IT service provider improves its reporting and enhances information quality

Published on 16-Dec-2013

"After implementing the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution, we have reduced our primary SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse database to three business years of data. Thanks to the IBM solution, we can provide direct and fast access to another three years’ data to our business users, so they can go back six years without the need to involve anyone to import data." - Spokesperson

Customer:
IT service provider

Industry:
Computer Services

Solution:
Data Warehouse, Enabling Business Flexibility, Enterprise Resource Planning, High Availability , Information Management Foundation

IBM Business Partner:
SAP

Overview

This company is the central IT service provider for a major trading and services group, which runs worldwide commercial, logistics and supplementary services for the farming, food and construction industries. With 240 employees, the company delivers reliable IT operations for some 10,000 users in more than 1,000 locations across Europe.

Business need:
With its focus on the agricultural sector, seasonal patterns and long-term trends are important to the service provider, to make sure the group stays on track and meets its strategic goals. Deeper insights into its business operations would lead to better decision making and help the group to develop competitive advantages over competitors.

Solution:
The service provider operates a comprehensive SAP ERP application landscape for itself and for the entire group, supporting business processes in all areas. The group also uses SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, SAP NetWeaver Portal, SAP NetWeaver Process Integration, SAP Solution Manager, the SAP Mobile Platform and SAP BusinessObjects Mobile. The company runs its SAP software on virtual Linux servers, with IBM DB2 for Linux, UNIX and Windows providing core application database services. IBM DB2 powers the group’s largest SAP ERP application, with a compressed database volume of 5.5 TB.

Benefits:
Enables executives and analysts to gain comprehensive insight from the information provided on tablets and other mobile devices (without manual data imports) for faster decision-making. Saves €30,000 annually in maintenance and support costs. Accelerates access to aged business data by 80 percent.Reduces the time to move data into the near-line storage solution by approximately 70 percent. Improves system availabilities and minimizes downtime thanks to shorter backup and recovery times. Provides adaptive compression for highly efficient data storage for large databases.

Case Study

About this paper

This IT service provider wanted to improve reporting performance without compromising the depth of the information, which included the historical records required by executives and analysts. To do so, the company decided to implement the IBM® DB2® Near-Line Storage solution for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse and move 8 TB of data out from the primary database. With a slimmed-down SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse database, the company is now optimally placed transition to an in-memory solution, with lower likely license costs and easier and faster migration processes.

Customer objectives

  • Improve business analytics reporting to enhance decision making.
  • Provide business users with faster access to ever-more information.
  • Enable more-efficient management thanks to greater control over data.
  • Reduce the size of the data warehouse, to help cut backup and recovery times.
  • Enable faster data migrations, to reduce system downtime and help maximize availability.
  • Replace the existing near-line data storage solution due to its inability to meet the company’s operational requirements.
  • Cut the time and cost of managing near-line data.

IBM and SAP solutions
  • IBM DB2 for Linux, UNIX and Windows with Database Partitioning Features across 13 nodes.
  • IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse based on IBM DB2 version 10.1, running on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications.
  • IBM Systems Solution for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator.
  • Comprehensive SAP ERP application landscape with 15 SAP production systems including SAP ERP for Retail, SAP ERP Human Capital Management, SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, SAP NetWeaver Portal to provide enterprise workspaces, SAP NetWeaver Process Integration to connect with a broad range of suppliers, SAP Solution Manager.
  • SAP Mobile Platform and SAP BusinessObjects Mobile.

Customer benefits
  • Enables executives and analysts to gain comprehensive insight from the information provided on tablets and other mobile devices (without manual data imports) for faster decision-making.
  • Saves €30,000 annually in maintenance and support costs.
  • Accelerates access to aged business data by 80 percent.
  • Reduces the time to move data into the near-line storage solution by approximately 70 percent.
  • Improves system availabilities and minimizes downtime thanks to shorter backup and recovery times.
  • Provides adaptive compression for highly efficient data storage for large databases.
  • Integrates fully into existing database operations and management processes and is covered by the SAP DB2 OEM license with no additional licensing costs.
  • Accelerates database migrations from days to hours and eliminates most additional database administration workload.
  • Enables the migration of 8 TB of uncompressed data into IBM DB2 NLS.
  • Implements the new near-line storage solution in time and delivers the required performance levels to allow efficient reporting across long periods.
  • Implements near-line database systems to reduce the data warehouse size by approximately 1 TB, saving a considerable amount in licensing costs for the planned in-memory SAP HANA solution.

Background, starting point and objectives

Company background
This company is the central IT service provider for a major trading and services group, which runs worldwide commercial, logistics and supplementary services for the farming, food and construction industries. With 240 employees, the company delivers reliable IT operations for some 10,000 users in more than 1,000 locations across Europe.

Initial IT environment
The service provider has been using SAP software – and providing SAP solutions to its parent company – for many years, operating a comprehensive application landscape. For optimized database performance and easy management, the company operates all its SAP® ERP applications with IBM® DB2® for Linux, UNIX and Windows as the core database solution.

With the aim of improving the overall reporting performance of its SAP NetWeaver® Business Warehouse application, the company had implemented the IBM Systems Solution for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator. This software would particularly assist with rapid information delivery for users accessing data by means of mobile devices, based on SAP BusinessObjects™ Mobile and the SAP Mobile Platform. In its efforts to further optimize its business analytics performance, the company decided to implement a near-line storage solution. This approach was expected to reduce the total data volumes by moving less-frequently accessed data out of the core dataset, yet still allowing that data to be included in queries, when required.

Unfortunately, the selected near-line storage solution did not deliver the expected performance, but rather the exact opposite. The company noticed degraded reporting performance once data was moved to the NLS system, meaning the data could no longer be used by executives and analysts in their daily reporting.

A company spokesperson explains, “We wanted to provide the data stored in the near-line storage system directly to our business users. When users wanted old data for their analyses, they needed to ask the IT support team to import the data from the near-line storage, before it could be used. Because queries that requested data from the near-line store took too long, we abandoned it as part of the core solution and decided to use the near-line storage system as an archive solution.”

In addition, managing the near-line storage solution was time-consuming, increased IT administration workload, and had a negative impact on staff productivity.

Business challenges and project objectives
With its focus on the agricultural sector, seasonal patterns and long-term trends are important to the service provider, to make sure the group stays on track and meets its strategic goals. Deeper insights into its business operations would lead to better decision making and help the group to develop competitive advantages over competitors.

The service provider’s parent company runs integrated business operations, from suppliers and plant management through to sales and logistics, and relies on round-the-clock availability of its SAP ERP systems. For example, the group is expanding to New Zealand, meaning it would have to deal with a 12-hour time difference. As the business grew globally, executive management and analysts needed an improved business analytics system that would enable them to manage the group more efficiently, 24/7.

Given these extended demands, the company wanted a flexible solution that would give business users faster access to ever-more information, whether on the move or in a meeting, while still managing the costs and keeping administration workloads under control. On the technical level, the company aimed at minimizing downtime by accelerating backup and recovery processes, and enable faster database migrations.

Looking further forward, the company made the strategic decision to implement SAP HANA® solutions. This decision was made prior to IBM’s announcement of DB2 10.5 with BLU acceleration. DB2 BLU acceleration is a dynamic in-memory approach of columnar based tables that are an integral part of DB2 10.5. With SAP HANA, reducing the data stored in the primary SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse database would save a significant amount in licensing costs, thus allowing the group to use SAP HANA at a lower cost.

Technical solution
The service provider operates a comprehensive SAP ERP application landscape for itself and for the entire group, supporting business processes in all areas. For example, the group runs the SAP ERP solution for Retail to support some 700 stores in Germany and Austria, and the group’s human resources are managed using SAP ERP Human Capital Management. In total, the group runs 15 production systems. Combined with test, development and related solutions, there are 40 SAP system instances.

The group also uses SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse as a central data warehouse and analytics solution, runs the SAP NetWeaver Portal solution to provide user access to data and services, and integrates third-party data using SAP NetWeaver Process Integration. For overview and landscape management, the group runs SAP Solution Manager, which combines tools, content, and software deployment services.

To provide business capabilities on the move, the company has deployed the SAP Mobile Platform to support mobile applications. It has also deployed SAP BusinessObjects Mobile to provide group executives with the ability to analyze key performance figures and ensure they always have the relevant data at their fingertips.

SAP ERP on IBM DB2
The company runs its SAP software on virtual Linux servers, with IBM DB2 for Linux, UNIX and Windows providing core application database services.

IBM DB2 powers the group’s largest SAP ERP application, with a compressed database volume of 5.5 TB. This main ERP system is simultaneously accessed by approximately 9,000 users throughout the day.

The company selected IBM DB2 because of its ease of management, powerful administration tools and extensive automation features. A spokesperson explains, “With IBM DB2, we can focus on the really important tasks. The outstanding DB2 autonomics features like Automatic Maintenance for backups and reorganizations, Automatic Storage for improved performance or self-tuning memory manager for dynamic memory optimization make database administration much simpler.”

IBM led the initial DB2 implementation and took time to understand the service provider’s environment, allowing IBM to offer continuous support for the deployment. IBM has assisted with subsequent database updates and migrations, and the service provider’s team is in constant contact with IBM. The two companies work closely together to optimize the database environment, which is designed to ensure reliable fast response times and satisfied business users.

Data warehouse architecture
The company operates a central data warehouse based on the SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse application, managing about 7 TB of compressed data. SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse is used by up to 2,500 users, of which approximately 400 are executives and analysts. The latter often use the system at the same time.

To ensure rapid access to core business data, the service provider and IBM chose to implement IBM DB2 with the Database Partitioning Feature across 13 nodes. Following industry best practices, database partitioning has improved performance dramatically, even as the data volumes grow.

The next step to optimize its data warehouse performance was the implementation of the IBM Systems Solution for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator, based on IBM BladeCenter® HS22 blade servers. This resulted in substantially improved analytics performance for the most important business data.

Selecting IBM DB2
With the strategic decision to move its SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse database to the SAP HANA platform, the company looked at additional ways to streamline its database operations. Indeed, 7 TB of data would require a very large SAP HANA footprint, and minimizing the data set would greatly reduce the cost of the SAP HANA solution.

The company reconsidered a near-line storage solution as a way to minimize the data set. The idea is that data that is not needed on a daily basis is stored elsewhere, but is still readily accessible, should it be required. The term “near-line” derives from “near online”, which describes the position of this technology between online data stored in a database and offline data stored in a data archive. The company was not satisfied with the previous near-line storage solution it had implemented, because the old solution did not allow easy access to older data, reducing the near-line storage to an archive system – an approach that created as many issues as it solved.

To solve the challenges and provide timely access to aged data, the company decided to migrate its existing near-line solution to the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, based on IBM DB2 version 10.1 running on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications.

Central to the selection of the IBM solution is the strong partnership between IBM and SAP, which has fuelled far-reaching integration efforts. Joint IBM and SAP teams work together to develop new solutions, and the two companies have successfully created a combined technology roadmap designed to keep systems stable and compatible.

Implementing the near-line storage solution
The setup procedure for the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution is fully integrated into the standard SAP installation tool. The tailored and guided installation process is designed to ensure simple and hassle-free integration into existing SAP environments. And because the IBM DB2 specific near-line storage interface is shipped as part of SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, no extra interface certification for the implementation is necessary. IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage can be used out-of-the-box with SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse system supported by IBM DB2, simplifying deployment, and allowing for a rapid implementation of the near-line storage solution.

A spokesperson says, “The IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution met all our business requirements. Because the system is so well integrated with the SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse application, the installation was quick and easy. After just fifteen minutes, the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution was running, so we could start working with it and complete the project without delay.”

Furthermore, the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse is fully integrated with the SAP DBA Cockpit, allowing easy performance management and monitoring with familiar tools. Because the company already used the IBM DBA Cockpit to manage IBM DB2 databases for the SAP solutions, staff did not need additional training. The team took full advantage of its previous IBM DB2 experience to manage the new IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution, without significantly increasing their workload.

For example, the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution supports the standardized SAP data archiving strategy (SAP ADK), and it can be easily integrated into existing backup and recovery processes.

For its near-line database solution, the service provider uses all the standard IBM DB2 autonomics features to make administration and database management as easy as possible. The company also benefits from improved data compression and performance, as a result of the adaptive compression feature.

Benefits of IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse
After deploying the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, the company moved 8 TB of uncompressed data into IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage using standard SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse interfaces. The solution supports the SAP Data Archiving Process (DAP) and enables the seamless migration of data from the main SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse database into the near-line system. By relying on existing and established processes and interfaces, migrating data to IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage is straightforward and can be completed with minimum risk and very little downtime.

A spokesperson explains, “The near-line storage solution is completely transparent to our SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse users. This simplifies the daily work of analysts and executives, because they simply specify their queries without thinking about the different systems that process the data in the background.”

To deliver accurate results using data from both the SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse’s primary database and from the near-line database, the online analytical processing (OLAP) engine splits relevant queries into two parts. One part is executed by the primary SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse database, while the other query component is executed by the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution. At the end, the query engine combines the results and provides the user with the complete analysis.

A spokesperson says, “After implementing the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution, we have reduced our primary SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse database to three business years of data. Thanks to the IBM solution, we can provide direct and fast access to another three years’ data to our business users, so they can go back six years without the need to involve anyone to import data.”

The service provider is discussing with its business users the possible moving of more data from the primary database into the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution. This depends on the balance of usage of the aged data. The aim is to manage data growth efficiently, and provide top performance for the latest corporate data, combined with fast access to older business information, yet without the delays caused by manual data import.

A spokesperson sums up, “We implemented the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution in time and delivered the performance we were aiming for, and have enabled highly efficient analysis over longer periods of time. This new near-line storage solution really delivers on its promises and greatly improves our data warehouse management.”

Besides improving the overall query performance by reducing the size of the primary database, deploying the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution also reduces downtime during database updates and migrations.

A spokesperson says, “We cannot afford long downtime and aim at round-the-clock availability of the business applications vital to our customers. With the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution, we can minimize downtime without limiting the analytics capability of SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse for our business users. With a smaller primary dataset, we can migrate from one database version or technology to another more quickly, improving business agility and ensuring that migrations are completed within the required timeframe.”

Project achievements
The company estimates that the successful introduction of near-line storage will save €30,000 annually in maintenance and support costs. Because the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse is covered by the SAP OEM license for IBM DB2, the company can deploy this solution without any additional database or licensing costs.

Thanks to the tight integration of the database with SAP solutions and mobile applications, the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution does not require new processes, but can easily be included in existing database operations and management workflows, saving time in IT administration. Additionally, because the processes are properly tested, and because the staff members are experienced with the technology, there is very little risk that comes from introducing the solution.

A spokesperson explains, “Since we deployed the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, we have to reduce our data warehouse size by approximately 1 TB. We estimate that this reduction will save us a substantial amount in licensing costs when we move to the SAP HANA platform next year.”

The reduced primary dataset also enables shorter backup and recovery times, improving system availability and minimizing operational downtime. Using the latest IBM technology, such as adaptive compression, the company has achieved considerable performance improvements. For example, where previously a test query to retrieve approximately 200 key performance figures from the data warehouse took almost twenty minutes, the new IBM solution completes the same query within only 4 minutes, accelerating access to business data by 80 percent.

The IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution has also contributed to improved archiving performance. In the past, archiving SAP DataStore Objects (DSOs) took 10.27 seconds for 10,000 records. With the IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution in place, 10,000 records can be archived in just 2.96 seconds, an improvement of approximately 70 percent.

Additionally, the performance benefits directly contribute to improving user experience for executives and analysts. Whether users compile complex reports at their desktops or discuss an ad-hoc analysis created on a tablet device during a meeting, the SAP and IBM solutions deliver high-speed access to relevant business information, helping them to do a better job.

A spokesperson sums up, “Overall, the new solution from IBM has enabled us to use near-line storage as intended – we have improved performance of our SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse application and at the same time provided our business users access to more data more flexibly with SAP, for more in-depth advanced analytics even on mobile devices. We accelerated archiving by 70 percent and querying by 80 percent, so we are very happy with the increased performance.”

Next steps
Although these gains have allowed the service provider to greatly optimize its database environment, the company plans to take this optimization even further. Working closely with IBM, the company is preparing to update its SAP databases to IBM DB2 10.5 for Linux, UNIX, and Windows, including the DB2 BLU Acceleration feature.

The company is considering the benefits of IBM DB2 10.5 BLU technologies, which could help to further reduce the costs for the SAP NetWeaver BW and IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution. IBM DB2 BLU offers outstanding compression technology to reduce the storage requirements dramatically: compared with uncompressed databases, IBM DB2 10.5 BLU offers storage reduction of up to 85 percent.

Additionally, by using IBM DB2 BLU for its SAP NetWeaver BW systems and IBM DB2 Near-Line Storage solution, based on smaller data volumes the overall performance is expected to improve. IBM DB2 BLU delivers in-memory performance for queries through the combination of Dynamic In-memory columnar processing, Actionable Compression, Parallel Vector Processing, and Data Skipping technologies.

By enabling the adaptive compression features available in the newer releases of IBM DB2, and for more databases, the service provider aims to reduce data storage requirements and improve system performance. The company is also evaluating the IBM Near-Line Storage Backup & Recovery Assistant, to help integrate the solution even more closely into the existing lifecycle management processes.

A spokesperson concludes, “The IBM and SAP solution has significantly boosted our business analytics capability. Group executives can now analyze more data without long delays, even using mobile devices where ever they are. The improved availability of performance data enables them to spot long-term trends more easily, which helps executives to align the group companies with strategic goals and run the group more efficiently.”

Products and services used

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

Software:
DB2 for Linux, UNIX and Windows

Operating system:
Linux

Service:
IBM-SAP Alliance

Legal Information

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