What do customers want? More. Better. Faster. Businesses must read the market almost in real time, and innovate faster than the competition. For CIOs, this puts conventional IT under huge pressure.
D.FI runs a revolutionary cloud platform for SAP® solutions that offers resilient, high-performance, ultra-scalable innovation-as-a-service—based on the unique value of SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems.
20% risein performance helps transform business systems into engines of value creation
20% reductionin total costs thanks to economies of scale
Cloud solutionsease pressure on capital, enabling flexible capacity as demands change
Business challenge story
The race for re-invention
In a highly networked, always-connected world, new products and services—even entirely new business models—can emerge in the blink of an eye and spread like wildfire. Recent years have seen industries, from retail to transportation, transform at breathtaking speed, often with established players losing sizeable market share to born-on-the-cloud start-ups. Everywhere you look, enterprises are reinventing themselves for the digital age, in which speed and flexibility are essential to success. A key element in this digital transformation is the recognition that existing ways of processing and analyzing business transactions need to keep pace with a changing world.
CIOs want to get closer to the business functions, and that their information systems must become engines of value creation for the enterprise. Inspired partly by the revolution in mobile consumer technology, executives are no longer tolerant of multi-year projects to deploy monolithic systems with fixed functional scopes. Instead, the aim is to develop flexible business services that adapt to new strategic directions, underpinned by rigorous SLAs. In short, CEOs want reliable IT services that allow them to seize new opportunities for profit, and to re-invent what they do if the market moves in a new direction.
For managed services provider D.FI, the new wave of digital transformation implied a new way of consuming enterprise IT services—requiring D.FI to re-invent its own business model in turn. Jérôme Marchal, Offering and Solution leader at D.FI, comments, “Our clients and prospects manage constant cycles of innovation, and in many cases they no longer want to be dependent on complex and costly on-premises infrastructure.
“CIOs seek to become the interface between technology and the business. As IT solutions become more complex, they find it harder to deliver the desired performance, availability and flexibility within the limited budgets available to them.”
D.FI had successfully taken on many hosted clients for SAP HANA—the in-memory technology from SAP that will ultimately become the standard data layer for all SAP solutions.
“Offering hosted SAP HANA environments was just business-as-usual for D.FI,” says Jérôme Marchal. “We already had deep skills in SAP software, and it was natural to extend our existing managed services environment to include in-memory offerings. With its near-real-time capabilities, SAP HANA empowers enterprises to thrive in this world of constant innovation. It makes sense for our clients to transfer infrastructure management to external specialists like us to take advantage of our economies of scale across equipment, tooling, skills and personnel.”
While its initial steps into the SAP HANA world had successfully delivered benefits to its clients, D.FI recognized that creating a dedicated stack for each client was not optimal for the demands of digital transformation.
“We envisaged a genuine cloud-services model for SAP HANA that would support multiple independent client environments in complete isolation and security,” says Jérôme Marchal. “To make this business model economically viable, we needed a platform for SAP HANA that would support virtualized client environments on the same physical hardware, that would be easy to manage, and that would offer both scale-up and scale-out expansion possibilities. All of these factors led us to IBM Power Systems.
“We were impressed by the technical benefits claimed by IBM: four times the memory bandwidth, threads and cache versus x86, and double the performance per core. More interesting for us was the ability to host up to four production instances of SAP HANA per physical server.
“To make sure IBM Power Systems was the right platform for D.FI, we ran a profitability study to compare the mutualized model with our existing dedicated appliance approach to SAP HANA. This exercise revealed performance gains of around 20 percent, improvements in manageability and an estimated 20 percent reduction in total costs. These advantages are vital for a service provider, because this is what enables us to monetize our economies of scale. Most important of all, we saw clearly that Power Systems would give us the ability to act much more flexibly and to build customized services for our clients.”
Fast and flexible
To deliver its new SAP HANA cloud service, D.FI deployed two IBM Power® System E850c servers with 24 IBM POWER8® cores running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications, and two IBM Storwize® V5020 arrays for storage. These components are distributed across two geographically separated data centers for improved resilience and protection against disaster; SAP HANA replication technology keeps the two halves of the solution synchronized.
“One major advantage with the Power Systems platform is that we didn’t need to do any re-engineering to make it an enterprise solution—it’s capable of meeting the most stringent demands as standard,” comments Jérôme Marchal. “IBM Power Systems deliver a level of service that enables us to really make our economies of scale work for us and for our clients, and this was a key enabler for transforming our go-to-market strategy around SAP HANA. It has helped us to demystify SAP HANA and make it a cloud-based service that businesses can sign up for, deploy very rapidly, and consume as they require.”
The new cloud platform enables digital transformation in two key areas: speed to market and flexibility. D.FI can get a new client up and running within a matter of days, enabling information services to move at the speed of the business rather than standing in the way of innovation. And with SAP HANA running on IBM Power Systems, D.FI can adjust the resources up or down in line with the changing demand from its clients, delivering the right-sized infrastructure on an economically viable basis.
“The key difference we see between IBM Power Systems and alternative platforms for SAP HANA is the ability to move away from the dedicated appliance model to a mutualized approach with multiple production environments on each server,” comments Jérôme Marchal. “This is what enables our new business model. We refer to it as an industrialized platform because it enables us to create something like a production line of delivering new SAP HANA environments to our clients. We can offer different levels of service at different price points to meet various requirements, and our clients are free to flex their capacity up or down as their volumes change. These capabilities of the IBM Power Systems platform enable us to really maximize the impact of our economies of scale, benefitting both us and our clients.”
The use of a shared infrastructure makes it easy for D.FI’s clients to rent additional resources. This might be to set up sandboxes to try out new ideas and scale them up into full production if they succeed—or maybe scrap them and move on to something new if they fail.
“A big part of digital transformation is getting rid of all the obstacles to innovation,” comments Jérôme Marchal. “Some of our clients want to be able to use the ‘fail-fast’ philosophy to try new ideas without delays and without capital investments, and this is precisely what our SAP HANA cloud on IBM Power Systems offers. At the same time, the platform provides high performance, stability and security for running our clients’ core transactions and business intelligence—so it also meets traditional business expectations.”
With SAP HANA available as a cloud service from D.FI, businesses can now more easily access the benefits of in-memory technology. D.FI is extending the offering set to include SAP® Business Warehouse powered by SAP HANA, and SAP Customer Relationship Management powered by SAP HANA. As the market matures and customer demand grows, D.FI plans to offer additional SAP HANA solutions that will help further maximize opportunities.
Beyond simply accelerating all transactions, one use-case is the provision of near-real-time analytics. For example, the retail industry is a focus area for D.FI, and here clients can take advantage of SAP HANA to analyze their in-store margins. With a conventional set-up, there is often too much of a gap between receiving sales data and transforming it into usable business intelligence. In fast-moving areas such as fashion, this can leave businesses unable to capitalize on fleeting sales opportunities. By cutting the time-to-insight almost to zero, SAP HANA in-memory technology can help retailers see immediately how and where each product in their inventory is selling. This precious information helps them ensure that they always have the right mix of products, at the right pricing, at the right time and in the right outlets.
“The ability to understand business performance almost in real time can clearly unlock huge competitive advantage,” says Jérôme Marchal. “Of course, you can choose to set up SAP HANA as an on-premise solution, but that means committing to a capital investment. If your workloads then grow—or shrink—you have the challenge of managing that within the constraints of a fixed asset.
“By choosing our cloud service based on IBM Power Systems, you can adjust the computing resources up or down to deliver results at the speed your business needs, without paying the price during periods of lower demand. Equally, choosing a managed service removes the requirement to maintain advanced skills in-house, and ensures that the CIO focuses on service delivery rather than on the underlying technology.”
Choosing a cloud service provider to deliver a business-critical service naturally involves a significant investment of trust. D.FI builds on its 30-year relationship with IBM and deep expertise in the IBM Power Systems platform to offer a highly reliable service backed by rigorous SLAs. By entrusting the delivery of SAP HANA to D.FI, clients can concentrate their efforts on competitive differentiation and innovation.
Jérôme Marchal comments: “The function of the CIO should be to empower the business by connecting it to the right technology resources. Our message is: ‘Why set yourself up as a managed service provider to the business when there are specialists like D.FI who can do it better and at lower cost, thanks to their economies of scale?’ Of course, if you choose to outsource, you need to be confident that your provider can offer the best combination of performance, flexibility, robustness and economics, and we believe that means IBM Power Systems.”
He adds: “In our former ‘dedicated’ approach to running SAP HANA, under-utilization meant that computing resources were sometimes sitting idle. Today, with a mutualized architecture on IBM Power Systems, we can share unused resources with other tenants, allowing everyone collectively to get greater value from the investments we make in IT.”
Delivering innovation as a service
For D.FI, the unique ability of the IBM Power Systems platform to support up to four SAP HANA production environments per physical server is the technical enabler for a whole new business model: secure shared services for SAP HANA delivered on a highly economical basis and offering exceptional reliability. The as-a-service model, backed by expert design and support from D.FI, enables clients to get up and running quickly, even for those businesses with complex, large-scale requirements.
“With IBM Power Systems as our strategic platform for SAP HANA cloud services, we can fire up new client environments at high speed and without locking them into a particular growth path,” says Jérôme Marchal. “IBM Power Systems offer economical options for both scale-up and scale-out expansion, so nothing stands between our clients and their growth potential. And because we handle the underlying IT, they are free to focus their time, energy and investment on innovation and business-process optimization.”
By making it economically viable to offer customized SAP HANA environments to multiple clients, the adoption of IBM Power Systems has given D.FI a broader base of potential clients. The company can now target smaller businesses for which a dedicated SAP HANA appliance might be over-sized—and too difficult to manage in-house.
Jérôme Marchal comments: “We believe that we can act as an engine of growth for the start-up market in France, targeting fast-growth businesses that don’t want to sink capital into owning IT infrastructure. These businesses want comprehensive services that can flex up and down as their demands change, with extremely fast set-up, and we can offer this on very attractive commercial terms.”
Choosing D.FI’s cloud service for SAP HANA also enables clients to benefit from enterprise-class resilience and protection against disaster. The cost of providing a live/live dual-center solution is spread across all clients on the shared infrastructure, removing what might be an insurmountable financial barrier for any individual client. “Delivering a cloud infrastructure is not just a matter of providing flexibility—dealing with SAP software immediately makes us custodians of the most important enterprise data, so robustness is vital,” comments Jérôme Marchal. “From our perspective as a cloud service provider, using IBM Power Systems helps us to offer the highest standards of resilience and security with minimal management time and effort. The result is that our clients get better service levels at lower costs, and at the same time we preserve a healthy margin for our business.”
In D.FI’s experience, clients can typically expect at least a 20 percent gain in transactional performance by adopting SAP HANA, and potentially dramatically higher gains in analytical performance. With insight delivered almost in real time, businesses across multiple industries can understand faster what to offer, where they should make it available, who they should market it to, and how to price it. Further SAP HANA solutions will be made available as demand rises.
Jérôme Marchal concludes: “By using our SAP HANA cloud service running on IBM Power Systems, organizations in any industry can achieve faster insight into their performance. In a world increasingly driven by mobile commerce and instant consumer gratification, the ability to get to market sooner can make all the difference between a hit and a miss. The faster insight we enable drives shorter cycles in product and service development, helping businesses innovate ahead of their competitors to take advantage of potentially short-lived market opportunities.”
To acquire the IBM infrastructure it needed to build out its new SAP HANA offering, D.FI opted for a 48-month lease. Provided by IBM Global Financing, this finance deal enabled a business model that optimizes D.FI’s cash management as well as avoiding the need for large up-front payments. This enabled a balance to be struck between cash inflows and outflows, by bringing supplier payments in line with the growth of the new services. Moreover, thanks to the end-of-contract purchase option, D.FI can choose to own the infrastructure outright, for a final payment whose value is set at the start of the contract.
D.FI is a systems integrator and cloud services provider that transforms information technologies into tangible added value for its clients. With 250 employees in France and more than 30 years of experience, D.FI delivers advanced services to dozens of major organizations across aerospace, banking, distribution, financial services, government, media and retail. The company holds numerous certifications from global IT vendors and works with a large network of partners to enable a comprehensive portfolio of business services.
- IBM Global Financing
- IBM-SAP Alliance
- IGF: IT Financing - IBM Hardware
- SAP ERP
- SAP HANA
- SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse