To provide over a million homes with light, heat and water, N-ERGIE AG must ensure that critical services, such as operations management and gas emergency phone lines, are available at all times.
N-ERGIE AG embraced VersaStack, a converged infrastructure solution from Cisco and IBM, to help it ensure non-stop electricity, gas and water services for millions of residents in Nuremberg, Germany.
Helpsto ensure reliable, round-the-clock energy services to over a million homes
70%in time savings with centralized, streamlined cabling, deployment and management
85%reduction of manual work during regular server patching projects
Business challenge story
Lighting the way
Utility and public transport services are essential in any city. Without electricity, gas, running water or local trains and buses, today’s modern, connected cities would quickly grind to a halt. Residents, companies and municipal administrations alike all rely on these services running uninterrupted day in, day out.
Energy company N-ERGIE AG and public transport body VAG serve over one million people in and around the German city of Nuremberg. N-ERGIE AG supplies the city and the surrounding region with 13 billion kWh of electricity per year via its 27,345 km-long power distribution grid. VAG carries 144 million passengers annually.
Protecting critical infrastructure services against failure and outages is crucial for both companies. To minimize the risk of disruption, N-ERGIE AG must keep a close eye on its infrastructure and monitor the power grid 24/7. In addition, services such as the gas emergency hotline are essential in reducing the impact of problems. Being able to communicate with customers in critical situations is a core requirement for any utility or public transport company.
To be ready for the future, N-ERGIE AG is steadily increasing its number of renewable energy sources, making proactive, real-time infrastructure management more and more important.
Marco Löhner, System Engineer at N-ERGIE IT, adds: “Our job is to ensure that N-ERGIE AG and VAG operate reliably around the clock, now and in the future. Delays can often have dire consequences in our industry. Our power grid needs to be balanced, which is a real challenge when dealing with renewable energy. Therefore, N-ERGIE AG staff need constant access to all of the information and tools used to run the power grid. Only this can enable them to take action when needed to protect the infrastructure services that keep Nuremberg running smoothly. And in public transport, bus drivers, for example, need to be able to use real-time radio technology for internal communications to report any incidents immediately.”
Powering the business
To ensure that it was ready to meet future challenges, N-ERGIE AG decided to upgrade the core IT infrastructure that powers a wide range of its business applications and systems. After evaluating offerings from several vendors, the team chose to implement VersaStack, an integrated converged infrastructure from Cisco and IBM.
Marco Löhner elaborates: “The powerful combination of Cisco networking and server equipment together with IBM storage works very well for us. With Cisco Unified Computing System, we gained a highly flexible solution that enables us to optimize performance and streamline system administration processes.”
N-ERGIE AG operates approximately 100 Cisco UCS B-Series Blade Servers to run 600 virtual machines and dedicated servers powered by VMware virtualization technology. Applications include database clusters, email and phone systems, real-time radio solutions for internal communications, as well as time-critical systems to manage rail and bus traffic. Additionally, the company relies on the infrastructure to provide 2,000 virtual desktops to staff using Citrix technology.
The company uses IBM storage solutions, including IBM® Spectrum Virtualize™, IBM Storwize® V5000 and IBM Storwize V7000, together with the Cisco UCS servers to take advantage of the tried-and-tested VersaStack solution. With IBM Spectrum Virtualize, the N-ERGIE AG benefits from built-in compression and mirroring features, as well as IBM Easy Tier® technology, which analyzes access patterns and automatically moves data to the fastest available storage system to improve overall performance—without the need for manual storage optimization. Dietrich Marquardt, Storage, SAN and Backup Manager at N-ERGIE IT, adds: “Thanks to IBM Spectrum Virtualize, we always get the best performance from our storage systems, and have gained the flexibility to expand and upgrade storage systems as needed without interruption. This really helps us to continuously optimize our storage environment without the risk of failure that could lead to damaging downtime. We highly value the seamless integration of Cisco UCS with IBM storage systems.”
Gerhard Büttner, System Engineer Storage at N-ERGIE IT, confirms: “By choosing IBM storage systems, as well as having reliable server hardware from Cisco, we have easy access to highly competent support engineers.”
Delivering time and cost savings
With Cisco UCS Manager, N-ERGIE IT can deploy new virtual machines much faster than before. Using base images provided by Cisco and VMware that already include all the relevant drivers, agents and tools, N-ERGIE IT can provision a new server in substantially less time.
Marco Löhner comments: “The easy-to-use management interface has also greatly simplified patch management from the ground up. We can now flexibly install BIOS patches automatically, without needing to touch every single server manually. This easily saves us 85 percent in management time whenever we deploy BIOS patches across our data center. Less time spent on trivial tasks means we can instead tackle more complex challenges, deliver better customer service and respond faster to requests from our business users. We are even able to add policies for the patch rollout to lower risk further still. For example, we could ensure high-availability during the rollout by setting up server groups.”
The physical design of the Cisco solution also improves system administration and increases flexibility. The team now needs to plug in and manage fewer cables, and needs fewer networking ports to connect new servers. Today, the team can also easily add up to eight network cards to high-performance systems if needed—rather than being limited to two as with the previous solution. The optimized network configuration enables the company to boost network performance for some applications by up to 50 percent.
The team relies on this increased flexibility to strengthen security at a time when critical infrastructures are more frequently targeted by cyberattacks. Marco Löhner explains: “Because we can add more physical network connections as and when needed, we are also much better able to isolate systems. This helps us to lock down environments and apply stricter security checks to safeguard our assets and protect our services and customers against any threats which could harm the business.”
The fact that Cisco provides components over a long support period also struck a chord with the company. Dietrich Marquardt says: “Reliability is absolutely central to our operations. To minimize the risk of incompatibilities or other issues, we want to standardize our systems and keep the exact same components over the entire lifecycle. So if we were to encounter a technical problem with a blade server, we really value the fact that Cisco would replace it with the exact same model, no matter where we were in the lifecycle.”
The team also appreciates having access to the Cisco mobile app, which allows them to create support requests quickly and easily on the go. The app also keeps them up to date about the latest features and products. Marco Löhner remarks: “The mobile app is very useful and slick and, because everything works so smoothly, we rarely need to open support requests!”
He concludes: “With VersaStack, we gained a reliable and future-proof solution. The easy infrastructure management is best-in-class, reducing time and effort needed to add new capacity by 70 percent—every time we come to add more servers, we increase the time savings. VersaStack from Cisco and IBM with Cisco UCS provides excellent quality at a competitive price, and IBM Spectrum Virtualize delivers the flexibility we need. Most importantly, the solution helps us ensure reliable, round-the-clock services to residents.”
N-ERGIE AG and VAG Verkehrs-Aktiengesellschaft Nürnberg provide electricity, gas, water, heating and public transport services to more than one million people across the Nuremberg region of Germany. The two municipal companies rely on a central IT service provider, N-ERGIE IT, to make sure that they can reliably provide local residents with essential services. With more than 4,000 employees, the municipal companies generate annual revenues of almost EUR3 billion. N-ERGIE AG also promotes innovation by supporting electric mobility in the region.
- Storage: VersaStack
- Storwize V5xxx
- Storwize V7xxx
Take the next step
To learn more about how IBM and Cisco are working together to develop innovative storage and networking solutions for the data center, contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following websites: ibm.com/versastack or cisco.com/go/versastack