FI-TS Provides SAP in the Cloud Securely Thanks to Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization

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April 22, 2014

The combination of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization and the Cisco UCS platform allows FI-TS to provide financial service providers with an SAP environment in the cloud that helps them significantly reduce their operating costs.

Customer: FI-TS

"The combination of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization and the Cisco UCS platform allows us to provide financial service providers with a highly available, scalable, and secure SAP environment in the cloud.” - Mario Brugnera, head of SAP Competence Center, FI-TS

Geography: EMEA
Country: Germany


Business Challenge:

Financial institutions are increasingly commissioning external providers such as FI-TS with the outsourced operation of their IT. This is particularly true if the UNIX systems or applications have reached the end of their service life and need to be replaced. The argument in favour of outsourcing often focuses on cost reduction.

Hardware:

Cisco UCS blade servers, Cisco Nexus switches

Benefits:

The combination of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization and the Cisco UCS platform allows FI-TS to provide financial service providers with an SAP environment in the cloud that helps them significantly reduce their operating costs.

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Background:

FI-TS is a subsidiary of Finanz Informatik (FI) and offers professional IT services for the financial and insurance industry. The established outsourcing partner impresses thanks to many years of experience, industry expertise, technological proficiency, and consulting competence. Custom services optimize IT costs and make banks, financial institutions, and insurance companies more efficient, thereby delivering tangible competitive advantages. Fulfilling current governance requirements and consistently implementing modern security and quality requirements is a matter of course for the IT provider. FI-TS employs around 890 people at its headquarters in Haar (near Munich) and at its sites in Hanover, Nuremberg, Offenbach, and Stuttgart. Many well-known customers rely on the expert services provided by FI-TS, among them: LBBW, BayernLB, Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen, DekaBank, Versicherungskammer Bayern, Provinzial Nordwest, Deutsche Kreditbank, Deutsche WertpapierService Bank, LBS IT, ING-DiBa, Quirin Bank, and Bank of Scotland.

Business Challenge:

Mounting pressure to reduce costs

Banks have been customizing the majority of their core applications for many years, but the process was complex, time consuming, and expensive. At the beginning of the last decade, financial institutions preferred to purchase standard software that was faster to use productively, compared with proprietary applications. UNIX servers were the platforms of choice. These offered a cost efficient, reliable, and high-performance alternative to mainframes, which had been used for many years.

Expectations were only partially fulfilled, however, as the applications had to be constantly adapted to meet new legal and regulatory requirements. The global financial crisis of 2008 complicated the situation even more; the pressure to reduce costs soared and industry consolidation led to a need to economize. As a result, financial institutions increasingly commissioned external providers such as FI-TS, based in Haar, with the outsourced operation of their IT (or at least some of it). This was particularly true if the UNIX systems or applications had reached the end of their service life and needed to be replaced.

The argument in favour of outsourcing often focuses on cost reduction. Financial institutions consider the expense of purchasing hardware (CAPEX, or CAPital EXpenditure), and the licensing, administration, and maintenance fees, in addition to the costs of electricity, cooling, and technical personnel (OPEX, or OPerational EXpenditure). The use of proprietary UNIX systems promotes heterogeneous IT infrastructures, ties up resources, and requires high administrative expenditures compared with environments based on standard x86 hardware and Linux® as the operating system.

Solution:

From outsourcing to process optimization with cloud services

As an established IT outsourcing partner, FI-TS has been offering IT services and SAP solutions based on standardized technologies and operating highly secure datacentres since 2004, serving the banking, insurance, and financial industries. “We began focusing on cloud computing and the associated innovative possibilities at a very early stage,” said Mario Brugnera, head of SAP competence center at FI-TS. “Cloud computing is the next stage of outsourcing for us.”

The origins of FI-TS cloud.app.sap date back to 2007. The cloud service was developed and tested on cost-efficient, standard x86 hardware, with Red Hat® Enterprise Linux as the operating system and a 10GB Ethernet network infrastructure. This IT landscape worked towards the goal of building a cost-effective, high-performance, and scalable alternative to proprietary UNIX systems. They had become standard for outsourced SAP applications for many years and are even still used to some extent today in individual cases. “The aim was to achieve at least the same high level of performance, if not a higher level, as a UNIX system and at a more cost-effective price,” said Christian Sonderleittner, SAP administrator at FI-TS. “Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a key factor to meet these requirements. The UNIX department at FI-TS was using various infrastructure applications such as file and printing services, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Red Hat Satellite, meaning they were already aware of the strengths of the open source operating system.”

The first SAP cloud generation from FI-TS went into full operation in mid-2009 and used standard x86 servers as its hardware platform. Initially, Xen—which is contained in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5—was used as the hypervisor. With the availability of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization 3, FI-TS began developing and testing the second SAP cloud generation in 2012. Based on the KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) hypervisor, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization 3.2 impressed with its powerful functions in the areas of performance, stability, and management and is an ideal addition to Red Hat Enterprise Linux for SAP.

Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization 3.2 is certified for SAP business applications running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The certification criteria are met in two areas, performance and monitoring. As a recommended enterprise operating system for running SAP applications, Red Hat Enterprise Linux provides the reliability and performance required by datacentres to safely and effectively run demanding SAP workloads.

There were also changes to the underlying server infrastructure. In its second cloud generation, FI-TS used the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), which consists of UCS blade servers, network, management, and storage access. FI-TS uses a NetApp Storage MetroCluster for storage. “From a technical viewpoint, the Cisco UCS blade servers are very well-suited to Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization. This can be seen in day-to-day administration,” said Sonderleittner. “Another important aspect is simplified deployment, meaning faster use of resources in virtualized environments. All of the components work together seamlessly, meaning we can provide a customer with a test system in a few hours rather than a few days.”

Benefits:

Open to new things in a secure cloud environment

FI-TS cloud.app.sap provides IT resources tailored to the individual requirements of the financial industry. The end-to-end solution consisting of servers, operating system, virtualization in the form of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, applications, network, and storage can flexibly adapt to current requirements as a cloud service. The close technical cooperation between Cisco, Red Hat, and SAP plays a key role here. An associated advantage is that IT operations can be further automated based on the model of IT industrialization, which results in cost optimization that strengthens the competitiveness of FI-TS as well as its customers.

Moving to the cloud requires high levels of trust. Some cloud offerings do not satisfy the high security requirements of German customers, particularly in the financial services sector; therefore the FI-TS solutions regards itself as “Community Cloud.” With cloud.app.sap, FI-TS satisfies the complex compliance and governance requirements and strict data protection guidelines required in the financial and insurance industries. The IT service provider exclusively uses datacentres located in Germany.

“SAP solutions in the banking industry require a superior level of performance. They have to be secure, highly scalable, and highly available. The combination of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization and the Cisco UCS platform allows us to provide financial service providers with an SAP environment in the cloud that helps them significantly reduce their operating costs,” said Brugnera. “Banks and insurance companies can book additional IT resources on demand, and then release them when demand drops. Everything is billed according to actual use.”
 

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