To seize market share, Freudenberg IT (FIT) set out to dazzle clients by offering cost-effective hosting services for SAP HANA backed by tight SLAs around performance and availability.
By moving SAP HANA instances from appliances to IBM Power Systems, FIT enables secure sharing of physical servers between multiple clients, slashing costs and boosting utilization.
10 times fasterprovisioning of new SAP HANA instances for clients
Reducesoperational costs, enabling FIT to undercut many public cloud providers
86% smallerphysical footprint cuts energy bills and saves space in the data center
Business challenge story
Eyes on the prize
Freudenberg IT (FIT) manages business-critical applications for over 300 clients, including several Fortune 500 companies. To outshine rivals in the crowded IT services market, FIT set out to find a more cost-effective way to satisfy customers’ growing appetites for SAP HANA instances without compromising on service quality.
Dr. Michael Missbach, Global SAP Architect at FIT Germany and author of ‘SAP on the Cloud’, explains: “We were early adopters of SAP HANA, and when SAP HANA was first released it was only available as an appliance. The appliance model sounds straightforward at first, as you simply need to purchase a new physical box for each customer.
“Fast forward a few years, and we were running SAP HANA systems for 180 clients. Each customer requires separate boxes for their development, Q&A and production environments, so in total we were running 540 appliances. That started to put a serious strain on the space available in our data center, to the point where we needed to enlarge it or possibly even build a new one.
“And when a client outgrows their appliance halfway through their three-year contract, what do you do? If they previously ran on a 128 GB appliance but now they need 150 GB, do you really want to tell them that the next available appliance size is 512 GB? You might be able to do a temporary fix by going to the data center, turning off the server, opening it up and plugging in more CPUs and memory. But nowadays server components are packed in extremely densely, so if you push in a new part on one side of the motherboard, another component can snap out elsewhere. Even if you’re lucky and that doesn’t happen, you still have to turn off a running system and cause downtime for your client.”
Michael Heuberger, President and CEO of FIT in the Americas, adds: “Ultimately, if we cannot scale up and grow to meet our customers’ needs, we will end up losing our install base and impacting our clients’ ability to deliver products to their customers. We knew that to provide better hosting services to clients more cost-effectively, we needed to find a better way to manage their SAP HANA systems.
“CIOs need to focus much more on the business side to generate more revenue for the company and grow market share. In tandem with their shift in remit, they will focus less on the technology itself. Our job as a service provider is to deliver a seamless IT approach including processes, governance and security to support the CIO.”
Taking the plunge
After evaluating proposals from several leading vendors, FIT Germany chose to migrate its clients’ SAP HANA instances to IBM Power Systems. Specifically, the company is using two IBM Power System E880 servers, three IBM Power System S824L servers, and four IBM Power System E850C servers, all virtualized using IBM PowerVM® and running the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications operating system. SVA System Vertrieb Alexander GmbH, an IBM Business Partner, spent months working alongside the IBM team to advise the customer on the new solution, and helped FIT install the new servers and migrate the SAP HANA systems quickly and smoothly.
FIT is using the IBM Power Systems platform to host a broad range of SAP® solutions for its clients, including SAP Business Warehouse powered by SAP HANA, SAP ERP powered by SAP HANA, SAP Customer Relationship Management, SAP Supplier Relationship Management, SAP Supply Chain Management, SAP Extended Warehouse Management, SAP Master Data Governance on SAP HANA, SAP Manufacturing Execution on SAP HANA, SAP Hybris®, SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence, and SAP S/4HANA®. Based on the positive experiences in Germany, FIT Americas is following suit, migrating its own SAP HANA customers to IBM Power Systems.
Dr. Missbach explains: “Given that we were running so many SAP HANA instances for such a large number of clients, it was critical that we made the right choice in terms of infrastructure. We produced a thorough business case, and found that IBM Power Systems represented by far the most cost-effective option for running SAP HANA to support multiple client systems.”
Michael Heuberger says: “If I compare the IBM Power Systems architecture to classic x86 architecture, a few things come to my mind. First of all, Power Systems is the true enterprise architecture from a resiliency perspective, a scalability perspective and an availability perspective. Power Systems features the true hardware virtualization of IBM PowerVM, compared to an x86 software virtualization. By harnessing Power Systems, I take away an entire software layer which potentially introduces problems around patching, cybersecurity and more. What’s more, we don’t need to use a separate third-party hypervisor, reducing the number of vendors we work with.”
“Our journey to the IBM Power Systems infrastructure has enabled us to unleash the power of SAP HANA in an enterprise-class hardware environment. It gives us way more flexibility, scalability, performance for our customers at a lower total cost of ownership.
“Working with the IBM Power Systems team was a lot of fun, and the consultants brought passion and immense expertise to the table. Our goals were aligned from the outset, and IBM worked closely with us to overcome obstacles along the way.
“Together with IBM, we built and launched a new SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems offering – known as FIT Power Cloud – and onboarded over 300 customers in just five months. We have identified over 3,000 potential customers for the new service, so a fast time-to-market was key to our success.”
FIT deployed SAP HANA using a Tailored Data Center Integration (TDI) model, enabling the company to take advantage of its existing enterprise-class storage in the SAP HANA deployment. FIT helped SAP to develop the TDI approach, and is delighted to now receive the benefits and cost savings.
With IBM Power Systems, FIT can run multiple SAP HANA instances for different clients on a single physical server. Thanks to advanced virtualization from IBM PowerVM, each client’s system resides in its own logical partition (LPAR) on the server, making the sharing of physical infrastructure between clients highly secure. The LPARs can be sized precisely to fit each customer’s needs, so FIT achieves superb server utilization. And as client systems grow, FIT can easily resize the LPARs in a completely transparent manner, without the client incurring downtime.
Dr. Missbach adds: “You can imagine running SAP HANA instances on IBM Power Systems like playing a huge game of Tetris. At a very simplified level, we stack the SAP HANA systems closely together to achieve excellent utilization on the physical servers. So whereas before, supporting 180 SAP HANA client systems meant running 540 appliances, we are now running SAP HANA instances for nearly 50 clients on just nine IBM Power Systems servers. That equates to running 5.55 clients on each IBM Power Systems server, rather than needing 3 appliances to support each client. Running fewer physical servers helps us reduce energy consumption and costs, allowing us to pursue a greener IT strategy.
Michael Heuberger continues: “Here at FIT Americas, we are currently running around 800 dedicated SAP HANA databases for various applications. We estimate that IBM Power Systems will enable us to reduce the physical footprint by 86 percent – saving space in the data center and reducing power and cooling costs.
SAP HANA enables FIT’s clients to transform their approach to reporting and decision-making.
Dr. Missbach elaborates: “In traditional systems, data is loaded from the SAP ERP to the SAP Business Warehouse environment and reports are pre-calculated overnight. So although the underlying databases aren’t that fast, the system can deliver reports in seconds when a business user requests them the next day. This approach forces organizations to rely on the previous day’s data to support their decision-making. And if a business user wants to configure their report differently, the IT team needs to recode it, which could be a two-week job.
“SAP HANA is a real game-changer. Because it is so much faster than traditional databases, there is no need to load data and pre-calculate reports overnight. Instead, business users can report on up-to-the-minute data in real time, and if they want to change the way their report is set up, they don’t need to ask the IT team to perform back-end recoding.”
For some of FIT’s clients, real-time data isn’t just delivering faster reporting – it’s enabling them to innovate and transform their entire businesses. For example, one client that produces automotive components has used SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to build a highly automated production line and warehouse. The SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence solution and underlying SAP HANA database both reside on an IBM Power Systems server located in the warehouse to minimize latency. As new orders flow in, the SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence solution optimizes manufacturing in real time to produce automotive components in a highly automated manner.
Sometimes, the manufacturer needs to deliver spare parts for cars sold 20 years ago. In these cases, SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence examines which base components are needed to produce the finished goods. The solution makes optimized decisions regarding, for example, whether it makes sense to produce a single part now. For instance, if you need to train a person to assemble the finished product, and your predictions tell you similar orders will arrive over the next few months, it might make sense to produce 12 parts now.
Dr. Missbach comments: “This manufacturer runs a very tight ship, and in the event of outages on the core SAP solutions, the boss needs to send 150 workers home and cannot deliver to customers. IBM Power Systems provides rock-solid reliability for our clients’ mission-critical SAP applications, helping to prevent those scenarios from occurring.”
SAP S/4HANA represents another game-changer for FIT, as Michael Heuberger explains: “We installed the first SAP S/4HANA system for an SAP client here in the Americas, and since then we have seen more and more clients replicate their success. When a client decides to shift to SAP S/4HANA, we install the system, operate it and take care of all day-to-day management. Our clients benefit from reduced complexity, a smaller footprint, better performance across their entire SAP landscape and tight integration of their business processes with the SAP S/4HANA software.
“In a typical scenario, a client that required 21 servers to run their entire SAP ERP environment can move to SAP S/4HANA and require just 3 servers. Consequently, as more customers opt for SAP S/4HANA, we expect a 66 percent reduction of the physical footprint in our data centers.”
Thanks to IBM Power Systems, FIT can now provide cost-effective SAP HANA hosting services to its clients, backed by hard-to-match SLAs around performance and availability.
“We can provision new SAP HANA instances for our clients ten times faster than before,” adds Dr. Missbach. “With sandboxes, it’s even quicker: customers used to have to wait two or three months as we had to do a sizing, choose the appliance size, order and install the box. Now we can have a sandbox ready for clients in under a week, or sometimes just a day later, because we can utilize spare capacity on existing physical servers. As a result, we can deliver a much higher quality, more responsive service.
“Selling SAP HANA as an appliance model is like selling ill-fitting T-shirts – if your customer can’t quite squeeze into an M, the next size up is XXL. By comparison, with IBM Power Systems we can offer our customers much better tailor-made tuxedos, with an elasticated waistband that stretches as the database grows.
“Because we achieve such high server utilization and don’t waste money on excess capacity, we gain economies of scale, and customers pay only for what they need. As a result, we can offer more competitive fees than many public cloud providers, most of whom run SAP HANA on appliances.”
FIT can accurately track the growth of client systems to work out when it needs to buy new IBM Power Systems servers well in advance. By investing in additional infrastructure on an as-needed basis, the company can free up cash flow for other initiatives.
Furthermore, FIT is achieving energy savings and superior system reliability.
Dr. Missbach adds: “Before, each time we had to manually add CPUs and memory to appliances, our client incurred a brief downtime. Because we now rarely have to touch running systems – and if we do we can take them offline without causing an outage – our clients enjoy higher availability. What’s more, our IT team saves time.”
Michael Heuberger concludes: “Looking back on my 25 years of experience in IT infrastructure, I feel that we are at an exciting time for the industry. Already we are seeing artificial intelligence applied to our day-to-day operations. In future, we plan to harness IBM and SAP technologies to create new products leveraging cognitive computing to support CIOs in financial decision-making, project-related infrastructure, and market analysis to grow market share and gain competitive advantage. With SAP HANA, SAP S/4HANA and IBM Power Systems, I feel we are well prepared to deliver powerful solutions that meet the evolving requirements of existing and new customers.”
Freudenberg IT GmbH & Co.KG (FIT), a brand of the Freudenberg Group, is a global leader in managed IT Services steeped in SAP expertise, serving hundreds of clients in a broad range of sectors. Founded in the German town of Weinheim, the company has grown to acquire a global presence spanning Europe, America and Asia. The FIT mission is dovetailed on a regional and global level to place a clear focus on transforming complexity into user-friendliness – in other words: “IT Solutions. Simplified.”
- SAP CRM
- SAP ERP
- SAP HANA
- SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence
- SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse
- SAP S/4 HANA
- Software - PowerVM (not HPC, nor VA Linux)
Take the next step
To learn more about IBM Power Systems for SAP HANA, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit: https://www.ibm.com/it-infrastructure/power/sap-hana
SVA System Vertrieb Alexander GmbH is one of Germany’s leading systems integrators. Headquartered in Wiesbaden, the company operates 16 offices across the nation and employs more than 710 people. To find out more, please visit: sva.de