Sto raises sales order capacity by 50 percent to match explosive growth

Published on 03-Jan-2014

"The IBM DB2 database provides excellent performance and outstanding reliability for our business-critical SAP applications. From our experience, SAP applications tend to run very reliably on the IBM DB2 database." - Philipp Bellhäuser, Head of IT Infrastructure, Architecture and Operations, Sto

Sto AG

Construction / Architecture / Engineering, Industrial Products

Deployment country:

DB2 for Linux, UNIX and Windows family, Business Continuity, Customer Relationship Management, Enabling Business Flexibility, Enterprise Resource Planning, High Availability , Information Management Foundation, Server Consolidation, Storage Consolidation

IBM Business Partner:


Sto specializes in providing insulation, paint, plasterwork and concrete restoration services to construction companies. Headquartered in Stühlingen, Germany, the firm employs more than 4,700 people across its operations in Europe, the Americas and Asia, and achieved revenues of more than €1 billion in 2012.

Business need:
Manufacturer Sto realized that its order-processing capabilities would soon be outpaced by fast-growing business volumes, a scenario that could lead to lost orders or late deliveries.

Sto upgraded its servers to the latest IBM® Power® 750 and IBM PowerVM® technology. The new platform hosts the company’s business-critical SAP applications and IBM DB2® databases.

The IBM servers provide the extra capacity to handle the sales, logistics and production workload, which helps the company fulfill more orders, hit delivery targets, and remove the barriers to growth.

Case Study

How would it be if you could be ready for explosive growth without over-investing in capacity right now?

Manufacturing company Sto was bumping up against the limits of its order-processing capacity. Sto solved the bottleneck with SAP solutions on IBM Power 750 and IBM PowerVM technology, delivering the capacity to handle vastly increased sales volumes.

The solution has helped Sto to remove the barriers to growth, prepare the company for the future and even boost employee productivity.

Building a successful international business
Sto specializes in providing insulation, paint, plasterwork and concrete restoration services to construction companies. Headquartered in Stühlingen, Germany, the firm employs more than 4,700 people across its operations in Europe, the Americas and Asia, and achieved revenues of more than €1 billion in 2012.

Sto’s rapid growth has caused customer orders to top five million a year, dramatically increasing the burden of sales administration. As the company pursues bold targets for growth, the Sto team realized that its order processing systems – specifically, its online transaction processing (OLTP) and online analytical processing (OLAP) capabilities – would soon be outpaced by rapidly increasing sales. This scenario could result in lost orders or late deliveries, which could damage customer satisfaction levels and tarnish the company’s reputation for excellent customer service.

Urgent need to find new capacity
Sto urgently needed to rethink its back-office operations, and find a way to process the increased business volumes cost-effectively.

The company identified that the existing IT infrastructure had reached its maximum total order processing capacity, and engaged FRITZ & MACZIOL, an IBM Business Partner, to review possible solutions. The aim was to establish a scalable platform that would support the company’s current and future needs at lower operational costs.

Upgrading to IBM POWER7 technology
Sto was looking for a platform that could meet its demands in terms of four key factors – namely business risk, cost, security and functionality. Following an extensive comparison of the x86 system architecture against IBM Power Systems™ technology, the company decided in favor of the IBM systems.

Philipp Bellhäuser, Head of IT Infrastructure, Architecture and Operations at Sto, explains, “We conducted a TCO analysis, which revealed that a migration to x86 systems would only pay off after ten years and two hardware upgrades.

“In contrast, the IBM solution offered much greater cost savings around administration and a lower TCO in the long-term. We had already been using IBM POWER6® servers for a number of years, and were highly satisfied with the platform’s performance and reliability. Our evaluations confirmed that upgrading to the latest Power Systems technology was the right choice.”

Sto chose to replace these servers with four IBM Power 750 systems running the IBM AIX® operating system, and to migrate its comprehensive suite of SAP applications to the new platform. The IBM Power platform offers Sto the capacity it needs to handle increased sales administration, as order processing and related throughput can be increased both by the activation of additional processors and by adding servers to share the workload. The IBM Power 750 servers are easily capable of managing the current sales order volumes, and can scale up rapidly and easily as the company grows.

Reacting positively to unexpected change
FRITZ & MACZIOL initially planned a staged half-year migration to the new servers; before the project started, Sto’s business circumstances changed unexpectedly, with new work increasing the pressure for change.

Philipp Bellhäuser, elaborates, “Originally, we had planned to migrate our systems over six months. However, a large construction project at the Sto campus forced us to change our plans and complete the entire project within just six weeks! With outstanding support from FRITZ & MACZIOL and IBM, we completed the migration of all our SAP solutions to the IBM Power 750 platform on time and, most importantly, without disrupting the business.

“The IBM Power servers are extremely reliable, and we estimate that they require 25 percent less day-to-day administration compared to competing offerings. Keeping system administration to a minimum enables us to manage our entire server and storage environment with just one employee, and will help us to avoid having to hire additional IT staff in the future, maintaining low operational costs in the long term.”

Supporting key business processes with SAP applications
Sto uses SAP applications to manage most of its mission-critical business processes, including order processing. The company migrated its entire suite of business-critical SAP applications, including SAP ERP, SAP ERP Human Capital Management , SAP Customer Relationship Management, and SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, plus the supporting IBM DB2 databases, to the new platform.

Philipp Bellhäuser comments, “Upgrading to IBM POWER7® servers has boosted the performance of business-critical SAP ERP and SAP Customer Relationship Management applications by up to 50 percent. Many employees need these applications for their day-to-day tasks, so keeping response times short helps boost their productivity. In addition, the performance boost accelerates the generation of managerial reports, helping executives to base their business decisions on accurate, up-to-date information.”

Delivering round-the-clock operations
With around 2,500 employees worldwide depending on access to the SAP applications, it is particularly important to ensure that the services are always available.

To support continuity of operations, Sto has deployed IBM PowerVM technology to provide multiple independent virtual servers within each IBM Power 750 system, and distributed its servers and core applications across two data centers. If a disaster occurs in one of the data centers, Sto can run its business-critical SAP applications on the servers in the other data center. Similarly, if a server is offline for system maintenance, its applications can be transferred using IBM Live Partition Mobility to another IBM Power 750 in either data center, even while the applications are running.

Philipp Bellhäuser says, “In the past, we needed to take important SAP applications offline for one weekend per year to maintain the underlying servers. With the IBM Live Partition Mobility technology, we can transfer the applications to other servers without taking them offline, enabling us to complete maintenance work during normal working hours without disrupting the business.”

Optimizing performance with the IBM DB2 database
An essential component of SAP software landscapes is the underlying database, which can affect system performance and reliability. Sto selected the IBM DB2 database for its SAP applications, taking advantage of the integrated SAP DBA Cockpit. The Cockpit provides a single interface for administering SAP applications and the underlying IBM DB2 database, offering a powerful way to optimize solution performance without the need for separate database administration skills.

Philipp Bellhäuser remarks, “The IBM DB2 database provides excellent performance and outstanding reliability for our business-critical SAP applications. From our experience, SAP applications tend to run very reliably on the IBM DB2 database.”

Sto upgraded the database to IBM DB2 10.1 to take advantage of the highly advanced compression features available with this release. These features have helped Sto cut the size of the SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse database through row and index compression from 2.5 TB to 1.5 TB – a reduction of 40 percent. The reduction helps Sto to postpone costly investments in additional storage devices and reduces the time needed to back up the database from 2.5 hours to just one hour.

Balancing performance, cost and efficiency
Even with the reduced database volumes, Sto is still faced by the constant challenge of balancing the need for fast access to data with maintaining a cost-efficient storage environment.

The IBM Power servers are connected to two high-performance IBM System Storage® DS8870 disk systems and two virtualized IBM Storwize® V7000 systems in a resilient cluster setup. The IBM DB2 and SAP environments store data on the IBM System Storage DS8870 disk systems, each of which contains approximately 2.1 TB of ultra-fast solid-state-drives (SSDs). Sto uses the devices’ IBM System Storage Easy Tier® function, which automatically and non-disruptively moves frequently accessed data onto the super-fast SSDs, to help optimize performance and support rapid transaction processing. Non-SAP data is stored on the two IBM Storwize V7000 devices, which also features the IBM System Storage Easy Tier function. Sto manages its storage devices using the IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller, which provides a single point of control for all storage resources.

Philipp Bellhäuser comments, “IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller enables us to deploy various storage devices to meet different storage requirements, while benefiting from simple storage management. Using the tool helps to reduce the burden of day-to-day storage administration, helping us to manage our IT landscape with a small team.”

Accelerating backups with IBM Tivoli Storage FlashCopy Manager software
To maintain high levels of data availability, Sto manages backups to two IBM System Storage TS3500 tape libraries using IBM Tivoli® Storage Manager and IBM Tivoli Storage FlashCopy® Manager software, which performs near-instant snapshot backups with minimal impact on application performance.

Philipp Bellhäuser comments, “Implementing IBM Tivoli Storage FlashCopy Manager software has enabled us to slash the time taken for some backups from 3.5 hours to just two minutes – a decrease of 99 percent! Keeping backup windows short helps us reduce the impact of backups on the performance of our business-critical SAP applications.”

Removing barriers to growth
The IBM servers, software and storage devices provide a stable, high-performance platform for Sto’s business-critical SAP applications. Most importantly, the IBM systems provide the extra capacity that Sto urgently needed to cope with the increasing burden of sales administration and meet its ambitious targets for international expansion, removing barriers to growth.

Philipp Bellhäuser concludes, “SAP applications on IBM Power 750 servers and IBM System Storage solutions help us to manage our successful business efficiently and effectively. IBM provides the know-how and technology to help us to meet the changing needs of our business.”

For more information
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Products and services used

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

Power 750, Power Systems, Storage, Storage: DS8870, Storage: Storwize V7000, Storage: TS3500 Tape Library

AIX, Tivoli Storage Manager Enterprise Edition, System Storage SAN Volume Controller, System Storage SAN Volume Controller Software, Tivoli Storage FlashCopy Manager, DB2 for Linux, UNIX and Windows, DB2 for Linux, UNIX and Windows for SAP Applications, PowerVM

Operating system:

IBM-SAP Alliance

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2014. IBM Deutschland GmbH, IBM-Allee 1, 71139 Ehningen, Deutschland. IBM Österreich, Obere Donaustrasse 95, 1020 Wien. IBM Schweiz, Vulkanstrasse 106, 8010 Zürich. Produced in Germany. January 2014. IBM, the IBM logo,, AIX, DB2, Easy Tier, FlashCopy, Power, PowerVM, POWER6, POWER7, Storwize, System Storage and Tivoli 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: IBM and FRITZ & MACZIOL are separate companies and each is responsible for its own products. Neither IBM nor FRITZ & MACZIOL makes any warranties, express or implied, concerning the other’s products. 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. SAP ERP is not an IBM product or offering. SAP ERP is sold or licensed, as the case may be, to users under SAP’s terms and conditions, which are provided with the product or offering. Availability, and any and all warranties, services and support for SAP ERP are the direct responsibility of, and are provided directly to users by, SAP.