International Rectifier optimizes business-critical SAP solutions with IBM high availability technology

Published on 05-Mar-2013

"IBM provided tremendous support during implementation of the advanced high availability configuration for our SAP SCM Advanced Planning & Optimization application. We are very satisfied with our comprehensive IBM and SAP solution. Together we implemented a highly reliable solution that is easy to manage, scalable and well supported by IBM and SAP." - Suhas Narayan, Operations Manager, International Rectifier

International Rectifier

Industrial Products

Deployment country:
United States

Business Integration, Business Resiliency, Enabling Business Flexibility, Enterprise Resource Planning, High Availability , Information Integration, Information Management Foundation, Supply Chain Management, Virtualization, Virtualization - Server

IBM Business Partner:


International Rectifier, headquartered in El Segundo in California, USA, is a world leader in advanced power management technology. Its products include digital, analog and mixed-signal integrated circuits as well as advanced circuit devices, power systems and other components. The company operates multiple assembly facilities and employs approximately 4,500 people in 20 countries worldwide. In 2011, it achieved annual revenues of $1.18 billion.

Business need:
Many of the world's leading electronics manufacturers rely on International Rectifier (IR) technology to drive their products. To increase its competitiveness in a volatile marketplace, the company wanted to fine-tune complex supply chain and logistics processes to cut operational costs and improve delivery timelines to demanding customers.

International Rectifier standardized its global operations on an integrated suite of SAP applications, including SAP Supply Chain Management, featuring SAP Advanced Planning & Optimization and SAP liveCache. The SAP solutions are supported by leading IBM technology, including IBM® Power Systems™ servers and IBM DB2® High Availability Disaster Recovery (HADR) for business continuity.

Provides a unified view of global operations, delivering the insight needed to improve operational efficiency and to support more strategic decision-making. Supports business need to ensure completion of production planning in defined time. Reduces disruption to manufacturing through improved planning, which boosts efficiency and cuts wastage.

Case Study

Background, starting point and objectives

About International Rectifier

International Rectifier, headquartered in El Segundo in California, USA, is a world leader in advanced power management technology. Its products include digital, analog and mixed-signal integrated circuits as well as advanced circuit devices, power systems and other components. The company operates multiple assembly facilities and employs approximately 4,500 people in 20 countries worldwide. In 2011, it achieved annual revenues of $1.18 billion.

The company’s technology plays a key role in using the world’s dwindling energy resources in the most efficient way possible.

Initial IT environment

International Rectifier previously ran its global operations using five regional systems. These systems, supplied by a range of vendors, managed financial, customer, product, production and logistics data.

The regional systems grew over time, making it increasingly difficult for the company to compile a global overview of enterprise information. In order to plan and schedule the following week’s production and logistics operations, International Rectifier had to collate and reconcile data from each system on a weekly basis.

Once the data had been consolidated at head office, the company was able to plan and allocate the manufacturing schedules for its global assembly facilities.

Business Challenges and project objectives

Fulfilling customer orders effectively requires timely information about materials movements and the production stages of specific orders, on a 24/7 basis. Detailed work-in-progress schedules were generated by the regional systems, and because each local system was different it was particularly difficult to identify the location of products in the global supply chain.

To improve information availability, International Rectifier needed production and inventory figures for each and every warehouse to enable the company to align production planning with customer demand and available materials.

The challenge was to integrate the distributed IT systems in order to create an effective production planning process.

If International Rectifier could accelerate collection, consolidation and validation of data, it would be better-placed to optimize its supply chain, increase manufacturing efficiency and increase profitability.

The company laid down a series of business principles for its new solution. To eliminate the challenges associated with unplanned downtime, International Rectifier placed reliability high on its wish list. The company wanted to improve its business continuity capabilities to help enhance its business resilience, and increase the consistency and integrity of its data for all its applications. These two core objectives would help to reduce or even eliminate the business risks associated with unplanned downtime.

Starting from this foundation, International Rectifier sought to improve its business performance by optimizing its global supply chain. This would lead directly to reductions in manufacturing costs, and ultimately to enhanced customer fulfillment rates. Additionally, enhanced information flows would allow International Rectifier to start on the journey towards enterprise-wide analytics, helping the company to fine-tune its performance in the competitive global technology marketplace.

Technical Solution

International Rectifier chose to move away from the regional systems and consolidate its business and financial management. The objective was to create a single source of accurate information that could be used throughout the company, from the head office right through to the local manufacturing sites.

The company selected SAP ERP applications as the foundation of the new solution, with SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM) to centralize management of the company’s worldwide customer base, and SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse with SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence to provide new and deeper insights into business data.

The company also introduced SAP solutions for governance, risk, and compliance, including the SAP Global Trade Services application, to improve regulatory compliance.

To support its manufacturing, warehouse and logistics sites across the globe, International Rectifier implemented the SAP Supply Chain Management (SAP SCM) application. At the core of the central production planning and supply chain solution is the SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization (SAP APO) application. This solution offers a fully integrated range of functions for planning and executing supply chain processes.

To improve business continuity and accelerate mission-critical planning tasks, International Rectifier decided to deploy SAP liveCache with its SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization application. SAP liveCache supports in-memory processing for performance-critical planning workloads based on a hybrid main-memory database with intensive usage of database procedures.

SAP Supply Chain Management with SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization and SAP liveCache spreads its business logic over two databases, with one held in the in-memory liveCache database. Because a cold failover of one databases could cause data inconsistencies, which in turn would cause extended downtime as the databases resynchronize, the company chose to set up both databases using the HotStandby approach. This ensures fast recovery from failure without data loss and without inconsistencies. There is no measurable performance impact on the primary node in having the memory structure enabled on the standby node.

The architecture of SAP APO spans two databases: the typical SAP application database (in this case IBM DB2 for Linux, UNIX, and Windows), and the memory-resident database used for optimization and planning, which is the proprietary SAP liveCache. These two databases are logically interlinked at application level only, not at the database level. To guarantee consistency in the case of a failure, the whole SAP stack needs to be made highly available covering the live cache as well as the ABAP database (IBM DB2).

To meet the company’s desire to reduce business risk, International Rectifier implemented its SAP ERP, SAP Customer Relationship Management and SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse solutions in a high availability configuration based on IBM infrastructure and IBM database technology.

SAP applications and production systems running in the IBM Power environment are connected using SAP NetWeaver Process Integration.

Server architecture

IBM Power Systems technology

Leveraging proven IBM technology, International Rectifier implemented two IBM Power 770 and two IBM Power 570 servers running the IBM AIX operating system to support its comprehensive SAP landscape.

The company configured its IBM Power Systems servers with IBM PowerVM virtualization software, which enables multiple workloads to be consolidated onto fewer physical servers, increasing resource utilization. Using PowerVM, International Rectifier has created a total of 136 logical partitions (LPARs) in a fully virtualized environment. The LPARs can be formed into high availability clusters of virtual servers, which ensure that production systems continue without interruption even during system maintenance.

IBM PowerVM also includes advanced features such as Live Partition Mobility, which allows an LPAR, including its operating system and applications, to be moved from one physical server to another without service interruption.

To reduce complexity and maximize utilization of physical input and output interfaces, such as networking modules, International Rectifier uses Virtual I/O Server (VIOS) technology that optimizes throughput and reduces the administration workload.

For improved business continuity, the IBM Power Systems servers configured as a high availability solution. All six IBM Power Systems servers are redundantly connected to the core switches as well as to virtualized SAN storage to ensure reliable connectivity of the components.

IBM storage solution

In total, International Rectifier manages 100 TB of data, much of it mission-critical. To ensure that data is fully protected and storage resources are used efficiently, International Rectifier has standardized its storage design by implementing IBM SAN Volume Controller technology.

SAN Volume Controller virtualizes the storage landscape, and allows storage devices of different types to be presented as a unified, standard storage resource.

International Rectifier uses SAN Volume Controller to operate a stretched cluster, with eight-cluster nodes for each IBM SAN Volume Controller. The IBM SAN Volume Controller stretched cluster is also connected to a redundant SAN switching fabric, which spans International Rectifier’s two data centers.

To further increase data protection, International Rectifier has created IBM DB2 database clusters based on the IBM DB2 HADR feature using the IBM Tivoli System Automation for Multiplatforms solution. Primary and standby database servers have their own storage allocated from separate IBM SAN Volume Controller storage systems to provide storage redundancy. The root volume groups are mirrored across both IBM SAN Volume Controller solutions for production systems. High-performance tier 1 storage consists of IBM System Storage DS5300 and IBM XIV for production systems. The fast tier 2 storage consists of IBM Storwize V7000. The solution mirrors mission-critical data across different storage systems.

Avoiding single points of failure

The entire solution architecture avoids any single points of failure and emphasizes business continuity. Critical components are operated redundantly, enabling International Rectifier to sustain failures of single components or even a complete data center.

The capabilities of IBM Power Systems servers and IBM SAN Volume Controller provide the perfect platform to operate the company’s large SAP application environments. Advanced IBM technology minimizes downtime, for example during operating system updates, database migrations and SAP software release upgrades, and during hardware maintenance. This increased uptime capability minimizes service interruption even during unplanned situations such as power outages or component failure.

International Rectifier tested the infrastructure by turning off single components such as switches, Virtual I/O Servers, storage systems, SAN Volume Controller nodes and also database servers. International Rectifier tried everything to stop the system from working. During all these tests, there was no loss of data and the team did not notice any inconsistencies in the data.

Business continuity for SAP Advanced Planning & Optimization with SAP liveCache

For its mission-critical production and logistics planning system, International Rectifier implemented SAP SCM Advanced Planning and Optimization (SAP APO). Not only does SAP APO offer vital supply chain planning capabilities, the results of these complex planning workloads must be delivered rapidly.

To improve performance and reliability, the company deployed SAP APO with SAP liveCache. In such a configuration, SAP APO relies on both, an IBM DB2 database and on the SAP liveCache data. To ensure data consistency across both systems, the company deployed a unique hot standby solution developed by IBM. A standard IBM PowerHA cluster system with approximately 180 GB main memory on each node replicates the SAP liveCache application instance and data using virtualized SAN storage.

For the company’s main SAP database system IBM DB2, the proven IBM DB2 High Availability Disaster Recovery (HADR) solution was implemented in combination with IBM Tivoli System Automation for Multiplatforms. At the heart of the IBM DB2 High Availability Disaster Recovery solution is effective synchronization configuration. The IBM DB2 business continuity setup provides four different synchronization modes for diverse security levels and performance characteristics. The optimal synchronization mode can be selected based on the requirements of individual applications and databases. IBM Tivoli System Automation for Multiplatforms is deeply integrated with the SAP software installation routines and system management tools. Standardized scripts are shipped by SAP to speed up implementation and enabling monitoring services of the IBM Tivoli solution for SAP customers.

Both cluster solutions are fully automated to ensure high-availability at all times. IBM developed this advanced business continuity concept and provides support and implementation expertise for this combined cluster architecture. This allows International Rectifier to easily operate and manage this solution including a mix of different clustering technologies without any issues.

Using SAP liveCache substantially improves system performance by using in-memory technology to accelerate processing times. This allows International Rectifier to complete mission-critical planning tasks within the required timeframe without issues.

“We implemented IBM DB2 High Availability Disaster Recovery because it is a reliable and cost-efficient solution,” explains Suhas Narayan, Operations Manager at International Rectifier. “IBM DB2 comes with the IBM Tivoli System Automation for Multiplatforms cluster software and SAP provided fine-tuned scripts to allow quick implementation of rock-solid database configurations.”

The IBM DB2 HADR solution increases system availability as it enables International Rectifier to update its SAP systems with minimized system downtime. In this configuration, downtime of several hours is avoided and only a few minutes are required.

Balancing data protection and processing performance

International Rectifier needed to increase application performance and improve data security without slowing down production runtimes of database queries. The company implemented the IBM DB2 HADR NEARSYNC synchronization mode which is the default in SAP implementation. It provides a high data protection at minimal overhead on the network. In the near-synchronous mode, the primary writes and sends log records in parallel and waits for an acknowledgement from the standby before issuing the commit. The standby then sends the acknowledgement after applying the log records to the log buffer. Log record shipping is the basis of HADR regardless of the synchronization mode.

Shipping logs recorded from the primary to the standby server ensures that International Rectifier maintains two consistent database instances. As a result, the IBM DB2 HADR solution supports ultra-fast takeover from the primary database server to the standby server without risking data loss or threatening data consistency.

Minimizing system downtime

The IBM DB2 HADR configuration not only supports unplanned takeovers but also accelerates system upgrades. International Rectifier can deploy upgrades with only five minutes of downtime.

By using controlled failovers as each system is upgraded in turn (a ‘rolling upgrade’), International Rectifier is able to keep its systems up to date without the need for potentially costly system downtime.

As the controlled failover functionality is a standard feature of the IBM DB2 High Availability Disaster Recovery solution, International Rectifier has been able to minimize system downtime without incurring additional licensing costs. Controlled takeovers with minimal disruption at application level provide the foundation for International Rectifier to operate a complex SAP application landscape reliably. This solution also reduces expensive night and weekend shifts for the IT team.

The company can upgrade its storage or server hardware, networking equipment, operating systems or databases without significant disruption to business operations. Relying on IBM SAN Volume Controller, IBM FlashCopy, IBM PowerHA and IBM DB2 High Availability Disaster Recovery, system maintenance tasks that previously required a downtime of several hours can be completed with only a few minutes of downtime.

“Recently we needed to increase the storage capacity of our quality management system,” says Suhas Narayan. “With this hot standby solution from IBM and SAP, the expansion was straightforward and easy. Most importantly, the expansion had no impact on the SAP SCM Advanced Planning and Optimization application at all and no data was lost during the process. This proved once again the reliability of the configuration.”

Project improvements

By implementing a high availability solution for its entire SAP application landscape, based on leading IBM server and storage technology, International Rectifier has minimized the business risk of running a centralized and global SAP solution. IBM PowerVM virtualization capabilities enable optimum server utilization and simplified management, helping to keep operational costs and administration effort low.

“IBM Power Systems with IBM AIX and IBM PowerHA provides a highly efficient and reliable solution,” explains Suhas Narayan. “The highly-virtualized IBM POWER7® environment allows us to guarantee top service levels for a large environment. Any other solution would require many more servers and to a more complex configuration.”

IBM administration tools make it easy for International Rectifier to set up new cluster systems. No complex training is required to create and manage the IBM PowerHA solution.

Advanced storage virtualization enables International Rectifier to expand its data storage without downtime. This capability contributes to the improved business continuity and easy scalability of the new IT solution.

International Rectifier selected IBM DB2 for Linux, UNIX, and Windows for its SAP systems to exploit the database’s self-management and, in future, the data compression capabilities. The company’s mission-critical SAP SCM Advanced Planning & Optimization database is now only 3 TB and the aim is to reduce this by 70 percent and more with IBM DB2 Deep compression.

“Thanks to its broad range of automation functions and tight integration with SAP, we can easily manage more than 30 IBM DB2 databases without too much effort,” explains Suhas Narayan. “As well as simplifying administration, we have also increased data security by enabling the encryption feature.

Project achievements

Thanks to the high levels of availability provided by its IBM DB2 solution, International Rectifier has been able to considerably reduce business risk.

“Our main production planning job runs from Friday to Sunday. This complex supply network planning workload includes order processing and determines the global production plan for the following week. Without a high availability solution, a failure would cause at least five hours of downtime. Depending on the issue, restoring and synchronizing the SAP liveCache and the main IBM DB2 database for SAP Supply Chain Management could take much longer. With the IBM high availability solution in place, we can resume the planning process after no more than five minutes downtime; an improvement of more than 98 percent.”

Production planning processes formerly ran for 60 hours, making it difficult to complete this crucial task over the weekend. Through a combination of application changes along with SAP liveCache on IBM Power Systems with IBM AIX, production planning has been accelerated by 40 percent. Now planning can be completed within 36 hours without any risk of slowing down the following week’s production operations.

With faster production planning, the company can provide smooth and continuous production runs with reduced possibilities of disruptions and better inventory control. This helps to avoid potential backlogs and to ensure that orders are met, and that production targets and schedules are achieved.

Improved production planning also allows International Rectifier to better organize its production schedule so that it matches demand forecasts more accurately, thus ensuring more efficient supply chain operations. The company can also ensure that resources are used in the best possible manner, which helps to keep a tighter control on production costs.

The new solution provides International Rectifier with the business continuity and scalability it needs to drive its global business. The company benefits from a reliable platform to operate a large number of SAP quality management and testing systems in a high availability configuration. Integration with SAP tools allow for streamlined management and easy implementation of new systems.

International Rectifier gained an integrated view across all geographies and business units. Using this new insight, International Rectifier can improve its operational and strategic decision-making and make its business operations more efficient than ever before.

Suhas Narayan concludes, “IBM provided tremendous support during implementation of the advanced high availability configuration for our SAP SCM Advanced Planning & Optimization application. We are very satisfied with our comprehensive IBM and SAP solution. Together we implemented a highly reliable solution that is easy to manage, scalable and well supported by IBM and SAP.”

Next steps

The company plans to review implementing auxiliary stand-by servers to take advantage of IBM DB2 version 10 and further increase data protection. Using the new SuperAsync synchronization mode included in the latest release of IBM DB2, International Rectifier can add up to three standby servers to the IBM DB2 cluster. As only the principal standby server needs to acknowledge the retrieval of the log record, adding auxiliary standby servers does not affect response time and database performance and improves the data protection and business continuity of the SAP system.

Another new feature within HADR is the time delay. It can be set up between the main system and the auxiliary standby system. This time delay provides a way to prevent an error situation on the main system from being replicated to the backup system. This delay can be adjusted within the IBM DB2 10 for Linux, UNIX, and Windows HADR configuration and the backup system can then take over the primary processing functionality without the logical logical error.

Products and services used

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

Power 570, Power 770, Storage, Storage: DS5300, Storage: Storwize V7000

DB2 for AIX, AIX, PowerHA, FlashCopy, PowerVM, Tivoli System Automation for Multiplatforms

Operating system:

IBM-SAP Alliance

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