Stuttgarter Versicherungsgruppe solves SAP application performance and backup issues with IBM zEnterprise and zBX

Published on 09-Sep-2013

"By running our SAP solutions on the new IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension, we have been able to reduce system backup runtime by 80 percent." - Siegfried Langauf, Head of System Administration, Stuttgarter

Customer:
Stuttgarter Versicherungsgruppe

Industry:
Insurance

Deployment country:
Germany

Solution:
Big Data, Business Continuity, Enabling Business Flexibility, Energy Efficiency, Enterprise Resource Planning, High Availability , Information Management Foundation, Storage Consolidation, System z Software, Virtualization

IBM Business Partner:
SAP

Overview

Headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, Stuttgarter Versicherungsgruppe employs more than 800 people at ten locations. The company offers a broad range of insurance products – life and non-life – and manages approximately 1.2 million contracts with a total of €676.9 million premium income per year. The assets under management have increased to more than €5.8 billion in 2012.

Business need:
Insurance company Stuttgarter Versicherungsgruppe (Stuttgarter Insurance Group) wanted to simplify system management and disaster recovery processes to provide more reliable IT services to staff and customers.

Solution:
Set up as a managed service contract, the company deployed an IBM® zEnterprise® 114 server together with the IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter® Extension to host core SAP ERP and related business applications. To ensure business continuity, insurance company Stuttgarter relies on IBM Business Continuity and Resiliency Services to provide data mirroring.

Benefits:
Reduces investment costs in new infrastructure with service contract and improves business continuity capability substantially with extended and simplified disaster recovery concept. Dramatically lowers storage administration costs and saves time in system administration with consolidation and automation.Eliminates bottlenecks and accelerates backups by 80 percent. Improves system and storage performance substantially by increasing networking bandwidth from 1 Gbits to 10 Gbits. Substantially reduces energy consumption and lowers the cooling requirements.

Case Study

About this paper
Insurance company Stuttgarter Versicherungsgruppe (Stuttgarter Insurance Group) wanted to simplify system management and disaster recovery processes to provide more reliable IT services to staff and customers. Set up as a managed service contract, the company deployed an IBM® zEnterprise® 114 server together with the IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter® Extension to host core SAP ERP and related business applications. To ensure business continuity, insurance company Stuttgarter relies on IBM Business Continuity and Resiliency Services to provide data mirroring.

Customer objectives

  • Improve business continuity with a cost-efficient disaster recovery solution
  • Simplify system administration with integrated system architecture and virtualization
  • Eliminate bottlenecks to increase staff efficiency and reduce backup times
  • Improve reliability with latest server technology
  • Improve flexibility and scalability to enable dynamic capacity adjustments for optimized resource utilization
  • Comply with future regulatory requirements such as Solvency II

IBM Solution
Tailored service solution from IBM® Global Technology Services® and IBM Systems Lab Services with hardware hosting and backup data center provided by IBM Business Continuity and Resiliency Services

IBM zEnterprise® 114 with IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter® Extension and IBM BladeCenter HX5 blade servers supported by IBM System Storage® DS8700 storage solution

Core insurance applications running on IBM z/OS® with IBM DB2® for z/OS version 10

SAP software running on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with IBM DB2 for Linux, UNIX, and Windows database version 9.7 including an SAP ERP application with the SAP ERP Financials solution for financials and controlling, asset accounting, and corporate finance management. Personnel is managed using the SAP ERP Human Capital Management solution. A broad range of financial and treasury processes are supported by the SAP Loans Management application, and also the SAP Investment Management for Insurance and SAP Investment Controlling for Insurance packages. SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW) for reporting and analytics

Backup solution based on Removable Media Manager (RMM) in combination with IBM System Storage TS7740 Virtualization Engine and IBM System Storage TS3500 Tape Library

Customer Benefits

  • Reduces investment costs in new infrastructure with service contract and improves business continuity capability substantially with extended and simplified disaster recovery concept.
  • Dramatically lowers storage administration costs and saves time in system administration with consolidation and automation
  • Eliminates bottlenecks and accelerates backups by 80 percent.
  • Improves system and storage performance substantially by increasing networking bandwidth from 1 Gbits to 10 Gbits
  • Substantially reduces energy consumption and lowers the cooling requirements.
  • Background, starting point and objectives

About Stuttgarter Versicherungsgruppe
Headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, Stuttgarter Versicherungsgruppe employs more than 800 people at ten locations. The company offers a broad range of insurance products – life and non-life – and manages approximately 1.2 million contracts with a total of €676.9 million premium income per year. The assets under management have increased to more than €5.8 billion in 2012.

In the last few years, Stuttgarter outperformed compared to the market – especially in life-insurance – and its attractive products and outstanding financial solvency make it one of the best-regarded insurance companies in the German broker market.

To distinguish itself in an intensely competitive industry sector, Stuttgarter focuses on providing excellent customer service. For the same competitive reasons, the company maintains constant emphasis on cost control, helping to offer attractive premium rates to customers while maintaining its profitability.

To support this strategy, information technology plays a significant role. Highly qualified staff constantly works to improve data center operations and the IT department manager reports directly to the CEO.

Initial IT environment
Stuttgarter manages almost all of its mission-critical systems in-house, such as the SAP ERP applications hosted on IBM® rack-mounted servers. These servers were equipped with internal hard disk drives as main storage, which were not integrated into the company’s storage area network. In addition, no virtualization was used for the SAP ERP application servers, resulting in a large number of physical systems, each of which required individual management. For its non-SAP systems, Stuttgarter relied on an IBM BladeCenter® chassis with IBM blade servers.

Business challenges and project objectives
Over the years, the company’s physical servers became increasingly unreliable as the components aged. During periods of high workload the company experienced performance drops as throughput limits were reached, particularly affected by the network and storage equipment capacities.

The company analyzed its system architecture and noticed that during regular backup windows, lack of bandwidth caused a throughput bottleneck. As a result, backups took longer to run than expected, which in turn impacted available time for other maintenance operations. As part of its commitment to customer service excellence, Stuttgarter could not allow backup and maintenance operations to impact application availability, and the IT team looked for ways to eliminate the bottlenecks, increase throughput and, simultaneously, cut operational costs.

Technical solution
One of the underlying difficulties of the existing solution was the fragmented nature of the data storage and the connections between multiple physical servers. Working with IBM, Stuttgarter decided to upgrade its existing IBM System z® server and implemented an IBM zEnterprise® 114 (z114) system. For improved application performance of its SAP solutions, Stuttgarter deployed an IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX) together with its new IBM z114 solution. To increase the storage performance, Stuttgarter installed an IBM System Storage® DS8700 disk system and connected it to its new IBM zEnterprise environment.

Dr. Michael Konrad, Head of IT at Stuttgarter explains, “By implementing an IBM zEnterprise 114 in combination with the IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension, we integrated our mainframe and our open systems environments, and the storage environments. By doing so, we increased the storage performance across system architectures and improved application performance for SAP and non-SAP systems alike.”

The new integrated solution simplifies systems management, with standardized, centralized backups on the IBM System z server.

Stuttgarter engaged IBM Global Technology Services® to set up a service contract to deliver and operate the new infrastructure. IBM provides a comprehensive backup and recovery facility at an IBM data center, which enables Stuttgarter to resume operations even when its own data center fails. The critical components are provided by IBM Business Continuity and Resiliency Services and leased by Stuttgarter, an arrangement which covers the IBM zEnterprise 114 server, the IBM zBX system, the IBM System Storage® DS8700 storage solution, the IBM System Storage TS7740 Virtualization Engine and IBM System Storage TS3500 Tape Library , as well as an IBM archive solution.

Server architecture

IBM System z powers core insurance applications
Stuttgarter runs its core insurance applications on the IBM zEnterprise 114 server with IBM z/OS®, IBM DB2® for z/OS and IBM CICS® (Customer Information Control System). The company selected IBM System z® for its superb transaction processing capability, extreme scalability and consistent response times.

The optimized infrastructure is easy to manage and provides a robust environment for continuous operations without unplanned downtime. About 600 people at Stuttgarter rely on the core insurance applications. Without access to contract and contact details, staff cannot provide the excellent customer service that is central to the corporate strategy.

The company also sells products through several thousand brokers as the primary sales channel of Stuttgarter’s insurance services. The agents use a web interface to view core business data stored in the DB2 database, which helps them sell more efficiently by providing the latest product and customer information. IBM DB2 for z/OS version 10 is vital for Stuttgarter. The IBM z114 server can handle up to 1.2 million transactions per day at peak times without any performance impact and with no configuration changes.

Dr. Michael Konrad says: “With our core insurance applications running on an IBM z114 server, we are confident that our systems run reliably without unplanned downtime. IBM System z allows us flexibility when we need it and ensures our master data of more than one million contracts is consistent at any time.”

SAP on zEnterprise
Stuttgarter relies on SAP software to manage its business efficiently. The company uses SAP ERP applications with the SAP ERP Financials solution for financials and controlling, asset accounting, and corporate finance management, while the personnel function is managed through the SAP ERP Human Capital Management solution.

A broad range of financial and treasury processes are supported by the SAP Loans Management application, and also the SAP Investment Management for Insurance and SAP Investment Controlling for Insurance packages. In addition, Stuttgarter relies on SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse for reporting and analytics. For seamless collection processing and automated data exchange, Stuttgarter has connected its custom-developed collections solution to the SAP ERP application.

To take advantage of the close integration with the reliable IBM System z platform and the advanced virtualization and management capabilities of the IBM zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager, Stuttgarter selected the IBM zBX solution to operate important SAP and non-SAP business applications on ten IBM BladeCenter HX5 blade servers. Because the IBM zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager virtualization technology is fully certified and supported by SAP, Stuttgarter has been able to move its SAP ERP application servers from dedicated server hardware to virtualized environments. By switching to virtualized servers and eliminating dependence on a fixed application-to-physical-server environment, Stuttgarter has increased its business flexibility considerably.

The company configured two of its blade servers running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for its four production SAP ERP systems with 90 concurrent SAP users. The SAP applications are supported by IBM DB2 for Linux, UNIX, and Windows version 9.7. SAP test and development systems are operated on two additional blade servers. A 10 Gbit Intra Ensemble Data Network connects the IBM zBX with the IBM z114, helping to eliminate bottlenecks and enable the faster backups.

Siegfried Langauf, Head of System Administration at Stuttgarter, says: “In the past, the backup windows became too small, so the backup processes increasingly impacted the SAP application performance. By running our SAP solutions on the new IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension, we have been able to reduce system backup runtime by 80 percent. The fast internal network connection between the IBM zBX and the IBM zEnterprise 114 ensures that we can create backups reliably without clogging up our entire network.”

Thanks to the IBM zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager, Stuttgarter has gained the capability to flexibly scale systems up and down. The standardized administration interface makes the company’s overall infrastructure easier to manage, and fosters collaboration between the system operators on the IBM z114 and the system administrators on the IBM zBX.

To complete the application migration from blade and rack-mounted servers to the IBM zBX system, Stuttgarter adopted a stage-by-stage process. The first step was to migrate already virtualized systems, a relatively easy process. The company next began its consolidation to the zBX solution by migrating smaller systems such as DNS and LDAP services. Subsequently, the company migrated business-critical systems: web portals, document management and viewer, and finally the SAP ERP application servers. The result is that Stuttgarter is able to operate a broad range of SAP- and non-SAP applications running on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, other Linux operating systems, and Microsoft Windows operating systems, consolidated on the IBM zBX infrastructure.

How automation and monitoring increases efficiency
To further increase efficiency, Stuttgarter has extended its automation scripts using the application programming interfaces (APIs) of the Unified Resource Manager.

Siegfried Langauf says, “We worked closely together with IBM Systems Lab Services and Training to understand the capabilities of zBX and Unified Resource Manager. To save time in system administration, we have exploited the system APIs that offer Unified Resource Manager capabilities and automated common administration tasks, simplifying system administration of our SAP systems substantially.”

For example, using the Unified Resource Manager APIs, Stuttgarter can create new virtual machines or move virtual machines from one server to another, and reorganize its storage configurations.

Finally, Stuttgarter integrated the IBM z114 and the IBM zBX into the company-wide monitoring solution, providing a single central dashboard to analyze system health across different architectures and environments. Dr. Michael Konrad adds, “We are very happy with the IBM zEnterprise platform, and we received highly valuable implementation support from IBM. The service excellence and quality is a key reason behind our choice for IBM.”

Consolidating local disk storage
To address the data storage performance issues, Stuttgarter installed a new IBM System Storage DS8700 disk system to support its SAP and non-SAP systems running on IBM zEnterprise. The company extended the existing System z storage capacity and also consolidated about 12 local disks to this new storage solution.

Siegfried Langauf says, “Moving from local disks to a centralized approach with IBM zEnterprise connected to IBM System Storage DS8700 makes storage management much easier. We can use our storage capacity more efficiently and storage performance increased substantially.”

The integration of the storage resources with the Unified Resource Manager simplified the storage management further. By controlling its storage through Unified Resource Manager, Stuttgarter can scale easily systems and flexibly change storage volumes, without touching any hardware.

With eight redundant IBM FICON® connections, the IBM z114 has fast and direct access to the IBM DS8700 to ensure a reliable storage performance, important for Stuttgarter’s backup strategy. The IBM zBX is connected to the storage system via a high availability SAN fabric of two IBM SAN switches. Two Fibre Channel connections link the IBM zBX to the SAN switches, and the SAN switches rely on two Fibre Channel connections to provide access to the IBM DS8700. For its document management in compliance with retention policies and compliance requirements, Stuttgarter uses an integrated IBM solution.

Backup and business continuity architecture
As part of its revised business continuity strategy, Stuttgarter signed a service contract with IBM Global Technology Services to provide backup, disaster recovery and failover facilities based on an IBM data center outside Stuttgart. IBM retains a cold backup infrastructure, and mission-critical data is mirrored to the IBM data center, ready to be deployed if the need arises.

The team ensures operational reliability of the business continuity solution by testing the recovery processes once a year. Every year, the tests become more advanced, to make sure that operations could resume from IBM’s backup data center without extensive service interruptions for customers, insurance agents and staff.

Stuttgarter optimized its backup processes and stores system copies, database dumps and archives (including configuration files) on the IBM System z server before migrating it to an IBM tape library. The business continuity strategy aims to minimize downtime, improve data protection and simplify backup management, and as part of improving total system resilience, the company extended its existing backup architecture with a second IBM System Storage TS3500 Tape Library, combined with a second IBM System Storage TS7740 Virtualization Engine.

With the new solution from IBM Business Continuity and Resiliency Services, Stuttgarter automatically writes its tape backups to its local tape library and a second, remote tape library at IBM’s data center. This means that the company always has current backups at two separate locations, while automation eliminates the time-consuming and costly manual handling and storage.

Dr. Michael Konrad says, “We work closely with IBM Global Technology Services to minimize the risk of downtime with an advanced business continuity strategy. Standardized backup managed by the very reliable IBM z114 platform is in the center of our backup strategy, and with IBM Business Continuity and Resiliency Services we always know that our data is safe and we could resume operations quickly after a disruption.”

Project achievements
The new server and storage solution has enabled Stuttgarter to reduce its investment in new infrastructure and helped the company to retain control over its systems. Furthermore, the IBM service contract has improved the company’s business continuity capability substantially and contributed to direct operational cost savings.

Dr. Michael Konrad explains, “By moving to a service contract we have been able to implement a cost-efficient solution to renew our IBM infrastructure and improve system reliability. Comprehensive data backup at the remote IBM data center allows us to respond quickly to service disruptions, and regular annual tests as part of the service contract give us confidence that the backup solution is functional in an event of disaster. ”

Siegfried Langauf says, “The systems were easy to implement. During the installation of the IBM zBX, IBM was very supportive, responded quickly to our questions and provided valuable advice.”

By replacing local disk storage and consolidating on a central storage system, Stuttgarter has dramatically reduced storage administration costs. The updated infrastructure has improved system performance, and the new systems substantially reduced data center energy consumption and cooling requirements.

Performance improvements
Deploying an integrated system increased network connectivity, from 1 Gbits to 10 Gbits, between the SAP systems and core insurance applications has provided considerably increased SAP application and backup performance. While previously some backup processes could not always be completed within the defined backup windows, impacting staff efficiency, with the new IBM zEnterprise solution, bottlenecks have been eliminated, and backup runtimes have been cut by 80 percent.

The new solution has also enabled Stuttgarter to implement SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse to provide a consolidated reporting platform. The company integrates data from different source systems to generate reports to support company management, comply with governance guidelines, and provide advanced business analytics to staff.

Siegfried Langauf explains, “The old solution did not provide enough capacity and was not flexible enough to easily implement new systems quickly. Thanks to the fully virtualized SAP applications on IBM zBX, we can set up new systems much faster and use our computing and storage capacity better than ever before.”

Next steps
Following the successful migration of its SAP applications and other services to the IBM zBX, Stuttgarter plans to expand this environment and move more systems to this unique platform.

Dr. Michael Konrad concludes, “With IBM zEnterprise we have a reliable, flexible and highly scalable platform to operate our mission-critical SAP and non-SAP business applications at good performance. The integrated architecture allows easy administration and management with a small operations team while our systems are constantly growing.

“By implementing a comprehensive business continuity strategy with IBM Global Technology Services, we boosted our disaster recovery capability and put a cost-efficient backup solution in place. Overall, we are very confident, that with the streamlined architecture, we have strengthened our position in the competitive insurance market and improved customer service quality.”

Products and services used

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

Hardware:
BladeCenter, BladeCenter HX5, Storage, Storage: DS8700, Storage: TS3500 Tape Library, Storage: TS7740 Virtualization Engine, System z, System z: zEnterprise 114 (z114), System z: zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX)

Software:
DB2 for Linux, UNIX and Windows, DB2 for z/OS

Operating system:
SUSE Linux

Service:
GTS ITS Server: Server Product Services for Linux, GTS ITS Server: Server Product Services for System z, GTS Technical Support Services: Managed Support, IBM-SAP Alliance, STG Lab Services: System z

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corp. 2013 All Rights Reserved. IBM Deutschland GmbH. D-71137 Ehningen. ibm.com. Produced in Germany. IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, BladeCenter, CICS, DB2, FICON, Global Technology Services, System Storage, System z, z/OS and zEnterprise 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: http://www.ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries, or both. Microsoft, Windows, Windows NT, and the Windows logo are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. UNIX is a registered trademark of The Open Group in the United States and 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. The client is responsible for ensuring compliance with laws and regulations applicable to it. IBM does not provide legal advice or represent or warrant that its services or products will ensure that the client is in compliance with any law or regulation. Actual available storage capacity may be reported for both uncompressed and compressed data and will vary and may be less than stated.