AXTEL creates optimized centralized services ready for growth with IBM and SAP

Published on 18-Jun-2012

Validated on 06 Dec 2013

"We have had SAP successfully in place for several years now. The move to an all-IBM infrastructure proved to be a winning choice, creating a synergy which has allowed us to achieve our business goals." - Gaspar Rivera Del Valle, IT “Evolution” Director, AXTEL



Deployment country:

BA - Business Intelligence, Business Resiliency, High Availability , Information Integration, Small & Medium Business, Virtualization, Virtualization - Server, Virtualization - Storage

IBM Business Partner:
Genesys Informatica, SAP


AXTEL, one of Mexico’s largest telecommunications providers, faces intense competition from new market entrants. With sales of more than 10 billion Pesos (approximately $730 million) and around 8,000 employees, AXTEL is expanding vigorously into new markets. In 2011, the company’s broadband subscriber base grew by 39 percent year-on-year, and a new IT services division was launched.

Business need:
Mexican telecommunications provider AXTEL was expanding rapidly with new services and more customers, and wanted to enhance its customer relationship capabilities, enabling it to cross- and up-sell more effectively. Analysis of very large transactional volumes could unlock precious business insight into sales and financial results, yet existing systems were not capable of supporting the latest SAP applications that would make this possible.

AXTEL chose to migrate from its legacy UNIX servers and selected IBM BladeCenter solutions to run its SAP ERP and line-of-business applications. Working with IBM Business Partner Genesys and IBM, AXTEL deployed IBM BladeCenter PS701, JS23 and JS43 Express blade servers powered by IBM POWER processors. For data storage, AXTEL implemented IBM System Storage DS8300 and IBM XIV Storage Systems, virtualized using IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller.

Enabled the creation of business and marketing reports in around 60 percent less time than before. Improved application performance. Enhanced system availability. Boosted overall level of service to the business. Enabled to serve AXTEL’s growing customer base more effectively and at a lower cost.

Case Study

AXTEL, one of Mexico’s largest telecommunications providers, faces intense competition from new market entrants. With sales of more than 10 billion Pesos (approximately $730 million) and around 8,000 employees, AXTEL is expanding vigorously into new markets. In 2011, the company’s broadband subscriber base grew by 39 percent year-on-year, and a new IT services division was launched.

To manage the company, AXTEL relies on a broad suite of SAP® applications, from core financials to customer-facing services. As business requirements changed, the AXTEL team realized that the latest SAP and third-party applications offered new ways of interacting with customers, managing a mobile workforce and controlling corporate finances. With a growing customer base buying a more complex mix of product offerings, AXTEL looked to enhance its customer relationship capabilities, enabling it to cross and up-sell more effectively. In addition, it was becoming more important to ensure ‘always-on’ presence, particularly to serve corporate clients.

The company’s existing UNIX IT infrastructure had been designed for a different age, with a smaller SAP environment managing a smaller product set. Expanded operations and the latest SAP software would require a new approach, designed for continuous operations and with the ability to incorporate new workloads. The aim was to introduce a new infrastructure that would deliver enhanced capabilities at lower operational costs, and provide scalable capacity to meet future demands.

Renewed server infrastructure for the SAP landscape

The previous IT infrastructure at AXTEL featured one server running the UNIX operating system for development and quality purposes, and two similar servers for the production landscape, the first for database and core applications, and the second as an application server.

These servers were running SAP ERP financial accounting and controlling, asset management, accounts receivable, accounts payable, project system, content management, materials management, treasury and risk management, and the SAP ERP Human Capital Management solution.

AXTEL upgraded all of these applications, and chose to implement additional SAP applications for its 1,250 users, including the SAP Supplier Relationship Management application, SAP Advanced Planning & Optimization component, SAP NetWeaver® Portal component, SAP NetWeaver Master Data Management component, SAP Extended Warehouse Management application, the payroll component of SAP ERP Human Capital Management, SAP Solution Manager application management solution and Syclo SMART Mobile Suite for SAP.

AXTEL also selected SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse to provide analytics to help the company uncover new sales opportunities and understand costs, margins and profitability in greater detail. As part of the project, the AXTEL IT team took the opportunity to reassess its IT infrastructure. Rather than simply replace existing equipment with more powerful servers, AXTEL looked for a strategic solution that would facilitate the company’s long-term growth plans, provide enhanced availability and improve data security, and, of course, reduce its IT operational costs. The new IT infrastructure would support SAP, line-of-business and office productivity solutions from a single service center capable of running different operating systems depending on the workload requirements - in effect, a private cloud solution for SAP.

AXTEL worked with IBM Business Partner Genesys to provide sizing solutions and recommendations for the necessary infrastructure to host SAP applications. This involved detailed understanding of AXTEL’s business requirements, as well as the ability to create an infrastructure suitable for the planned new SAP applications and the likely workload.

Francisco Güereca, IT Manager at AXTEL, says, “Genesys demonstrated excellent knowledge of SAP software, and provided expert guidance throughout the process. The implementation, based on detailed planning and deep understanding of our business, was excellent.”

AXTEL migrated to IBM BladeCenter® systems, IBM XIV® Storage System and IBM System Storage® arrays, and virtualized both computing and storage capacity. The integrated IBM solutions allow AXTEL to provide very cost-efficient IT services for SAP and other applications, assigning and optimizing workload and data storage for the most appropriate platform.

Three BladeCenter chassis contain a total of 13 IBM BladeCenter JS43 Express blade servers with IBM POWER® processors. AXTEL runs the IBM AIX® operating system to support business-critical SAP ERP and SAP NetWeaver applications, and uses IBM PowerVM® to create logical partitions (LPARs) for each application. LPARs make it possible to create virtual servers tailored to each application’s workload, designed to meet service level objectives. PowerVM includes the ability to set priority-based resource allocation for each LPAR within a shared resource pool, to ensure that when workload rises the application continues to meet service level objectives by dynamically gaining access to spare capacity in LPARs experiencing lower demand.

Three further BladeCenter chassis contain seven BladeCenter JS43 Express blade servers, which support the company’s staging, test, development and quality assurance environments for SAP software, as well as other line-of-business applications and related quality assurance and test environments.

Francisco Güereca comments: “IBM BladeCenter gives us a single physical platform capable of supporting two distinct processor architectures and multiple application workloads. With BladeCenter, we can scale up simply by sliding new blade servers into open slots in the chassis, and we can manage both types of blades using the same intuitive tools. The overall BladeCenter package is very compact and highly energy-efficient.”

“The new POWER7® processors offer far greater performance than the previous generation of processors, so we now also have more headroom for future growth. PowerHA® and PowerVM give us great flexibility and control. If a particular system requires more computing power, for example, to complete an end-of-month batch run, we can easily provide it with access to more processor cores, more memory and more I/O. Then, when the peak requirement has passed, we can seamlessly return those resources to the shared pool or reallocate them to other systems. In this way, the IBM Power Systems™ architecture ensures that we maximize our utilization of the computing resources we have invested in.”

Flexible and efficient data storage

To provide suitable storage capacity and performance, AXTEL designed and implemented a new storage architecture based on IBM System Storage DS8300, IBM XIV Storage System and IBM SAN Volume Controller for its 15 TB production database. Network switching is provided by an IBM System Storage SAN80B-4 Fiber Channel SAN Switch.

In the past, AXTEL often found that one server was running out of storage capacity, even while there was ample capacity in other parts of the network. The new SAN is entirely virtualized using IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller technology. By pooling the available disk capacity on the DS8300 and XIV systems, SAN Volume Controller allows storage space to be seamlessly allocated and reallocated between different systems on the fly. This enables extremely rapid provisioning of storage capacity to new virtual servers, accelerates the migration of data from one system to another, and maximizes the effective utilization of the available capacity.

With a large central pool of storage that can be flexibly shared between any systems, AXTEL can make full use of its existing investments in disk capacity and can potentially postpone the need to purchase additional capacity. Francisco Güereca says, “Both the DS8300 and the XIV systems offer extremely high performance, and by layering SAN Volume Controller over the top of them, we can easily use them as two tiers of storage, ensuring that we have the optimal balance between cost and service levels for each business application.”

“Server and storage virtualization enable us to provision new storage extremely rapidly. If the business has a new requirement, we can create a new virtual server on the BladeCenter, install the desired software, provision the required storage from the shared pool, and deliver it to the development team within a matter of hours. This ability to respond rapidly to emerging business opportunities is a major benefit.”

Using IBM Tivoli® Storage Manager, data will be backed up to an IBM System Storage TS3500 Tape Library, after being deduplicated using an IBM System Storage TS7650 ProtecTIER® Deduplication Appliance. The ProtecTIER virtual tape library reduces the total size of the backup data sets by eliminating redundant data, accelerating both backup and recovery.

The reduced time necessary for data backup minimizes the impact on production systems, and decreases the time needed to restore data in the event of a disaster. “When we made the decision to go with IBM’s offer for the server landscape, it clearly made sense also to choose IBM for the storage landscape,” says Francisco Guereca. “From the business point of view, this gave us a simpler contractual relationship, and from the technology point of view it meant that we gained a highly integrated infrastructure.”

Powerful management tools

AXTEL uses IBM Tivoli Storage FlashCopy Manager software on the DS8300 and XIV systems to make point-in-time snapshots of virtual servers. This enables the company to take a backup of a live system with minimal impact on users, then either move it to tape as a background task (again, to minimize the impact on production systems) or use it to create a fully populated new virtual server for developers to work on.

“FlashCopy is a crucial tool for ensuring high availability for business-critical environments,” says Francisco Güereca.

“For example, if we need to perform a software upgrade, we can take a snapshot of a live system, run and test the software upgrade on the copy without impact on the users, and then seamlessly switch the users over to the upgraded version when we’re satisfied with it. Equally, we can use snapshots to move systems when we need to take a physical server offline for maintenance.”

IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center gives AXTEL a complete overview of the entire data storage infrastructure, enabling it to manage resources, review performance and automate a number of administrative processes. The Tivoli software also supports AXTEL’s information lifecycle management (ILM) initiatives, enabling storage administrators to migrate data up or down the different tiers of storage (DS8300, XIV, tape) as its business value changes over time.

Banking on strong support

To ensure effective, round-the-clock support for the new server and storage technologies, AXTEL signed a three-year contract with IBM Global Technology Services® for 24/7 maintenance and support. Francisco Guereca comments: “For the implementation of the new solution, we worked with IBM Global Technology Services. The work went smoothly and was carried out over three weekends: in each of these three phases we migrated three different parts of the old solution. First, legacy UNIX machines were replaced by new IBM BladeCenter servers. Then, we upgraded all our SAP applications.”

“The ongoing support from IBM Global Technology Services is highly responsive to our needs, giving us peace of mind that critical businesses systems will run optimally at all times.”

Building a stronger business

By refreshing its IT infrastructure, AXTEL has improved application performance, enhanced system availability, and significantly improved the overall level of service to the business.

Gaspar Rivera Del Valle, IT “Evolution” Director at AXTEL, says: “We have had SAP successfully in place for several years now. The move to an all-IBM infrastructure proved to be a winning choice, creating a synergy which has allowed us to achieve our business goals.”

The move to more powerful IBM hardware has also enabled AXTEL to produce business and marketing reports in around 60 percent less time than before, helping the business as it seeks to break into new market segments more quickly and with more reliable information to support its new business strategy. Backed by a solid, higher-performance platform for business applications, AXTEL’s staff can serve the company’s growing customer base more effectively and at a lower cost.

Francisco Güereca concludes, “The combination of IBM BladeCenter, XIV and System Storage technologies has given us a compact, efficient, highly integrated platform for running our core business services for both SAP and Citrix-based applications.

“This degree of centralization of services makes it absolutely vital to have a reliable, high-performance server infrastructure, which is exactly what the IBM solution has given us.”

Legal Information

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