Published on 21-Dec-2011
"Availability was already essentially 100 percent on POWER5, so there is no scope for improvement on that front. The combination of the IBM Power architecture, AIX and Oracle is extremely robust - when we have something critical which absolutely needs 24/7 reliability, that’s the platform we choose." - Stéphane Nuzzo, Infrastructure Manager, NTN-SNR
IBM Business Partner:
NTN Group is the world’s third-largest manufacturer of bearings and related industrial components. The company’s products are used across automotive, aerospace and general industry applications. Formed out of the 2007 merger between NTN of Japan and SNR of France, the group has major operations in ten countries worldwide, supplying components to practically every major car and aircraft manufacturer and to a host of well-known engineering and heavy industry firms.
As NTN-SNR finalizes the integration of multiple global operations into a single reporting structure, it needs to add more users to its central SAP ERP solution - ultimately going from 700 to 1,000 users. To prepare for this change, and to gain more performance and flexibility to support a planned migration to SAP ERP ECC 6.0, the company needed to refresh its server and storage infrastructure.
NTN-SNR upgraded to two IBM Power 750 Express servers, each with two eight-core IBM POWER7 processors running IBM AIX 6.1. It also replaced its Sun-StorageTek disk arrays with two IBM Storwize V7000 Disk Systems.
Moving to the new infrastructure has given NTN-SNR the headroom it needs to support its growth plans, while reducing the total cost of ownership. It has also improved storage performance.
NTN Group is the world’s third-largest manufacturer of bearings and related industrial components. The company’s products are used across automotive, aerospace and general industry applications. Formed out of the 2007 merger between NTN of Japan and SNR of France, the group has major operations in ten countries worldwide, supplying components to practically every major car and aircraft manufacturer and to a host of well-known engineering and heavy industry firms. NTN Group also offers services across these three sectors, and employs 900 people in advanced research and development facilities around the world.
The group has used SAP software for a number of years to manage its operations across Europe. The SAP environment is now being extended from the European operations - in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Romania - to cover Brazil and Argentina also. Facing the need to expand the number of SAP users from 700 to more than 1,000, and wanting to upgrade to the latest release of the SAP software, NTN-SNR decided to refresh the underlying infrastructure.
Stéphane Nuzzo, Infrastructure Manager for NTN-SNR Roulements, explains: “Looking at a three- to five-year horizon, we knew that we needed more capacity and performance for our SAP systems. Our goal is always to provide the highest possible quality of service to our internal users, and it was clear that our existing infrastructure was at the limits of its capabilities. Equally, maintenance costs were rising for both software and hardware, so it also made good financial sense to invest in new technology.”
NTN-SNR’s previous infrastructure for the SAP ERP software was based on IBM Power Systems servers with IBM POWER5 processors running AIX 5.3. These servers - virtualized using IBM PowerVM to enable multiple logical partitions on each physical system - were connected to Sun-StorageTek disk arrays.
“The IBM hardware had served us very well, but we were two whole generations behind the latest processor technology,” says Stéphane Nuzzo. “We were already at the performance limit of the POWER5 processors, and it wasn’t realistic to expect that we could add 300 users with no impact. Looking to the future, we needed headroom for growth and - more importantly - to allow us to upgrade to SAP ECC 6.0.”
Powering up with IBM
NTN-SNR deployed two IBM Power 750 Express servers, each with two eight-core POWER7 processors, and upgraded to AIX 6.1. These servers are divided between two data centers, 7 km apart, near Annecy in France. To provide storage for the core SAP systems and other applications running on AIX, NTN-SNR selected two IBM Storwize V7000 Unified Disk Systems, one in each data center, each with 12 TB of capacity across both solid-state drives (SSDs) and SAS drives. With automatic migration of frequently accessed data to the high-performance SSDs, the Storwize V7000 provides a two-tier storage environment in a single, easy-to-manage physical unit.
“Storwize seemed like the most natural fit with the new POWER7 processor-based servers,” says Stéphane Nuzzo. “The best feature of Storwize is its integrated instant data copy function, which enables us to create test and quality assurance environments for our SAP systems incredibly quickly and easily. The additional performance of the POWER7 processors is certainly good to have, and will become increasingly valuable as we expand the SAP environment. But right now, it’s the Storwize part of the solution that is really delivering the most benefit.”
Previously, NTN-SNR required up to 36 hours to build a new test or quality assurance environment and populate it with data. With Storwize, the process is automated, and it takes less than five hours. “We have some important pre-production environments that need to be refreshed at the beginning of every week, which used to put strain on the IT team over the weekend,” says Stéphane Nuzzo. “Storwize automatically refreshes these environments every Sunday evening, so that they are ready for use the following morning.”
Simplifying the infrastructure
The two Power 750 servers run different parts of the SAP landscape independently. In the unlikely event of a failure on one machine, NTN-SNR can restart the important elements of its workload on the remaining Power 750 machine. The data on the Storwize is replicated between the two sites, either synchronously or asynchronously depending on the business requirement for each element of the SAP landscape. NTN-SNR uses Oracle 10g as the database software for its SAP systems, with Oracle Data Guard protecting business-critical databases.
“The introduction of the Power 750 servers has given us the headroom we needed to continue consolidating non-SAP software from smaller Power Systems servers,” says Stéphane Nuzzo. “This will help us to simplify our infrastructure, eliminating older, less efficient hardware and enabling us to focus our future investment on just two physical systems.”
In addition to the SAP ERP functionality, NTN-SNR uses SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW) for business reporting and analytics. This part of the solution runs on virtualized Linux servers on VMware vSphere. Also running on Linux/VMware is an SAP BusinessObjects governance, risk and compliance (GRC) solution for NTN-SNR’s operations in Brazil.
NTN-SNR also has an IBM System z mainframe running legacy applications. The primary systems in this environment are production management, purchasing management, finance and controlling. Ultimately, the group may deploy the equivalent solutions in its SAP ERP landscape, and retire the legacy applications.
Unified data protection
IBM Tivoli Storage Manager provides a unified backup and recovery solution for the entire infrastructure at NTN-SNR, covering all systems running on the IBM Power Systems servers, on the IBM mainframe, and on the distributed server landscape (across both Linux and Microsoft Windows Server).
“With a single backup and recovery tool - Tivoli Storage Manager - for all parts of the infrastructure, we can protect business-critical data with minimal administrative effort,” says Stéphane Nuzzo. NTN-SNR has completed the migration of all open systems data to the IBM Storwize V7000 platform, and continues to use the older StorageTek hardware for mainframe storage. The ultimate aim is to migrate all storage to Storwize.
With hierarchical storage management on IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, NTN-SNR has an easy yet powerful way to manage the two different classes of storage in the Storwize V7000 platform. Says Stéphane Nuzzo, “Our aim is to move all the rarely-accessed user data to a lower tier of storage. There are two benefits in doing this. First, we can reduce our long-term expenditure on high-end disk capacity. Second, and most important for us, by moving non-critical data to a separate set of resources, we can more easily focus our efforts on business-critical data during a disaster-recovery scenario, achieving faster recovery for the systems that really count.”
When the migration of the SAP production landscape to the POWER7 processor-based systems is complete, NTN-SNR expects to see clear improvements in performance, and to gain the headroom it requires for the coming five years. This will include the upgrade to SAP ERP ECC 6.0 in the summer of 2012. Says Stéphane Nuzzo, “The move to POWER7 is largely to future-proof the infrastructure, but it’s true that we have also seen some significant financial benefits. The software maintenance costs are now lower, so the upgrade will be partially paid for by lower maintenance costs.”
He adds, “Availability was already essentially 100 percent on POWER5, so there is no scope for improvement on that front. The combination of the IBM Power architecture, AIX and Oracle is extremely robust - when we have something critical which absolutely needs 24/7 reliability, that’s the platform we choose. It would be possible for us to move the SAP application servers to Linux and run them on lower-cost distributed servers. But then we would lose the reliability and the coherence of the current solution: our core SAP systems run on a single platform and are managed using a single set of skills. It’s really important when it comes to ensuring that the SAP systems support the business effectively.”
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