Sony Europe maximizes availability for SAP applications with IBM System z, Power Systems and DB2

Published on 30-Jun-2011

Validated on 01 Oct 2013

"POWER7 technology promises to provide even better performance for the future, and innovative solutions such as the Business Warehouse Accelerator give us a significant advantage in terms of rapid, responsive reporting across the entire European business." - Gill Hanlon, Senior Technical Consultant, Sony Europe

Sony Europe

Electronics, Consumer Products, Wholesale Distribution & Services

Deployment country:
United Kingdom

IT/infrastructure, BA - Business Intelligence, Business Resiliency, Enterprise Resource Planning, High Availability , Information Infrastructure, Information Integration, Optimizing IT, Optimizing IT

IBM Business Partner:


Sony Europe is the Sony Corporation’s marketing, sales and distribution organization for the whole of Europe and Russia. It operates across 38 countries and 13 time zones, employs 6,000 employees, and generates annual revenues of €8 billion.

Business need:
Sony Europe’s original SAP ERP implementation, based on an Oracle database running on high-end UNIX servers, was struggling to deal with the demands of business growth, and could not deliver the level of performance that the company’s international operations required – especially as further countries were being added to the platform.

Working with IBM, the company migrated from Oracle to IBM DB2, running on the IBM System z mainframe platform, with SAP applications running on IBM AIX on IBM Power Systems servers. The company has continued to upgrade and extend this architecture, and has also introduced new systems such as the IBM Systems Solution for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator.

Upgrading to System z10 has improved performance, accelerating SAP response speed and enabling the introduction of new web shops and a sophisticated online ‘Configure To Order’ capability for the Sony VAIO product range. The combination of Parallel Sysplex® on the System z servers and PowerHA on the Power Systems servers delivers very high availability for the company’s business-critical SAP environments. The Business Warehouse Accelerator solution has greatly improved business intelligence performance.

Case Study

Sony Europe is the Sony Corporation’s marketing, sales and distribution organization for the whole of Europe and Russia. It operates across 38 countries and 13 time zones, employs 6,000 employees, and generates annual revenues of €8 billion.

Originally, Sony’s European operations operated independently in each country, and each national subsidiary was responsible for its own IT systems.

To increase efficiency, improve data quality and reduce management costs, Sony Europe began a major project to standardize the IT architecture across Europe, and began migrating to a single central SAP ERP solution. The company initially chose to support SAP with an Oracle database, which ran on an IBM AIX platform.

“Within a couple of years of the implementation, our SAP landscape had expanded to the point where the database server was struggling to cope with the workload, and performance was suffering,” says Gill Hanlon, Senior Technical Consultant at Sony Europe. “We had expanded our existing server hardware as far as we could, so we needed to change to a new platform.”

The company had two options: move Oracle onto an even larger and more expensive UNIX server from Sun, or migrate to IBM DB2 for z/OS, running on the IBM System z mainframe platform.

“We have always been an IBM shop from a hardware perspective, and we had built an excellent working relationship with IBM, so we were keen to stay on an IBM hardware platform,” explains Hanlon.

“We had some mainframe expertise as there was a legacy system running on an old mainframe, and this application was due to be phased out. We ordered a new mainframe to act as our SAP database server, and migrated the system. There were some challenges at first, as we were fairly early adopters of SAP on the DB2 platform, but the system soon started to deliver what we had hoped.”

High availability with System z

The combination of System z mainframes in a Parallel Sysplex cluster configuration and DB2 for z/OS in data sharing mode provides a highly available and scalable data-serving platform, which is ideal for supporting business-critical applications such as SAP.

This level of availability is critical for Sony Europe, because the company operates across many time zones and users need to be able to access the SAP systems 24 hours a day.

“Any SAP downtime could potentially have significant cost implications, especially in important sales periods such as the lead up to Christmas,” comments Hanlon. “We were confident that the combination of DB2 and System z would offer the best solution on the market in terms of availability.

“The resilience of the cluster is excellent, and we have experienced a low level of unplanned downtime in the last seven years of continuous operation.”

Meeting the demands of business growth

Sony Europe used its System z990 mainframes to support the SAP database successfully for more than five years. During this time, the company continued to roll out SAP ERP, SAP CRM and SAP Supply Chain Management to more countries across Europe, and also saw a considerable expansion in online sales via its SAP Customer Relationship Management system.

“The launch of the Sony Style web shops was a huge success, and we also introduced a ‘Configure To Order’ system for our VAIO product range,” explains Gill Hanlon.

“This added to the size and complexity of the SAP landscape, and placed additional strain on the database.

“We were frequently hitting maximum capacity on the z990 machines, and although we were able to use On-Off Capacity on Demand to handle peaks in workload, we realized that we needed a more permanent solution.”

To meet the additional performance requirements, Sony Europe decided to upgrade from System z990 to System z10 Enterprise Class machines, linked to IBM System Storage DS8300 disk systems via FICON Express4 channels for extremely fast I/O performance.

This generation of mainframe processors offers greater performance and energy efficiency, enabling the company to process more data, more quickly, for the same cost.

The new machines deliver a boost to database performance for the SAP environment, making it easy to support the growing SAP environment.

Simpler maintenance, slimmer storage

DB2 is famous for its ability to reduce the need for planned outages by eliminating offline maintenance processes.

“DB2’s online reorg feature is a huge advantage,” says Hanlon. “If we had to take the database offline every time we needed to do a reorg, the potential downtime involved would be significant – but DB2 can handle it on the fly, without any significant impact on users.”

The SAP Computer Centre Management System (CCMS) is used to monitor the SAP systems, passing SAP alerts to the company’s monitoring systems. Other tools, such as the IBM z/OS Resource Management Facility (RMF), help to measure performance and tune DB2 for optimum performance.

The company is also using DB2 data compression technologies to reduce the impact of growing data volumes on its storage landscape. The SAP production environment now contains 4 TB of data, which is held using IBM System Storage DS8300 disk systems. The combination of the compression technology and the highly cost-effective enterprise-class DS8300 disk storage ensures that Sony Europe keeps its storage costs to a minimum.

In the near future, the company intends to upgrade to the latest version of DB2 for z/OS, which promises to deliver significant performance improvements and further improve cost-efficiency by reducing CPU usage and allowing for index compression.

SAP applications on Power Systems

From the application perspective, Sony Europe is running a wide range of SAP solutions, including SAP ERP Financials, Supply Chain Management and Human Capital Management, SAP Customer Relationship Management, SAP Supplier Relationship Management and SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse.

These run in IBM AIX partitions on two IBM Power 595 servers, with a migration to two IBM Power 795 in progress, with pairs of partitions clustered between the two machines to ensure high availability.

“If one partition crashes, or one of the processors develops a fault – or even if one entire machine fails – we can just fail the SAP Central Services over to the other node of the cluster and keep the application running,” explains Hanlon.

“This high availability setup for the application servers works as an excellent complement to the 99.999 percent availability of the database that is delivered by the System z Parallel Sysplex.”

Recently, the company worked on a project to upgrade its SAP Customer Relationship Management application, and increased the use of the SAP Virtual Machine Container to run Java workloads within the SAP environment. This increased the CPU requirements of the system, in terms of both capacity and speed.

The existing POWER5 processor-based servers were already running at full capacity, so the Sony team decided to implement 10 POWER6 IBM BladeCenter JS12 blade servers to run this new environment. Within the last few months, another four blades have been added – this time BladeCenter PS701 servers.

“The ability to add individual POWER blade servers to meet specific workload requirements is a major advantage of the IBM BladeCenter platform, and helped us deal with the additional demands of our new Java environment quickly and effectively,” says Hanlon.

Sony Europe is currently in the process of replacing its Power 595 servers with a pair of new Power 795 machines. Built around IBM POWER7 processors, these new servers should significantly increase the capacity of the SAP application environment.

SAP applications on BladeCenter

In addition to the Power Systems environment, Sony Europe also runs some of its SAP applications on Intel processor-based hardware from IBM. SAP NetWeaver Application Server runs on IBM BladeCenter HS22 servers in a Microsoft Windows environment, supporting the Sony Europe website and the front-end for the web shops.

“We also use the IBM Systems solution for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator, which is an IBM BladeCenter-based solution,” says Gill Hanlon. “It uses Intel Xeon processor-based blades to significantly improve business intelligence query performance: we have seen response times reduced significantly.”

Significant business benefits

Hanlon concludes: “With the combination of IBM hardware and the DB2 database platform, we have built an infrastructure that delivers class-leading availability for our SAP application landscape, combined with the performance we need to support our growing business. This has enabled us to extend our use of SAP Customer Relationship Management to support the Sony Style web shops and provide a more tailored service for customers of our Sony VAIO product range, since they can now customize their order online and get a computer built to their exact specifications.”

Gill Hanlon concludes, “The move to POWER7 technology promises to provide even better performance for the future, and innovative solutions such as the Business Warehouse Accelerator give us a significant advantage in terms of rapid, responsive reporting across the entire European business.”

Products and services used

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

BladeCenter, BladeCenter H Chassis, BladeCenter HS22, BladeCenter JS22 Express, Power 795, Power Systems, Storage, Storage: DS8300, System z, System z: System z running z/OS, System z: System z10, System z: System z10 Enterprise Class (z10 EC)

DB2 for z/OS, AIX, z/OS, PowerHA

Operating system:
AIX, Linux, Novell SUSE Linux, z/OS and OS/390

IBM-SAP Alliance

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