HEROLD powers its rapidly growing information business

With IBM BladeCenter HX5 and IBM System x3850 X5 servers hosted by IBM

Published on 30-Jun-2011

Validated on 01 Oct 2013

"We tell IBM what we need to achieve, and they provide solutions that keep us a step ahead of our competition." - Frank Bieser, CIO, HEROLD Business Data

HEROLD Business Data

Media & Entertainment

Deployment country:

High Availability , Optimizing IT, Optimizing IT, Server Consolidation, Virtualization, Virtualization - Server


Founded in 1919, HEROLD Business Data has evolved from a printfocused directory services company into a provider of multimedia searchand location-based services. The company continues to grow its print revenues even as it introduces innovative services such as the provision of augmented-reality content to smartphones. HEROLD serves around 370,000 small and midsized businesses, helping them to connect with consumers in a targeted way.

Business need:
HEROLD needed to deliver fast and reliable information services to customers across multiple channels, and was struggling to plan for and manage unpredictable demands on its IT infrastructure.

IBM provided a hosted solution built on IBM BladeCenter HX5 and IBM System x3850 X5 servers, powered by the latest Intel® Xeon® processors, with the ability to ramp capacity up and down.

Flexible infrastructure enables HEROLD to meet massive and sudden growth in demand for services; some computing tasks run more than three times faster; massive server consolidation reduces costs.

Case Study

Founded in 1919, HEROLD Business Data has evolved from a print-focused directory services company into a provider of multimedia search and location-based services. The company continues to grow its print revenues even as it introduces innovative services such as the provision of augmented-reality content to smartphones. HEROLD serves around 370,000 small and midsized businesses, helping them to connect with consumers in a targeted way.

Competing as it does with global internet search engines, HEROLD needs to deliver innovative, highly scalable solutions at low cost and high speed. To enable its internal team to focus on developing new software and generating value for clients, HEROLD selected IBM as its strategic infrastructure provider.

Frank Bieser, CIO, explains: “We saw a dramatic gap opening up between the sheer number of services we needed to deliver and the number of people who could operate those services. We were looking for a partner that could provide us with robust solutions, help us with capacity planning, and take away the constant pressure to procure hardware. As our strategic value partner, IBM brings its expertise to bear in designing intelligent solutions rather than just shipping technology.”

The innovative IBM infrastructure supports HEROLD in its efforts to attract and retain the best talent. HEROLD was the highest new entry in the “Best Workplaces in Austria 2011” rankings in the category for companies with more than 250 employees.

Dynamic, flexible solution
IBM hosts HEROLD's entire production environment in its Vienna data center on IBM® BladeCenter® HX5 blade servers and IBM System x® 3850 X5 servers, both of which use the fifth generation of IBM Enterprise X-Architecture®, also known as eX5.

Bieser says: “We no longer buy infrastructure in the sense of buying servers. Rather, we generate solutions with IBM as our solution partner. We tell IBM what we need to achieve, and they provide solutions that keep us a step ahead of our competition. In the five years I've been with the company, we've transformed from a print company to a mobile company to a social media company. The only constant in our ever-transforming business is IBM.”

The contract that HEROLD has with IBM enables it to add or remove hardware resources on a pay-as-you-use model. This is perfectly aligned with the business requirements, as Jorg Weis, manager of the Operations Management department, explains: “Our business is so dynamic that I can't tell you what the capacity needs will be even two months into the future. We recently ate up our planned three-year allowance for memory and storage within just six months. With IBM eX5 technologies, that's no problem—we can grow as fast as we need.”

He adds: “For example, if we fire up a new mobile application, we might have 300,000 users signing up within the first couple of months. In a conventional environment, we would need to plan ahead, try to guess how many servers we would need, place the order, and wait four to six weeks for delivery. Our service contract with IBM enables us to get a new physical server up and running inside a single day.”

Crunching big data with HX5
For its main search engine landscape, which serves 45 million page impressions each month, HEROLD now has a 25-node Red Hat Enterprise Linux cluster running on HX5 blades. These meet the company's extreme requirements for compute power, memory and I/O performance.

“Moving to the new HX5 infrastructure reduced the delay for users by 50 to 60 percent, accelerating database performance without increasing our licensing costs,” says Jorg Weis. “The combination of the new IBM eX5 architecture and the latest Intel Xeon processors also gave us a massive performance boost for our highly threaded applications. For example, we regularly load new data into the search engine, converting it to XML files from which we build the binary search index. In the past, we could load 180 to 250 documents per second. With the BladeCenter HX5, we are now at 750 to 800 documents per second, completing the entire load in 2.5 hours instead of the 8.5 it previously took. This means we can do data loads throughout the day on the live production server rather than having to do them overnight or on the weekend.”

He adds: “Each month, we evolve our products to meet the changing needs of our customers, using intensive statistical analysis on a rolling three-month set of 600 GB of data to help our customers determine where and how to place their advertising. In this way, smart computing and analytics from IBM helps us achieve our primary business objective: to connect buyers and sellers.”

Stunning virtualization capacity
HEROLD uses four IBM System x3850 X5 servers with 8-core Intel Xeon X7550 processors to run a large VMware virtual server landscape. This supports a number of key internal and external applications, including a CRM system that was developed in-house. The company originally went down the virtualization route when it found itself struggling to grow the number and scale of its services.

“Virtualization was the answer to our challenges around limited space, cooling and energy in the data center,” recalls Bieser. “The IBM x3850 is an ideal platform for VMware: you can add a huge amount of memory and processing power. We now have a four-node cluster of x3850 servers running more than 350 production VMware servers.”

Weis adds: “When we first started with the x3850 X5, we told the guys from VMware that we were running 350 production servers on one node. They said, “That's impossible—you can only do that in lab conditions.” We said, “That's what we're doing every day!”

HEROLD's core platforms, both for web-facing applications and internal systems, rely on Oracle databases and Java. “With this standardized platform, it is easy to use IBM tools, IBM middleware and IBM servers to build optimized development, preproduction and production environments,” says Weis.

Bieser concludes: “We use IBM technology to deal with the enormous volumes of data and requests involved in providing our services. It's impossible to accurately predict our infrastructure requirements, and this is where the IBM scalability and flexibility really come into play. IBM helps us find enough compute power, I/O and storage to deliver the highest levels of availability and performance to our customers.”

Products and services used

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

BladeCenter HX5, System x: System x3850 X5

Operating system:

Legal Information

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