Asset Freudenberg IT Meets Hosting Needs 1

Case Study: SAP HANA

How can you accelerate SAP HANA with Lenovo?


In this article from insiderPROFILES, you’ll learn why major IT companies choose Lenovo’s SAP HANA Appliance to accelerate and scale their SAP HANA® deployments. Natalie Miller interviews the leadership team to understand why they chose Lenovo, and how their X6 server infrastructure provides unique value for their team.

How Freudenberg IT Meets Hosting Needs for Growing SAP HANA Customer Base

by Natalie Miller, Contributing Writer

Freudenberg IT (FIT) is a company rich with SAP history. Its German parent company, the Freudenberg Group, has a partnership with SAP that dates back to 1972. After more than 20 successful years as an SAP customer, in 1995, the Freudenberg Group launched FIT — one of the world’s largest IT services and cloud providers for SAP applications — to help other companies realize similar successes with an SAP hosting partner. Today, FIT has multiple data centers in Germany, the US, and China, and is hosting more than 350 customers globally. Its customers span industries from manufacturing and pharmaceuticals to retail, life sciences, and consumer products, and range from a few hundred million dollars in revenue to $20 billion.

FIT jumped in on the ground floor of virtualization and became one of the first SAP cloud-certified providers in 2009, broadening the options for companies that want to capitalize on the cloud and its cost-effectiveness. “Our data centers are hardened bunkers — fire-proof, tornado-proof, and water-proof — and specifically designed for running mission-critical systems,” says Eric Fitzpatrick, Vice President of Sales at FIT. “We typically host SAP systems as well as customers’ ancillary systems that support them; however, some customers have us host their entire IT infrastructure of SAP and non-SAP systems.”

Many customers are now opting to migrate more and more data off site, all while continuing to experience rapid growth. And they are looking to SAP HANA to handle the increase in data volume. FIT knew it needed to continue its penchant to evolve alongside advancements in technology to better assist its customers and solve some of the challenges presented by the growing SAP HANA environments. “We are seeing a lot of customers moving to SAP HANA because they want some of the functionality that doesn’t exist on traditional databases anymore,” says Christopher Spruell, Head of Enterprise Architecture at FIT.

He attributes some of the new user experience possibilities available through SAP Fiori as a big driver for companies moving to SAP HANA, in addition to performance. “Some customers are reaching the limits of what they can do in a traditional database, and whenever that conversation comes up, if they’re having any performance issues, SAP HANA becomes part of that discussion,” he says. But there are challenges to scaling, and FIT soon realized that its current server vendors were not adequately meeting the needs of FIT’s growing customers technically or financially. The lower-end models couldn’t scale up to the maximum size supported by SAP, and the large footprint was eating up rack space. FIT needed a server vendor that could adapt to the growing data needs of its customers.

The Right Fit for FIT

A conservative company, FIT’s main objective is to ensure the delivery of safe solutions to its customers. After careful consideration, FIT chose Lenovo for the managed cloud environment running SAP HANA to provide the high level of service required by its customers’ mission-critical SAP HANA applications.

“We understand that adopting new technologies too quickly can lead to problems that ultimately reflect badly on us,” says Spruell. Therefore, FIT was involved in conversations with Lenovo for over a year before committing to partner with the tech company. Since then, FIT has already deployed or begun deployments of SAP HANA on roughly 30 Lenovo appliances. This partnership allows FIT to run SAP HANA on Lenovo mission-critical X6 servers. The benefits were immediate, starting with a simple transition for several of FIT’s existing customers.

“Moving our SAP HANA customers to a new device can be as simple as either performing a back-up and restore (if they have the capability for downtime for a few hours) or setting up system replication and moving them to the new hardware with virtually no downtime,” says Spruell. “While it’s not a hugely impactful move, the total cost of ownership (TCO) benefits of the new hardware have proven worthwhile for some customers who were reaching end of life on the older provider solutions.”

FIT also saw a dramatic reduction in its overall data center footprint, according to Fitzpatrick. “For  example, a very large scale-out 8TB production system with multiple nodes would require 64 rack units, and the standard data center rack is 42 rack units,” he says. “Lenovo hardware requires fewer than 10 rack units, so we can have four or five times the number of systems hosted compared to some competitor’s models. Our data centers are extremely expensive to build and operate, so the longer we can go without having to build another, the better off we are.” (For more about Lenovo solutions, refer to the sidebar at the end of the article.)

A Modular Approach

The benefits of meeting customers’ needs have also been ample. Prior to the partnership with Lenovo, scaling often presented a challenge for FIT. For example, one of its customers, a large steel company that had one of the earliest SAP HANA sidecars, was growing out of its 512GB appliance under a different vendor and wanted to increase to 1TB. “The vendor said we needed to rebuild the system, and we wound up having to buy another appliance,” Fitzpatrick says. “Now, the ability to go from 512GB to 1TB is simple — we just plug in more compute books. This modular approach is much like technical Legos and is more financially and technically approachable. It lets our customers grow with a much smoother curve, starting off small with the idea of growing incrementally over the years. That’s very freeing for our customers.”

Under FIT’s previous hosting model, there was one central storage system with multiple SAP systems working off one set of data. If a customer wanted to scale from 5TB to 10TB, the cost was more than it would have been to purchase a net-new 10TB appliance or server cluster. Because the Lenovo suite doesn’t use centralized storage, the scale-out systems it provides offer a financial advantage. “We figured the cost savings were there even before we factored in depreciating the old 5TB appliance,” says Fitzpatrick.

“We have seen several times that customers want to slowly dip their feet in and scale out,” Spruell adds. “Now, because they are able to grow organically and modularly, they don’t have to take that huge cost hit as they expand from scale-up to scale-out.”

Another differentiator with Lenovo is that it licenses the IBM Spectrum Scale file system (formerly known as General Parallel File System (GPFS)). “Instead of having a central storage tower, Lenovo SAP HANA appliances hold all the data; the GPFS software allows individual nodes to generate their own transparent synchronous file system across all the servers — so rather than being a hub-and-spoke model, it’s a completely independent cluster,” says Fitzpatrick. In addition, the solution supports integrated high availability, enabling the cluster to stay up and running should one server node in the cluster go down. This helps ensure FIT can meet customers’ key application availability requirements. The combination of the mission-critical features of the Lenovo X6 servers and GPFS enables a highly scalable and available platform for SAP HANA applications.

“We imagine all net-new SAP customers that come into our data centers will be coming in on SAP HANA,” says Spruell. “With the new modular approach, we know we can meet their growth curves.”

Training and Support

Since the Lenovo solution was brand new for FIT, Lenovo provided training for the engineers and operations team. “All that training was an education for us, especially when we first started, and Lenovo was extremely responsive,” says Spruell. “They drew upon their previous experience for new adoptees and were very upfront about what other customers experienced.”

Customer service has been a huge benefit, according to Spruell. “When you are customer-focused like we are, it’s nice to work with a partner that is equally focused on customers. They understand the nature of what we’re trying to provide and are behind us the whole way,” he says. “It’s a huge benefit to know that we can fall back on them — in the event of a crisis, or in the event that we are so successful that we onboard a bunch of SAP HANA customers all at once — and trust that they can help us.”

Expansion and Future Plans

Keeping the TCO down was a large driver for moving to a new provider, and Spruell says that Lenovo has done a phenomenal job meeting those requirements. “We have seen a decrease not just in the footprint, but also in TCO by about 25%,” he says. “Because of that, we can pass those savings along to our customers, meaning their cost of entry into the SAP HANA space is now lower. That also incites more change and growth for those customers as they experience the benefits of their SAP HANA environments. If they want to add more or move other systems to it, we are now in a position to do that in a rapid fashion. And as they grow, we’re also in a position to help them grow their underlying hardware without delay and without the large financial and business impact of moving to an entirely different scenario.”

Looking ahead, the next generation of processors approved for SAP HANA (called Broadwell EX) will work in the same Lenovo compute books, which will reduce training time and upgrade costs for FIT customers. FIT and Lenovo are also exploring new options for hyperconverged hardware and solutions beyond SAP HANA. Spruell says, “GPFS technology and the ability to scale within a rack, rather than buying a brand new, gigantic system and processors, are appealing to any company trying to conserve space and not over-allocate.”

How Lenovo Helped Freudenberg IT Meet Its Hosting Needs for a Growing SAP HANA Customer Base

For years, Lenovo systems have provided differentiating advantages for diverse SAP application workloads powering the digital economy. Whether your business supports a high-performance data center or a small office with limited IT resources, the Lenovo data center portfolio can help turn your IT investment into a growth engine for your business. Today, Lenovo leads in SAP HANA deployments and has shipped more than 5,500 SAP HANA appliances worldwide.

Lenovo provides a simple, seamless, and scalable solution for SAP HANA using a common server platform for scale-up and scaleout SAP HANA use cases. The Lenovo solution running on X6 servers delivers enterprise class reliability and availability while offering the scalability and on-going investment protection needed to ensure a solid return on investment. In addition, Lenovo provides the services to install, manage, and maintain servers running SAP HANA. Freudenberg IT (FIT) capitalizes on the simple and seamless scalability of the Lenovo solution to provide its customers a scalable and modular platform to run their SAP HANA applications at a lower TCO. FIT gained the flexibility needed to scale systems for customers while decreasing its overall server footprint.

For SAP HANA customers looking to migrate their applications and data off site, the combination of FIT hosting services with Lenovo systems offers customers a safe and cost-effective solution that can scale as their business grows. For more information, please visit

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