GESIS responded to economic pressures on its parent company by migrating from a proprietary RISC platform to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on cost-efficient commodity x86 hardware. With SUSE Manager, the company simplified and accelerated system administration and reduced time spent on installing updates by 75 percent. The Linux servers support 24/7 operations, with downtime during updates cut by 83 percent.
The general economic situation in the steel industry is tough and characterized by fierce competition. To preserve profitability and offer the lowest possible costs, Salzgitter group constantly seeks ways to cut its operating costs, and optimize production schedules and manufacturing processes. IT services are no exception, and GESIS is under pressure to squeeze its own operating costs and deliver reductions to the group, even as service levels and quality standards improve.
Thomas Lowin, Head of the Server Operations Team at GESIS, said, “While other companies can simply halt production lines, this is not possible with an integrated steel mill. To support their 24/7 production, our clients depend on the continuous availability and robust service of our IT systems. Every minute of unplanned downtime would cost them thousands of Euros and jeopardize complex production schedules of diverse steel products.”
BETTER RELIABILITY WITH SUSE GESIS
was running large, proprietary RISC servers. To provide the necessary processing throughput, GESIS used dedicated physical servers packed with memory.
Nicolas Otten, Engineer at GESIS, said, “Many years ago, we had outsourced our server operations. To reduce overall costs and regain more control over our systems, we wanted to move server operations back in-house. To best benefit from this reorganization, we looked to host our applications on the most efficient platform.” GESIS looked at different architectures and operating systems, and selected SUSE Linux Enterprise Server over alternative server technologies for mission-critical workloads.
Andreas Zigann, System Administrator SAP Basis, said, “We came to the conclusion that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server is easier to manage and that 24/7 availability is easier to achieve. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server requires fewer restarts and maintains its performance over time. In our case, based on previous experience, we also felt that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server was the more robust option.”
OPTIMIZED WORKLOAD DISTRIBUTION FOR COST-EFFICIENT OPERATIONS
To move operations back in-house, GESIS created a new department and the team implemented a fully virtualized environment with 14 physical servers running VMware vSphere virtualization software.
The virtual server platform hosts mission critical business systems such as SAP ERP applications running on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications, and general infrastructure services running on Microsoft Windows Server.
Andreas Zigann said, “When we evaluated different Linux systems, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server had the best support for SAP ERP and other software. Close collaboration between SAP and SUSE over many years guarantees compatibility, which helps us to provide a reliable service to our clients.”
GESIS runs more than 200 virtual instances of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, of which around two thirds host SAP software. The company uses SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for its SAP applications and associated databases, as well as additional general business software. GESIS also runs about 20 dedicated physical servers with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for specific workloads not suitable for virtualization.
Andreas Zigann said, “We had no issues migrating our large SAP ERP applications from a UNIX operating system to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications. The standard SAP tools worked seamlessly on our new SUSE Linux Enterprise Server landscape.”
Nicolas Otten added, “We have a few databases of about 3 TB and we use up to 24 processors for our large database servers with 192 GB of memory—SUSE Linux Enterprise Server can handle this scale easily, and the servers run reliably, delivering excellent performance.”
To simplify system administration and boost productivity, GESIS deployed SUSE Manager. This approach enabled GESIS to replace self-developed scripts with the standard SUSE Manager solution, and gain a better overview of its IT operations with a greater level of detail.
Thomas Lowin said, “SUSE Manager simplifies day-to-day work for our system administrators. Today, we have a central management solution that stores all relevant configuration data, so we always know exactly which patches are installed on which servers, and which of our Linux instances need to be updated.”
With the new environment in place, improved server performance has helped GESIS to consolidate systems yet further.
For example, the largest SAP ERP application that formerly ran on ten application servers now runs on just one, in a high-availability configuration managed through VMware virtualization.
Thomas Lowin said, “With SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, the basic administration workload is much lower. We have been able to cut downtime for security updates from three hours to just 30 minutes, an 83 percent reduction, supporting our objective of round-the-clock availability.”
Nicolas Otten said, “SUSE Linux Enterprise Server manages its resources very efficiently. Previously we rebooted our servers at least once a month to ensure optimal performance, and this is no longer required with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.
Before we implemented SUSE Manager, we had to patch every single server individually. Now, we have a user-friendly interface that tells us which of our servers need patches most urgently, making our lives much easier and server updates 75 percent faster.”
While GESIS evaluated release upgrades in the past extensively, the new SUSE Manager makes even release updates simple and non-disruptive, enabling the company to keep its servers on the latest release and enjoy the benefits of new functionality.
Thomas Lowin said, “We are very satisfied with our migration to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. Our SUSE Linux Enterprise Server landscape is remarkably stable, reliable and productive, helping us meet our business requirements. The combination of VMware virtualization and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server has improved cost-efficiency, and the solution is a huge business success for us.”