Consolidation Through Virtualization

May 20, 2009 by Stephan De Maria

Reduce costs, increase flexibility – that’s what companies will always want their IT to achieve. Of course the current global economic crisis has made such demands more urgent, but there is no need for despair: Sensible concepts that meet these requirements are already available on the market.

Consolidate SAP applications with FlexFrame for SAP

An example of just such a solution is FlexFrame for SAP. The platform consolidates SAP applications on standard industry platforms that companies can upgrade in small increments. SAP partner Fujitsu (formerly Fujitsu Siemens Computers) developed the product for SAP customers back in 2003.

“The flexibility gained by eliminating dependencies between certain SAP applications, operating systems, and servers makes FlexFrame a suitable platform for service-oriented architecture (SOA) strategies and the architecture of SAP NetWeaver,” says Gunnar Dörken, who heads Fujitsu’s SAP-related IT infrastructure business. “Users with, say, 80 servers typically have to run an OS patch locally on each machine; with the FlexFrame solution, they only have to do it once centrally and then reboot all of the servers from a shared image,” explains Dörken, adding that this requires only a mouse click.

Highly available SAP systems reduce costs

High availability of SAP systems presents another example. According to Dörken, cluster solutions are still prevalent today, despite the high price of their acquisition and the training and constant quality control they require. “FlexFrame makes this unnecessary. Intelligent components automatically recognize outages, pinpoint the SAP services affected, and transfer them to a free server,” he says.

Dörken thus describes high availability as an innate feature of the system – one that extends to each new server and significantly reduces costs. “It obviously depends on the initial situation, but we have customers who have saved between 30 and 60 percent of their expenses,” he says. Along with high availability, Dörken cites the acquisition, operation, and maintenance of the SAP infrastructure as factors in the cost reduction process.

Savings hand IT departments more room to maneuver and the freedom to tackle new SAP projects they may have been putting off. “Particularly now, such advantages are tremendously useful,” Dörken says.

Virtualization simplifies administration

“We work closely with SAP on all of our initiatives for SAP customers,” explains Dörken, who himself once worked for the Walldorf, Germany-based company. Fujitsu focuses in particular on virtualization and offers a “turnkey virtualization solution that simplifies – and in some cases eliminates – many administration processes.” Companies can drastically shorten other processes and as a result save money and decrease system downtime.

The system software, application software, and administrative software come preinstalled. This means that companies relying on FlexFrame for SAP can implement the infrastructure quickly and largely eliminate system integration costs.

A study by the market research company IDC attributes a high level of customer satisfaction to the concept. Those surveyed confirmed reductions in total cost of ownership (TCO) and administrative effort, as well as increases in flexibility and scalability.

Further alternatives: managed services and data centers

Fujitsu’s managed services represent additional means of optimizing IT processes. The company takes over responsibility for all infrastructure operations, while the infrastructure itself remains with and is owned by the customer. “Or we can take it a step further and offer to run the systems at our data centers,” Dörken adds.

However, Dörken sees each customer’s ideal product as a balance of varying demands with regard to costs, security, flexibility, and resources – not a matter of one-size-fits-all. In addition to virtualization, he mentions Fujitsu’s intensive efforts to converge SAP and open-source products such as Linux. “That’s also reducing costs,” he says.

Rehau lowers energy costs by 40 percent

Two aspects that are constantly growing in importance are energy efficiency and green IT. “Greenpeace named us the ‘greenest’ IT provider in 2008, based in part on servers and monitors that consume no wattage in standby mode,” Dörken says.

He immediately follows up with a customer example: Thanks in no small measure to Fujitsu’s dynamic infrastructure, the polymer specialist Rehau reduced its energy consumption by 40 percent. “As a result, Information Week awarded them the Green CIO Award last year,” Dörken says.

Since its foundation, SAP has collaborated successfully with Fujitsu – originally with Siemens on SAP R/2 and later with the joint venture Fujitsu Siemens Computers on SAP Business Suite and SAP NetWeaver. The two companies signed a global technology partner agreement in 2000, representing a milestone for their cooperation. They now work as partners on every level – including sizing and support, where Fujitsu has a seat on SAP’s partner committees and actively contributes to the improvement of products and releases. Fujitsu is also a cofounder of SAP Linux Labs, where employees of both companies work hand-in-hand on developing end-to-end solutions. Finally, Fujitsu is a Global Service Partner, Global Technology Partner, and value-added reseller of SAP.

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