To grow market share, Ctac aims to entice customers with a range of cutting-edge hosting services, including the next-generation SAP S/4HANA suite and best-of-breed industry solutions.
Ctac launched its new offerings on IBM Power Systems servers and IBM Storage, harnessing advanced virtualization features to enable secure sharing of physical servers between clients.
Reduced footprintwith 96 logical partitions across 10 physical servers
8 hoursper month to manage each compute block
2.6 kilowattsconsumed by each server
Business challenge story
Sights set on growth
To achieve its growth ambitions, business and cloud integrator Ctac looked to expand into new markets – seeking sectors yet to fully capitalize on the cloud and outsourcing revolution. The team discovered that many companies in the real-estate and retail industries were keen to outsource their IT operations, but out-of-the-box solutions from larger vendors were not sufficiently tailored to meet their needs. Ctac set out to offer assistance, and in doing so transformed its business with the development of its own intellectual property.
Hans Gootjes, Enterprise Architect and Cloud Business Developer at Ctac, explains: “We decided to build a solution designed specifically for companies operating in the Dutch real-estate market. To support every facet of their business, our solution combines SAP S/4HANA as its digital core with other leading products such as SAP Customer Experience solutions (formerly SAP Hybris) and SAP Cloud Platform Integration. Our real-estate solution runs in our data center, and customers access it on a Software-as-a-Service [SaaS] basis.
“Similarly, we built a solution for the retail industry, combining best-of-breed products from a range of vendors. Our retail solution harnesses SAP S/4HANA, SAP Customer Activity Repository, SAP Extended Warehouse Management, SAP Forecasting and Replenishment and SAP Cloud for Customer, alongside third-party solutions for managing product information and other data.
“With the development phase complete, we set out to find the best platform on which to launch the new solutions. To outsource their entire IT operations to us, prospective clients would need to feel confident that we could live up to their high expectations around performance and reliability. And of course, to seal the deal, we needed our offerings to come in at an attractive price point.”
Ctac began its quest to find a platform that could deliver stellar performance, scalability and reliability in a cost-effective manner.
Recipe for success
After detailed price-performance analysis, Ctac chose to deploy its new industry solutions and the standard SAP S/4HANA core solution on IBM Power Systems and IBM Storage infrastructure, as a private cloud offering. The advanced virtualization capabilities offered by IBM technologies enable Ctac to run a larger number of client instances from a smaller physical footprint, which is much more cost-efficient to operate and easier to manage.
Ctac started by harnessing its existing IBM Power System E870 servers and IBM Storwize V7000 (predecessor to the IBM FlashSystem 7200) storage in a Tailored Data Center Integration (TDI) deployment – a model that enables companies to take advantage of their existing infrastructure to support their SAP S/4HANA implementations. As business volumes have increased, Ctac has added two more IBM Power System E850 servers and IBM Storwize V5030 (now known as IBM FlashSystem 5000) storage devices. In total, Ctac’s SAP environment includes over 400 physical POWER processor cores and 38 TB of memory.
The IBM Power Systems servers are virtualized using IBM PowerVM® technology and run the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications operating system, while the storage devices are virtualized using built-in IBM Spectrum Virtualize™ software. The IBM hardware is highly efficient, with each storage device consuming just one kilowatt and each server 2.6 kilowatts. Ctac has largely automated the management of virtual machines on its IBM Power Systems servers using IBM PowerVC Virtualization Center software, helping the IT team to save time on routine system management tasks.
Niek Verhaar, SAP Solution Architect at Ctac, explains: “The advanced virtualization of IBM Power Systems enables us to securely share each physical server between multiple clients, rather than needing a separate server for each customer. In total, we run 96 logical partitions across ten physical servers. As a result, we have a smaller physical footprint and save time on infrastructure management – spending just 8 hours for each server and 10.5 hours for each storage device per month. By running a smaller physical environment with better infrastructure utilization, we unlock savings that we can pass on to clients in the form of highly competitive hosting fees.
“Launching our new industry solutions on IBM Power Systems was an easy decision. We have been using IBM Power Systems for many years, and we know from experience that the platform is extremely reliable and offers spectacular performance. With IBM Power Systems, IBM offers a complete solution which acts as one stack and the vendor takes full responsibility of the performance and support for the configuration of the stack. IBM storage is wonderful too, delivering superb stability and robust performance for our clients’ mission-critical SAP applications.
“What’s more, we are supported by a fantastic local IBM team. And because our servers, storage and hypervisor all come from IBM, if we have questions, need help with sizing or something breaks, then we have one vendor to contact and avoid finger-pointing.”
Providing stellar service to clients
Thanks to the sturdy IBM infrastructure, Ctac can deliver world-class service to clients such as AG Real Estate, Belgium’s largest property group. Since their collaboration began in 2014, Ctac has helped AG Real Estate move from a diverse set of business applications to an ERP environment.
Currently, AG Real Estate runs SAP ERP powered by SAP HANA (including modules for controlling, materials management, project systems, sales and distribution, and vendor invoice management), SAP S/4HANA Finance, SAP BusinessObjects™ Business Intelligence solutions, SAP Real Estate, and SAP Enable Now for training and process documentation. The entire SAP environment is hosted by Ctac and runs on IBM Power Systems and IBM Storage.
Pierre-Emmanuel Dion, IT Architect at AG Real Estate, recalls: “We selected SAP largely because of the SAP Real Estate module, which caters precisely to our business needs. At a strategic level, we wanted our internal IT team to focus on functionality rather than infrastructure, so we were keen to pursue a cloud-style delivery model. The proposal from Ctac matched our requirements well, and we were confident that Ctac was a good fit because they demonstrated a strong track record of implementations in the Belgian real estate industry.”
Toon Sneyers, IT Project Manager at AG Real Estate, adds: “The service we receive from Ctac is superb. In 2017 we had no downtime at all on our SAP production systems, which means that the IBM infrastructure is working reliably. Thanks to the flexibility provided by IBM Power Systems servers, we can scale our computing power up or down rapidly to suit our business needs, and we pay only for the resources we need – without the headache of setting up or decommissioning servers. Ctac also takes care of patching, freeing up our internal IT personnel to focus on other areas.”
Introducing SAP has enabled AG Real Estate to transform its business processes to improve governance. For example, the company has established a robust purchase-order process to improve financial controls and supplier management. In addition, AG Real Estate has enhanced reporting capabilities from SAP BusinessObjects powered by SAP HANA, enabling the company to report on areas such as tenancies and finance extremely quickly. AG Real Estate has also introduced self-service reporting, helping to democratize its data and improve decision-making across the business.
As a next step, AG Real Estate is working with Ctac to deploy a custom application built by Ctac that will store personal data from diverse applications securely on the SAP HANA database. This approach helps Ctac to comply with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) introduced by the European Union in May 2018.
In future, AG Real Estate is keen to track information about its shopping centers by connecting its SAP HANA database to social media platforms.
Roger Cocquempot, Head of IT & Organization Department at AG Real Estate, says: “Ctac supports more and more of our business, and their professionalism never ceases to amaze us. Ctac offers a cloud integrator approach, enabling us to combine our SAP landscape with offerings from other providers in a simple, efficient manner. We just tell Ctac what we need and they deliver it right away.”
Reaching into new markets
With the new offerings from Ctac, clients can outsource their entire IT functions and enjoy best-of-breed industry solutions. Many existing Ctac clients are now deciding to move from older SAP ERP applications to SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA® and SAP S/4HANA to harness greater automation, richer functionality and the latest best-practice business processes.
The cost-efficiency provided by the IBM Power Systems and IBM Storage infrastructure enables Ctac to offer highly competitive hosting fees, bringing its industry solutions and the state-of-the-art SAP S/4HANA solution within reach of even small organizations. As well as reaching into the real-estate and retail markets, Ctac is now able to sell to potential clients that would previously not have considered IT outsourcing, helping Ctac further grow market share.
Hans Gootjes concludes: “We believe that IBM Power Systems servers and IBM Storage provide key competitive advantages for us as a hosting provider. We look forward to using the platform to further expand our service portfolio and grow our customer base in future.”
Ctac is an ICT solution provider headquartered in Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, with offices in Belgium and France. Offering business consultancy, cloud services and software development, Ctac employs 454 people and generates annual revenues of EUR 81.6 million.