Swiss federal IT service streamlines its SAP landscape, accelerates automation
Moving to IBM Power10 servers to foster greater reliability, availability, performance and sustainability
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FOITT main location

The Swiss Federal Administration relies on SAP applications for many aspects of its operations, including finance, logistics and more, supported by the Federal Office of Information Technology, Systems and Telecommunication (FOITT). In connection with the migration to SAP S/4HANA and with a constantly rising demand for additional services, FOITT looked for ways to optimize and streamline its critical infrastructure, and to improve efficiency, increase capacity and enhance flexibility.

Mission-critical SAP support

Thousands of users within seven departments of the Swiss Federal Administration rely on FOITT. Alongside operational support for applications, workstations and servers, FOITT is responsible for mission-critical SAP S/4HANA solutions, from finance to HR.

To support the SAP systems, FOITT ran more than 78 servers in total. In most cases, each server hosted applications with sufficient spare capacity to allow for peaks in workload. If a federal department requested a new SAP S/4HANA instance, it could take up to two months for the FOITT to purchase, deploy and configure a new server. The total number of servers gradually increased over time, even as around 20 older servers were retired and replaced each year.

As a result, FOITT grappled with increasing complexity. For example, backup processes were under constant review to ensure that new and refreshed servers were correctly included, and the network required continuous attention as machine addresses changed. Similarly, system and application maintenance tasks were often assigned to several different teams, whose varying workloads and priorities tended to delay responses. In addition, the fragmented server landscape prevented widespread use of automation, and failover and recovery relied on manual intervention.

Urs Marending, Product Manager SAP Systemteam at FOITT, explains: “Of course, our customers within the Federal Administration are not interested in the infrastructure, they simply want to use the SAP solutions. In support, we wanted to ensure the best possible service, and improve performance, resiliency and flexibility. However, with our existing infrastructure we struggled to deliver new SAP S/4HANA instances in a timely manner, and we were unable to make the best use of our capacity. As workload grew, we wanted to deploy larger systems with up to 4 TB of memory, which our x86 systems did not support.”

FOITT engaged IBM Business Partner UMB, a leading technology specialist in Switzerland, to support the implementation of the new IBM infrastructure. With a wide range of SAP S/4HANA applications of many different sizes, running 24x7, the team focused on the advantages of virtualization as a way of making optimal use of processing capacity and memory. By consolidating to a smaller number of servers, each running multiple SAP instances, FOITT aimed to reduce complexity and use virtualization to gain agility, improve performance and enhance service delivery.

Consolidate 64 x86 servers

5 IBM Power servers now handle the combined workload

95% faster delivery of new SAP S/4HANA instance

LPAR virtualization technology on IBM Power10 cuts time from 1 week to 2 hours

With IBM Power10, we can provide new virtual servers for a complex SAP application landscape with the SAP HANA database within just one hour, fully automated and standardized. The IBM Power architecture guarantees very high availability, stability and resilience for round-the-clock operations of our mission-critical SAP applications. Urs Marending Product Manager SAP Systemteam FOITT
Selecting the SUPERB platform

After extensive market evaluation, FOITT selected IBM® Power10 servers as the strategic platform for SAP S/4HANA operations. The combination of resiliency, availability, performance and virtualization capabilities showed that IBM Power10 would enable FOITT to consolidate to just five servers, dramatically reducing cost and complexity. Further, the simplified systems architecture would enable FOITT to introduce extensive automation, improve resilience and help optimize resource utilization, all of which would deliver increased efficiency.

The Federal Administration embarked on a transformation program and named it SUPERB—short for Support, Processes, ERP and Bund (the German word for “federal”). Working closely with UMB and the IBM Technology Lifecycle Services team to implement the infrastructure and for support during the hyper-care phase, FOITT is progressively migrating its SAP solutions to IBM Power® servers, running the SUSE Linux® Enterprise Server operating system. Each IBM Power server runs multiple virtual servers, using IBM logical partition (LPAR) virtualization, which enables processor and memory capacity to be allocated optimally to SAP S/4HANA applications, maximizing utilization.

Bruno Willener, Solution Architect Hardware/OS at FOITT, reports: “On x86 servers the memory and processor sizing is less flexible, which often resulted in significant over-investment. IBM Power10 allows us to allocate memory and processor capacity in increments of one-hundredth of a core.”

In terms of SAP solution performance, Ingo Berghahn, Solution Architect SAP Basis, adds, “The LPAR virtualization technology ensures that each SAP S/4HANA application is optimized for performance and that we maximize system utilization for the best possible return on investment.”

The combination of system scalability and virtualization has greatly improved service delivery, too, as Berghahn explains: “In addition, whereas the previous x86 systems could only be adjusted during downtime, with restarts taking around four hours, LPARs can be resized during production. The standard deployment at FOITT consists of three LPARs, for the application, central instance and SAP HANA database. For business-critical SAP S/4HANA solutions, we implemented production, disaster recovery and backup systems at three separate data centers, to ensure maximum resilience.”

Patrik Riesen, SUPERB Program Leader, comments: “By using IBM Power servers for our new SAP Basis infrastructure in the SUBERB program, we were able to achieve a very high degree of automation, which minimizes manual work and increases the efficiency of our IT processes. This makes it possible to provide new virtual servers for a complex SAP landscape with the SAP HANA database in an automated and standardized manner within just a few hours.”

This capability has also transformed the FOITT’s service portal that enables users to specify and order new SAP S/4HANA systems. When a confirmed request arrives, FOITT uses automation to set up the required LPAR and SAP S/4HANA instance and database, and provide them within an hour. With IBM Power, FOITT is able to offer enhanced service to the Federal Administration, while reducing administration, accelerating delivery and cutting costs.

By using IBM Power servers for our new SAP Basis infrastructure in the SUBERB program, we were able to achieve a very high degree of automation, which minimizes manual work and increases the efficiency of our IT processes. This makes it possible to provide new virtual servers for a complex SAP landscape with the SAP HANA database in an automated and standardized manner within just a few hours. Patrik Riesen SUPERB Program Leader FOITT
Strategic benefits of IBM Power10

As the SUPERB program continues and the number of x86 servers decreases, FOITT is taking advantage of the simplified architecture. To take a technical example, where previously the applications were configured to listen to multiple ports, which added complexity to firewall and security management, the unified IBM Power10 solution provides a standardized solution that eliminates port configuration challenges.

The SUPERB project will run through 2027 as FOITT fully transforms its operations, and will accumulate the benefits of the streamlined IBM Power10 architecture. For example, the former x86 landscape of almost 80 servers implied a constant procurement, deployment and configuration cycle of perhaps 20 machines every year. IBM Power10 servers offer multiple upgrade options, including increased processor numbers and additional memory, in many cases without requiring system downtime.

“The reliability of the IBM Power Servers ensures very high availability and stability when operating our business-critical SAP applications around the clock. In addition, the scalability of the platform allows for flexible adaptation to different workloads and customer requirements,” adds Riesen.

Server consolidation to the IBM Power platform also brings direct business and environmental benefits to FOITT, which align with the Federal Government’s adoption of its 2030 Sustainable Development Strategy. Marending remarks, “The consolidation of 64 of our x86 servers to five IBM Power servers offers lower energy consumption and TCO savings, and will cut FOITT’s total carbon footprint with a more-sustainable IT operation.”

In addition, the benefits extend into IT efficiency, as Marending continues: “With IBM Power10, we can provide new virtual servers for a complex SAP application landscape with the SAP HANA database within just one hour, fully automated and standardized. The IBM Power architecture guarantees very high availability, stability and resilience for round-the-clock operations of our mission-critical SAP applications. Additionally, the Power10 platform allows us to dynamically adjust the resources for different and changing workloads and customer needs.”

For the future, FOITT is looking at additional efficiency options available through IBM Power Systems Private Cloud with Shared Utility Capacity (previously called “Power Enterprise Pools”). Enterprise pools enable multiple servers to share processor and memory resources, and to expand those resources on a paid usage basis, allowing FOITT to scale up to meet peak workloads.

“We are evaluating enterprise pools as a way to further increase our flexibility,” says Marending. “Currently 95% of cores are assigned to LPARs, sized to meet typical workloads. With IBM Power Systems Private Cloud with Shared Utility Capacity, we could always have available processing to enable peak performance across all systems.”

Riesen concludes, “SUPERB implements a generation-change of technology to SAP S/4HANA, a direct contribution to the harmonization, standardization and digitalization of support processes in the federal administration.”

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About the Federal Office of Information Technology, Systems and Telecommunication (FOITT)

FOITT (link resides outside of ibm.com) is one of the internal ICT service providers in the Swiss Federal Administration. It operates computing centers, specialized applications, data networks and telecommunications infrastructures. FOITT employs approximately 1,600 people, supports more than 48,000 workplace systems and manages over 6,000 servers with approximately 10 PB of storage.

UMB logo
About UMB

UMB (link resides outside of ibm.com) is an IBM Business Partner based in Switzerland. UMB generates time through intelligent solutions. Employing 900 people across 18 offices, UMB specializes in business consulting, cloud, IT architecture, digital transformation, communication modern work, security, data science and infrastructure. Five times in a row (link resides outside of ibm.com), UMB has been recognized by the Great Place to Work Institute as the best employer in Switzerland and was named Europe’s best employer in 2022 (link resides outside of ibm.com).

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