Beckmann Technologies creates innovative remote diagnostic tools

Helping repair sophisticated automobile components with powerful IBM System x technology

Published on 14-Feb-2012

Validated on 01 Aug 2013

"The number one reason for consolidating to a single IBM System x3630 M3 is that it uniquely had an enormous amount of storage, processing power and memory in a single box." - Shay Woodard, CIO of Beckmann Technologies and BlueLink Diagnostic Solutions.

Customer:
Beckmann Technologies

Industry:
Automotive

Deployment country:
United States

Solution:
Enabling Business Flexibility, Energy Efficiency, Optimizing IT, Server Consolidation

Overview

Beckmann Technologies repairs and remanufactures electronic components for Mercedes-Benz automobiles. Its sister company, BlueLink Diagnostic Solutions, provides remote diagnostic and information tools to enable collaborative vehicle repair. As the number and variety of embedded Electronic Control Units (ECUs) grows, the products and services provided by Beckmann Technologies and BlueLink ensure that even small auto repair shops can keep pace. The companies are based in Durham, NC, and employ a total of 11 people.

Business need:
Beckmann Technologies wanted to reduce the time spent on server maintenance, cut energy requirements, boost scalability and performance, and increase the speed and agility of software development.

Solution:
Consolidated from more than 25 Dell servers to a single IBM System x® 3630 M3 server with two six-core Intel® Xeon® 5670 processors, 48 GB of RAM and 28 TB of disk.

Benefits:
Achieved 25:1 consolidation ratio; cut energy requirements by 80 percent; enabled higher performance for customer-facing diagnostic systems; enabled faster and more agile software development cycles.

Case Study

Beckmann Technologies repairs and remanufactures electronic components for Mercedes-Benz automobiles. Its sister company, BlueLink Diagnostic Solutions, provides remote diagnostic and information tools to enable collaborative vehicle repair. As the number and variety of embedded Electronic Control Units (ECUs) grows, the products and services provided by Beckmann Technologies and BlueLink ensure that even small auto repair shops can keep pace. The companies are based in Durham, NC, and employ a total of 11 people.

The diagnostic tools provided by BlueLink are used remotely by its customers to query the ECUs in the cars they are servicing or repairing. There are more than 30 ECUs in a typical high-end automobile, and a diagnostic session may collect as much as 500 MB of data from each. To process and manage these large volumes of data, the company had been relying on more than 25 rack-mount Dell servers.

"It was time-consuming and costly to maintain all of these individual servers, and this approach was clearly not sustainable," says Shay Woodard, CIO of Beckmann Technologies and BlueLink Diagnostic Solutions. "Although we are a small organization, we have enterprise-type needs because of the amount of data we process to support our solutions and customers. The number one reason for consolidating to a single IBM System x3630 M3 is that it uniquely had an enormous amount of storage, processing power and memory in a single box."

Balanced offering
By consolidating the systems running on more than 25 Dell servers to a single 2U IBM System x3630 M3, Beckmann Technologies and BlueLink were able to remove an entire rack of storage servers while gaining a more powerful solution that is significantly more economical to run. The reduced power and cooling requirements mean that the companies now use just 1/5th of the electrical energy previously needed. The IBM server uses the Intel Xeon processor 5600 series, which automatically regulates power consumption to combine industry-leading energy efficiency with intelligent performance that adapts to changing workload requirements.

"We are making significant energy savings, but more important to me is that I'm not spending time babysitting servers: I've gained an additional two days per month," says Woodard. "From taking the x3630 M3 out of the box to getting it up and running was probably the shortest amount of time I've ever taken to get a new server online. Also, I have peace of mind that if I need to start adding more servers, I'll have a similarly smooth installation and I'll be able to use IBM Systems Director to work across all the servers in a unified fashion, saving time."

The x3630 M3 is running Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 to support proprietary auto diagnostic applications and databases. It has 48 GB of RAM, 28 TB of disk storage and two Xeon 5670 processors, each with six cores. The server processes and stores large numbers of XML files containing data from diagnostic sessions. These files are mined and analyzed to form a large knowledge base, accelerating future diagnosis and repair.

Technicians use the BlueLink tools to mine diagnostic information directly from the embedded systems in each vehicle and return it to the BlueLink servers for analysis. At the end of each diagnostic session, the complete log is maintained for future reference. Then, if the same vehicle comes in for a service, the technician can seamlessly pick up where they left off.

"The horsepower the x3630 M3 provides was a very compelling aspect," says Woodard. "Together with the large memory and disk capacity, this makes the x3630 M3 a very balanced 2U offering. The work on the server completes in a fraction of the time that it used to, which is important because our customers are very time-sensitive. The longer they take to fix a car, the less profit they make. Performance, reliability and uptime have to be at guaranteed levels for our customers to trust our services - the x3630 M3 provides all three."

Meeting quality objectives
The x3630 M3 features Unified Extensible Firmware Interface and encrypted RAID, providing complete protection for Beckmann Technologies and BlueLink's data. Hardware-based encryption means there is no associated performance overhead, and the companies can use different RAID levels across the server disks dependent on the specific requirements for each type of data.

"The more ECUs you have on a car, the more data you need to look at when you're troubleshooting," comments Max Williams, Software Engineer, BlueLink Diagnostic Solutions. "I mine gigabytes of data, and having that data reliably and readily accessible on the x3630 M3 is crucial. The server is also highly dependable, and the built-in encryption helps protect our intellectual property."

"The parts that we remanufacture go through very rigorous testing and a quality-control process that is second to none," adds Bob Beckmann, President and CEO of Beckmann Technologies and BlueLink Diagnostic Solutions. "We need our technology to come up to the same standards, and that's exactly what IBM ensures."

Agile solution
BlueLink continually develops its software products, and takes advantage of the large disk capacity on the x3630 M3 to store multiple virtual hard drive images for staging, testing, and product development. Having all of these on a single server eliminates the delays previously experienced when copying large virtual disks from one machine to another.

The high performance of the x3630 M3 is also beneficial to software development efforts, as Michael Kirlauski, Software Engineer at Beckmann Technologies, explains: "The IBM System x3630 M3 puts the power back in our hands. It increases the speed at which we work, and it increases the number of features we are able to include before each release deadline. The software builds would previously take anything from a couple of hours to a whole night, and this was a barrier to our agile software development approach. With the x3630 M3, the quick turnaround time means that there's no longer any waiting around to see what deployments are going to look like - they are immediately ready."

"We're effectively integrating multiple information tools - discussion forums, email lists, websites and so on - into intelligent diagnostic tools linked to a constantly updated knowledge base," says Beckmann. "We deliver these 'silver bullets' direct to the service bay, essentially in real time. The IBM System x technology delivers the quality, reliability and scalability we need to maintain our excellent service levels to customers. Equally, we have found IBM to be very easy to work with, and after-sales support has been wonderful - we've never had any problems."

Products and services used

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

Hardware:
System x, System x: System x running Windows, System x: System x3630 M3

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2012 IBM Corporation Systems and Technology Group Route 100 Somers, NY 10589 Produced in the United States of America February 2012 IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, and System x are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml Microsoft, Windows and Windows NT are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. Intel, the Intel logo Xeon and Xeon Inside are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries. This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. It is the user’s responsibility to evaluate and verify the operation of any other products or programs with IBM products and programs. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided. Actual available storage capacity may be reported for both uncompressed and compressed data and will vary and may be less than stated.