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Balluff transforms SAP application landscape with IBM Power Systems and IBM XIV Storage Systems

Published on 12-Dec-2011

"IBM Power servers offer advanced, mature virtualisation technologies that, when combined with features such as Live Partition Mobility and Active Memory Expansion, create a robust, flexible, high-performance platform." - Bernhard Herzog, Team Manager Information Technology SAP, Balluff GmbH



Consumer Products (US), Electronics (US), Industrial Products (US)

Deployment country:



Business Resiliency, Enabling Business Flexibility, High Availability , Information Infrastructure, Optimizing IT, Virtualisation, Virtualisation - Server

IBM Business Partner:


Balluff GmbH, headquartered in Neuhausen, Germany, is a world-leading manufacturer of sensor solutions. The company employs about 2,200 people in 50 countries around the world, and offers products and services in the business areas of object detection, linear positioning sensing, industrial identification, and networking and connectivity. The family-owned company has more than 50 years’ experience with sensor technology and is constantly expanding.

Business need:

Customer Objectives included: Improve operational performance of SAP systems; enable more flexible and rapid response to business requests for new capabilities; reduce the time taken for backups, to avoid clashes with production systems; implement high availability solutions to improve system productivity; cut operational costs.


Balluff transformed its traditional three-tier SAP software landscape with standard SAN storage to a fully virtualised environment based on IBM Power Systems with IBM PowerVM and IBM XIV Storage Systems. Using IBM software including DB2, Tivoli Storage Manager, PowerVM, PowerHA, Advanced Memory Expansion and, soon, Live Partition Mobility and Tivoli Flash Copy Manager, the customer has reduced total data storage requirements, increased application flexibility, improved disaster recovery capabilities, saved on hardware expenses and, when implemented, will also enhance application availability.


Total cost savings of up to 15 percent when compared with the previous solution. Reduction in database size by more than 50 percent through use of DB2 compression, estimated to save a five-figure sum in maintenance costs annually. Close collabouration between IBM and SAP ensures compatibility and reduces testing and patching workload. Very smooth integration of IBM DB2 with the new backup solution based on IBM Tivoli Storage Manager. DB2 fits perfectly into the new system landscape. Improved backup times by 50 percent on average.

Case Study

This paper describes the transformation of a traditional three-tier SAP software landscape with standard SAN storage to a fully virtualised environment based on IBM Power Systems with IBM PowerVM and IBM XIV Storage Systems. Along the way, the customer has reduced complexity, increased resilience and improved performance at a lower total cost of operation. Using IBM software including DB2, Tivoli Storage Manager, PowerVM, PowerHA, Advanced Memory Expansion and, soon, Live Partition Mobility and Tivoli Flash Copy Manager, the customer has reduced total data storage requirements, increased application flexibility, improved disaster recovery capabilities, saved on hardware expenses and, when implemented, will also enhance application availability.

Customer Objectives

  • Improve operational performance of SAP systems.
  • Enable more flexible and rapid response to business requests for new capabilities.
  • Reduce the time taken for backups, to avoid clashes with production systems.
  • Implement high availability solutions to improve system productivity.
  • Cut operational costs.

IBM Solution

  • IBM Power 750 server with 24 POWER7 processor cores and 384 GB main memory
  • IBM XIV Storage Systems of 79 TB
  • IBM System Storage DS3500 disk array of 30 TB capacity
  • IBM System Storage TS3500 Tape Library with four LTO5 drives
  • IBM AIX version 6.1 including PowerVM
  • IBM DB2 version 9.7
  • IBM FlashCopy Manager version 2.2
  • IBM Tivoli Storage Manager version 6.2
  • IBM Systems Director (planned Q1/2012)

Customer Benefits

  • Total cost savings of up to 15 percent when compared with the previous solution.
  • Reduction in database size by more than 50 percent through use of DB2 compression, estimated to save a five-figure sum in maintenance costs annually.
  • Close collabouration between IBM and SAP ensures compatibility and reduces testing and patching workload.
  • Very smooth integration of IBM DB2 with the new backup solution based on IBM Tivoli Storage Manager. DB2 fits perfectly into the new system landscape.
  • Improved storage performance, good level of redundancy and innovative user interface and scripting capabilities for storage management with IBM XIV.
  • Improved elapsed times of batch processes by 60 percent on average. Some processes are up to ten times faster now.
  • Improved backup times by 50 percent on average.
  • Significantly reduced administration and management workload for system backups.
  • Reduced SAP response times on average by approximately 25 percent.

Background, starting point and objectives

Balluff GmbH, headquartered in Neuhausen, Germany, is a world-leading manufacturer of sensor solutions. The company employs about 2,200 people in 50 countries around the world, and offers products and services in the business areas of object detection, linear positioning sensing, industrial identification, and networking and connectivity.

The family-owned company has more than 50 years’ experience with sensor technology and is constantly expanding. With sophisticated technology, cutting-edge electronics products, application-specific customer solutions and highly trained service staff, Balluff GmbH achieves annual sales of €256 million.

To help drive business growth, Balluff emphasizes training and continuing education as part of its core principles, to enable its employees to develop both professionally and personally.

Initial IT environment

Balluff was using three HP Integrity servers with a total of 68 processor cores and 384 GB main memory, running HP-UX and Oracle databases to operate its 20 SAP systems. For storage and backup, Balluff had implemented a solution based on HP EVA (Enterprise Virtual Array) storage and HP Data Protector software.

With continuing business expansion and an increased SAP transaction workload, system response times started to lengthen. Similarly, the time taken to complete data backup was rising as total data volumes increased. With limited non-production time available, the IT team could see that there was a danger that either the backup processes would affect production availability or not be completed, presenting a significant business risk.

Alongside the operational issues, the Balluff team needed to satisfy requests for new functionality and additional SAP services. Creating new SAP instances presented a constant challenge; assuming there was enough processing headroom available, carving out resources from existing servers involved manual re-configuration, and carried the risk of interrupting production. This inflexibility meant that the IT team was struggling to meet user demands for new services, each of which required creation of development, test and production capacity.

The Balluff team wanted to improve system response, increase total system capacity, solve its backup challenges, and simultaneously drive down operational costs. The HP server and storage environment was at the end of a 36-month leasing cycle, which created an ideal opportunity to review the entire IT infrastructure.

Business challenges and project objectives

The Balluff general management team focused on cost savings, both as an absolute figure and as a proportion of the company’s operating expenses.

Based on the company’s requirements, such as high systems performance, availability and reliability, Balluff evaluated different alternatives. It quickly became clear that a solution based on x86 processor architecture and the Linux operating system would not provide the performance and reliability that could be available from a UNIX environment. The IT team evaluated competing proposals, and was attracted by IBM’s innovative technologies, which would not only meet the technical challenges, but also satisfy the company’s financial objectives.

The IBM proposal included extensive use of virtualisation on the IBM Power Systems platform to maximise exploitation of the processing capacity and deliver outstanding system response for the most economical processor investment. IBM extended the virtualisation principle to data storage by proposing the IBM XIV Storage System. The combination of POWER7 processor-based servers and IBM XIV offers remarkable levels of flexibility and automation, which greatly reduces system administration workload, allowing valuable IT team members to be released to other more productive tasks.

Alongside the hardware solution, IBM proposed migrating to DB2 database software for the SAP applications. DB2 offers advanced data compression functionality that would help reduce total database volumes and, as a consequence, both improve system performance and help to reduce data backup times.

As well as the server and storage systems, Balluff reviewed its existing backup solution. After independent IT auditors highlighted some weaknesses in the architecture concerning the redundancy of the HP backup solution, Balluff took the opportunity to use the upgrade project to improve its backup processes to comply with the auditors’ recommendations. Besides increasing data protection, the company also aimed at reducing the backup management workload for its IT staff.

Balluff selected the IBM solution, as it met the company’s key challenges of increasing performance, solving the backup issue and, of course, reducing operational costs. The IBM Power Systems and XIV combination also brings business flexibility through the use of advanced IBM virtualisation technologies, and easier systems administration through reduced complexity.

Technical solution : server architecture

Working with IBM, Balluff implemented an all new IT infrastructure based on IBM technologies to operate its SAP systems. The company chose two IBM Power 750 servers running IBM AIX each with 24 POWER7 processor cores and 384 GB main memory. The key to the solution is extensive use of virtualisation, at every level. There are no dedicated hardware resources; all compute resources, including the I/O, are virtualised.

Bernhard Herzog, Team Manager Information Technology SAP at Balluff, comments, “IBM Power servers offer advanced, mature virtualisation technologies that, when combined with features such as Live Partition Mobility and Active Memory Expansion, create a robust, flexible, high-performance platform.”

Balluff uses IBM PowerVM to provide multiple logical partitions (LPARs) for its SAP applications. Each LPAR is tailored for the particular SAP application it hosts to offer the best combination of flexibility and performance, and Balluff uses the dynamic management capabilities of PowerVM to share resources across the LPARs to ensure each SAP application meets its service level objectives.

All LPARs are configured as shared and uncapped, to allow Balluff to fully exploit the performance and capacity of its POWER7 resources. To ensure reliable systems operation, Balluff carefully tuned the prioritisation settings for its shared processor pools for improved business continuity. The IBM Virtual I/O Servers are assigned the highest priority, followed by the SAP production systems. This ensures that the mission-critical SAP systems will always be provided with the appropriate processing resources for fast and uninterrupted operation, even under high load.

PowerVM technology integrated with IBM Power Systems servers is designed to allow enterprises to build a dynamic infrastructure that will help them to reduce costs, manage risk and improve service levels. PowerVM offers a secure and resilient virtualisation environment, built on advanced reliability, availability and serviceability features, including extreme scalability and leadership performance of the IBM Power Systems platform powered by industry-leading POWER7® processors.

To meet the need for temporary sandbox systems for testing and development, Balluff uses Workload Partitions (WPARs) [see box]. Multiple WPARs can be created within a virtual server (LPAR) to run one or several applications. The advantage is that the LPAR can be assigned to test and development projects, and each application can run in a WPAR. This allows the LPAR resources to be shared dynamically across the WPARs without impact on the total system LPAR configuration.

Virtual I/O Server (VIOS) allows physical I/O capacity to be similarly allocated to any LPAR as required, automatically. By using several adapters to be used by the VIOS, the service continues even if one of the adapters fails. Conversely, the combined I/O capacity of all the adapters is available to the VIOS for use by the LPARs and WPARs.

The objective in deploying the WPAR technology was to keep the workload for system administrators as low as possible. The WPARs in use for non-critical systems provide the required performance with the least possible manual intervention when creating, changing or deleting sandbox systems.

The Power 750 servers feature POWER7 processors, which support Active Memory Expansion (AME), an in-memory data compression capability. With AME, data compression reduces the total requirement for system memory (because the data is compressed) and improves performance as smaller volumes of data are moved in and out of main memory. The slight processor performance hit, as data is decompressed and compressed, is more than compensated by the faster access to data, and there are significant cost savings on main memory requirements.

For the sandbox WPARs at Balluff, AME is configured based on a factor of two, which therefore doubles the effective capacity of the memory allocated to the partitions from 32 GB to 64 GB.

AIX Workload Partitions (WPARs)

WPARs allow administrators to virtualise their operating systems, which allows for fewer operating system images on a partitioned server. Prior to WPARs, each new “isolated” environment needed a separate LPAR.

Because each LPAR is a separate virtual server, they must be managed separately, too, with patches and technology upgrades applied to each LPAR. Each LPAR requires its own archiving and disaster recovery strategy. LPAR are created via the Hardware Management Console (HMC) or the Integrated Virtualisation Manager (IVM), outside AIX.

From AIX version 6.1 onwards, multiple WPARs can be created within one LPAR. WPARs are simple to manage and can actually be created from the AIX command line or through SMIT. An application WPAR can be created, modified or deleted in just a few seconds.

In other words, while logical partitioning helps consolidate and virtualise hardware within a single box, operating system virtualisation through WPAR technology goes one step further and allows for an even more granular approach of resource management. It does this by sharing OS images and is the most efficient use of CPU, RAM, and I/O resources.

WPARs allow for new applications to be deployed much more quickly, an important benefit. On the other side of the coin, each LPAR is a single point of failure for all WPARs that are created within it. In the event of an LPAR problem (or a scheduled system outage, for that matter), all underlying WPARs will be affected.

Improved storage with IBM XIV Storage Systems

The IBM Power Systems servers are connected to two IBM XIV Storage Systems for improved storage performance. The XIV arrays also provide storage for many other non-SAP systems hosted on some 50 servers running a variety of operating systems.

Balluff was previously running what might be described as a standard SAN, with storage arrays from several vendors. The IT team expended some effort on allocating storage space and establishing a tiered storage architecture to ensure that data was located on the most appropriate device, ranked by performance and data value and access frequency.

The two XIV arrays, each of 79 TB, have eliminated the tiered storage approach and cut out the detailed data layout tasks. The automated functionality of the XIV systems stripes the data across multiple disks, providing both very high performance and data security.

The IBM XIV Storage System is a high-end general purpose disk storage series, using a massively paralleled grid architecture that allocates system resources evenly at all times and scales performance with capacity. The XIV series offers highly affordable storage suitable for even the most demanding and fluctuating workloads, providing tier 1 consistent high performance and high reliability at tier 2 costs. The system scales seamlessly without the need for complex, time-consuming tuning, provisioning or configuration.

The XIV system sets a new standard for ease of use with benchmark enterprise storage manageability, including the automation of most tasks and a highly intuitive user interface that is customer-acclaimed for its simplicity.

Balluff migrated its data to the IBM XIV Storage Systems using different approaches, depending on the applications. To synchronize the SAP application data between both storage systems, the company used IBM Logical Volume Manager (LVM), connected to the old and the new storage devices. In its network-attached storage environment, old and new storage devices were connected to the servers and then data was simply copied from one storage device to the other. In some cases, backup and restore features were used to migrate data from the old to the new storage solution. All data migrations were completed without any technical problems.

Deploying IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for improved data protection

With data consolidated to the two XIV devices, Balluff has implemented a new backup solution managed by IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, to ensure data protection for two main environments, the SAP ERP landscapes and the company’s VMware and Windows environments.

Balluff runs one IBM Tivoli Storage Manager server per data centre location on an IBM AIX LPAR on IBM Power servers. The IBM team recommended this configuration, to allow the IBM Tivoli Storage Management servers to benefit from the advanced virtualisation features of the POWER platform.

The IBM Tivoli Storage Manager servers sit on the IBM Power Systems machines just like the other LPARs. As backups are mainly scheduled at night, while all other systems experience near-zero load, unused capacity on the servers is available to IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, which improves backup performance. This setup bypasses the 1 Gbps local data centre network, because the clients for the mission-critical SAP systems run on the same physical server as the Tivoli Storage Manager solution.

Balluff is able to transfer data much more quickly from the SAP systems to the backup solution than it was possible previously. To improve business continuity of the backup solution, the IBM Tivoli Storage Manager graphical user interface was installed on both servers, allowing the IT team to use either system, without having one presentation server as single point of failure.

For optimized performance, the backup solution takes advantage of the high-performance IBM XIV Storage Systems to store the IBM Tivoli Storage Manager database and the recovery logs.

“The system configuration suggested by IBM improves flexibility and increases overall capacity usage,” comments Bernhard Herzog. “Running the IBM Tivoli Storage Management servers in LPARs on our main Power 750 servers is the most reliable and cost-efficient option to operate a backup solution.”

Using disk storage pools improves overall backup performance, as backup data is not written directly to tape, but first to disk and then migrated from disk to tape. To implement this concept, Balluff deployed two IBM System Storage DS3512 disk systems with 21 TB capacity configured as RAID5 arrays for high data protection, efficient capacity usage and good disk performance. These disk systems are set up as disk storage pools ranging from 20 GB to 1.5 TB. Two IBM System Storage TS3500 Tape Library devices equipped with four LTO5 tape drives are attached to the solution, one at each data centre. The libraries currently use 120 tapes, with the capacity to grow to up to approximately 180 tapes per library.

Working with IBM, Balluff implemented a number of IBM Tivoli Storage Manager clients, to automate all aspects of its backup solution. These clients include IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for Enterprise Resource Planning for online backups of the SAP systems and the corresponding IBM DB2 databases. For easy management of the SAP backup tasks, the IBM team configured the IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Administration Assistant to monitor SAP backup operations, view performance data, create reports, and configure backup profiles.

Balluff also installed IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for Databases for Balluff’s Microsoft® SQL Server, and IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for Mail for the company’s Microsoft Exchange email system. Backup schedules differ, depending on application needs. The Balluff team set up 38 client schedules and 15 administration schedules in total.

File system data is backed up incrementally every day, along with the Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Exchange logfiles and databases. The backup settings for the SAP systems and the corresponding databases are tuned to match the business requirements, which means one online backup per day and automatic log file management as a feature of DB2.

Currently the backups at the twin data centre locations are 130 TB and 90 TB, including all copies and all versions of the data. In addition, new business requirements emerged from Balluff, concerning long-term archiving for the SAP ERP production system, the IXOS Archive system and email archiving. To meet these needs, IBM implemented a solution providing 10-year archive data retention based on “write once read many” (WORM) tapes with standard IBM Tivoli Storage Manager archive functionality, and introduced the IBM Tivoli Storage Manager client for Enterprise Resource Planning to provide offline backups of the SAP ERP system and the corresponding IBM DB2 database.

Balluff plans to enable IBM Tivoli Storage FlashCopy Manager (which has been installed and tested) for its production systems, to improve the SAP backup solution further, providing faster copies and clones of SAP systems for backup and testing systems, i.e. deploying new Sandboxes.

Balluff and IBM configured the backup solution for best performance and highest data protection. Each IBM Tivoli Storage Manager server backs up the production SAP applications running on the same IBM Power Systems server at the same data centre location as the backup server itself. This ensures short backup times by leveraging the internal network connectivity and bandwidth provided by the IBM POWER platform. For best possible data protection, the Library Manager and Library Client features are enabled to allow backing up the disk storage pools to tape not only via the tape library at the same data centre location, but also at the other data centre location. After the backup runs are completed, the backups are transferred to the remote disk storage pools and then subsequently written to the remote tapes in the afternoon.

This sophisticated and fully automated backup configuration makes sure, that all data is always backed up to tape at both data centre locations quickly and efficiently, without causing any additional manual work for the IT administrators.

Because data backup is a business-critical issue, Balluff decided to continue with the existing and the new solutions in parallel. Once the Tivoli Storage Manager solution had been validated, the legacy backup system was switched off.

To monitor and manage the entire solution, IBM implemented the Ganglia Monitoring System and plans to integrate the IBM Systems Director monitoring tool into Ganglia in December 2011. This combination provides Balluff with a single, central point for monitoring the status of all its systems regardless of equipment vendor.

Migrating from Oracle to DB2

During the changeover to the IBM Power and XIV platforms, Balluff migrated its SAP databases from Oracle to IBM DB2, taking advantage of advanced row and index compression features to cut database volumes and improve performance. The company was already using different database solutions besides Oracle, such as SAP’s MaxDB and Microsoft SQL Server, but these were not meeting the company’s requirements for its SAP operations. With upgrading its server and storage infrastructure, Balluff considered migrating its database to reduce administration and maintenance workload as well as for best performance and cost-efficiency together with its new infrastructure solution.

The aligned maintenance strategy, resulting from the close partnership between IBM and SAP, means that all DB2 patches are thoroughly tested by IBM and SAP specialists. IBM convinced Balluff that the low level of software patching required for DB2, combined with innovative database features that are optimized for SAP application environments, would lead to significantly reduced administration and maintenance expenses. New DB2 features are tested with SAP applications at very early stages of development to ensure that the feature will work well when it is released.

After careful planning of the IBM DB2 layout and the migration techniques together with Balluff, IBM migration specialists worked remotely on the migration of the company’s SAP systems. The remote-working approach to the migration allowed Balluff to reduce service costs significantly and ensure very short response times from highly qualified experts with very flexible working hours when the team needed additional support.

Altogether some 20 SAP systems were migrated from Oracle to the new DB2 platform on the IBM Power servers running IBM AIX. The IBM team evaluated the SAP database environment and decided to use the SAP standard tool R3load for export and import operations. To speed up the database migrations, the IBM specialists applied the package splitting method to feature parallel exports and imports. With this optimized approach, the team was able to migrate the biggest database of 1.6 TB in 17 hours, and all the migrations could be completed at weekends, avoiding disruptions in normal business operations.

Almost all Balluff databases were already converted to Unicode, and although implementing Unicode usually results in larger database sizes, DB2 advanced Deep Compression features and best practices for database migrations enabled the IBM team to decrease total database volumes.

“We experienced the migration from Oracle to IBM DB2 as smooth and without serious issues. The IBM team migrated all the databases as scheduled and we did not experience any problems with IBM DB2 after migrations were completed,” comments Bernhard Herzog.

With the migration to the latest release of IBM DB2, Balluff reduced its database sizes substantially. For example, one of the main SAP ERP systems’ databases, which had not been reorganised prior to the migration, was cut to 850 GB after migration through both reorganisation and enabling DB2 compression functionality, a saving of 47 percent.

Balluff also takes advantage of the integrated autonomic functions within DB2 for self-tuning and management. During the migration, the IBM team activated the Self Tuning Memory Manager (STMM), offering improved performance and fewer configuration tasks for database administrators.

Other autonomic functions such as automatic runstats, real-time statistics, automatic storage, and reclaimable storage, all of which are enabled by default, contribute to reductions in the administration workload.

Finally, by deploying the highly efficient and sophisticated DB2 cost-based optimizer, Balluff improved query processing times by 50 percent, resulting in faster response times for SAP users. Balluff also noticed significantly reduced runtimes of batch jobs. On average, batch jobs now run 60 percent faster than on the previous database system.

The team implemented the integrated SAP DBA Cockpit for DB2. “With this easy-to-use administration tool, database reporting can be improved,” says Bernhard Herzog. “In general, people perceive changes as difficult, but with the SAP DBA Cockpit for DB2, our database administrators had no difficulties managing the SAP databases straight away efficiently.”

Server layout

The servers are configured with 14 LPARs on each Power 750 server, 28 LPARs in total. All LPARs are given between 2 GB main memory (for the VIOS) and 64 GB main memory (SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse system) respectively 128 GB main memory (SAP ERP production system). All LPARs are running IBM AIX 6.1 with IBM PowerVM 6.1. The two mission-critical systems are configured as cluster solution for high availability using the IBM PowerHA feature.

The SAP landscapes are distributed across the IBM Power 750 servers. The first server runs the SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse production system, the SAP Human Capital Management production system, the heavily customized SAP ERP production system for materials management and the main SAP ERP system, alongside one IBM Tivoli Storage Manager server and the SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM) test system.

On the other Power server, Balluff runs the SAP CRM production system, the SAP NetWeaver Portal production system and the SAP NetWeaver Process Integration (PI) production system.

Additionally, this server is configured to host the two passive cluster nodes for the PowerHA configuration of the highly customized SAP ERP system used for materials management and the main SAP ERP solution. Eight of the systems are production systems, and four are sandbox and development systems.

SAP solution redesign

As well as the IT infrastructure redesign, IBM also introduced a new concept for operating Balluff’s SAP software. On the old infrastructure, the biggest SAP systems were set up as one central instance, a database server and three application servers. In an event of failure, Balluff had to cut the application servers down by one, and not all users would have been able to access the applications even though the database and central instance servers continued to run on the second cluster node. This process caused frequent headaches for the IT team, as system outages would inevitably affect different groups of users.

The IBM solution has removed one tier, making it a two-tier setup, and places both the application and database as a central instance system in the same LPAR. Because only one LPAR needs to be moved to the second cluster node in the event of failure, this approach makes administration and management easier, and improves disaster recovery capabilities. Once the system is restarted, the SAP application is again available to all users, as it was before the failure. This step reduces system complexity and improves the manageability of the SAP environment substantially.

In total, Balluff operates 20 SAP systems. The core business application is an SAP ERP system, supporting business processes in finance (FI), controlling (CO), sales and distribution (SD), production planning (PP), materials management (MM), quality management (QM), logistics (LO), and customer service (CS). The materials management solution is highly customized to meet Balluff’s specific needs, processing all incoming and outgoing goods, and managing the inventory. Balluff also runs SAP Customer Relationship Management (CRM), which, for operational reasons, is run independently from the main SAP ERP system. These mission-critical SAP solutions are configured for high-availability with IBM PowerHA software. Other critical systems are the SAP Human Capital Management (SAP HCM) and SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW) solutions. The customized materials management system based on SAP ERP is also included in the IBM PowerHA environment, and additional production applications include SAP Solution Manager and the SAP NetWeaver Process Integration (PI) environment.

The company runs an SAP NetWeaver Portal solution to connect internal and external users to its business applications via the web. For its Brazilian subsidiary, Balluff implemented SAP NetWeaver Process Integration (PI) to support local tax reporting processes. For central application management and administration, Balluff runs SAP Solution Manager. Alongside the core production solutions, Balluff runs SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, which harvests data from the company’s core SAP ERP and SAP CRM systems.

Balluff’s largest SAP system serves 4,000 internal and external users in total, resulting in approximately 850 concurrent users on the system, with a database size of 900 GB. Some 35 external and internal applications are connected to the SAP systems.

Because each LPAR supports all the users, it is essential to have rapid disaster recovery and high availability in place. The IBM PowerHA solution enables Balluff to configure stand-by LPARs for each production LPAR. If a production LPAR fails or is taken off-line for maintenance, workload, users and network connections are all moved automatically to the standby LPAR on the other Power 750 server, producing a service interruption of approximately five minutes – and there is no agonizing choice for the IT department over which user groups will suffer more than others. If the system monitoring solution detects an SAP application failure, it can be restarted on the failover LPAR within about three minutes.

Project achievements

Following the system transformation, Balluff assessed the project achievements in financial and system performance terms. When compared with the previous solution, the company estimates total cost savings of up to 15 percent. The reduction in data volumes by more than 50 per cent achieved using DB2 compression functionality is estimated to save a five-figure sum in maintenance costs annually by requiring less disk capacity. This saving makes the IBM and SAP solution significantly cheaper to operate than traditional systems.

The new solution provides improved response times for batch processes by a factor of up to 10 for certain processes and by 60 percent on average. Response times for SAP users has improved by approximately 25 percent on average from 544ms to 413ms, thanks to 50 percent faster database query execution times, decreased from 292ms to 146ms. The reduced data volumes have reduced backup times by up to 71 percent and by 50 percent on average. In the new backup solution, Balluff also benefits from a hardware compression factor of 1:2 supported by the tape drives.

“The new backup solution perfectly integrates with our IT environment and we have reduced the IT administration workload significantly,” says Bernhard Herzog.

The new and highly automated approach to backup and data protection saves Balluff time and manual effort. Previously, the tape needed to be ejected manually and brought to a secure place for improved data protection, the new IBM solution handles remote tape storage automatically.

By using the advanced virtualisation features of the IBM POWER platform, Balluff can exploit the full capacity of its servers. For example, using the WPAR and AME features for SAP testing systems has enabled Balluff to create test environments and even new production environments more rapidly and in a much more flexible way.

Balluff also is happy with its decision to migrate to the innovative IBM XIV technology. “We are really satisfied with the results of the migration to IBM XIV,” says Bernhard Herzog. “The new storage solution exceeds our requirements regarding performance, reliability and availability.”

The company particularly values the very user-friendly interface of the IBM XIV system as well as the advanced scripting capabilities offered through the IBM XIV Command Line Interface (xcli). Another major advantage of IBM XIV is the ability to activate additional disk space at the click of a mouse, and add further capacity by using the scalable, modular architecture of the IBM XIV solution. Specific tasks, mainly in the SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse environment, show significant performance improvements:

  • To fulfill the order positions infocube, the former solution task ran for 26 hours for 9 million items; the IBM solution achieves the same result in 5 hours for more than 10 million items, an 88 percent improvement.
  • For completing the reports infocube, the time has decreased from 3 hours 5 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, a 51 percent improvement.
  • Financial reconciliations that formerly took 18 hours to run are now completed in 2 hours, an 89 percent improvement.
  • SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse users can now access relevant reports earlier and the number of jobs running in parallel on the SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse system can be minimised, leading to much better performance from the SAP ERP and SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse solutions.

Besides the boost in database performance, Balluff also appreciates the close collabouration between IBM and SAP, with shared product road maps and improved compatibility. IBM DB2 enables Balluff to take advantage of other innovative IBM technologies such as IBM Tivoli FlashCopy Manager.

Next steps

In future, Balluff will introduce Live Partition Mobility (LPM), which allows complete LPARs to be moved from one server to another without interrupting production, an IBM PowerVM feature available since IBM Power6 processor-based servers. The company tested this feature during the migration and is convinced by the potential benefits it provides to the SAP operations.

Balluff also works with IBM to upgrade its data centre networking infrastructure from 1 Gbps to 10 Gbps based on IBM BNT networking components.

For security and compliance reasons, Balluff is considering the AIX Login Server to help manage and restrict access to mission-critical server systems more tightly, and to secure its important SAP landscapes against possible threats.

As knowledge of the new IBM technologies continues to grow, the Balluff IT team is confident that its investment in expertise will pay off in terms of further efficiency gains in everyday systems management, and innovative ways to serve the business with reliable, high-performance systems.

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.


Power 750, Power Systems, Power Systems running AIX 6, Storage, Storage: DS3500 Express, Storage: Tape & Optical Storage (US), Storage: TS3500 Tape Library, Storage: XIV


FlashCopy Manager, AIX (US), Tivoli Storage Manager (US), DB2 for Linux, UNIX and Windows (US), PowerVM

Operating system:


Legal Information

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