Developers supporting IBM’s global logistics application wanted to focus on adding new analytics features, not managing infrastructure—but their on-premise database required continual maintenance.
The team migrated to IBM® Db2® Warehouse on Cloud, a fully managed, column-oriented database service designed to provide high-speed, scalable data warehousing and analytics.
98%reduction in infrastructure costs by moving to a cloud platform with usage-based charging
20%faster performance in executing key analytics application processes
Eliminatesdatabase maintenance costs and boosts developer productivity and agility
Business challenge story
Data-driven global logistics
Logistics is an information business. Regardless of what you’re shipping, where it’s going, and which mode of transportation you choose, your top priorities will be to maximize reliability, minimize costs, and accelerate delivery. Optimizing these variables is almost impossible unless you can continuously monitor and analyze your supply and distribution networks—which is why analytics technology plays a vital role in most successful logistics businesses.
Although IBM is not primarily a logistics company, it is one of the world’s most international businesses, operating across more than 170 countries. IBM hardware and software products are constantly in motion, being imported and exported across national borders, and subject to a bewildering variety of customs requirements, duties and taxes.
To manage this ceaseless activity, IBM works with a number of specialist logistics partners, and manages these relationships and transactions via a set of global logistics applications for each of its regions. These applications are in constant development, as the company seeks to sharpen its competitive advantage by building ever-more sophisticated logistics analytics capabilities.
The Office of the CIO is responsible for developing and maintaining IBM’s logistics applications—and for finding new ways to optimize them. Recently, the team that works on the application that supports the Americas region embarked on an initiative that has substantially improved system performance, reduced costs and increased developer agility.
Juan Ignacio Durante, CIO GL Argentina Squad Technical Owner, Business Analyst at IBM, explains: “We were running our application’s database layer on a pair of servers in our data center. We were spending too much time on database management, which was a distraction from our core role—we are application developers, not infrastructure specialists. We realized that moving to a fully managed database service in the cloud could be a big win in helping us be more agile.”
Taking care of business
The team initially planned a like-for-like migration, simply moving all its logistics data from its existing on-premise database to an identical platform in the cloud. However, as the project’s architects researched the options, they saw an opportunity to improve performance too.
Durante comments: “We had been using a traditional, row-oriented relational database, designed for transactional performance—but many of our applications today have more of an analytical focus. When we saw IBM Db2 Warehouse on Cloud, we realized that a column-oriented database built for analytics could be a better fit for our requirements.”
Essentially, a column-oriented structure means that the database doesn’t have to read and discard irrelevant information from each record (row) when it is running a query—instead, it can directly access only the fields (columns) it needs to calculate the answer. As the size of the database grows, this can provide significant performance gains.
The team decided on a phased migration to the new cloud platform, and started by moving two of its most important analytics applications: Indicators, which calculates the value of import shipments by region, and Webchart, which provides a graphical view of estimated and actual shipment volumes, taxes and other expenses to IBM product owners.
Db2 Warehouse on Cloud is available in various form factors for different requirements. The team selected a symmetric multiprocessor (SMP) configuration, which is designed for cost-effective cloud data warehousing. This was sufficient to support separate production, test and development environments for the first two applications, which are used by more than 50 people throughout the Americas.
Durante says: “Our Db2 Warehouse on Cloud setup is perfectly sized for our needs, and we know we can scale it up easily as we move more of our functionality onto the cloud platform. With agile development, it’s important to be able to ramp up your resources quickly to meet unexpected requirements, and the new platform gives us that flexibility.”
Freeing up resources for development
By moving to a fully managed cloud database platform, the IBM CIO Office development team has freed itself from the burden of database maintenance and infrastructure management.
Durante recalls: “We used to spend days every month on upgrades and patching, exchanging notes with the infrastructure team, coordinating testing, and so on. It was a real distraction from more valuable work. Today, we don’t even worry about it—the database just works, and the support is great.”
As a result, the team now has more time to focus on its core role: developing new functionalities and extending the analytics capabilities of the logistics application itself.
“With more time to spend on application development, we can be much more productive and agile,” says Durante. “And with Db2 Warehouse on Cloud, we can take advantage of on-demand, usage-based charging, which has reduced our monthly costs by 98 percent.”
The move to a more analytics-focused database architecture has also begun to pay dividends in terms of performance.
“Our Webchart app depends on several scripts that run directly on the database, and we’ve seen significant improvements in the execution time for those scripts,” says Durante. “It’s also far easier to log into the database to run those scripts—the web interface is much more user-friendly than the console of our old database, and it’s easy to schedule jobs to run automatically instead of having to log in manually.”
He concludes: “The response from our users has been fantastic—they are excited about the new cloud-based version of Indicators, and we’re already discussing adding more functionality and extending the solution to other regions. Looking at the big picture, Db2 Warehouse on Cloud helps us invest more resources in agile development and accelerate the delivery of a truly world-class platform for logistics analytics.”
About IBM CIO Office
The IBM CIO Office drives change, innovation and efficiency within the enterprise by ensuring a company’s IT operations are responsive, resilient and secure enough to keep pace with ongoing changes in technology and business requirements.
- Db2 Warehouse on Cloud
Take the next step
IBM Analytics offers one of the world's deepest and broadest analytics platform, domain and industry solutions that deliver new value to businesses, governments and individuals. For more information about how IBM Analytics helps to transform industries and professions with data, visit ibm.com/analytics. Follow us on Twitter at @IBMAnalytics, on our blog at ibmbigdatahub.com and join the conversation #IBMAnalytics.