corp. considered a number of companies as possible partners to implement the BWA, and decided on IBM for two main reasons: IBM suggested and carried out a positive pre-contract assessment and, it had a good track record of implementing SAP NetWeaver BWA.
“We chose IBM as our partner for implementing SAP NetWeaver BWA, because their pre-contract assessment allowed us to estimate how effective it would be and we relied on the know-how they had gained from IBM’s wealth of experience,” says Mr. Yamada.
IBM proposed its pre-contract assessment in December of 2008. Sumitomo Corp. and Sumisho Computer Systems Corporation began implementing SAP NetWeaver BWA in May 2009. After vigorous testing and verification, the solution went live on time, in December 2009. The large scale implementation inevitably faced a number of technical issues, all of which were solved by IBM and SAP, allowing implementation to remain on track and on time.
“There were some technical issues during implementation, but IBM solved these together with SAP. IBM’s wealth of experience in implementing SAP NetWeaver BWA and its partnership with SAP helped to solve the problems swiftly, and we were able to complete the project without any delays,’ says Mr. Hiroshige Taniguchi, Sub-Leader of the Enterprise Information Management Team and Assistant to the General Manager of Sumitomo Corp.’s IT Planning and Promotion Department.
Dramatically reducing the time of overnight batch processing
Producing the aggregate cube used to take up to eight hours. With SAP NetWeaver BWA, update processing has been cut to a maximum of five hours – almost 40 per cent faster. SAP NetWeaver BWA also makes it much easier to recover data, improving overall efficiency.
“When there was a problem with producing the aggregate cube at night, we sometimes could not recover the data in time for the start of business. Now that we are using SAP NetWeaver BWA, we have several hours between finishing the overnight batch processing and the start of business, so we have time for recovery. Reducing the time it takes to process data has been really important,” says Mr. Yamada.
Analytical performance has also proved just as reliable as with the aggregate cube. Mr. Taniguchi says the lack of complaints from users proves how effective it has been.
“SAP NetWeaver BWA works behind the scenes. It is not something that users see. But, by maintaining the same level of performance without the aggregate cube, it has shown how effective it is,” says Mr. Taniguchi.
Gathering more data and increasing the range of analytical functions
Sumitomo Corp. intends to expand the range of analytical functionality it provides, using SAP NetWeaver BWA. The ODS provides analytical functionality that is in constant use by as many as 7,000 - 8,000 users, as part of their regular work.
Sumitomo Corp.’s medium-term management plan looking over the next ten years says as fundamental principles, ‘to promote medium/long-term growth by enhancing value creation capability while reinforcing soundness and efficiency’ and ‘to promote company-wide growth by leveraging the diversity and strengths of our businesses.’ It has therefore launched the ‘SIGMA Upgrading Project,’ which aims to achieve a higher level of sophistication for its business information systems.
The company says it plans to provide more sophisticated analytical functions to help managers and local sales staff in their decision making, by expanding the scope of the data gathered on which analysis is based, and further refining the granularity of its data.
“The current ODS, which is in continuous use as part of people’s regular work, is matured in some ways. We have weeded out some of the reporting that was being provided and that we don’t need currently. Thinking about future development, rather than having a larger variety of reports, we want to rethink reporting in terms of the underlying data gathering – to provide analyses functions that is optimized for local sales staff and management decision making,” concludes Mr. Yamada.
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