Esri maps out large-scale growth

With SAP and IBM

Published on 19-Dec-2011

Validated on 18 Jul 2013

"We were impressed with IBM’s PowerVM environment which basically replaces our physical systems. We were amazed that, for example, we could replace all 16 systems with just two physical systems, and we could run these systems in a virtual environment that is reliable and redundant." - Ricardo Davis, Systems Administrator, Esri

Customer:
Esri

Industry:
Computer Services

Deployment country:
United States

Solution:
IT/infrastructure, BA - Business Intelligence, Energy Efficiency, Infrastructure Simplification, Optimizing IT, Virtualization - Server

IBM Business Partner:
SAP

Overview

Headquartered in Redlands, California, USA, Esri specializes in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software. Esri products are used by more than 350,000 organizations worldwide, including most U.S. federal agencies and national mapping agencies, 45 of the top 50 petroleum companies, all 50 U.S. state health departments, most forestry companies, and many others in dozens of industries.

Business need:
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialist Esri relies on SAP software for core business management. As new applications were added and data volumes grew, system response started to slow down. Batch processes were taking longer to complete, and there was a danger that these would over-run into production time. The existing infrastructure based on another vendor’s older technology could not be extended. With 16 separate servers to manage and a series of data storage devices to maintain, system maintenance was a constant challenge.

Solution:
To create the kind of flexible, high-performance solution that would serve Esri’s existing needs and support future needs, the company migrated its SAP solutions to IBM Power 750 servers, maintained its data on the existing IBM DB2 software, and consolidated its data storage to IBM XIV Storage Systems. By enabling IBM DB2 compression, core production database volumes were reduced by 40 percent, online backup time was cut by 30 percent, and offline backup time was cut by 79 percent.

Benefits:
Esri’s new scalable, high-performance architecture enables it to deliver business services faster and improves its IT economics, supporting investment in the business through cost savings. The new solution occupies a smaller physical footprint, and with reduced software licenses (based on the reduced number of servers, Esri has a much lower total cost of ownership. XIV automated storage management and provisioning have cut administration costs by one full-time employee equivalent. Projected energy use by the new IBM server hardware is 89,702 kWh/year, a saving of 33,726 kWh/year.

Case Study

Headquartered in Redlands, California, USA, Esri specializes in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software. Esri products are used by more than 350,000 organizations worldwide, including most U.S. federal agencies and national mapping agencies, 45 of the top 50 petroleum companies, all 50 U.S. state health departments, most forestry companies, and many others in dozens of industries.

Esri software is used by more than 24,000 state and local governments, including Paris, France; Los Angeles, California, USA; Beijing, China; and Kuwait City, Kuwait.

Esri has ten U.S. offices, 80 distributors worldwide and 2,200 business partners. The company employs 2,800 people, generating annual revenues of $794 million, posting consistent yearly revenue growth. Esri works closely with major technology leaders such as AT&T, Citrix, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, SAS and others, providing integrated mapping and location data services.

The company relies on SAP software for many of its core business management processes, such as financials, human resources and materials management. As further SAP applications were added and data volumes grew, system response started to slow down. Batch processes were taking longer to complete, and there was a danger that these would over-run into production time.

The existing infrastructure was based on another vendor’s older technology that could not be easily extended to cope with the increased workload and meet the service level needs of its customers.

In common with practice at the time, the SAP applications and their corresponding non-production environments were each implemented on separate servers. The result was that Esri operated 16 servers and three main storage devices, with a complex, tiered storage architecture. Collectively the infrastructure was not keeping pace with demand from internal users and from customers placing orders directly over the internet. Esri spent most of its time on operations, with little time left for business investment. Ricardo Davis, Systems Administrator at Esri, comments, “We could not depend on the system with regards to performance. If a customer clicked on a web button to make a purchase, and the database was experiencing a problem at that particular time, the customer would see an ‘unknown error’ message, and we would lose the sale. Our only feedback would be from complaints to the webmaster.”

To attempt to cure some of the issues, Esri rebooted its core servers every six to eight weeks, incurring 15 to 20 minutes of downtime. Gradually, the benefits of the reboot would fade and service delivery to end users would drop.

Users began to complain that their reports were not running successfully. Moving from one tab to another within an SAP application window might take three or four seconds, and users experienced intermittent application hangs.

Selecting IBM for efficiency

Esri arranged for several vendors to propose solutions, including the incumbent. While other vendors suggested the same basic scale-out, physical architecture albeit with newer technology, the IBM team, working with IBM Premier Business Partner thinkASG, proposed advanced PowerVM virtualization capabilities to transform the Esri infrastructure. The Power Systems solution, based on IBM Power 750 servers with POWER7 processors running IBM AIX and PowerVM virtualization technology, combined with IBM XIV Storage System, offered Esri a smarter approach enabling improved business performance.

Ricardo Davis says, “We were impressed with IBM’s PowerVM environment which basically replaces our physical systems. With the PowerVM you have a virtual system that actually runs in the hardware itself. And that’s it. We were amazed that, for example, we could replace all 16 systems with just two physical systems, and we could run these systems in a virtual environment that is reliable and redundant.”

“As far as the storage was concerned, we ran about 8 or 10 disk trays. In our production system we have to lay the data out in such a way that we get the best performance. It takes time to do that on a standard storage array.

“With XIV storage array all that work went away. All the work going into carving up disks, creating volumes, we didn’t have to go through any more with the XIV.”

Migrating to POWER7 for performance

Esri migrated its SAP applications to the IBM AIX environment on the Power 750 platform, and both applications and data were moved to the XIV platform. In the process, Esri maintained IBM DB2 as its database software for its SAP applications, enabling them to take full advantage of the IBM technology and software stack.

During the migration Esri took advantage of DB2 compression features to reduce its data volumes. The production database of 750 GB was cut to 450 GB, a 40 percent saving. With reduced data volumes and other technical enhancements, online back has reduced from 18 hours to 12 hours, a 30 percent improvement. Offline backup has been cut from four hours to 50 minutes, a 79 percent improvement.

The company operates two data centers, each with one Power 750 and XIV device. Using PowerVM, the servers support multiple logical partitions (LPARs), running each SAP application in its own separate virtual server. PowerVM enables Esri to allocate processor capacity, memory and bandwidth resources dynamically to the servers, to ensure that the applications always have sufficient resources to deliver fast response and meet service level objectives. This arrangement is considerably more efficient than running physical servers, as capacity can be allocated according to demand and released to the pool when available.

Each of the two XIV devices provides 27 TB of storage, expandable to 79 TB. The XIV storage architecture and automated self-management removes the need for manual storage tiering and storage allocation. The XIV includes a technique known as ‘thin provisioning,’ which enables the Esri team to set up a storage volume, which the XIV then automatically adjusts according to requirements, further reducing the need for manual monitoring and intervention.

Choosing the IBM Migration Factory

Esri runs a lean IT department, focused on providing operational value to the business. A significant application and data migration project would be beyond the team’s resources, and the company invited systems integrators and business partners to present their proposals.

Reviewing presentations with thinkASG, Esri selected the IBM Migration Factory service, as Ricardo Davis explains: “You take a deep breath when you know you have to migrate because in a big move like that it is important to mitigate the risks that are involved. How are we going to do this? What are the risks that are out there that we don’t see right now? That’s the first thing that comes to mind.

“My concerns were alleviated when we had our kick-off meeting with the IBM Migration Factory. I was impressed by how they had things planned from the very beginning. There was no hesitation on their part, which gave me a sense of confidence.

“The IBM Migration Factory provided an excellent service and outstanding support for the migration.”

The core SAP application landscape contains around 600 GB of production data, replicated for test and development purposes. Esri also uses SAP eRecruiting, which adds a further 80 GB. The production system was migrated to the Power 750 and XIV infrastructure in 10 hours.

Paul Blatchley, SAP Manager, adds, “The Migration Factory was great. They essentially were on top of everything they were going to do, and they explained all of what they were going to do, and I found them to be very professional and very knowledgeable. They were familiar with the IBM equipment that we were moving to, the storage system we were moving to, they were familiar with SAP and how it functioned, and they led us through that process without an issue.”

Gaining the business benefits

The new IBM infrastructure has transformed system response through rapid service delivery and eliminated the frustrations of its staff and customers. The Power solution also has embedded scalability in the system architecture supporting new business investment for Esri.

Ricardo Davis comments, “With our data on the old storage array, in DB2 we were averaging around 11-15 milliseconds response time on asynchronous I/O reads. With our data on the XIV, the DB2 average asynchronous I/O reads is 3-5 milliseconds, a 66 percent improvement. The average electrical energy used by the server hardware is 123,428 kWh/year. The projected energy use by the new IBM server hardware is 89,702 kWh/year, a saving of 33,726 kWh/year, some 27 percent.

Paul Blatchley says, “In the old storage array technology we were required to spread our database over multiple spindles to achieve sufficient performance. The XIV manages the data layout across multiple drives automatically, and delivers great performance.”

Esri formerly allocated time purely to storage allocation and management, which is now handled automatically by the XIV systems, saving the costs of one full-time employee equivalent. The team has seen improvements for batch processing, too, as Ricardo Davis explains: “One batch job used to take 30 minutes, for example, now it is taking 10 minutes, a 66 percent improvement. We’ve seen others that, it just varies. We have seen 10 times the improvement, or 50 percent improvement, it just depends.”

Esri has also cut its core operational costs, including support, energy and data room space. Ricardo Davis says, “We have gone from 16 systems to two systems and two storage arrays. Now, basically, that says it right there. As far as electricity is concerned, we do not have to power 16 systems. We’re just powering two systems, two storage arrays, not to mention the storage arrays that we had before – we had three separate storage systems that were supporting our old environment, so that in itself is a big saving. Having to provide electrical power for 16 systems and three storage arrays down to two systems and two storage arrays, and of course, not to mention the support costs.”

Esri is currently running the Power 750 servers with five CPUs, expandable up to 24 CPUs, and the XIV arrays can grow from 27 to 79 TB. Ricardo Davis estimates that this headroom means that Esri has at least ten years’ headroom.

Paul Blatchley comments, “Here at Esri, we are running SAP to run the business, something that executives at the company do not want to have to worry about. The company is in the business of selling its software and achieving its mission. So we want SAP to be running in an environment that is reliable so those folks in the company that never have to concern themselves with it. In the past, we were regularly asked for approval for downtime, and now with the IBM technologies we don’t worry about that. The IBM platform is an excellent hardware platform to run SAP on. It is very reliable. A migration to the IBM hardware is an easy process, made so by the IBM Migration Factory and the work that they do.”

Products and services used

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

Hardware:
Power 750, Storage, Storage: XIV

Software:
DB2 for Linux, UNIX and Windows

Operating system:
AIX, Linux

Service:
IBM-SAP Alliance

Legal Information

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