"We took a corporate decision to move away from the IBM i platform because although it was very stable and secure, it seemed relatively expensive compared to other options," said Enrico Minelle, Director of Information Technology at FAAC. "We started looking for an alternative solution that would provide the same levels of reliability and security at a lower cost."
"First we considered a Windows solution, running on Intel processor-based servers," said Minelle. "However, we had significant concerns about stability, and since our SAP applications are so important for the business, we couldn't take the risk of reducing availability."
A second option was to move to a high-end UNIX solution from IBM or HP—but this would incur the same high costs and lack of openness as the existing platform.
"We needed a third option that would combine the reliability of IBM and Unix with the low cost of the Windows and Intel option," said Minelle. "For this reason, we started evaluating Linux platforms to see if they could give us the best of both worlds."
The company tested Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, and ultimately selected the latter solution.
"There were four main reasons for our selection of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server," said Minelle. "First was the significant reduction in maintenance costs compared to our existing platform. The other three advantages were greater stability, scalability and simplicity of management than any of the alternatives we considered."
FAAC worked with H4T, one of Italy's leading Linux specialists, to implement the new operating system and migrate the SAP applications and IBM DB2 databases from the old server. The new solution runs on a three-node cluster of AMD Opteron processor-based servers. The company also implemented a virtualised development and test environment using VMware technology.
"H4T did an excellent job on the implementation," said Minelle. "We didn't have any problems at all during the migration, which demonstrates the technical expertise and project management skills of the H4T consultants. We have signed several support agreements for the operating system, but so far we haven't needed to use them because it runs so reliably and delivers such good performance."
"The users didn't even notice the change—except that SAP response speeds are now about 50% faster than they were before!" said Minelle. "The ability to obtain such high performance from relatively low-cost hardware is a major advantage of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, especially when you compare it to our old solution."
The availability of the SAP applications on the new platform has improved, thanks to the use of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server High Availability Extension, which clusters the three physical servers and helps to maintain uptime even in the event of a hardware failure.
"There are advantages in terms of system management too," said Minelle. "We now run Linux on most of our servers—not just for the SAP environment, but for many other applications too. We only need one set of tools to manage all these servers, and we don't need to maintain skill levels in so many different technologies. As a result, we spend about 15% less time on system management, and can concentrate on more valuable tasks."
Finally, the solution meets the company's main objective of reducing the total cost of operations.
"Looking at the total solution including hardware and software, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server has saved us 50% on maintenance costs for the SAP environment," said Minelle. "In this and other respects, the solution has not just met our expectations, but exceeded them."