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Mauser: Open heart surgery

Posted on 16 November 2011 by Pierre Picard

Databases are at the very heart of every organization’s IT infrastructure. Which is why so many users hesitate when it comes to migrating these systems onto modern and durable hardware, even if this is often a very necessary step.

When Oracle announced, at the end of March 2011, that it was ending all software developments for the Intel Itanium® microprocessor, the news triggered a public outcry in the HP-UX® community. Many IT managers suddenly saw their long-term strategy regarding the future evolution of their infrastructures called into question. Numerous Solaris® users, too, have doubts about the future because of the unclear technology roadmaps for their SPARC-based systems. Of the three ‘traditional’ Unix operating systems, only AIX® has a growing number of users.

Preoccupied by these changes, many IT decision-makers are currently reconsidering the future of their databases which, as a general rule, represent the fundamental foundation supporting virtually all of their critical applications. Pressure on costs is another limiting factor. Putting in place new services and new applications when IT budgets are stagnating often feels like ‘mission impossible’. But it is useful in this context to look at the licensing and maintenance costs of databases in more detail: by consolidating databases onto modern systems it is possible to make potentially major savings, whilst also improving efficiency and flexibility. For example, the performance of a Power7® processor is many times greater per core than older-generation Itanium or SPARC processors. Even just by looking at the different licensing models offered by Oracle, license and support costs can be considerably reduced. But despite the advantages that migrating database servers onto more modern, high-potential architectures offers, many IT Managers recoil from this step: because the risks of migrating systems that are so vital to the business (and are usually running 24×7) to new platforms are often seen as too high. What’s more, IT Department staff will often need to undergo training on the new system.

Consolidating 52 servers into two

Migrating to a new platform does not have to be a painful process, and can lead to rapid ROI: as Bull has clearly demonstrated on numerous projects for its customers. Once such project was for the Mauser group, based at Brühl in Germany – one of the world’s leading manufacturers of industrial packaging – which was able to record positive ROI from the very first year, as it migrated its HP-UX databases to a Bull Escala™ server equipped with a quad-core Power 7 processor.

In another project, for a telecoms operator, Bull consolidated a total of 52 Sun Solaris systems (including different versions of the operating system, cluster solutions, different versions of the database and 16 telecoms-specific applications) onto just two mid-range Escala systems. Here too, the cost of the project was rapidly recouped thanks to the much lower licensing, energy and management costs.

Bull’s consolidation specialists use their own tool, Oracle Live Migration (OLM), to carry out an automated, multi-platform migration of Oracle databases (9i, 10g et 11g), even where the systems are all moving simultaneously to a new version of Oracle, without interrupting the production environment.

Because each database and each consolidation project is unique, Bull experts use its Bull Unify methodology, which features a number of steps. In the initial evaluation, the feasibility and risks of the migration are analyzed and estimated. Then, depending on the required levels of performance and service delivery, the target architecture for the new systems is determined, and the total cost of ownership (TCO) for the migration is calculated. Having defined the transition plan, the actual migration takes place. This is where the OLM tool comes into play. While production activity continues on the source platform, the target systems are tested and optimized. In parallel, the customer’s IT Department personnel are trained. Once all the tests are successfully completed, the switch-over to the new systems is made, generally involving virtually no interruption to production.

Bernhard Rohde, IT Manager at the Mauser Group, is sure they have taken the right decision: “We’re now relying on AIX and Escala platforms to run our vital Oracle and Progress databases. They let us run our databases reliably and cost-effectively, and give us a clear picture of the way forward.”

The Mauser group is one of the world’s leading companies in the industrial packaging sector.  Its consolidated revenues are around €1 billion and it employs almost 4,000 people. Its portfolio of solutions for customers in the chemical, petrochemical, agricultural, pharmaceutical and food and drink industries includes plastic packaging, and both fiber and steel drums.

More information about Escala

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