Leading German manufacturer secures success for SAP solutions with IBM Power servers and IBM XIV Storage Systems

Published on 22-Oct-2012

"Moving to IBM POWER7 and XIV Storage System made the entire landscape much easier to manage. The ability to provision new virtual servers and storage volumes in minutes rather than hours is a key advantage for our business-critical SAP applications." - Head of IT Infrastructure Department

Customer:
Leading German manufacturer

Industry:
Industrial Products

Deployment country:
Germany

Solution:
Business Integration, Business Resiliency, Enterprise Resource Planning, High Availability , Small & Medium Business, Storage Consolidation

IBM Business Partner:
SAP

Overview

The company is one of the world’s leading manufacturers. The corporate headquarters are located in Germany and the company has operations in Europe, North and South America, Asia, Oceania and Africa. It employs approximately 11,000 people, and generates annual revenues of more than 2 billion Euros.

Business need:
Customer objectives included: increase performance in the production SAP environment; do more with less: simplify storage management and reduce operational costs; reduce risk and ensure 24/7 availability for SAP applications and provide rapid disaster recovery capability.

Solution:
Created an infrastructure capable of supporting 2,500 SAP ERP/SAP APO users and 600 SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse users, with up to 1,300 concurrent users. Implemented two IBM Power® 750 Express servers running IBM AIX® 6. Worked with IBM and SVA, an IBM Premier Business Partner, to design and run a proof of concept for a new storage landscape for the SAP environment. Introduced four Generation Two IBM XIV® 2810-A14 Storage Systems, two at each data center.Each XIV is mirrored with its counterpart in the remote data center using XIV Synchronous Remote Mirroring.

Benefits:
Increased performance by 30 percent: improved database response times for SAP applications by enhancing I/O throughput and processing performance. Increased productivity: reduced storage management workload by the equivalent of one full-time employee, enabling the company to effectively merge its storage and server admin teams. Reduced data center space, power and cooling requirements by consolidating from twelve physical servers to two.

Case Study

About this paper

This technical paper explores how a leading German manufacturer created a more powerful, resilient and manageable infrastructure for its SAP application landscape by upgrading to IBM® POWER7® processor-based servers and migrating its storage environment to IBM XIV® Storage System technology. The combination of IBM server and storage technology has enabled significant performance improvements for SAP database response times – critical factors as SAP user numbers are increasing significantly. The company has also reduced licensing, maintenance and operating costs.

Customer Objectives

  • Increase performance in the production SAP environment.
  • Do more with less: simplify storage management and reduce operational costs.
  • Reduce risk and ensure 24/7 availability for SAP applications.
  • Provide rapid disaster recovery capability.

Customer Benefits
  • Increased performance by 30 percent: improved database response times for SAP applications by enhancing I/O throughput and processing performance.
  • Increased productivity: reduced storage management workload by the equivalent of one full-time employee, enabling the company to effectively merge its storage and server admin teams.
  • Reduced data center space, power and cooling requirements by consolidating from twelve physical servers to two.
  • Cut server acquisition costs substantially compared to previous generation of hardware and reduced maintenance and licensing costs.
  • Used innovative IBM grid technology to consolidate multiple older storage systems to two XIV systems, reducing complexity, administration and maintenance costs.
  • Improved availability and disaster recovery capabilities: in case of problems at the main data center, systems can be recovered within ten minutes at a second site.

IBM Solution

Created an infrastructure capable of supporting 2,500 SAP ERP/SAP APO users and 600 SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse users, with up to 1,300 concurrent users.

  • Implemented two IBM Power® 750 Express servers running IBM AIX® 6. Each server is configured with:
    • 24 IBM POWER7 processors running at 3.0 GHz
    • 384 GB of memory
  • Installed the servers at separate locations and distributed 45 SAP instances, including 15 production LPARs between them.
  • Introduced 8 Gbps host bus adapters in the servers and Brocade SAN Directors within the dual SAN fabric, increasing network bandwidth.
  • Used IBM Virtual I/O Server 2.1 (VIOS) to enable N_Port ID Virtualization (NPIV), simplifying storage management.
  • Worked with IBM and SVA, an IBM Premier Business Partner, to design and run a proof of concept for a new storage landscape for the SAP environment.
  • Introduced four Generation Two IBM XIV® 2810-A14 Storage Systems, two at each data center.
  • Each XIV is mirrored with its counterpart in the remote data center using XIV Synchronous Remote Mirroring.
  • Two of the XIV units are configured as follows:
    • 5 disk modules, each with 12 x 1 TB SATA disk drives
    • 15 CPUs and 120 GB of cache memory
    • 24 x 4 Gbps Fibre Channel ports and 6 iSCSI ports
    • 79 TB of net storage capacity
  • Two of the XIV units are configured as follows:
    • 1 disk module with 12 x 1 TB SATA disk drives
    • 11 CPUs and 88 GB of cache memory
    • 18 x 4 Gbps Fibre Channel ports and 6 iSCSI ports
    • 55 TB of net storage capacity
  • All four XIV systems run firmware 10.2.4 and GUI 2.4.4.
  • Implemented Tivoli Storage Manager version 6.2 to manage and automate backup processes.

About the company

The company is one of the world’s leading manufacturers. The corporate headquarters are located in Germany and the company has operations in Europe, North and South America, Asia, Oceania and Africa. It employs approximately 11,000 people, and generates annual revenues of more than 2 billion Euros.

The manufacturer’s IT team supports users across Germany. Some of the most important systems that the team manages are SAP ERP, SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization (APO) and SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW), which are supported by Oracle databases. Since 2000, the company has been running its SAP applications on IBM Power Systems™ servers running IBM AIX®.

Initial IT environment

Before the company began the infrastructure update project that forms the subject of this paper, the technical architecture for its SAP landscape was based on a combination of IBM server and non-IBM storage technologies.

The SAP ERP, SAP NetWeaver BW and SAP APO applications were running on twelve IBM Power Systems servers (a mixture of IBM POWER4™, POWER5™ and POWER6® processor-based servers). These servers were distributed between two data centers, each of which hosted production and non-production systems.

The servers were attached via dual SAN fabric to a number of Fibre Channel storage systems, arranged in three tiers. The maximum available Fibre Channel bandwidth across the entire storage landscape was 2 Gbps.

Business challenges and project objectives

The company has been growing rapidly. As a result, the workloads on core services such as the SAP solutions have increased significantly: the company now has 2,500 named SAP application users, with up to 1,300 accessing the systems concurrently during standard working hours.

Providing adequate performance for these users was becoming a challenge, especially for resource-intensive applications such as SAP NetWeaver BW and SAP APO. Although performance was affected in part as a result of increased processing requirements, the limitations in network bandwidth and storage I/O speed also contributed to the problem.

As data volumes increased, the company had expanded its storage systems several times. Maintenance costs were relatively high, and the need to house, power and cool large disk systems were added significant operational expenses. As the storage hardware approached the end of its four-year standard maintenance period, the IT team decided to rethink its storage strategy and find a more cost-effective solution.

Technical solution

Server architecture

A. Selection

The team considered three options:

  1. Upgrading to the latest generation of IBM Power Systems servers
  2. Migrating to a different UNIX server platform (for example, HP-UX or Sun Solaris)
  3. Migrating to a Linux® or Windows® x86 blade server platform

Because the company had been running its SAP applications on Power Systems servers and AIX for several years, its team had built up considerable expertise in managing these technologies, and also had good experience with the reliability and performance of the platform. The team saw the option of upgrading to POWER7 processor-based servers as a continuation of its existing successful strategy.

The team therefore ruled out the option of moving to a different UNIX platform, which would require changes in its IT management processes without delivering any significant benefit in terms of costs.

Moving to a Linux/Windows x86 blade server platform was also considered because the team initially believed that it might deliver cost advantages. However, due to the increased cost of software that is licensed on a per-processor basis (such as Oracle) on an x86 platform, and recent reductions in the hardware costs for the IBM servers, the company found that the cost of the POWER7 option was in fact comparable with a high-end x86-based solution.

For this reason, the team decided to stay on the Power Systems platform, and consolidate all of its older servers onto new IBM POWER7 processor-based servers.

B. Implementation

Working with IBM and System Vertrieb Alexander (SVA), an IBM Premier Business Partner, the manufacturer’s IT team upgraded its server architecture by replacing twelve of its older POWER4, POWER5 and POWER6 processor-based servers with two IBM Power® 750 Express POWER7 processor-based servers running the IBM AIX 6.1 operating system. Each server has 24 POWER7 processors and 384 GB of memory. One server has been installed at each of the company’s main data centers.

The company uses IBM Virtual I/O Server 2.1 (VIOS) to allow multiple logical partitions (LPARs) within each of the new servers to share a single physical adapter. A unique feature of IBM PowerVM® virtualization (compared with most other hypervisors) is that it is possible to have more than one VIOS per physical machine. This has advantages for server maintenance, because it is possible to take one VIOS offline for maintenance without affecting server connectivity. It also improves resiliency by eliminating a single point of failure, and enhances security.

The new POWER7 servers now handle the complete SAP production workload. The company also retains two POWER6 processor-based servers, to handle non-production workload. The remaining production systems running on the POWER6 platform will be migrated to the new POWER7 processor-based servers.

The company does not store any data on its servers; they boot from the SAN. This made it relatively easy for the IT team to replace the existing servers with the two new POWER7 machines: it is simply a matter of installing the new servers and Virtual I/O Servers (VIOS), defining the LPARs and their virtual FC adapters, and then mapping the appropriate Logical Unit Numbers (LUNs) to the new host bus adapters. From the server perspective, no other work is required because all systems are installed on the LUNs, not on the servers themselves.

For each LPAR, a separate thin-provisioned storage pool was created on the XIV Storage System. This allows LUNs to grow larger than the reserved pool space (also called hard size) without interrupting the production systems. The LUNs and their sizes within the storage pools were chosen based on the requirements of the SAP modules running in the respective LPARs.

As the company is currently not using snapshots, for example for server-free backup purposes, the storage snapshot reserve is kept to a minimum. However, the company plans to use IBM Tivoli FlashCopy Manager for server-free backup purposes, as described in the future plans section, and the snapshot reserve size will need to be resized accordingly. This can be completed online.

C. Testing and deploying Active Memory Expansion

Following the initial implementation of the new servers, the manufacturer decided to test the Active Memory™ Expansion (AME) capability, one of the new features of the POWER7 architecture and AIX 6.1 TL4 SP2.

AME uses the POWER7 processor to perform real-time compression/decompression of the data stored in a server’s physical memory. This effectively expands the available capacity of the physical memory, enabling each server to run more LPARs and more workload – which is particularly valuable in highly virtualized environments running memory-intensive applications such as SAP ERP.

The company followed IBM’s recommended deployment model for AME, which is a three-phase process. The first phase involved using the Active Memory Expansion Planning and Advisory Tool (AMEPAT) to:

  • Calculate the compressibility of the corporate data. (Most SAP systems run a mix of ABAP and Java workload. ABAP code can be compressed by approximately 50 percent, while Java code can only be compressed by about 10 percent, so it is important to understand the workload profile in order to use AME effectively in an SAP environment.)
  • Estimate the CPU overhead for compression/decompression.
  • Provide initial recommendations for the memory expansion factor that the company should use.

Using AMEPAT on an SAP Test LPAR, the team decided that the appropriate memory expansion factor for this LPAR (an SAP Test System with 10 GB of physical memory) would be 1.4. This would effectively increase the memory available to the LPAR by 40 percent (expanded to 14 GB), at the cost of a two percent increase in load on one of the POWER7 processors.

Although (according to SAP Note1464605) AME on POWER7 server with an Oracle database is not supported, the manufacturer decided to implement AME on a SAP Test System (Central Instance with DB). AME is currently only supported for SAP application servers (database clients) if they are running in three-tier environments and connecting to an Oracle 10g (10.2.0.4 and higher) or Oracle 11g (11.2 and higher) database server (including RAC), and if the database server itself does not use AME.

Once the company had made this decision, the second phase was to deploy AME in the SAP Test Environment. IBM offers a one-time, 60-day trial of AME, which allowed the manufacturer to temporarily enable the feature using the POWER7 hardware management console (HMC), and monitor its performance using AIX tools such as VMSTAT, LPARSTAT, TOPAS, SVMON and AMEPAT.

During the testing period in the SAP Test Environment, the company was able to compare the predicted performance of AME with reality by using a real-world SAP workload in this system.

Following the trial period, the IT team was so impressed by the capabilities of AME that it decided to implement the feature in its SAP Production Landscape. The manufacturing company implemented AME on a production SAP ABAP application server with an expansion factor of 2.0. This would effectively increase the memory available to the LPAR by 100 percent (i.e. to a total of to 35 GB), at the cost of a two percent increase in load on one of the POWER7 processors.

With this configuration, the company gained 17.5 GB physical memory and was able to configure this LPAR with only 17.5 GB real memory. As a result, the use of AME enabled the manufacturer to achieve the target value of 35 GB memory capacity. AME is implemented on all AIX LPARs.

Storage and network architecture

A. Selection

The manufacturer was now confident in its new server architecture, but the storage landscape remained a challenge. The company did not want to rely on an assortment of storage hardware platforms: it wanted a proven, enterprise-class solution. The existing storage infrastructure was based on several large Fibre Channel disk systems from a major storage technology vendor. These had been expanded several times, and were arranged in a three-tier architecture.

As data volumes grew, the IT team began to consider how best to scale the storage environment without requiring complex and expensive migrations every few years. The best approach seemed to be a virtualized storage system, which would simplify storage management and improve flexibility and scalability.

The team considered solutions from HP, 3PAR, EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, Pillar Data Systems and IBM. Products from the different vendors were evaluated in several benchmark tests, and the IBM XIV Storage System delivered equal or better performance than the other Fibre Channel systems.

The manufacturer also found that the XIV Storage System offered better price-per-TB performance, especially considering the management, software and reporting tools that are included as standard. As a result, the company decided to go ahead with a full proof-of-concept with the IBM XIV technology.

B. Implementation

During the proof-of-concept phase, working with IBM and SVA, the company’s IT team implemented two IBM XIV Storage Systems, Generation Two, with 15 modules, with one XIV Storage System at each of its two main data centers separated by about 3km. The XIV Storage Systems were linked via a dual SAN fabric to the company’s Power servers (running the SAP applications and Oracle 10g databases), and were also connected directly to Intel-based servers running the company’s Microsoft Exchange email system and other applications.

In addition, the two XIV Storage Systems were connected to each other via SAN switches across a third, independent fabric, which is used to support synchronous mirroring between them. The XIV Remote Mirroring technology ensures that a complete replica of all data is available at all times at both the primary and remote data center, which protects against a failure in either facility.

The XIV at the primary data center is used as the production system for the servers at both sites, while the XIV at the other site is used purely as a mirror. In case of problems with the primary XIV, the servers can be re-routed to the secondary XIV, which can take over the production workload. Additionally, using XIV technology removes the need to configure complex RAID data protection scenarios, which saves valuable administration time.

Once the proof-of-concept was completed, the team noticed that the required capacity of the XIV Storage Systems would be lower for the production environment. As the proof-of-concept goals for the XIV Storage Systems could be reached successfully, the company decided to deploy two additional XIV Storage Systems, Generation Two. One new unit was installed in each data center, connected to each other through XIV synchronous mirroring.

The Power servers include 8 Gbps Fibre Channel network adapters, and the company has introduced new 8 Gbps Brocade SAN Directors into its dual SAN fabric. This has upgraded the Fibre Channel infrastructure from 2 Gbps to 8 Gbps, and as a result, I/O throughput across the network has been significantly increased. In addition, VIOS is used to provide N_Port ID Virtualization (NPIV), which enables multiple Fibre Channel World Wide Port Names (WWPNs) to share a single physical port. This simplifies administration from the SAN perspective.

This setup was run for eight weeks as a proof-of-concept. Test data was used at first, and later in the project the IT team migrated a copy of production data onto the XIV Storage Systems, to provide an accurate insight into real-world performance.

The migration of the AIX systems was performed using AIX Logical Volume Manager mirroring, while the company’s Microsoft Windows systems were migrated using the XIV Storage System’s built-in migration tool. This migration tool is able to transfer data from other storage systems onto the XIV platform in the background – so production systems can remain online throughout almost the entire migration period, maintaining high availability for business users.

For SAP database backup purposes, the company uses Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) for ERP version 6.2. Tight integration with the SAP applications enables SAP administrators to use the SAP GUI for backup and restore maintenance. TSM for ERP also makes use of the Oracle RMAN (Recovery Manager) database-specific backup and restore utility. Together, RMAN and TSM provide a very efficient backup methodology. RMAN sends only used database blocks to TSM, and TSM performs incremental backups once an initial complete backup has been created.

By introducing the XIV Storage Systems solutions, the incremental backup times could be reduced as all available disks on the storage systems are used to read the data to be backed up.

C. Results of the proof-of-concept

The XIV Storage Systems reduced response times from an average of 356 ms to an average of 243 ms – an improvement of approximately 30 percent.

Project achievements

Performance improvements

Even though the company has consolidated its server landscape from twelve machines down to two, its processing capacity has nevertheless increased significantly as a result of the improved performance that the new POWER7 processors deliver. This increase should provide sufficient headroom to support business growth for several years.

In terms of boosting database performance in the SAP environment, I/O throughput is a critical factor. This depends partly on storage network bandwidth, and partly on storage subsystem performance. The company has been able to increase network connectivity from 2 Gbps up to 8 Gbps for the new servers by introducing the new 8 Gbps host bus adapters.

Meanwhile, the introduction of the XIV Storage Systems has improved storage performance. The massively parallelized grid architecture of the XIV technology enables it to deliver data much more quickly than a traditional storage system. The grid architecture enables the XIV to automatically balance the workload using all the available interfaces, I/O modules and hard disks in parallel. As a result, the company has achieved a 30 percent improvement in database performance, enabling it to perform queries and deliver data to SAP users within an average response time of 250 ms.

Reduced administrative workload

By consolidating the server and storage landscape to just two servers and four storage systems, the company has reduced space, power and cooling requirements in its data centers, and simplified the management of the environment.

The XIV Storage Systems provide an easy-to-use graphical user interface (GUI) that makes it quick and simple to provision new LUNs without worrying about the underlying infrastructure.

On the XIV Storage Systems, data is placed, striped and mirrored automatically over all the available hard drives, without the need to create RAID groups – a major advantage when compared to traditional storage systems. If the storage layout needs to be changed, for example, to add or remove capacity, LUNs can be resized easily and quickly, which eliminates complexity and adds to system flexibility. The XIV Storage Systems provide real-time monitoring tools that help the IT team monitor storage usage and plan growth, and a simple user interface enables easy management.

The Virtual I/O Server, a unique feature of the IBM Power platform, makes it simple to connect the servers and the SAN, using NPIV to share storage ports and adapters. VIOS reduces the need for cabling and physical infrastructure management.

As a result, the company has reduced its storage management workload by the equivalent of one full-time employee, and has been able to merge its storage and server admin teams.

Reduced costs

The POWER7 processor-based servers offer much more processing capacity and greater price/performance than the systems based on previous POWER processor generations. As a result, the company has been able to consolidate from twelve to two servers. With fewer processors, the company pays less for per-processor licensed software, such as Oracle.

The new POWER7 processors are more energy-efficient, leading to significant savings in power consumption. Table 1 shows the comparative wattage consumed by the different generations of processors, according to standard IBM tests. Looking at maximum electricity consumed per processor, we can see that the POWER7 processors consume better than 30 percent less electricity than POWER6, 25 percent less than POWER5, and nearly 70 percent less than POWER4 – while also delivering dramatically improved performance.

From the storage perspective, the company consolidated its disk storage onto four XIV Storage Systems – avoiding the significant maintenance costs and licensing management workload entailed by the previous storage solution. As a result, the company estimates that it has reduced its total cost of operation for SAP infrastructure considerably.

Improved availability and disaster recovery

The POWER7 processor-based servers have been in continuous operation since their introduction, and have never needed to be rebooted – a testament to the reliability of the hardware.

The POWER7 processor technology also enables Live Partition Mobility, a feature that makes it possible to move LPARs from one server to the other. This means that one server can be taken offline for maintenance while production systems can be moved to run continuously on the other machine – keeping downtime for critical SAP systems to a minimum.

The cross-site synchronous mirroring of the XIV systems ensures that a complete replica of the production storage environment is constantly maintained at the second data center. If there is a problem with the primary XIV, or even a full-scale disaster at the main site, the servers can be rebooted from the backup XIV at the second site. Since the only requirement is to re-map the SAN storage and reboot the server, the restoration of a production SAP system can be accomplished within 10 minutes.

The XIV Storage Systems provide enhanced failure tolerance. Data is mirrored automatically inside the machines. When one or more hard disks fail, the XIV Storage Systems use the mirrored data and the data on the remaining hard drives to recreate the mirror. Compared to the hours that it could take in a traditional RAID-based storage system, using XIV technology the time to taken recreate the mirror in case of a hard drive failure is reduced to a few minutes. As a result, disk failures have minimal impact on system performance.

Future plans

In the near future, the company plans to increase the capacity of the two POWER7 processor-based servers with additional processors to provide for workload growth, which will improve performance and capacity for the SAP environment, too.

The company also plans to use IBM Tivoli FlashCopy Manager (FCM) for backup purposes. FCM creates snapshots on the storage system and attaches the snapshots to a separate backup server, from where the backup is taken and stored in Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM). This approach offers two major advantages:

  1. As FCM only needs to suspend write I/O to the database to create the snapshots for a very short time (milliseconds), database availability can be increased.
  2. As a separate server is used to perform the actual backup (also called server-free backup), production server performance is not impacted while the backup is created.

Products and services used

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

Hardware:
Power 750, Power Systems running AIX 6, Storage, Storage: XIV

Software:
Tivoli Storage Manager, AIX

Service:
IBM-SAP Alliance

Legal Information

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