Globally or locally
The Volkswagen Group is a dynamic company with factories and employees all over the world. Numerous IT solutions are implemented globally at the Group’s headquarters and made available to individual subsidiaries.
Such an approach has its advantages – it reduces the total cost of maintenance of IT systems, ensures stability and consistency of implemented solutions throughout the group, as well as enables an easy and secure process of incorporation of further companies and subsidiaries into the common infrastructure. However, it is also possible to apply a local approach in order to achieve greater flexibility and dynamics.
That is why Volkswagen Poznań decided to move the key SAP BI reporting system, based on SAP BW, from the server room of the Volkswagen Group to its own infrastructure. Simultaneously, the company planned an upgrade to the latest version, involving the transfer to the latest SAP HANA database platform.
The new is coming
Successfully implemented and constantly developed functionalities based on SAP ERP or SAP BW systems require the infrastructure to be maintained at a high level. This means the need to follow novelties and changes in the hardware market and to meet the software manufacturers’ requirements regarding regular updates. In response to market demands, software manufacturers also improve their products and release new versions, offering customers new capabilities. In recent years, SAP has become a leader in the market of database manufacturers, offering customers the most modern SAP HANA database processing all data in internal memory, which ensures very high performance. The latest versions of SAP systems have been additionally optimized to work in the environment with the SAP HANA database. Especially SAP BI systems make use of new SAP HANA capabilities, offering many improvements and modifications, which significantly increase the performance of the reporting system.
Dynamic development at Volkswagen Poznań
Also Volkswagen Poznań reached the moment when it was necessary to make a decision about the change. At that time, the SAP BW system in the SAP NetWeaver 7.31 version was used, and the people responsible for its development realized that changes were necessary in order to meet the growing demands of the business.
Volkswagen Poznań has been present on the Polish market for over 25 years. It is a modern and dynamic company, a leader of this industry in Poland, and one of major plants of the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles brand. In 2016, the fourth production plant located near Września was launched. It is one of the 10 largest Volkswagen plants in the world. The next generation Crafter is produced there. This gigantic project increases the significance and capabilities of Volkswagen Poznań plants.
The plant in Września has been equipped with a modern server room and IT infrastructure, compatible with the latest technologies and meeting the highest security standards. The company employs IT specialists, who directly supervise the systems, ensuring the security and high availability of data.
Systems to be migrated
At the beginning of the project, the most important issue was to establish what the existing infrastructure of SAP systems looked like and which of them would be migrated, as it determined the scope of work, requirements for the new environment and methodology of the migration.
The architecture of SAP BI systems at Volkswagen Poznań for which a migration project was prepared is a two-system landscape: development/test systems and production systems. The SAP BW system operated on the basis of the AS ABAP application platform, and for the purposes of end-user access and data presentation – on the basis of the SAP Portal product on the AS JAVA application platform. The applications were installed on IBM AIX operating systems and the Oracle database.
In the database layer, a decision was made to migrate from Oracle to SAP HANA. The hardware layer dedicated to the databases consists of three physical Huawei servers that are SAP Certified Appliance Hardware for SAP HANA, with 1 TB of RAM and 176 logical processors each.
The application layer was planned for installation in the VMware virtual environment, already used in Volkswagen Poznań and expanded for the needs of this design with further physical servers. Virtualization ensures high availability of applications running on it as well as security in the event of failure of one of the servers. In the database layer, this aspect was also taken care of. With three physical servers, the prepared architecture design assumed the distribution of SAP application databases in such a way that databases of development/test systems would be installed on one server, and on the other – databases of production systems. The third server will act as an active backup for the production server thanks to the data replication mechanism offered by the SAP HANA database.
The first phase of the project consisted in the preparation of the target infrastructure for the migrated systems, in accordance with the Architecture Design prepared earlier. The hardware layer was delivered and installed in the server room in Białężyce near Września, and IT specialists from Volkswagen Poznań connected and configured all the systems.
In the second phase of the project, migration of SAP BW systems was performed using SAP guidelines and procedures dedicated to a heterogeneous copy, i.e. with change of the hardware architecture and database. First of all, the data was checked and optimized on the source systems. Furthermore, the procedure of cleaning the redundant BW data as well as the procedure of technical verification of the systems and confirmation of their readiness to perform the migration procedure were carried out. Then, on the source systems in the server room in Germany, the database of BW systems was exported and the export was transferred to the server room in Poland. The next step was to import the data using SAP tools into the SAP HANA database and to install application servers on a virtual platform.
Before confirming the correctness of the work done and handing over the systems to end users, numerous test scenarios prepared earlier were implemented. It was only when all system functions and reports were found to work properly that the readiness of the systems to operate in the new environment was confirmed.
At this point of the project, the SAP Portal systems were still located in the German server room and it was there that the data was presented. The migration of the SAP Portal systems was planned as a functional migration. The decision was made not to migrate the entire database, but to install a new version of the system in the target server room and to transfer all functionalities between the systems. For this purpose, SAP Portal systems were installed in the latest version of SAP NetWeaver 7.5, and all BW portal functionalities were implemented on these systems. Such an approach to the project optimized as much as possible all work related to the migration and upgrade of the SAP BW system. Until the upgrade of the version, SAP BW was connected to SAP Portal 7.31 in a server room in Germany. Only after the upgrade of the SAP BW system to version 7.5, the connections between the systems were switched so that the warehouse data was presented on the new system. The old SAP Portal in the German server room could be removed.
The data replication functionality was configured on the SAP HANA production database. On two physical servers, SAP HANA databases are installed. One of them acts as a primary database to which SAP applications are connected. The other one continuously replicates all changes that are made on the primary database. In case of a failure of the basic server, it is possible to switch the SAP application to the other database, without the need of backup restoration and without the loss of current data; the replicated database is immediately available with the latest state of the data.
In parallel to the work related to the SAP BW system migration and the installation of the SAP Portal systems, the latest version of the SAP Solution Manager 7.2 system was prepared and implemented. The installation was also made in the landscape of two systems: a development/test system and a production system. Then, the technical configuration of SAP Solution Manager was performed and the systems already installed in the new infrastructure, SAP BW and SAP Portal, as well as the SAP HANA database were connected to it. SAP Solution Manager was connected with SAP support by the installation of a local dedicated tool ‘SAPROUTER’, and further by the network infrastructure of Volkswagen and the ‘SAPROUTER’ installation in Germany, which is dedicated to the whole group and acts as a single access point between the infrastructure of Volkswagen and SAP support.
The EarlyWatch Alert (EWA) reporting functionality and System and Application Monitoring were additionally configured on SAP Solution Manager 7.2 for all systems in the new infrastructure. The systems were covered with full support from the software manufacturer – SAP, and central monitoring of the whole infrastructure was provided. System administrators received a tool to conveniently and effectively manage and monitor all systems in the new location.
SAP BW upgrade
The preparation of the systems for their upgrade to the new version was carried out independently of the work related to the implementation of SAP Solution Manager and SAP Portal functionalities. This helped optimize the duration of the whole project.
The time and planned dates of the work were very important for the phase related to the upgrade of the SAP BW system. The procedure of upgrading the SAP system version requires some activities to be performed when the system is unavailable to end users. It was therefore necessary to plan the dates of work for the development and testing system and, subsequently, for the production system in such a way that the required unavailability of the production system did not affect the current activities and work of the users. Volkswagen Poznań production plants have a planned two-week maintenance break for the production line once a year. Current production activities are stopped then, so this is the right time to perform any maintenance tasks. The selection of this period for the upgrade of the production system enabled the completion of all work during the break and the preparation of the entire newly created SAP BW infrastructure in Volkswagen Poznań already in the new version of SAP.
The upgrade was carried out first on the development and test system. Technical adjustments and transports with configuration were prepared already on the new version of SAP BW 7.5. After testing the system and confirming that all work had been done correctly, the upgrade of the production system was carried out during the scheduled maintenance break. It was not just the technical upgrade of the SAP BW system; additionally, the reporting was switched to the previously prepared SAP Portal system in the new server room.
Furthermore, two SAP Web Dispatcher instances were installed for the landscape of development, test and production systems. SAP Web Dispatcher was configured as a secure access point to the reporting system based on the http protocol and access from a web browser.
Secure https ports were configured with signed certificates in the Volkswagen certification authority (CA), and an active rule forcing a change of connection to a trusted one. SAP Web Dispatcher also combines access to the resources of both SAP BW and SAP Portal, and this allows you to use the latest web applications, based on the SAP Fiori technology, generated on both systems, and presented jointly on a single SAP Portal platform.
The complete infrastructure of the SAP BW and SAP Portal system in the new version of SAP NetWeaver 7.5 prepared in this way, based on the SAP HANA database, was provided to end users at the end of the maintenance break.
Project coordination and management
The project of SAP BI environment migration and upgrade carried out in Volkswagen Poznań required the involvement of a large number of people.
On the one side, there were Volkswagen employees – both IT specialists in the area of the Group’s services provided at the German headquarters, as well as Volkswagen Poznań IT specialists who actively participated in the phase of designing and preparing systems on the new hardware platform and supported the entire migration and upgrade process. Particularly the process of migration of systems from the German server room to new resources in the server room in Września required the work of IT specialists on both sides to be coordinated in a very short time.
On the other side, there were SAP BASIS consultants from SNP Poland, responsible for carrying out all work related to data migration, upgrading systems as well as installing and implementing new elements of the SAP BI infrastructure. They were also co-responsible for preparing the architecture design for the newly created environment and supported their colleagues from Volkswagen Poznań with their knowledge and experience in installing and configuring new systems. SNP Poland also provided substantive support of SAP BW consultants, who supported functional tests and prepared corrections on an ongoing basis for the problems reported. They also conducted training for Volkswagen Poznań employees on new functionalities, including Query Designer tools, which allowed them to quickly take advantage of the capabilities offered by the SAP BW system on the SAP HANA database when preparing new reports for the business.
A big step into the future
To be able to manage such a big team, Project Managers both on the part of Volkswagen Poznań and SNP Poland had to show a high level of flexibility and commitment. It is also worth noting that the project was completed before the original deadline. The key here was to plan the work properly.
The migration of SAP BW systems for VW Poznań has become a very big step into the future both in terms of technology and user experience.
This is confirmed by the satisfaction of users of our SAP BI solutions.
However, we are not slowing down the pace in VW Poznań. The work related to integration of this environment with the latest version of SAP Business Objects 4.2 is already underway, and the latest analytical SAP products, i.e. SAP Lumira and SAP Predictive Analytics, are being implemented.
SAP BW on the HANA database has also become for us a foundation to build the BIG DATA architecture, in which we also plan SAP Vora.
All these activities are aimed at creating the most efficient and effective environment for the Business.
Piotr Żak, Project Manager and SAP Senior Specialist, Volkswagen Poznań
Benefits of the project
During the work execution, numerous system operation tests were performed. The comparison of the execution time of selected reports on the source system with the execution time of the same reports run on the migrated system showed that the already existing reports ran 27 to 136 times faster. However, this was confirmed not only by the figures, but also by the people. The information from business users who notified about a significant multiple acceleration of the SAP BI reporting system operation was very satisfactory.
The use of virtualization for SAP system applications at Volkswagen Poznań ensured the required efficiency, security and stability of the provided services, reduced the costs of infrastructure maintenance and allowed for flexible management of computing power. It also enables effective management of the infrastructure and prevents the aging of the hardware platform in the future.
The use of the most modern solution on the market, i.e. SAP HANA database, in the database layer ensures not only very high performance. SAP BI applications, which make effective use of the capabilities offered by the SAP HANA database, allow for quick delivery of expected reports to users, and provide analysts with new reporting capabilities. This in turn leads to more efficient and effective operations on the business side.
The transfer of the SAP BI environment to its own server room allowed Volkswagen Poznań to optimally utilize its potential. On the one hand, it now has a modern and highly efficient SAP BI reporting infrastructure, which can be flexibly adapted to business requirements and developed locally, and on the other hand, it uses proven and well-functioning solutions of the entire Volkswagen group, leaving the SAP ERP system in the Group’s server room and using numerous tools and IT solutions implemented globally.
The solutions implemented at Volkswagen Poznań allow for their further development.
Administration of SAP systems
Successful completion of the BW and Solution Manager system installation project naturally opened the way for further cooperation between Volkswagen Poznań and SNP in the area of system administration. Taking over the system administration by the SNP system maintenance team, working closely with the implementation team, is an ideal solution for the exchange of experience between consultants, especially in the initial phase after the commencement of standard system operation processes. System implementation and maintenance teams work in one area in the organizational structure of the company. Furthermore, consultants often work at the same location, which greatly improves communication and speeds up problem solving. After the implementation is completed, the systems put into the care of consultants are prepared – as far as possible – for efficient monitoring. In the case of VW Poznań it was not possible to set up the site-to-site tunnel in connection with security policies of access to the customer’s network, therefore it was decided to perform manual full monitoring of the systems on the SNP side. Following a specially prepared procedure, the consultant verifies the current status of the systems and, if necessary, creates an incident in the SNP reporting system, which is resolved in the next step by him/her or other employees in the team. Independently, in order to proactively verify the functioning of the systems, the Technical Monitoring solution was configured in the Solution Manager system. It enables administrators to be notified almost immediately of any irregularities occurring in the environment. This allows the support team not only to receive e-mail notifications about anomalies occurring in the system, but also to verify trends in the system behavior over time. The support team also analyses Early Watch Alert reports, which regularly provide a full picture of the situation related to the systems and suggest actions to be taken.
In addition to the standard administrative tasks, the support also includes other work, such as SAP system kernel updates, patch uploads and component updates both on the ABAP and JAVA side.
Volkswagen Poznań – a car and component manufacturer based in Poznań. It is a company of Volkswagen AG.
The Volkswagen Group consists of twelve brands in seven European countries: Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Audi, SEAT, ŠKODA, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ducati, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Scania and MAN. In addition, the Volkswagen Group offers a wide range of financial services, including the financing of dealers and clients, leasing, banking and insurance activities as well as fleet management.