Digitisation has led to numerous challenges such as increased complexity for Endress+Hauser, an international supplier of measurement instrumentation, services, and solutions for industrial process engineering and automation. The family-run corporation operates more than 100 companies in 44 countries including start-ups in the areas of IoT and information technology.
To address these challenges, Endress+Hauser InfoServe the company’s independent IT service provider, is focused on pursuing and implementing a “run-simple” strategy to drive standardisation, reduce complexity, and increase automation.
The elegant route of virtualisation
In a major project, Endress+Hauser InfoServe implemented SAP HANA in all areas of the company in order to reduce IT complexity and drive digitization. The major goal was to convert all SAP systems to the new SAP HANA in-memory data platform. However, SAP HANA could not run on the company’s existing IBM mainframes. In order to avoid an outdated and cost-intensive conversion to bare metal servers, Endress+Hauser InfoServe decided on a server virtualization strategy. Having had success with VMware vSphere virtualization in other parts of the organization, there was no question about the appropriate provider. In summer 2016, Endress+Hauser InfoServe implemented a VMware technology-based Software-Defined-Data Center (SDDC). The goal this time was to create a “Data Center-in-a-Box” with a standardized network and platform capable of running all SAP applications reliably without the complexity of the previous environment. In the project specification and design process, InfoServe determined that the SAP “Run Simple” approach could actually only be achieved using VMware’s vSphere virtualization. The project was supported by DELL, as principal contractor, and by Fritz & Macziol, as consulting partner, who was able to contribute expertise specific to the implementation of SAP HANA on vSphere.
Cost savings & competitive advantages
Ralf Straub, Director of IT Operations at InfoServe explains “VMware vSphere 6.5 was the only logical choice for running our SAP HANA environment. It was the only way to achieve the goal of reducing the complexity of the overall IT environment and opening the doors to standardization and automation in the data center.” This was accompanied by a number of welcome benefits, including ease of management. Whereas 900 virtual machines (VMs) used to run on vSphere, that number has now increased to 1,600 VMs, which are centrally managed – a level of flexibility that could not have been achieved with conventional hardware alone.
From an operational perspective, InfoServe saves on the costs of the specialist expertise that would otherwise be required to operate different platforms. Moreover, Straub and his colleagues report increased time savings in day-to-day operations, since only one common platform needs to be managed, even though more VMs overall are being administered. This has given InfoServe the flexibility to merge two previously discrete teams, as both teams are no longer required for the same IT services, such as backups and site recovery. Over the long term, this will lead to greater strategic competitive advantage for Endress+Hauser. The IT teams can devote themselves to business-orientated solutions. What is interesting from a business perspective is that a ROI will be reached within three years despite extra cost that will be incurred during a two-year migration phase, during which the new virtualized SAP environment and the old IBM mainframe environment will run in parallel.
A glimpse into the future
The migration to SAP HANA has not yet been fully completed, and the old systems are still running concurrently. Nevertheless, the main accomplishment is already clear: The smooth migration of all seven core ERP and SAP BW systems to vSphere 6.5 and the successful operation within the virtualized environment. InfoServe plans to expand vSphere 6.5 to medium-sized data centers in its tier-3 architecture as the organization works toward its goal of implementing a hyper-converted infrastructure. In addition, Straub is considering adding vRealize Suite Business for Cloud. There are also plans to replace the existing Citrix systems with VMware Horizon in the near future in order to move even closer to the goal of uniformity and simpler administration.