Linux on POWER Offers Flexibility and Performance
Vivo Energy, Pharmaoverseas and Vision Banco use Linux on POWER to maximize SAP HANA and AI performance
Image by Greg Mably
By Jim Utsler02/03/2020
The IBM Power Systems* platform earned its name for a reason. It’s the backbone of any number of workloads across industries, a plethora of mission-critical applications and services, and a variety of OSes, including IBM i, AIX* and Linux*.
This type of versatility sets Power Systems servers apart from other options, giving creatively oriented organizations the ability to mix and match resources as needed. For example, Linux is becoming a go-to OS for many users of the platform, thanks in large part to its flexibility and openness. It supports everything from massive SAP HANA installations to ground-breaking AI programs.
A Unified Platform
One such instance involves Vivo Energy, a leading fuel retailer in high-growth African markets. As of March 1, 2019, the company had a network of 2,130 service stations in 23 countries across the continent, while also exporting lubricants to a number of other African countries.
The company’s rapid expansion meant rapid data growth. As a result, its existing business systems were unable to provide much-needed data insight and analysis that would help fuel further growth.
So, focused on expanding its reach, Vivo Energy decided to transform its approach to business management and find computational methods by which it could enable the required comprehensive operational insight.
After undertaking a thorough review of possible upgrade options, the company chose to launch a new ERP system that would integrate its core applications to improve both productivity and data analytics. As an added bonus, the new system would deliver a more modern, user-friendly and cohesive experience for customers and employees.
That solution was ultimately comprised of an SAP S/4HANA implementation that included the SAP S/4HANA Oil & Gas, SAP S/4HANA Retail, SAP S/4HANA Finance and SAP S/4HANA Supply Chain modules. Supporting this new SAP S/4HANA solution, Vivo Energy deployed four Power System S824L servers running the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP applications.
This integrated solution has enabled the company to more efficiently develop initiatives and slashes the time-to-value for new projects. It has also boosted productivity and improved data quality, as Vivo Energy’s employees are now able to work on a single, unified platform for the first time.
And in keeping with its core growth mission, the Power System S824L servers running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications are providing reliable, scalable and ample processing power for the company’s current and future needs.
Another company that turned to Linux on Power Systems for somewhat similar reasons is pharmaceuticals distributor Pharmaoverseas. Serving some 28,000 locations across Egypt, it offers more than 13,000 items from over 362 manufacturers to pharmacists, including branded and generic pharmaceuticals, biosimilar medicines, over-the-counter remedies, home health products and medical devices.
As with Vivo Energy, Pharmaoverseas was also experiencing incredible growth. Swelling transaction volumes were placing tremendous pressure on the company’s mission-critical business processes. Underlying systems struggled to keep pace, slowing the production of key sales and financial reports.
To address these issues, the company wanted to integrate and streamline existing processes, introduce new analytics capabilities and allow pharmacists to place their orders over the web. By integrating online commerce with digitalized processes, the company knew it could enhance customer satisfaction and use transaction data to personalize promotions to drive additional sales.
Unfortunately, the organization’s SAP ERP wasn’t up to the task, in part because of the limited scalability of the x86-based servers it was running on. To support future growth, the company wanted to leverage the performance offered by the SAP HANA in-memory database, with the ultimate goal of transitioning to SAP S/4HANA’s integrated applications and analytics offerings.
After reviewing its server platform options for the SAP S/4HANA implementation, Pharmaoverseas chose to deploy the solution on two IBM Power System E980 servers using SUSE Linux.
Since moving to this enhanced computing environment, the organization’s pharmacist-customers can now use the company’s e-commerce site to place orders online, with the SAP C/4HANA application being integrated with SAP S/4HANA to allow for a straight-through sales process that feeds stock control, logistics and the finance applications in SAP S/4HANA. It’s also now more capable of personalizing discounts and sales promotions that are most likely to appeal to pharmacists, allowing Pharmaoverseas to capture additional sales.
Growth, it seems, is a factor in every industry. Take, for example, Vision Banco, which provides financial services to small and micro-sized companies in Paraguay, as well as other services related to credit cards, utility and tax collection, pension-plan contributions, and payment transfers.
A primary effort for the bank currently involves expanding the credit-card services of existing customers, more accurately and easily determining credit risks, and better predicting payment defaults, all of which are crucial to the bank’s bottom line and future growth. Early on, Vision Banco staffers decided AI was the best tool for this effort.
The bank had been using IBM Cognos Analytics—an AI-based business-intelligence solution—to discover insight in its business data. However, Vision Banco eventually realized that the x86 infrastructure on which it had deployed its machine-learning models wasn’t powerful enough to handle the growing amount of data the company was gathering. It needed GPU acceleration to handle the demands of its AI and machine-learning workloads.
With that realization in mind, Vision Banco turned to IBM Business Partner Softshop to help find a right-fit solution to improve its AI efforts. Having experience with enterprise AI and Power Systems, Softshop introduced Vision Banco to H20 Driverless AI and a Power System AC922 running Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Since deploying H2O Driverless AI on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux-supported AC922, the bank’s data scientists have saved a considerable amount of time developing, deploying and leveraging AI models, from between two days and one week to two hours. This move to the AC922 running Red Hat Enterprise Linux also increased revenue by doubling the number of credit products accepted per customer, as well as more accurately pinpointing credit and default risks more accurately than it had in the past to lessen potential losses.
Spreading the Word
The power of Power Systems is now well documented, as are the platform’s reliability, scalability and flexibility. So, it’s no surprise that an increasing number of organizations are using Linux on Power Systems to, for example, run SAP HANA applications and support AI. As word spreads of what organizations like Vivo Energy, Pharmaoverseas and Vision Banco are doing with the platform, more companies will likely turn to Linux on POWER.
Jim Utsler, IBM Systems magazine senior writer, has been writing for IBM since the mid-1990s.More →
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