Flexible IT Infrastructure for Growing Companies

Dieter Liebler, Managing Director of Alfred Sternjakob, and Günter Beres, head of IT at Sternjakob (Photo: Alfred Sternjakob)

Günter Beres, head of IT at Sternjakob, runs his department with just three employees and an annual budget (not including new investments) of €450,000 to €500,000. The IT environment comprises a production and a test system. In day-to-day operations, employees access the production system, which is where the retailing system is located. If the production system is not available, the test system acts as a backup.

The entire supply chain is mapped using SAP software. Around 100 employees have an SAP work center and ensure that the business processes run smoothly.

Opting for a sustainable solution

In Germany alone, Sternjakob supplies 3,000 retailers, from stationery shops through major department store groups. To ensure that business continues to run without a hitch despite changing trade relations, Sternjakob migrated from SAP R/3 version 4.6C to the new software generation, SAP ERP. “During the upgrade, we also wanted to set the course for the upcoming implementation of SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence,” says Beres.

This would have meant substantial enhancements to the three-year-old IBM iSeries system previously used for SAP tasks. “We had two alternatives. We could either invest in a second iSeries system, uprate the memory area considerably – and possibly still be faced with a similar problem again in three years’ time. Or we could look for a highly flexible and future-proof solution that gives us optimal room for maneuver in the long term,” Beres explains.

Persuaded by functionality, usability, and price

FlexFrame for SAP
(Photo: Alfred Sternjakob)

FlexFrame for SAP by Fujitsu Siemens Computers won over the decision makers at Sternjakob with its comprehensive functions, ease of use, and reasonable administration costs. Beres admits that he was fascinated by the SAP-certified infrastructure solution, which dynamically assigns servers to SAP applications on demand, right from the start.

“This really is a powerful solution that can be extended flexibly,” says Beres. “It’s made of components that can be individually combined – in our case the Linux operating system, SAP ERP, NetApp storage, and high-performance servers from Fujitsu Siemens Computers – and which are optimally aligned and coordinated.” The FlexFrame environment was installed by the partner company IS4IT, headquartered in Oberhaching near Munich, Germany.

To guarantee continuous operation, the complete upgrade to SAP ERP initially went ahead using the test and development system. The production system followed in the second step. Sales employees continue to access their trusty retail system, which now runs on a stable and sustainable platform that can be flexibly adapted to rapidly changing business requirements.

Other benefits of the FlexFrame solution include higher availability of the IT infrastructure and improved data security. Restore tests showed that, even if companies lose their entire IT infrastructure, they can work productively again within two days.

The course is set

Thanks to the secure and extensible basic infrastructure, Beres can concentrate on new ways of achieving greater process efficiency and customer satisfaction. Earlier this year, the application nodes were added to the system’s FlexFrame architecture, and the basis installation of the SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence component was completed.

As soon as the data is fully verified, a small group of users will be able to take advantage of business intelligence functions. In the medium term, Sternjakob plans to integrate SAP Customer Relationship Management and set up an SAP-based portal solution.

“We want to grow dynamically. The potential for savings, especially in administration costs, that we have through FlexFrame for SAP gives us the opportunity to expand by 20 to 30 percent, without having to hire more staff,” states managing director Dieter Liebler.

Flexible hardware system

FlexFrame for SAP enables SAP applications to be completely virtualized and decoupled from infrastructure resources. Instead of permanently assigned hardware and software, a pool of server and storage systems is used on demand by the applications. This enables each SAP service to run on each server in the FlexFrame network.

But not only the SAP software is located on a central storage system. The operating system (Linux or Solaris) is too, and can consequently be used by all servers. A control instance boots the operating system on the relevant server automatically through the network. Management software, the FlexFrame Autonomous Agent, ensures the high availability of mission-critical applications.

The result: a simplified SAP infrastructure, reduced operating costs, and flexible, highly scalable IT that adapts itself to changed requirements according to need.