Upgrading from RISC to x86 Server Solutions: A Real-World Success Story

During a customer visit with Ameco Beijing, the largest aircraft maintenance supplier in China that also provides fleet maintenance for several international and national airlines, I had a chance to sit down with their IT leadership to discuss their recent migration from a RISC-based architecture to x86 for a crucial SAP system.

Ravi Pendekanti: Hello and thank you so much for joining me today. How about we start by hearing a little more about you, your role, and Ameco Beijing’s business?

Thanks, Ravi. I’m Gan Desheng, Manager Sub-Division, Information Management at Ameco Beijing.

Ameco Beijing was established in 1989, as a joint venture between Air China and Lufthansa German Airlines. We currently have over 6,400 employees. Our main responsibility is to provide maintenance, repair and overhaul services for airframes, engines and components of aircrafts. In addition, we also modify aircrafts for public use as well as providing training, calibration, and so forth.

Ravi: That’s great. Could you tell us more about the set-up of your IT environment in the past? What were the challenges and pain points the company was facing which led to the decision to seek a new solution?

Gan: We had servers running Windows, Linux and UNIX. This created a very expensive and chaotic environment to manage. In order to reduce acquisition and maintenance costs, improve efficiency and simplify our environment, we decided to unify the server environment by moving all of our UNIX servers (IBM P-series) to x86 servers that run Linux and Windows only.

Ravi: Tell us a little bit about what made you move away from RISC or IBM’s UNIX servers?

Gan: Our SAP ERP system and our production management system initially ran on IBM P-series UNIX systems. As our business continued to grow, the system was no longer able to meet our business needs. While looking for ways to reduce hardware and maintenance costs, we identified three big issues with the system:

1)      Performance: During operation and maintenance, we would often receive complaints from users saying that the system speed was very slow. This was especially true during our month-end reporting.

2)      Storage capacity: According to our estimate at the time, the system was only able to meet our storage needs for another year or so.

3)      Hardware failure rate rising: The final issue had to do with the fact that the failure rate was gradually rising as the platform had been in use for a number of years.

Ravi: Why did you look at x86 servers and Dell?

Gan: It was during our preliminary research that we discovered many companies were migrating their SAP ERP platform from UNIX to x86 precisely for the objectives we sought to achieve: reduce hardware and maintenance costs while providing more flexibility and better performance.  We then evaluated different IT providers and found that Dell stood out above the competition. In addition to providing fast and reliable hardware, Dell had a very strong technical and support team, which ensured the successful implementation as well as ongoing support of the project.

Ravi: What benefits have you achieved?

Gan: It’s no surprise that there’s a big cost difference between UNIX servers and x86 servers. After moving to Dell’s x86 PowerEdge servers – specifically with PowerEdge R920s – we reduced total cost of ownership by nearly 50 percent. The savings we achieved allowed us to purchase more redundant servers, which helped us improve our system availability and enabled us to achieve 99.99 percent of system availability.  Additionally, once the Dell PowerEdge R920 servers were up and running, we were able to improve the SAP ERP performance by 3.5X.

Ravi: That’s great to hear.  We just announced the Dell PowerEdge R930 today, which is the successor to the R920. Can you tell us why the PowerEdge R9 series servers are ideal for companies hoping to migrate from UNIX servers?

Gan: Yes, there were a number of key reasons we decided to go with the PowerEdge R9 series. Of course, the price of the PowerEdge R9 platform compared to UNIX servers was attractive to us. But we were also impressed with the flexibility, performance and reliability of the system.

Ravi: Thank you all for your time today and providing some additional insight in your migration efforts. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you all, and we wish you all the best.

About the Author: Ravi Pendekanti

Ravi Pendekanti is Senior Vice President of Server Solutions Product Management at Dell, Inc. His organization is responsible for developing and bringing Dell’s flagship line of PowerEdge Servers and Converged Infrastructure systems to market, covering a broad spectrum of global customers from cloud service providers and small businesses to large enterprises and organizations, all running a wide range of workloads. Most recently, Ravi served as the Vice President of the Platform Business Group at Oracle where he looked after GTM activities including Product Marketing and Sales Enablement related to the platform business that included Engineered Systems (Exadata, Exalogic, OVCA and SuperCluster), Servers, Solaris and Networking. With over two decades of extensive global experience in the enterprise and SMB segment in both hardware (servers, storage and networking) and software, Ravi has also held leadership roles at Juniper Networks, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Silicon Graphics. He holds a MS in Computer Science and BS in Electrical Engineering.