CSR Limited (CSR), which traces its roots to 1855, is the sixth largest sugar producer in the world and a major manufacturer of building supplies including plasterboard, roofing material, insulation, and glass. The company uses SAP software to manage its multinational enterprise. CSR originally deployed SAP on a UNIX/Oracle stack, but later migrated to the Microsoft Application Platform including Microsoft SQL Server 2005. Running SAP on SQL Server has proven so effective that after the company purchased Pilkington Australasia, it migrated the Pilkington SAP infrastructure from the UNIX/Oracle stack to the Microsoft Application Platform. In May 2010, CSR upgraded to SQL Server 2008 to benefit from its data compression technologies. CSR is enjoying a lower total cost of ownership, enhanced performance, and high availability. The company also found it easy to perform the migrations.
More than 150 years of sugar. That’s one way to describe CSR Limited (CSR), which has been providing sugar for Australia and other parts of the world since 1855 when it started growing and refining sugar in the land down under.
||It is great to see performance go up at the same time your hardware and software costs are going down.
Chief Information Officer
Today CSR is one of Australia’s leading manufacturing companies with operations throughout Australia as well as in Asia and New Zealand. The company is the sixth largest sugar producer in the world—and a major Australian ethanol producer. The company has also become a leading supplier of building products, manufacturing a spectrum of products including plasterboard, roof tiles, insulation, and glass. As a third line of business, CSR holds an effective 25 percent interest in the Tomago aluminum smelter. The company is also developing a number of former industrial sites for future land sales.
To keep pace with its multinational efforts, CSR some years earlier adopted SAP software to support its operations including enterprise resource planning (ERP). Although it initially deployed SAP software on the UNIX operating system and Oracle database, in 2006 CSR migrated SAP to the Windows Server 2003 operating system and Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition data management software.
After acquiring Pilkington Australasia in 2007, CSR decided to make the same migration, moving the SAP infrastructure at Pilkington from a UNIX/Oracle stack to the Microsoft Application Platform. “The Microsoft Application Platform has worked very well for us elsewhere in our enterprise,” says Charlie Sukkar, Chief Information Officer, CSR Limited. “It was natural that we would want to move our SAP deployment to SQL
Server as well.”
In 2008, CSR upgraded its existing SAP infrastructure, hosted on the Microsoft Application Platform, from SAP ECC 5.0 to ECC 6.0. At the same time, the company migrated its Pilkington Australasia SAP ECC 5.0 infrastructure from UNIX/Oracle to Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise x64 Edition and Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition (64-bit). In May 2010, CSR upgraded to Microsoft SQL Server 2008 to take advantage of data compression technologies. CSR has saved more than 700 gigabytes (GB) out of a database of 2.2 terabytes simply by using page-level compression for the top 50 tables.
||SAP provides fast, simple-to-use, efficient, supported, and well-documented tools for migrating UNIX/Oracle systems to SQL Server and Windows Server.
Chief Information Officer
All together CSR has about 4 terabytes of SAP data hosted on SQL Server, with 2.2 terabytes on the largest single instance, which hosts SAP ERP information. SAP applications are hosted on HP ProLiant DL380 server computers with two Dual-Core Intel Xeon processors and 40 GB of memory. SAP databases are hosted on HP ProLiant DL580 servers with four Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors and 64 GB of memory.
“When we began planning for our move from Oracle to SQL Server, some of our Oracle specialists on staff expressed concern,” says Sukkar. “But after speaking with Microsoft reference customers who had already made their own migrations from Oracle to SQL Server, we were confident this would be a good move, and it has proven to be just that.”
CSR has since moved nearly all of its applications and databases to the Microsoft Application Platform. The company has a general enterprise architecture that includes the following:
- Presentation Tier. Employees access SAP and most other applications through an intranet portal created
using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. The presentation tier uses Window Server 2003 R2 Internet Information Services (IIS) web server technology.
|CSR owns vast sugar cane fields and mills.|
- Application Tier. CSR applications are hosted on computers running Windows Server 2003 R2. In addition to using SAP applications including ECC and BW, the company has developed several applications internally, some of which interact with SAP data and others that are stand-alone.
- Database Tier. All relational data is stored on servers running SQL Server 2008. In addition to the SAP BW data warehouse, CSR gathers some non-SAP data into a dedicated data warehouse for reporting and analytics.
- Analytics Tier. CSR performs analytics on non-SAP data using SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services to import relational data to create and manage multidimensional data cubes for faster processing. Analytics for SAP data is performed using SAP BW tools.
- Reporting Tier. Recurring and ad hoc reporting of non-SAP data is supported using SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services.
- ETL Tier. Information from applications and other data sources is imported into a CSR data warehouse for analysis and reporting, using SQL Server 2008 Integration Services to perform extract, transform, and load (ETL) processes.
CSR has enjoyed a broad range of benefits since moving its SAP infrastructure from the UNIX/Oracle stack to the Microsoft Application Platform, including lower total cost of ownership. The company has also experienced enhanced performance, and it was surprised by the ease of migration. The Microsoft Application Platform has given CSR high availability and has proven to be efficient with enterprise integration.
Lower Total Cost of Ownership
Lower total cost of ownership is at the top of the list when CSR speaks of the benefits it has enjoyed from migrating its SAP operations to SQL Server 2008. Lower costs have been found in several areas, including support, hardware, and licensing.
||The users like SharePoint because it helps them find whatever information they need.
Chief Information Officer
Hardware savings from moving SAP off UNIX-based servers are estimated to exceed U.S.$1 million. “With our first migration, moving SAP software at CSR from UNIX servers to Intel Itanium–based HP servers, we estimate we saved about $600,000 [U.S.$400,000],” says Sukkar. “When we migrated the Pilkington SAP platform, we moved from UNIX-based servers to HP servers with Intel Xeon processors and estimate we saved about $1 million [U.S.$650,000] in capital expenditures.” Sukkar says the company enjoys additional savings on licensing because Microsoft provides a more flexible and less costly pricing structure than CSR had found using UNIX and Oracle.
Support staffing has been easier to schedule and less costly since the company migrated to SQL Server 2008. “Considering the time zones we operate across, we need to staff from about 4 A.M. until about 10 P.M., so we need rotational staff,” says Sukkar. “Staffing is a lot easier now that we are supporting a single platform and no longer have to schedule UNIX or Oracle specialists. We place our savings for being able to redeploy our former UNIX/Oracle specialists at about $400,000 [U.S.$260,000] a year.”
Enhanced performance turned out to be an added bonus for CSR. Although the company paid significantly less for its hardware and software infrastructure after migrating from its UNIX/Oracle stack, it found that SAP transaction performance improved.
“We have 2,400 named users and often have 1,400 concurrent users,” says Sukkar. “After moving to the Microsoft Application Platform, we saw response times of our average SAP transactions drop to a half second or less, in the range of 400 to 500 milliseconds. It is great to see performance go up at the same time your hardware and software costs are going down.”
Ease of Migration
The migration from the UNIX/Oracle stack to the Microsoft Application Platform was easy—far easier than the team had expected.
|CSR is a major glass manufacturer.|
“SAP provides fast, simple-to-use, efficient, supported, and well-documented tools for migrating UNIX/Oracle systems to SQL Server and Windows Server,” says Sukkar. “The migration was easily completed over a weekend without any impact on business operations.”
The CSR migration team was happy to find that both Microsoft and SAP have provided plenty of background information and simple procedural information on moving data onto the Microsoft Application Platform. “We had all the information we needed, and the process was surprisingly uncomplicated,” Sukkar says. “Doing the migration was easy.”
Moving to the Microsoft Application Platform has helped CSR implement high-availability measures superior to what the company had deployed with its UNIX/Oracle stack. The company has employed two strategies to help ensure high availability of its SAP operations.
“Our first line of defense is to use SQL Server replication to support SAN-to-SAN synchronous replication to our disaster recovery site,” says Sukkar. “This provides an immediate standby should the primary center go down. As a second line of defense, we use SQL Server log shipping to another SQL Server instance in case the SAN-to-SAN data should ever be corrupted. We have a 45-minute SLA [service level agreement] for this second source, though it would only take us 10 to 15 minutes to get it up and running. This compares to our old UNIX deployment, which was dependent upon reloading data from tapes, with a 48-hour SLA.”
CSR uses the Microsoft Application Platform to provide integrated access to data across the enterprise. In addition to hosting SAP applications and databases, including SAP BW, on the Microsoft Application Platform, CSR collects non-SAP data into a data mart using SQL Server Integration Services for ETL. The company also uses SQL Server Analysis Services for creating multidimensional data cubes for faster query processing, and SQL Server Reporting Services for creating custom and recurring reports.
The company provides access to applications and other resources through an intranet portal created using Office SharePoint Server 2007.
“SharePoint serves as the heart of our intranet experience,” says Sukkar. “All of our document management, project planning, and team sites are hosted with SharePoint Server 2007. SharePoint also provides access into SAP Portal. The users like SharePoint because it helps them find whatever information they need.”
The integration story includes the ease with which employees can work with data from different applications within Microsoft Office 2007, including importing information from SQL Server databases into Microsoft Office Excel 2007 spreadsheet software.
The company’s internal developers use the Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 development system and the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 to create applications, many of which integrate with SAP data using SAP connectors. Sukkar notes: “Whenever we need to create an application, we work with Microsoft development tools.”
Reduced Database Size and Faster Data Loading
CSR upgraded its SAP infrastructure to SQL Server 2008 to take advantage of new features, with special interest in these three:
- Data compression. SQL Server 2008 reduced the production database size by more than 700 GB on a total size of 2.2 terabytes with no impact on performance. Data compression can also reduce the number of disk reads that a database must perform by incorporating more data into system memory.
- Backup compression. With SQL Server 2008 backup compression, the compression is performed in memory before the data is transferred to disk. Backups run significantly faster since less disk input/output is required. Backup compression reduces the storage required to keep backups online, lowering the overall cost of keeping disk-based backups.
- Star join. SQL Server 2008 provides improved query performance for common data warehouse scenarios. Star join query optimizations reduce query response time by recognizing data warehouse join patterns, and CSR has found reduced data loading time as well. CSR plans to use the star join feature on its SAP and non-SAP data marts.
In summary, CSR has found that the Microsoft Application Platform, including SQL Server, provides an exceptional foundation for supporting its SAP infrastructure across its multinational operations. The company found it easy to migrate from a UNIX/Oracle stack to the Microsoft Application Platform, and that the effort produced a number of ongoing benefits.
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Document published November 2010