As one of Europe’s leading trading companies for consumer electronics, ElectronicPartner Handel SE relies on efficiency and smooth logistics processes to win and retain price-sensitive consumers. To become even more agile and respond faster to the latest consumer trends, the company modernized its business with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) for SAP Applications and SAP S/4HANA running on IBM Power. ElectronicPartner can now derive new insights from volumes of data instantly, helping the company to manage its supply chain more effectively.
ElectronicPartner Handel SE is a leading buying group of consumer electronics in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland, achieving annual revenues of 1.5 billion euros. The company works with a network of independent partners who operate more than 2,000 retail stores.
Being ahead of consumer electronics trends and offering the best services and deals for the latest products are key ingredients in ElectronicPartner’s success. The global Covid-19 pandemic added new challenges; ElectronicPartner now needs to work even more closely with its supply chain to carefully manage the impact of chip shortages and longer delivery times. To compete on price while protecting its profit margins, the company is focused on efficiency, optimizing its supply chain management and continuously streamlining its processes.
Matthias Assmann, CIO at ElectronicPartner Handel SE, says: “Most of our customers mainly look at the price. To keep our pricing competitive, we need smooth and fast processes that enable our partners to focus on customer service, while we take care of the supply chain and logistics.”
Aiming to support ongoing digital transformation and help the company capitalize on the latest consumer electronic trends more effectively, ElectronicPartner wanted to modernize its decision-support systems for greater speed and agility.
The journey to SUSE
ElectronicPartner wanted to modernize its business and IT infrastructure to enable further process innovations. To transform its business and become more agile, ElectronicPartner planned to move to SAP S/4HANA. This also meant that the company had to replace the reliable IBM i operating system, running on IBM Power servers that had supported the company’s mission-critical SAP ERP software for many years.
“A lot of our core business processes are highly reliant on information technology,” explains Assmann. “Optimizing product availability across a network of warehouses and distributed logistics is a good example of a problem where technology can really make a difference. To stay ahead of our competition and build on our strengths, we looked for future-proof solutions that would give us an edge.”
At the beginning of its modernization journey, ElectronicPartner was looking for the most cost-efficient platform to set the business up for the future and support its move from SAP ERP to SAP S/4HANA. For several years, the company had been using SLES for other workloads on x86 servers in its data center and knew about the platform’s outstanding quality and performance.
“SUSE Linux Enterprise has proven to be a fast, reliable and stable platform,” says Assmann. “When we learned about the close partnership between SAP, SUSE and IBM, we were quickly convinced that SLES for SAP Applications on IBM Power would be the right choice for our new business applications.”
Deploying SLES for SAP Applications on the highly reliable and scalable IBM Power platform enabled ElectronicPartner to minimize business risk. The platform also enabled the company to run the past and future SAP landscapes in parallel on the same infrastructure while preparing for the migration. The team installed IBM Power E980 servers with IBM PowerVM virtualization in combination with IBM FlashSystem 5030 all-flash storage systems.
“Running SAP S/4HANA on IBM Power with SLES for SAP Applications offers us the stability and performance we need to support our finance, logistics, supply chain and partner management processes,” confirms Assmann. “The ability to use and reassign server resources dynamically during and after the migration was a key advantage for us.”
Assmann continues: “We always want to choose the right tool for the right job. And SLES for SAP Applications is the perfect foundation for our mission-critical SAP applications on IBM Power. We really value the fast, high-quality support from SUSE and IBM.”
“We were able to respond to the challenges created by the global pandemic, adapting to work more closely with our supply chain partners to keep our customers stocked with the latest technologies.”
Optimizing cost and performance
Boosting staff productivity
“Some business tasks have been accelerated massively and can be completed in less than half the time,” remarks Assmann. “The new solution from SAP, SUSE and IBM provides a huge performance boost for the business.”
The high performance of the new solution enables completely new insights, which the company relies on when negotiating prices and volumes with its partners and suppliers. “Today, we can easily perform a 360-degree partner and customer analysis and search through 90 million data records instantly to get a full picture of our sales, pricing and margins. This is something we simply could not even think of before,” says Assmann.
Improving agility, maximizing efficiency
“The combination of SAP S/4HANA, SLES for SAP Applications and IBM Power is a competitive benefit for us,” says Assmann. “The modernized application architecture and the high performance of SUSE Linux Enterprise enable us to adjust more rapidly to a changing market and develop our business in new ways.”
ElectronicPartner strives for cost-efficiency and is open minded when it comes to technology. “These days, cloud solutions are always an option,” emphasizes Assmann. “We evaluated our utilization and quickly realized that with a continuously high load, cloud solutions cost more and give us less control over our data and resources. This is why SLES for SAP Applications running on IBM Power on-premises infrastructure is the most economic choice for us.”
ElectronicPartner is fully satisfied that SLES for SAP Applications is at least as reliable and stable as the IBM i operating system it used before. “IBM i was a tough act to follow when it comes to stability and low maintenance,” says Assmann. “SLES for SAP Applications is optimized for SAP software to provide the best performance while also being thoroughly tested by SUSE and SAP. SLES simply runs without any issues and keeps our business going from strength to strength.”
Furthermore, SLES for SAP Applications on IBM Power also offers better scalability than other platforms. “Our largest SAP HANA database is 1.5TB and continuously growing,” adds Assmann. “With SLES for SAP Applications on IBM Power, we can scale up almost without limits, giving us room to grow and consolidate without adding administrative overhead. And during the migration, we were able to use the capacity on demand offering to increase the performance of our Linux systems temporarily. This enabled us to complete the move to SAP S/4HANA faster and minimize the impact on our logistics processes and partners.”
Assmann concludes: “The SUSE, SAP and IBM solution helps us to continuously optimize our supply chains, manage our partner relationships effectively and streamline our logistics to offer consumers low prices across a wide range of products. Even in a difficult year, our modern IT has enabled us to get into a good position with well-stocked warehouses full of sought-after products to make the most of the next quarter.”
What’s next for ElectronicPartner?
Building on the solid foundation of SLES for SAP Applications, IBM Power and SAP S/4HANA, ElectronicPartner already has plans to transform more core business processes to unlock further efficiencies.
“We moved to the new business application and IT infrastructure without making many functional changes,” explains Assmann. “We already see real improvements to our business. However, in the next step we will reinvent our processes, add new features and take full advantage of the latest technologies, including slick and intuitive SAP Fiori apps.”
The company is also considering using SUSE Linux Enterprise Live Patching to further increase availability while responding faster to cyber threats.
“We always keep our eyes open to learn about the latest technology,” says Assmann. “SUSE Linux Enterprise Live Patching offers ways to increase IT security further and optimize our SAP application operations with zero interruption of business-critical applications. It also gives us the ability to review the patch source code and apply patches without needing to reboot our systems.”
With its flexible new platform in place, ElectronicPartner is confident that its business systems will be able to adapt to whatever the future may bring. Assmann concludes: “We were able to respond to the challenges created by the global pandemic, adapting to work more closely with our supply chain partners to keep our customers stocked with the latest technologies. With SUSE, IBM and SAP behind us, we look forward to more success in the years to come.”