itelligence Poland set out to offer superior SAP HANA hosting services to its clients. Could the company find the magic mix of enhanced operational excellence combined with greater cost-efficiency?
itelligence Poland launched SAP ERP powered by SAP HANA hosting services on IBM Power Systems servers and IBM FlashSystem storage, using advanced virtualization to make dramatic efficiency gains.
Acceleratesprovisioning of new client systems from two days to a few hours
Reducesoperational costs, helping itelligence Poland to undercut rivals’ fees
Slasheslatency by a factor of five to deliver stellar service to clients
Business challenge story
Need for speed
In the past few years, SAP has been turning heads in the IT industry, with a wealth of new solutions hitting the market. The major wave of change came with the announcement of SAP HANA – a powerful in-memory database promising to unlock real-time analytics on an unprecedented scale.
As interest in the possibilities of SAP HANA grew, SAP specialist itelligence quickly rose to the challenge. Alongside its partner divisions in other nations, itelligence Poland launched SAP Business Warehouse powered by SAP HANA hosting services, supported by an x86 architecture. As customers adopted the new offering, itelligence Poland found that the underlying hardware lacked flexibility and was difficult to manage. Furthermore, it was hard to maintain efficient operations, as the company had to run dedicated servers for each customer – causing costs to rise in line with revenues.
When SAP ERP powered by SAP HANA appeared on the horizon, with considerably greater technical demands, itelligence Poland set out to find ways to improve its service delivery and to cut its operational costs.
Tried and tested platform
For many years, itelligence Poland had run customers’ traditional SAP ERP applications on IBM Power Systems with great success. Based on its previous experience, the company decided to trial SAP ERP powered by SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems, and found that the IBM platform was an excellent fit with its requirements.
Ireneusz Pelka, SAP Basis Senior Consultant and PowerVM Expert at itelligence Poland, recalls: “We had been using IBM Power Systems for around eight years previously, and we were very happy with the platform. In the past, we had reserved IBM Power Systems primarily for our most demanding customers, and we knew from experience that the servers would continue to perform well even under constant, very high utilization. For us, IBM Power Systems stands for reliability and stability, and that was precisely what we wanted to deliver for our SAP ERP powered by SAP HANA hosting services.”
itelligence Poland deployed IBM Power Systems in a Tailored Datacenter Integration (TDI) approach – utilizing existing infrastructure to run SAP HANA rather than purchasing new dedicated hardware. The company engaged IBM Systems Lab Services for the initial deployment, and purchased the servers – paid in flat monthly installments through a five-year contract arranged by IBM Global Financing. Since then, itelligence Poland has onboarded many additional customers for the new service and has expanded its IBM Power Systems footprint, completing these subsequent implementations independently.
Today, itelligence Poland runs the majority of customers’ SAP HANA instances on IBM Power Systems, including business-critical systems. SAP ERP powered by SAP HANA runs on nine IBM Power Systems S824L servers, two IBM Power Systems S822L servers and three IBM Power Systems E850C servers. These servers are virtualized using IBM PowerVM® and run the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications operating system. In total, itelligence Poland runs more than 220 virtual machines – known as logical partitions (LPARs) – on its IBM Power Systems servers, and has one of the country’s largest installation bases for SAP ERP powered by SAP HANA.
More recently, SAP launched SAP S/4HANA – an entirely new generation of ERP. itelligence Poland currently serves several customers with SAP S/4HANA hosting services running on IBM Power Systems and IBM FlashSystem.
Additionally, itelligence Poland continues to run traditional SAP ERP applications supported by other databases, using the IBM AIX® operating system running on nine IBM Power Systems E850C servers and an IBM Power Systems E850 server.
Ireneusz Pelka adds: “We use IBM Power Systems to run a private cloud through which our customers can access their SAP applications. Our offering is SAP-as-a-Service – we can give you everything you need to run SAP, from the infrastructure and hypervisor right through to the operating system and applications, all in one neat package.”
The IBM PowerVM virtualization software enables itelligence Poland to share its physical IBM Power Systems servers between multiple clients in a highly secure manner. As a result, itelligence Poland can support many customer systems using a smaller physical footprint, reduce the need to purchase new servers, and achieve excellent server and storage utilization.
The IBM Power Systems platform features Live Partition Mobility, which enables itelligence Poland to move live customer systems seamlessly from one physical machine to another without disrupting users – offering excellent flexibility. This function enables itelligence Poland to avoid system outages for customers during hardware maintenance, for example. Furthermore, the feature helps itelligence Poland to distribute workloads evenly between physical servers to optimize performance and utilization.
Ireneusz Pelka comments: “We have been using Live Partition Mobility on IBM Power Systems for many years, and it never ceases to impress us as the systems we move today are so much larger than those of a few years ago. For example, we recently migrated a live 1.5 TB customer system from one server to another, and it worked perfectly as usual.”
itelligence Poland 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. IBM PowerVC Virtualization Center, Cloud-Init and Ansible allow itelligence Poland to provision new virtual machines in a highly automated fashion, cutting deployment times.
After initially trialing storage from another vendor to support customers’ SAP ERP powered by SAP HANA solutions, itelligence Poland soon switched to using its existing its IBM Storwize® V7000 devices. As these machines approach end of life, itelligence Poland is upgrading to state-of-the-art IBM FlashSystem V9000 solutions virtualized using IBM Spectrum Virtualize™. Currently, the company stores over 200 TB of data on IBM FlashSystem.
“We have seen massive advantages from moving to IBM FlashSystem,” remarks Ireneusz Pelka. “Because flash is extremely fast, we have been able to cut latency from 3-5 milliseconds to less than 1 millisecond, helping to keep response times low for customers. What’s more, the new storage arrays can handle much greater IOPS than their predecessors. Ultimately, these advantages mean that when customer contracts come to an end, at the renewal we can offer them more performance for the same or perhaps even a lower fee.
“Besides speed, the other big win from FlashSystem is the advanced virtualization. We use IBM Spectrum Virtualize to support everything from compression and volume copies to moving storage volumes between different physical devices. The virtualization solution makes routine system management so much easier. Building on our work with IBM Spectrum Virtualize, we are currently looking to switch from SAP HANA System Replication to the IBM Geographically Dispersed Resiliency for Power Systems solution.”
Taking the lead
The IBM servers and storage help itelligence Poland to offer more responsive customer service at lower cost, transforming its offering. For example, automation from the IBM PowerVC Virtualization Center has cut the time to provision new client systems from two days to just a few hours.
Because the provisioning process is highly automated, itelligence Poland’s IT team saves time and can devote more energy to other activities. By shrinking the management overhead, the company reduces the need to hire additional IT personnel as it acquires new customers.
Ireneusz Pelka elaborates: “IBM Power Systems and IBM FlashSystem enable us to offer outstanding SAP solutions and our world-class SLAs at very commercially attractive fees. We are confident that the IBM solutions will continue to meet our customers’ demands for years to come.
“For example, many customers are only using around 20 percent of their available CPU power. That tells us that the IBM Power Systems servers can do much more than we currently demand from them, so I have excellent peace of mind.
“Running SAP ERP powered by SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems and IBM FlashSystem helps itelligence to reduce operational costs and simultaneously provide faster, more agile services to clients – a win-win for all.”
About itelligence Poland
itelligence is a leading international full-service provider focusing on SAP deployments, offering consulting, licensing, application management services, hosting services, and proprietary industry solutions. itelligence employs around 7,000 people in 25 countries.
itelligence’s Polish subsidiary – itelligence Sp. z o.o. – employs more than 200 people across five locations. The company has been awarded with a Customer Friendly Company certificate and a Quality International Award. In 2017, itelligence Sp. z o.o. generated total sales of PLN 82.7 million (EUR 19.6 million).