The revolution in how we are using data to build new services for our customers is changing the way business works. In leading enterprises, IT and technology is no longer an enabling support service but the driving force behind transformational change and business strategy.
Data is fuel for innovation and growth, but a large amount of the data that’s collected goes unused, and many organizations don’t fully understand how to get value from the data they do have.
Solving this problem is key for leaders trying to steer their business along a path of digital-driven growth and innovation, and infrastructure choices are a critical part of the process. In order to reap the rewards of real-time insights and data-powered decision-making, it takes a powerful hardware platform and hyper-fast in-memory database technology. And unfortunately, that doesn’t always come cheap!
A combination that’s becoming increasingly popular (and we can look at some customer cases that explain why shortly) is SAP’s HANA database system in tandem with IBM’s Power Systems server architecture. A report by Forrester analysts found that enterprises that adopt this model can expect to make savings of around $1 million due to reduced downtime, save close to $1.5 million that would be spent on alternative solutions, and reduce costs of maintaining their infrastructure by over $300,000.
SAP’s HANA architecture can hold huge amounts of data – up to a petabyte – in-memory for the quickest possible access during analytic processes. This means it can be used for some of the most serious big-data-crunching projects going. It’s used for both cloud and on-premises deployments and is said to have around 200 million users worldwide.
This means that to realize its full potential, it needs a powerful and robust engine to push it along. Businesses are increasingly choosing Power Systems to be this engine, not only due to the fact it has the necessary grunt and proven resilience but because it has been shown to be highly cost-effective when compared to other options. In fact, IBM tells us that as many as one-third of SAP S/4HANA users are running their installations on Power Systems hardware. Their claims of high-level resilience are also backed up by IDC's independent analysis, which has rated Power Systems in its highest category of resilience, called level 4, meaning that in practice, it demonstrates uptime of more than 99.999%.
The requirement to update and upgrade infrastructure is particularly pressing for many customers right now as SAP is currently in the process of retiring its R/3 and ECC data platforms. It means support for them is due to come to an end in 2027, and, unlike those platforms, their replacement (Business Warehouse) will only run on SAP databases. This means a migration to SAP HANA is critical for thousands of organizations that want to continue working with SAP’s flagship ERP tool.
One customer success story that IBM puts forward as evidence of this comes from Swiss packaging manufacturer Hoffmann Neopac. After reducing their overall energy consumption by a factor of 15, their CIO Frank Werdermann said, "Deploying SAP S/4HANA in the WAGNER AG private cloud based on IBM Power Systems will enable us to digitize, automate, streamline and accelerate many of our core business processes, helping us to build a leaner, greener packaging business."
Another satisfied customer is carmaker Audi, which chose SAP S/4HANA running on Power Systems as it overhauled its entire analytics operation in a drive towards cleaner and more efficient operations. Reacting to growing consumer and business-driven demand for electric and hybrid vehicles, along with greener infrastructure to support their manufacturing and distribution operations, they credit their migration to Power Systems with enabling a 66% reduction in the number of servers they are running while achieving 100% speed increases when loading data for analysis.
For another use case, we can look to the fashion world – where the importance of speedy action based on insights into trends can never be overestimated. Long-established UK shoemakers Clarks needs to have products and services in front of its customers within weeks of identifying the latest shopping trends. Its inventory is comprised of over one million SKUs that need to be matched with buyers across all its selling channels, online and physical. Consistently evolving their data operations across SAP solutions has allowed them to move towards real-time data processing, enabling instant stock-checking and next-day delivery. Today their entire global supply chain is managed on one single SAP instance. An example of the challenges that this is helping them to overcome is given by systems manager John Caswell, who says, "If one of our products explodes in popularity on social media, we need to make sure we can process a significant spike in orders in a short window of time. Similarly, winning a new international distribution deal might hinge on our ability to build the necessary B2B integrations in a matter of weeks.”
Finally, let’s take a look at Swedish home appliance manufacturer Electrolux. Their challenge was consolidating all the systems and processes the business had inherited during a long history of strategic acquisitions of leading manufacturers in their sector. Managing the interface between these disparate and siloed resources became a distraction from the core growth strategy of design innovation and customer service, leading to a search for a solution.
It turned to IBM Power Systems, backed up by the FlashSystem storage, offering the fastest-available and most secure framework for its IT operations. It further optimized storage capacity and use of maintenance resources by relying on IBM’s Spectrum Virtualize virtualization solutions. This implements AI algorithms to ensure storage capacity and bandwidth is being used as efficiently as possible.
When setting infrastructure requirements, traditionally, there has been a need for balance between power and performance versus financial cost. The increasingly widespread adoption of SAP HANA on Power Systems shows that power can also be a driver of efficiency and cost reduction, creating situations where intelligent, automated maintenance and lower energy footprints result in considerably reduced overheads. This is one simple reason that many IBM and SAP customers have been able to successfully operationalize highly innovative data initiatives with greater speed and accuracy than has ever previously been possible while also staying in firm control of their budgets.
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Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the field of business and technology. He is the author of 18 best-selling books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has 2 million social media followers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.