Published on 21 Dec 2011
"With the new solution, we have reduced the backup time by approximately 50 percent. In general, we experience substantial performance improvements of 50 to 60 percent across all systems and applications." - Josef Schöppl, Head of IT, WIBERG
Database Management, Business Continuity, High Availability , Smarter Planet, Virtualization, Virtualization - Storage, Information Infrastructure, Optimizing IT
This paper describes how WIBERG, a developer, producer and service provider in the food industry, implemented an integrated solution to improve the availability, business continuity, manageability and performance of its SAP and non-SAP solutions. The biggest change in the environment was the implementation of a virtualized storage solution based on IBM SAN Volume Controller and IBM XIV Storage System. WIBERG also upgraded its IBM Power Systems server landscape to take advantage of the latest IBM i and DB2 technologies.
WIBERG wanted to improve the availability and business continuity of its most important systems. An outdated architecture needed to be replaced by a more modern solution, offering good performance and easy scalability for future requirements. A low-risk migration path was needed to allow for a smooth transition to the new landscape.
Following a comprehensive project to modernize and optimize its IT landscape, WIBERG now runs SAP ERP and SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse on IBM Power Systems with IBM i (including DB2 for i database technology) attached to IBM XIV storage through IBM SAN Volume Controller.
New IBM server and storage technologies have reduced backup time by about 50 percent. WIBERG is experiencing substantial performance improvements of 50 to 60 percent across all systems and applications. Dramatically improved recovery times. WIBERG now has just two vendors, SAP and IBM, for its entire SAP infrastructure – covering servers, storage, backup and disaster recovery, networking equipment, operating system, database, middleware and applications – reducing complexity, improving support and cutting vendor-management costs.
WIBERG is a leading developer and producer of spices, herbs and other food-flavouring ingredients, headquartered in Salzburg, Austria. Besides its food production business, WIBERG also offers food services to chefs and other food companies.
WIBERG Group has production facilities in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and the USA. It operates in 76 countries with 652 employees and achieved sales of €129 million in 2010.
Initial IT environment
For many years, WIBERG partnered with IBM and SAP to power its business-critical systems. The IBM i operating system, including the rock-solid IBM DB2 for i database solution, had become one of the most important assets in WIBERG’s IT landscape.
The old system landscape consisted of an IBM System i 520 and an IBM System i 550 server with IBM POWER5 processors, running the IBM i 5.4 operating system. The larger of the two machines was used to host the production SAP applications, while the other machine was used for development and testing. Both machines used a single IBM System Storage DS8100 device to store application data. Not all mission-critical systems were connected to the IBM DS8100 machine. Some systems were attached to NetApp and EMC storage solutions.
WIBERG operated this landscape for a couple of years, but at the end of the technology lifecycle when a new investment plan was made, it decided to change its system architecture to improve the reliability, security and also the performance of its systems.
Business challenges and project objectives
At WIBERG, production and logistics systems are tightly integrated with SAP business applications to support the company’s business processes in the best possible way. As a result, WIBERG is crucially dependent on its IT systems and needs highly reliable solutions.
WIBERG was becoming dissatisfied with its previous infrastructure, because it offered no real redundancy for its most important IT systems. There was no failover solution for the System i machines or for the storage systems. Equally, the support contract for the System i servers was no longer sufficient to meet the company’s increased availability requirements.
Furthermore, the former solution had reached the limits of scalability and did not provide enough performance for WIBERG’s projected future requirements. Also, with warranty periods coming to an end, maintenance costs were beginning to increase. A technology upgrade was needed in order to enable WIBERG to reduce costs and take advantage of the latest technological developments.
WIBERG started working on a long-term plan called “Path to Redundancy”. This strategy aimed to achieve complete redundancy for its IT systems, to improve business continuity, and to reduce the threat of downtime. The primary objectives of this upgrade project were to increase the reliability of all systems and to shorten recovery times. Furthermore, as a result of organic business growth, WIBERG needed a system that provided more processing power and storage capacity in order to handle growing workloads, administer software updates and integrate its SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse solution.
The company planned a low-risk upgrade path to implement a comprehensive business continuity solution while ensuring no downtime and zero data loss during the migration.
Following a comprehensive project to modernize and optimize its IT landscape, WIBERG now runs SAP ERP and SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse on IBM Power Systems with IBM i (including DB2 for i database technology) attached to IBM XIV storage through IBM SAN Volume Controller. WIBERG chose IBM technology because it offered a perfect bundle of hardware and software.
The company is currently using release version 4.7 of SAP ERP and relies on a wide range of modules. The SAP ERP system at WIBERG supports the company’s business processes in financials (FI), controlling (CO), sales & distribution (SD), human resources (HR), materials management (MM), production planning (PP), production planning for process industries (PP-PI), batch management (LO-BM), and also quality management (QM). The company’s SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse is running release 7.01.
This system architecture makes the SAP infrastructure at WIBERG one of the most modern SAP environments in Austria.
Besides its SAP solutions, WIBERG also runs a non-SAP process controls system as well as a material flow computer on a VMware cluster that is also attached to the IBM storage infrastructure. Some other applications like IBM Lotus Notes also run on the VMware nodes.
In line with WIBERG’s strategy for complete redundancy, all important business applications are fully mirrored to ensure business continuity in almost any circumstances. In the event of a disaster, WIBERG can restart its SAP systems in less than two hours.
As zero data loss is a more important requisite for WIBERG than uptime, the solution was designed to satisfy the requirements with the least complex and most secure system architecture. The company can handle two hours’ downtime, but data loss would be much worse, as food production facilities constantly produce data for quality management purposes and to comply with the legal regulations of the food production industry.
As long-time user of IBM Power Systems technology with the IBM i operating system, WIBERG is well aware of the advantages of an integrated solution. The main asset in its SAP landscape is DB2 for i. This database technology is not only reliable, fast, and easy to manage, but it also offers financial advantages when it comes to SAP licensing, as DB2 is part of the bundle of Power Systems and IBM i operating system -- not an additional application as it is on other platforms such as Linux, UNIX, and Windows.
“IBM DB2 for i simply works very well,” said Josef Schöppl, Head of IT at WIBERG. “Using DB2 not only presents technical advantages because it does not need a lot of maintenance work, but it is also economically beneficial if you compare it to alternative configurations. We are also familiar with the platform because we have used it for a long time now and we have always been very satisfied with its performance and functionality.”
Running SAP on IBM i also enables WIBERG to take advantage of the unique “save-while-active” feature. This feature allows WIBERG to keep applications up and running, while system backups are created.
“During peak times, our SAP systems are actually used 24 hours a day,” explains Andreas Gangl. “It is therefore essential that we can continue to work as usual, even during backups. With the additional performance provided by the new infrastructure, backups do not affect actual business operations at all.”
Working with IMTECH ICT Austria, WIBERG evaluated various alternatives for its storage infrastructure. In the end, IBM XIV technology was selected because the company favoured the open and simple system architecture of the solution. The tierless, massively parallelized architecture of the XIV Storage System delivers extremely high performance and very rapid recovery even for large quantities of data.
This convinced WIBERG that XIV would be the best solution for its ever growing requirements. “When it comes to performance, support and system maintenance, the IBM XIV Storage System is simply perfectly designed,” says Andreas Gangl, Deputy Head of IT at WIBERG.
WIBERG deployed two IBM XIV systems, with IBM SAN Volume Controller acting as an additional virtualization layer on top of them, to abstract storage management from the actual physical storage systems. SAN Volume Controller is used for mirroring (SVC stretched Cluster) and snapshots, enabling these features to be handled consistently across different storage systems. For WIBERG, SAN Volume Controller is the most important and also the most reliable component of its new storage infrastructure.
Migrating to a newly designed storage infrastructure was the biggest change and also brought about the biggest performance improvement in this technology upgrade. “With IBM XIV we have a storage system that does not care about technical details such as storage tiers or RAID, and does not need complex configuration,” explains Andreas Gangl.
“In combination with SAN Volume Controller, the storage solution is very flexible, scalable and easy to manage. Mirroring and snapshot features always tended to be laborious topics; but now with SAN Volume Controller these are much easier to configure and manage.”
Power Systems for best SAP performance
IBM Business Partner IMTECH ICT Austria and IBM assisted WIBERG in implementing two new IBM Power 740 Express servers, each with six IBM POWER7 cores running at 3.7 GHz and with 128 GB main memory. For optimal performance, enhanced availability and full redundancy, the systems include four internal disks to be used in a dual Virtual I/O Server (VIOS) configuration for advanced system virtualization together with IBM PowerVM.
Based on this technology, WIBERG set up logical partitions (LPARs) for SAP ERP and SAP NetWeaver BW on each machine. During normal operation the production SAP ERP and the SAP NetWeaver BW systems are separated. One Power 740 server runs the SAP production system on IBM i on four POWER7 cores and the other Power 740 server runs the SAP NetWeaver BW production system and testing systems on IBM i using two POWER7 cores.
The second Power 740 running the SAP NetWeaver BW production system includes the Capacity Backup (CBU) option that allows WIBERG to run both production systems with optimal performance on one Power Systems server. Put simply, in the event of a failure on one server, the remaining server can take over its entire workload. This highly redundant configuration ensures reliable operations of WIBERG’s SAP applications even if one physical server should fail due to hardware problems, for instance.
WIBERG runs its SAP Systems on IBM i 6.1. With the hardware upgrade, WIBERG also updated its IBM i release from 5.4 to 6.1. This upgrade included several substantial improvements of DB2 for i, including enhancements of the query optimizer for better database performance.
On most operating systems the general recommendation is to run SAP in a three-tier setup, separating database server, application server, and presentation server. On IBM i, SAP can be operated in a two-tier or in a three-tier architecture. SAP and IBM recommend that customers running SAP on IBM i use the two-tier configuration, where database server and application server run in the same partition. This reduces complexity, improves the efficiency of the virtualization, and fully exploits the performance of the integrated DB2 for i database. This configuration also simplifies the business continuity and failover concept, since not two but just one virtual or physical machine needs to be managed.
“In certain conditions with massively changing workloads, a three-tier architecture can be beneficial even on IBM i, but for ninety percent of customers running their SAP systems on IBM i, the two-tier setup is recommended. This reduces complexity and improves manageability, and - in most cases -provides better response times than a 3-tier setup” says Walter Lang, Senior Consultant SAP on IBM Power Systems at IBM.
WIBERG provides its SAP systems to 270 concurrent users. The database size of the ERP system is about 2 TB, while the fast growing NetWeaver BW system’s database is approximately 0.5 TB in size.
Virtual Server technology for non-SAP systems
WIBERG also runs a number of non-SAP servers on two VMware clusters running on servers using Intel processor technology. The company divides its VMware servers into two categories. One is “office services” including email, groupware, directory services, printing services and similar servers. The other category, “production services”, includes systems that control and support WIBERG’s production facilities.
The company also runs a few dedicated servers; all of these virtual and physical servers run Microsoft Windows 2008 Server or Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating systems, and also rely on the
Combining SAN Volume Controller and XIV
WIBERG’s new storage infrastructure, which is used by all production applications, consists of two IBM SAN Volume Controller appliances and two IBM XIV Enterprise devices, each with 43 TB capacities. WIBERG has currently licensed 25 TB of the total capacity of each XIV system. Both XIV systems are connected to both SAN Volume Controller appliances for improved business continuity and high availability. The data from all production systems is mirrored on both XIV systems to meet the redundancy requirements of the company’s IT strategy.
The new XIV systems are exclusively connected to the SAN Volume Controller cluster. Although WIBERG could also connect its legacy storage solutions to the new SAN Volume Controller infrastructure, the company decided to use the few old systems that were not put out of service in an isolated environment for systems testing.
The two-node SAN Volume Controller cluster adds another virtualization layer on top of the XIV systems, isolating physical storage systems from storage management. Mirroring between the two XIV storage systems is managed by a SAN Volume Controller Split Cluster configuration.
WIBERG has also configured the SAN Volume Controller cluster to create snapshot copies of systems using the IBM FlashCopy® feature. This feature allows the company to make point-in-time copies of running systems -- for example, for test systems or backups.
The storage architecture chosen by WIBERG ensures that all mirrored applications run continuously, even if one SAN Volume Controller, one XIV storage system and one SAN switch should all happen to fail at the same time.
The self-managing XIV grid architecture
IBM XIV technology was chosen by WIBERG for its innovative and easy-to-manage architecture. IBM XIV represents a completely different approach to storage from traditional storage systems. On XIV, load and data is distributed automatically across all available disks. At first, all data is divided into 1 MB chunks, called partitions in XIV, and then these partitions are distributed for optimal reliability and maximized performance. This is possible due to the unique grid architecture of the XIV technology. This also allows XIV to automatically adapt to altered hardware configurations after modules have been added or replaced after, for example, a failure, redistributing the data optimally for the new configuration. If a serious failure occurs, rebuild times on XIV are also much shorter than on traditional systems, because all disks within the grid are used in the rebuild process.
An XIV system consists of several modules, where each module is basically an independent storage system. A module includes all components that any server also includes, like a multi-core CPU, main memory, disk drives and connection interfaces. IBM chose to use standard Intel processors to provide the required computing power for its new storage solution. The different modules in an XIV rack are connected to each other using Ethernet or InfiniBand technology.
To the storage administrator, this collection of independent storage systems is presented as one large scalable data store. This eliminates most of the complexity that storage administrators face when working with traditional storage systems. “With IBM XIV systems we do not have to care about disk groups or tiers, but we can focus on providing storage volumes to our servers,” says Andreas Gangl, Deputy Head of IT.
A key feature of this system architecture is that it scales in a linear way. As each new module added to the system comes with its own processor, main memory for caching, and connection interfaces, it not only adds more storage capacity as in traditional storage systems, but also more processing power, and it increases the cache size of the overall storage grid.
Equally, XIV offers much more processing capacity than comparably priced solutions with a traditional architecture, which in turn allows more sophisticated data distribution and more efficient caching algorithms, resulting in increased performance and easier administration. This unique architecture also features a very high cache-to-disk bandwidth, allowing for advanced pre-fetching and more powerful cache management.
In contrast to most traditional storage systems, XIV does not use RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) technology. Usually applications are limited to use only certain specified disk drives. However, with XIV, all applications access all disk drives simultaneously as needed, providing optimal performance for any usage patterns as well as ensuring that all disks in an XIV grid system are used equally. This architecture also makes sure that as soon as new modules are added to an XIV grid, the additional resources will be available to all applications instantly. No manual optimization or tuning is needed to exploit the full potential of XIV grid storage, providing consistent high performance.
This approach also allows IBM to use cost-efficient disk drives spinning at 7,200 rpm instead of the more expensive 15,000 rpm drives used in traditional enterprise-class storage systems that offer the same level of performance. Although the individual disks are slower, using a large number of them concurrently and in parallel overcompensates this effect and delivers higher performance and reliability to meet enterprise demands.
To improve the performance further, XIV systems can also be configured to use SSDs to extend the caching capacity provided by the grid’s main memory. Although the cache is in general available to all applications, it could also easily be restricted to specified volumes within the user-friendly GUI of the system.
In contrast to traditional storage systems, on XIV there is also no need to use a write-through mode to ensure the reliability and consistency of storage operations. With XIV’s massively parallel architecture, every write request is always automatically written to the cache in two different XIV modules, eliminating the need to report back the success of the write request to the requesting system, thus increasing application speed.
Given the built-in continuous performance optimization of XIV, all applications benefit from high-speed storage without any manual tuning needed. For organizations that wish to prioritize certain systems over others, XIV offers a Quality of Service(QoS) Performance Class feature. This feature allows WIBERG to provide the right processing power to different applications through manual classification.
Besides automated optimization, XIV features comprehensive and user-friendly reporting of performance statistics. With these statistics, storage administrators always know how much of the available resources are used at any time and how the performance of the XIV systems develops over time with changing workloads. The two XIV systems installed at WIBERG each include nine modules with a total of 108 1 TB disks. Each system also includes 15 processors with 72 GB memory in total to handle the complex distribution, optimization, and caching tasks.
For best throughput performance, both XIV systems at WIBERG are configured with 16 Fibre Channel ports, each supporting 4 Gb/s connections.
Both the Power Systems and the two-node VMware cluster rely on the XIV and SAN Volume Controller storage solution. As SAN Volume Controller and XIV fully support the VMware vStorage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI), this combination also offers optimized high-performance storage to the applications running on the VMware cluster.
“We experienced no problems when we connected our VMware cluster to the new IBM storage infrastructure,” says Josef Schöppl. “Like the SAP applications running on Power Systems with IBM i, the applications running on VMware also benefitted substantially from the improved performance of the new IBM storage solution.”
Having substantially improved business continuity through its fully redundant SAN Volume Controller and XIV implementation, WIBERG addressed disaster recovery by deploying IBM tape library technology to create and manage regular backups of its vital IT systems. The company integrated into the IT landscape an IBM System Storage TS3500 Tape Library for this task. For Power Systems workload on IBM i, WIBERG uses Backup Recovery and Media Services (BRMS) for i software to schedule and handle backup tasks. The systems running on VMware are backed up to tape using a third-party application. For both environments, the IBM TS3500 system provides reliable and fast backups.
Migrating the systems
Working with IBM and IMTECH ICT Austria, an IBM Business Partner, WIBERG installed the new storage landscape independently from the old solution. In doing so, the team was able to build up the whole storage landscape from scratch and was not limited by existing systems and configurations.
WIBERG suggested this approach to IMTECH ICT Austria and IBM and they then worked out the strategy before finally implementing the solution. The strategy for the migration was to integrate the old systems into the new landscape and not vice versa, providing the opportunity of a very low-risk migration path.
The new POWER7 servers were also installed in parallel. Setting up the new infrastructure in parallel allowed WIBERG to conduct failover and other tests in the real environment without any impact on production systems. This approach ensured reliable test results, facilitating a well-planned migration with low risk.
First, data was synchronized between the old and new storage systems. After all the data was made available on the new storage solution, the SAP systems were migrated step by step, by remapping the systems’ storage volumes to the new infrastructure. The SAP migration was completed in just one and half days.
The second step was to migrate the systems running on the VMware cluster. For these systems, VMware Storage vMotion was used, a tool enabling non-disruptive live migration of running virtual machines. The migration of the entire cluster only took between two and three hours, without any downtime.
With help of an attractive and flexible finance offering from IBM Global Financing, WIBERG was able to upgrade and improve its server and storage landscape on time and within budget. IBM Global Financing offered WIBERG interest-free financing for hardware, software and services, with payments spread over a one-year period. In doing so, IBM transformed significant up-front expenditure into affordable monthly payments without any additional costs.
The performance enhancements delivered by the new solution emerge from a complex interplay between all the different components involved. The combination of IBM Power Systems with IBM i, the integrated DB2 for i, and the storage infrastructure based on IBM SAN Volume Controller and IBM XIV, makes it difficult to isolate the individual contributions of key components to the overall performance improvements. One thing is certain: WIBERG has seen considerable performance improvements for both its SAP and non-SAP systems.
“With the new solution, we have reduced the backup time by approximately 50 percent,” says Josef Schöppl. “In general, we experience substantial performance improvements of 50 to 60 percent across all systems and applications.”
Crucially, these significant performance improvements should positively affect employee productivity. According to measurements, average response times are about four times faster during weekdays, even though the number of dialog steps has increased by about one third. During maintenance tasks at weekends, average response times have improved by a factor of eight to ten.
“Increased user acceptance is a very significant effect of the threefold performance improvement of our SAP BW system,” explains Josef Schöppl. “Standard sales reports are now generated much more quickly, even though they include a large amount of details and require the processing of huge amounts of data.”
In general, waiting times for all SAP users have largely been eliminated. Every employee working with SAP, be it picking dialogs in the logistics center or order registration in the sales department, can work more productively now. When visitors, partners, or customers see the new solution in action, the employees at WIBERG often hear them saying that this is the fastest SAP system they have ever seen.
For WIBERG, improving system administration was just as important as enhancing system performance. There is no need to employ a system administrator for the DB2 databases; the integrated DB2 for i simply runs very reliably without needing much attention from the IT staff at all.
“One of the reasons why we decided to stay on DB2 for i is that it provides excellent performance without creating much work for the IT team,” says Andreas Gangl. “On most other database platforms, this would be impossible.” The unique combination of software and hardware provided by IBM provides this high level of reliability and performance. For environments of a similar size, this would be very uncommon; for DB2 on i, this is the norm.
The WIBERG IT team also perceives the XIV user interface to be more intuitive than that of its previous storage solution. In general, storage administration and management have become much easier with SAN Volume Controller and the flat architecture of the XIV system. “We simply do not need to manage as much as before, because of the advanced self-management features of the XIV systems,” says Andreas Gangl.
The big advantage of the new storage solution implemented at WIBERG is the highly improved business continuity level. Josef Schöppl comments: “Across the whole storage infrastructure, any component could fail without any impact on operations.” So even a failure of a Fibre Channel switch, a SAN Volume Controller node and an XIV system at the same time would only be noticed by the system administrators; the users would not experience any disruption to normal operations.
Another improvement resulting from the close partnership of SAP and IBM has been the approach to problem management. Experienced consultants at IBM and SAP share offices and discuss problems reported by customers together. Working together, they decide who is responsible for fixing the issue and support each other to find solutions quickly. This dynamic, collaborative approach to problem management delivers quicker and more efficient solutions.
To improve performance even further, IBM and IMTECH ICT Austria will implement the IBM System Storage Easy Tier feature at WIBERG. At implementation, the SVC Cluster was configured for this step in preparation. This will enable WIBERG to use its storage capacities more efficiently and store data that is used less frequently on lower-cost storage systems.
For the concept and implementation of this solution, it was important to WIBERG that the components could be easily separated, so that the company would be able to operate the new solution in different data centers. This move towards greater redundancy and improved security is not scheduled yet, but it is a step that WIBERG considers will improve business continuity further over the long-term.
About IMTECH ICT Austria
Imtech NV is a European technical service provider specializing in electrical engineering, ICT and mechanical engineering. This combination gives Imtech the right breadth and depth of expertise to offer complete technological solutions. The company is a leader in the construction and industrial sectors in the Benelux countries, Germany, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain, as well as in the European ICT and traffic markets, and in the global maritime market.
Imtech offers added value to its clients by delivering fully integrated and multi-disciplinary end-to-end solutions that enhance operational processes, generate higher returns, and enable quality customer service. As one of Europe’s leading information and communications technology providers, with approximately 3,000 employees, the company offers a wide range of sustainable solutions for clients of all sizes.
IBM Business Partner Imtech ICT Austria employs 280 people at offices in Vienna, Graz, Linz, and Salzburg. It specializes in IT infrastructure services, logistics software and business solutions.
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