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Posted: 8/15/2012
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RHI AG Manufacturer Speeds Queries and Improves Business Decisions with New BI Solution

RHI, a global supplier of refractory products, wanted better BI tools. To improve query performance and reporting capabilities, the company implemented a tabular data model based on Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services and the new xVelocity memory-optimized columnstore index. Queries that used to take more than a minute to run now finish in less than two seconds, and the company has a simpler data model that it can use with multiple business intelligence (BI) tools. By using the solution’s built-in capabilities, the company can make better data-driven decisions while cutting costs.

Business Needs

RHI is a leading supplier of refractory products, heat-resistant materials that are used worldwide in industries such as steel, cement, lime, and nonferrous metal production. In addition to having to manage its extensive product line and global operations, the company faced a manufacturing industry with increasingly fluctuating demands.

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* With SQL Server 2012 and the xVelocity columnstore index, we saw a huge increase in performance—much more than we expected. Queries that used to take more than a minute to complete now run in less than two seconds. *

Marcus Mezera
Head of Controlling Application Services
RHI

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To respond faster to the marketplace, RHI wanted better reporting and BI capabilities. “As in most industries, we’re facing shorter business cycles, and we need to have information available quickly,” says Marcus Mezera, Head of Controlling Application Services at RHI. “Cost efficiency is a top goal to stay competitive.”

The company wanted a BI solution that would perform faster and be easier to use. Besides needing to speed queries, RHI hoped to improve its custom and standard reporting capabilities. To design custom reports, employees were working with SAP Business Objects, which could be difficult to use without an understanding of the underlying database structure. And RHI was using time-consuming, manual processes to build standard or fixed reports that it could send to employees by email.

However, enhancing speed and usability was not the company’s only concern. It also required a solution that could share information with the corporate Active Directory service.

Solution

RHI decided to implement Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise software to take advantage of features such as the new SQL Server 2012 BI Semantic Model and expose data for both multidimensional and relational analysis. To improve performance, the company planned to install SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services in tabular mode and use the SQL Server 2012 xVelocity memory-optimized columnstore index to accelerate queries. RHI also knew that data compression technology would help the company improve scalability and cut costs in its storage area network (SAN).

With help from Microsoft Services, RHI began implementing a pilot project that includes a data warehouse with SQL Server 2012 running on the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system. The warehouse extracts data from internal sources such as SAP ERP software, as well as external systems that provide marketplace information. The solution also connects with Active Directory, which the company can use to enforce role-based access to BI data.

About 600 employees worldwide take advantage of the BI solution to create custom reports with Microsoft SQL Server 2012 PowerPivot for Excel. It is used for multiple mission-critical processes, including sales, production control, forecasts, and price setting.

In addition, the company plans to automatically generate standard reports based on each user’s level of access and role in the company. Employees will be able to subscribe to the reports in a PDF format through email. The solution is expected to improve access to data for field personnel, who often work in remote locations with sporadic Internet connectivity.

RHI is also interested in implementing Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, which it can use to launch Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Power View, a self-service data exploration and visualization tool.

Benefits

By implementing a data warehouse and BI solution based on SQL Server 2012, RHI is gaining faster performance, making better business decisions, and cutting costs.

Improved Performance and Usability

Now, RHI can significantly improve performance and give users near-real-time access to BI data. The company tested the solution on less powerful servers than it uses in production and still gained impressive results. “When it comes to online analysis, the response time can’t be fast enough,” says Mezera. “With SQL Server 2012 and the xVelocity columnstore index, we saw a huge increase in performance—much more than we expected. Queries that used to take more than a minute to complete now run in less than two seconds.”

The BI Semantic Model in SQL Server 2012 simplifies reporting by providing multiple BI tools and a single data model that can be used for both custom and standard reports. Mezera says, “With SQL Server 2012, we can expand our BI capabilities and improve access to financial and production data.”

Better Business Intelligence and Agility

By improving access to business data, the company also expects to make better decisions. “Today, the market is less stable than it was five years ago, and SQL Server 2012 BI tools will help us be more responsive,” says Mezera. “We can track performance more easily and identify potential problems faster.”

The solution is helping RHI track more than internal performance. “We can aggregate information from more sources—including external marketing systems—which makes us more intelligent as a company because we can base our decisions on data, not just intuition,” says Mezera. “Marketplace changes can affect our customers on short notice, and SQL Server 2012 helps us be more forward-thinking and effective.”

Reduced Cost of Ownership

RHI not only expects to improve profitability through better BI, it also looks forward to increased scalability and lower cost of ownership. “With the data compression capabilities available in SQL Server 2012, we estimate that we can cut our database size by approximately 40 percent,” says Mezera. “This means we can use our existing SAN up to five years longer and, as a result, cut hardware costs.”

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 8000 employees

Organization Profile

Based in Vienna, Austria, RHI is a leading global producer of refractory materials for such industries as steelmaking, cement manufacture, and glass production.


Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise
  • Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
  • Microsoft Services
  • BMC - Mission Critical
  • Datacenter
  • Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot for Microsoft Excel

Vertical Industries
Manufacturing & Resources

Country/Region
Austria

Business Need
  • Business Intelligence and Reporting
  • Mission Critical
  • Business Critical

IT Issue
Data Warehousing

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Microsoft Services

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