Burda Digital Systems gains flexibility, reliability and availability with IBM systems

Published on 21-Dec-2011

Validated on 18 Jul 2013

"IBM blade and storage solutions really stand out from other products on the market: they are simply excellent. The IBM SAN Volume Controller storage virtualization features we implemented were the main reason we chose IBM technology for our SAP environment." - Thomas Gießler, Head of Data Center, Burda Digital Systems

Customer:
Burda Digital Systems

Industry:
Computer Services, Media & Entertainment

Deployment country:
Germany

Solution:
Business Continuity, Business Resiliency, Enabling Business Flexibility, Energy Efficiency, Enterprise Resource Planning, High Availability , Small & Medium Business, Virtualization, Virtualization - Storage, Information Infrastructure

IBM Business Partner:
SAP, PROFI Engineering Systems , B1 Systems GmbH

Overview

Burda Digital Systems, a division within Burda Direkt Services (a Hubert Burda Media subsidiary), offers IT services to internal and external customers. Burda Digital Systems hosts and operates a number of IT systems, and provides comprehensive direct marketing and subscription management services. It supports its clients as a full service provider to manage with the strategic, procedural and technological challenges of their business models. With approximately 1,200 employees, Burda Digital Systems enables its customers to tap new sources of revenue in customer management and e-commerce.

Business need:
Customer Objectives included: Find the best, certified state-of-the-art technology to run Burda Digital System’s SAP solutions. Reliably operate an extensive, highly available SAP environment with a cost-effective IT infrastructure. Improve storage and server performance to improve system performance and prepare for future requirements. Significantly reduce backup and recovery times. Take the next step towards green IT by optimizing the energy footprint of the hosted systems.

Solution:
Working with IBM and IBM Business Partner PROFI Engineering Systems, Burda Digital Systems implemented four IBM BladeCenter chassis with 24 blade servers and four IBM System x3650 M3 servers powered by highly energy-efficient Intel® Xeon® processors, supported by a virtualized storage solution based on an IBM SAN Volume Controller stretched cluster connected to IBM System Storage DS5100 and IBM System Storage DS3500 systems for a more highly available, flexible and reliable operation of its customers’ SAP solutions.

Benefits:
Enhanced system performance by factor of two with up-to-date server and storage technology. Increased flexibility and availability with IBM BladeCenter systems and storage virtualization including different storage classes. Improved system recovery performance by a factor of 20 with a newly designed operations concept. Faster information delivery speeds up decision-making processes. Significantly increased the energy efficiency. Integrated networking equipment for consistent and easy network administration and management across the entire IBM BladeCenter environment.

Case Study

About this paper

Burda Digital Systems is an IT service provider located in Germany, offering services to internal and external customers. The company continually looks for better, highly available and more reliable high-performance solutions for its customers, and at the same time focuses on driving down costs and increasing efficiency. Working with IBM and IBM Business Partner PROFI Engineering Systems, Burda Digital Systems implemented four IBM BladeCenter chassis with 24 blade servers and four IBM System x3650 M3 servers powered by highly energy-efficient Intel® Xeon® processors, supported by a virtualized storage solution based on an IBM SAN Volume Controller stretched cluster connected to IBM System Storage DS5100 and IBM System Storage DS3500 systems for a more highly available, flexible and reliable operation of its customers’ SAP solutions.

Customer Objectives

  • Find the best, certified state-of-the-art technology to run Burda Digital System’s SAP solutions.
  • Reliably operate an extensive, highly available SAP environment with a cost-effective IT infrastructure.
  • Improve storage and server performance to improve system performance and prepare for future requirements.
  • Significantly reduce backup and recovery times.
  • Take the next step towards green IT by optimizing the energy footprint of the hosted systems.

IBM Solution
Applications
SAP ERP (ECC 6.0), SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW), SAP Customer Relationship Management (CRM), SAP NetWeaver Portal, SAP NetWeaver Application Server, SAP Personnel Time Management (PT) and SAP Solution Manager, SAP Business Connector (BC) running on IBM i operating system

Servers
Four IBM® BladeCenter® H chassis; 24 IBM BladeCenter HS22 blade servers; four IBM System x3650 M3 servers. All blade and rack servers are powered by the six-core Intel® Xeon® processor 5600 series

Storage
SAN Volume Controller with four nodes implemented as stretched cluster in two different data centers; four IBM System Storage® DS5100 storage systems; two IBM System Storage DS3500 storage systems; four IBM B80 SAN switches; IBM System Storage Productivity Center

Backup
Two IBM System Storage DS3400; IBM System Storage TS3500 Tape Library; IBM Tivoli® Storage Productivity Center (part of SSPC); IBM Systems Director

IBM Business Partner
PROFI Engineering Systems
IBM service partner B1 Systems GmbH

Customer Benefits
  • Enhanced system performance by factor of two with up-to-date server and storage technology.
  • Increased flexibility and availability with IBM BladeCenter systems and storage virtualization including different storage classes.
  • Improved system recovery performance by a factor of 20 with a newly designed operations concept.
  • Increased processing power enables customers to execute reports online that were previously executed during batch runs at night. As a result, important reports can be accessed much quicker than before. Faster information delivery provides more up-to-date information, improving business workflow and speeding up decision-making processes.
  • Significantly increased the energy efficiency of Burda Digital System’s SAP operations from the silicon upwards, with intelligent processor and server technology supporting automated power consumption regulation and advanced performance management. This also substantially reduced cooling requirements for the company’s systems.
  • Integrated networking equipment for consistent and easy network administration and management across the entire IBM BladeCenter environment.


Background, starting point and objectives

About Burda Digital Systems
Hubert Burda Media, a family business that has been in operation for more than 100 years, combines tradition and innovation. The market leader in the German magazine industry, the company is expanding into direct marketing and digital media, and aims to establish itself internationally. The company employs about 7,600 people, and its brands entertain and inform millions of consumers on a daily basis.

Burda Digital Systems, a division within Burda Direkt Services (a Hubert Burda Media subsidiary), offers IT services to internal and external customers. Burda Digital Systems hosts and operates a number of IT systems, and provides comprehensive direct marketing and subscription management services. It supports its clients as a full service provider to manage with the strategic, procedural and technological challenges of their business models. With approximately 1,200 employees, Burda Digital Systems enables its customers to tap new sources of revenue in customer management and e-commerce.

Initial IT environment
For many years, Burda Digital Systems used HP servers running the HP-UX operating system and HP storage solutions to operate its SAP and non-SAP systems. When these machines approached the end of their lifecycles, Burda Digital Systems needed to find a new solution to operate its key business systems and applications.

Over time, as workload and data volumes increased, system backup and recovery times lengthened, and overall system performance declined. Data storage space became an issue, and the existing storage systems could not be extended to cope with growing demands.

Business challenges and project objectives
Burda Digital Systems provides IT services to the wider Burda group and to external customers. The company continually looks for better, more reliable high-performance solutions for its customers, and at the same time focuses on driving down costs and increasing efficiency and reliability.

Recognizing that its existing systems were at their end-of-life, Burda Digital Systems asked IBM and HP for new proposals based on state-of-the-art technology. The company sought simple replacements for its existing servers, and also requested innovative solutions that could take advantage of the latest technology and best practices. The goal was to create systems that would be as cost- and energy-efficient as possible, providing a flexible working environment that could meet the varying demands of its many customers.

Thomas Gießler, Head of Data Center at Burda Digital Systems, states: “We analyzed our requirements and explained our business and what we wanted to achieve to different vendors. We asked for best practices, because we really wanted to modernize our IT operations according to the latest insights and technologies available.”

Burda Digital Systems decided to arrange proof of concept demonstrations with two major IT partners, providing real data to test the solutions under conditions that would mirror the final configuration. During these test installations, Burda Digital Systems analyzed systems management, administration, and performance. It was crucially important to understand how to operate the server and storage infrastructure, integrate the solutions into the existing backup tool and how to set up new systems. The company assessed the solutions with respect to their degree of complexity and how rapidly new customer services could be created, configured and released to production.


Technical Solution
Working with IBM, IBM Business Partner PROFI Engineering Systems, and IBM service partner B1 Systems, Burda Digital Systems implemented four IBM BladeCenter H systems, two in each data center, which offer substantial space for future upgrades.

Each BladeCenter provides 14 slots and is currently configured with six IBM HS22 blade servers equipped with the Intel Xeon processor 5600 series for best energy efficiency based on automated performance management. They are connected redundantly to an IBM SAN Volume Controller, implemented as stretched cluster for improved business continuity. Four IBM System Storage DS5100 high-performance storage systems are connected to the SAN Volume Controller cluster.

The new IBM solution at Burda Digital Systems features four layers:
  • SUSE® Linux Enterprise Server operating system and SUSE High Availability Extension.
  • Hardware layer with the IBM BladeCenter systems with highly intelligent Intel Xeon processors.
  • Virtualized storage based on IBM SAN Volume Controller, IBM System Storage DS5100 and the IBM Storage Productivity Center.
  • Backup solution based on four IBM System x3650 M3 servers, IBM System Storage DS3400 storage devices used as disk pool and an IBM System Storage TS3500 Tape Library.

Thomas Gießler explains the importance of the storage layer in the company’s configuration: “IBM blade and storage solutions really stand out from other products on the market: they are simply excellent. The IBM SAN Volume Controller storage virtualization features we implemented were the main reason we chose IBM technology for our SAP environment.”

Burda Digital Systems operates about 50 SAP systems for its customers, including 16 production systems. The company hosts SAP ERP (ECC 6.0), SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW), SAP Customer Relationship Management (CRM), SAP NetWeaver Portal, SAP NetWeaver Application Server, SAP Personnel Time Management (PT) and SAP Solution Manager. These systems are connected to other systems such as EDI solutions, an SAP Business Connector (BC) application running on IBM i, other applications running on IBM i, and content management and editing systems.

For example, Burda Digital Systems operates an integrated SAP software solution for Cyberport, an online electronics wholesaler (part of the Burda group). The online shop systems are directly connected to SAP ERP and SAP CRM applications, which enable Cyberport to use consumers’ buying activities to drive supply chain and marketing processes. Cyberport then analyzes the same transaction data using SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse solution, all hosted by Burda Digital Systems within the integrated application environment.

The biggest single SAP system operated by Burda Digital Systems has approximately 1,400 named users with some 600 concurrent users.

Server architecture
In the previous system architecture based on HP-UX running on HP Integrity rx8620 servers, up to 20 SAP systems ran on one physical server on one operating system. If one of the SAP systems encountered a significant problem or if the physical hardware failed, then the other SAP instances were impacted, and possibly taken offline.

By implementing an IBM BladeCenter solution based on the Intel Xeon processor 5600 series, combined with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Burda Digital Systems has changed its server design at a fundamental level. Using the BladeCenter methodology, Burda Digital Systems runs one comprehensive SAP landscape (production, development and test) per blade server. If an SAP landscape needs to be restarted, or in the unlikely event that a server suffers a component outage, other customers’ SAP solutions are not affected while the SAP instance is repaired or the blade server is swapped out.

With IBM BladeCenter technology featuring redundancy of all components, and supporting high availability on the hardware level, Burda Digital Systems reduced the risk of system downtime significantly.

The IBM BladeCenter configuration has greatly increased solution flexibility, boosted business continuity and substantially improved outage recovery times, while the Intel Xeon processors have also brought automated energy-efficient performance to the server room.

Working with IBM Business Partner PROFI Engineering Systems, IBM service partner B1 Systems and IBM, Burda Digital Services installed four IBM BladeCenter H chassis, each equipped with six IBM HS22 blade servers. The four BladeCenter chassis are distributed across two data centers, with two at each location.

The BladeCenter chassis also contain integrated Cisco Nexus switches, which insert into the BladeCenter chassis alongside the blade servers, offering reliable and easy to manage high-speed network infrastructure. Several 10 Gbps network links connect the servers to the networking infrastructure. Access to the storage area network is provided through 8 Gbps SAN links.

The IBM BladeCenter servers feature the six-core Intel Xeon processor 5600 series. These processors automatically regulate power consumption and intelligently adjust server performance according to application needs, maximizing both energy efficiency and performance.

Featuring Intel Intelligent Power Technology, the Intel Xeon processor 5600 series reduces energy costs when compared with equivalent single-core servers, by automatically shifting the CPU and memory into the lowest available power state, while delivering the necessary level of performance. When more processing power is needed, Intel Turbo Boost Technology automatically increases processor frequency and utilizes hyper-threading to meet the demands of complex applications.

Based on long experience, Burda Digital Systems chose SUSE Linux Enterprise Server as the primary operating system for its SAP environment, fully supported by IBM and SAP. The team implemented an automated installation routine for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, enabling Burda Digital Systems to expand its SAP landscape flexibly and quickly without time-consuming installation tasks for system administrators.

For those customers who require it, Burda Digital Systems uses the SUSE High Availability Extension for improved business continuity of mission-critical SAP solutions. The solution is configured to provide automatic failover, with manual approval of the cutover itself.

SUSE High Availability Extension also enables Burda Digital Systems to move systems to a second cluster node for upgrade and maintenance procedures without service interruption. Such maintenance moves provide a good way to test that the high-availability solution is functioning correctly.

In practice, most of the customer SAP solutions operated by Burda Digital Systems are configured for high availability. For hardware redundancy, the company retains blade servers that can be used in an event of failure.

Customers running more than one SAP solution, for example SAP ERP and SAP CRM, are allocated two blades – one for each SAP application. If a hardware failure occurs on one blade, both SAP solutions can be operated on one blade as a short-term measure, to avoid system downtime.

The highly-integrated BladeCenter architecture is designed for virtualization and makes adding, configuring and commissioning additional physical servers an incredibly straightforward task, while also offering significant gains in flexibility and reliability.

Sophisticated tools, such as the hot-swap IBM BladeCenter Advanced Management module based on robust hardware running Linux, enable comprehensive remote access, configuration and system management features supporting many industry-standards and open protocols for easy and flexible administration of all installed BladeCenter components. This technology boosts administrator productivity by providing a single point of control for managing the entire solution, helping to maximize system reliability and availability.

The modular IBM BladeCenter architecture also integrates multiple layers of redundancy to reduce the possibility of a single point of failure. For maximum reliability, the uniquely designed Calibrated Vectored Cooling™ technology helps protect critical system components of the BladeCenter system.

With a solution based on the IBM BladeCenter architecture, complexity of data center operations can be simplified with an open platform that is capable of integrating virtually any networking standard from multiple vendors. All these characteristics improve the stability and manageability of the entire SAP solution at Burda Digital Systems.

Thomas Gießler remarks, “Of course we now have more systems to monitor and patch, but that only has a slight effect on the system administration workload. Patches are tested once, and then subsequently rolled out to all systems using standard SUSE Linux Enterprise Server update functionality. Because the basic configuration of all systems is identical, rolling out patches is very simple.”

Burda Digital Systems uses the open source tool Nagios to monitor its entire IT infrastructure to ensure systems, applications, services, and business processes are functioning properly. IBM Systems Director monitors the BladeCenter systems, and then feeds the data to the central Nagios monitoring tool.

Storage architecture
Working with IBM and IBM Business Partner PROFI Engineering Systems, Burda Digital Systems also upgraded its storage environment to the latest technology, and implemented an IBM SAN Volume Controller stretched cluster with four nodes across two locations.

The SAN Volume Controller systems are connected through four IBM SAN switches for redundancy, high-availability and optimized performance. The IBM SAN Volume Controller cluster provides virtualized access to four IBM System Storage DS5100 systems for high-performance data storage.

Using the flexible IBM SAN Volume Controller virtualization features, Burda Digital Systems implemented different storage classes. For less demanding systems, such as content management solutions and image databases, the company integrated two IBM System Storage DS3500 Express storage devices to provide lower-cost storage capacity within the virtualized storage environment.

IBM SAN Volume Controller manages high availability in the virtualized storage solution. In a SAN Volume Controller stretched cluster, three quorum disks, installed at a third data center with strong protection against fire, are configured for storing configuration data and maintaining cluster availability. One volume is set up as a quorum disk on each of the IBM system Storage DS5100 systems.

Additionally, a third quorum disk on an IBM DS3400 with 584 GB capacity is deployed at a separate location to ensure uninterrupted and consistent business continuity in the event of failure. Primary production data is distributed across both IBM System Storage DS5100 systems to use the full performance and bandwidth capacity of both systems in normal operation.
In event of failure at one location, the SAN Volume controller transparently provides storage services from the system that is still working. One half of the system continues to operate, and the other half stops until SAN connectivity and functionality is restored. The third site quorum disk is an important high availability feature, and is an enabling technology for automatic failover and recovery between sites.

For easy administration, IBM System Storage Productivity Center was implemented to manage the entire storage landscape from a single point. IBM System Storage Productivity Center is the central starting point for all storage administration activities, and enables storage issues to be identified and located more easily within the storage environment. IBM System Storage Productivity Center offers a quick overview over all components, of how the different systems are interconnected and also displays the status of all devices. The IBM System Storage Productivity Center is configured to send monitoring and alert messages to the IT team, and can notify customers and external partners when required.

As Thomas Gießler notes, “IBM System Storage Productivity Center saves our storage administrators a lot of time. We had no such solution before and are benefitting enormously from the ease of use of this consolidated storage administration solution.”

For backups, Burda Digital Systems deployed four IBM System x3650 M3 servers, which feature the same six-core Intel Xeon processor 5600 series with Intel Intelligent Power Technology as the BladeCenter servers.

The Intel Xeon processor 5600 series maximizes both energy efficiency and performance by automatically regulating power consumption and intelligently adjusting server performance according to application needs. Attached to the backup servers are two IBM System Storage DS3400 devices, functioning as disk pool. The data is backed up to an IBM System Storage TS3500 Tape Library configured with 10 IBM System Storage TS1050 Ultrium 5 tape drives, managing a total of 400 backup tapes. The backups are managed with Symantec™ NetBackup™ software.

Careful planning for smooth migration
With IBM and IBM Business Partner PROFI Engineering Systems, Burda Digital Systems planned the migration of its SAP applications to the new server and storage infrastructure. The project team selected one system instance from each existing SAP solution as a test migration to prove the concept.

For this purpose, one SAP ERP system, one SAP CRM system, and one SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse system were migrated in collaboration with IBM. After completing a successful migration, the project team knew that the proposed solution would actually work as expected on the target platform.

The project team subsequently migrated the same systems a second time, reviewing system configurations and evaluating possible optimizations for performance improvements.

Before starting any migrations, the Burda Digital Systems team prepared the relevant databases for the migration by manually reorganizing them to achieve optimal performance for export and import operations.

Thomas Gießler: “It was central for the project success that we all worked closely together in a project team with highly competent specialists from IBM, PROFI Engineering Systems, and Burda Digital Systems.”

Project achievements
The new server and storage solution from IBM based on Intel Xeon processors has helped Burda Digital Systems to improve its SAP operations significantly. The BladeCenter solution scales up easily to manage new workload, and Burda Digital Systems has gained the flexibility to grow in size as well as performance.

The IBM BladeCenter platform offers integration with a wide range of network technology providers. This unique feature of IBM BladeCenter technology has enabled Burda Digital Systems to standardize its network management processes based on Cisco Nexus switches embedded in the BladeCenter chassis, offering simplified installation and configuration, and reducing physical footprint in the server rack.

By migrating from two monolithic servers to multiple blade servers, Burda Digital Systems has minimized the risk of failure with increased redundancy in physical servers and operating system instances. High server density, optimized energy efficiency and easy scalability through the addition of more blades as necessary are core characteristics of the IBM BladeCenter technology.

Burda Digital Systems has significantly increased both the energy efficiency and performance of its SAP operations with Intel processor technology, which automatically regulates power consumption and intelligently adjusts server performance. These features have also allowed the company to substantially reduce its data center cooling requirements. Both the energy and cooling improvements are in line with the high emphasis placed by Burda Digital Systems on green IT.

As well as reducing its energy footprint, Burda Digital Systems also achieved substantial savings in storage administration thanks to the IBM System Storage Productivity Center. Storage virtualization with IBM SAN Volume Controller, including the integration of different storage systems for different storage classes, offers further advantages by optimizing total storage capacity usage, leading to additional storage cost savings.

The IBM BladeCenter solution has helped Burda Digital Systems to improve the competitiveness of its service offering, and the company is able to pass on some of the cost savings to its customers, who benefit from a more flexible solution for lower service fees.

Thomas Gießler comments, “I see the biggest advantage in being able to run all sorts of applications on a homogeneous platform. With IBM BladeCenter technology for SAP based on Intel Xeon processors, we have standardized our server operations on a reliable, cost-efficient and flexible platform. Our objective was to set up a reliable and flexible solution, and that is exactly what we got with this solution from IBM.

“Additionally, we had never previously experienced such close collaboration between the hardware and software partners. Staff from IBM, SUSE and SAP actually share offices, which makes opening support requests and finding solutions much easier and faster.”

Performance improvements
Following the proof of concept, Burda Digital had specified clear performance improvement goals. After the new solution was implemented, Burda Digital Systems was able to confirm that these goals were achieved, and that the combined IBM, PROFI Engineering Systems and B1 Systems implementation team delivered the projected improvements successfully.

In addition to the transformed system architecture based on IBM BladeCenter technology, the advanced backup and recovery solution including IBM System x3650 M3 servers, IBM System Storage DS3400 disk systems and an IBM System Storage TS3500 Tape Library helped to substantially improve recovery times at Burda Digital Systems. Thomas Gießler says: “Using the BladeCenter solution, systems can be recovered much more quickly, and we no longer need to recover up to 20 systems if a single system fails. Based on the fundamental changes in solution design, recovery times have been accelerated by up to factor 20.”

The virtualized storage environment enables Burda Digital Systems to temporarily move test systems to the high-performance storage solution and move them back as soon as the relevant tests are completed. This allows the company to perform more effective and cost-efficient testing without having to restart the test systems. With this flexibility, Burda Digital Systems can use its available storage capacity much more efficiently, resulting in reduced operating costs and improved agility, and avoiding expensive spare capacity lying idle much of the time.

The new IBM server and storage solution has improved the overall system performance of the SAP and non-SAP systems by 200 percent, doubling system performance. Some workloads, previously executed in overnight batch runs, can now be executed online. As a result, users can access important reports much quicker than before. Faster information delivery improves business workflow and speeds up decision-making processes because more up-to-date information is available.

Next steps
Burda Digital Systems plans to extend the IBM BladeCenter and IBM System Storage solutions as needed. Over the medium term, the company wants to expand its virtualized environment, to optimize capacity of both processing resources and storage systems.

With IBM BladeCenter technology, Burda Digital Systems has a solution that already has proven its capability and reliability of running SAP systems in virtualized environments for many years, Technical changes include plans to implement IBM FlashCopy Manager for more efficient and quicker system copies for testing, and to provide system backups.

The IBM solutions have moved Burda Digital Systems from monolithic, inflexible systems to granular, modular, standardized solutions that are easy to manage and expand, and cost-effective to operate. Further steps will be taken towards increased processor virtualization, creating a modern, flexible and scalable infrastructure for both Burda Digital Systems itself and its customers.

Products and services used

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

Hardware:
BladeCenter H Chassis, BladeCenter HS22, BladeCenter running Linux - SUSE, Storage: DS3400, Storage: DS3500 Express, Storage: DS5100, System Networking: SAN80B-4, Storage: TS3500 Tape Library, System x: System x running Linux - SUSE, System x: System x3650 M3

Software:
System Storage SAN Volume Controller, IBM Systems Director for IBM x86, IBM System Storage Productivity Center

Operating system:
Novell SUSE Linux

Service:
IBM-SAP Alliance

Legal Information

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