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Choosing an infrastructure that provides maximum value and highest cost benefit is very important for the user. In today’s SAP landscape, this essentially boils down to choosing between IBM Power Systems and x86 systems, and cloud vs. on-premise, or a hybrid combination of both private and public cloud.
Headquartered in Tallahassee, FL, Mainline Information Systems helps customers overcome these migration challenges by providing architecture choice, sizing, high availability configuration, Business Continuity/DR plan, and security. “SAP customers with relatively small database requirements and few users can utilize an infrastructure that is different from the needs of larger organizations with multiple terabytes of data, BW and S/4 landscapes,” says John McCarthy, President and CEO of Mainline Information Systems. For the last nine years, the company has invested heavily in analytics, security, AI, cloud, and hybrid cloud solutions to help its customers as they extend their applications to modern platforms, such as SAP HANA and container technology. “Mainline is a solution provider that helps businesses on their SAP HANA journey,” McCarthy adds.
Demystifying the Scope of Difficulty
According to McCarthy, the migration to HANA presents a two-fold challenge for a majority of SAP users.
“Most CIOs speak of two critical issues in the SAP space: Uptime and Performance,” McCarthy says. They are especially challenged when their organization has adopted a “cloud first” strategy. When they have the opportunity to retire legacy systems or migrate to new systems, such as SAP HANA, they look at cloud deployments first. But cloud brings another layer of concerns: Will the user experience be satisfactory? Is the system performing? Is it as secure as possible? Are any business disruptions minimized? Will the applications remain tightly coupled with the data? If users start moving pieces to the cloud, and if they still depend on some data that is still on-premise or an external cloud, how can they be assured that performance would stay intact? Choosing to run SAP HANA in the public cloud must be carefully reviewed as the success or failure of that decision will be based on a thorough analysis.
Mainline’s approach with SAP HANA solutions is to work closely with the customer to remove such concerns. The company documents the customer environment, strategic direction for infrastructure, and key operational requirements, including RTO, RPO, security, performance, growth expectations, skills, and corporate cloud strategy. Based on these factors, Mainline works with its customers to design alternative architectures for the SAP HANA implementations and a recommended total solution, based on capacity for growth, performance outlook, HA/DR, costs, and an implementation timeline.
We help businesses on their SAP HANA journey
Targeted Solutions for Effective Results
Mainline believes that for companies to remain competitive in today’s market, they need to extract business value out of the data they ingest. That data comes from a variety of places and in a variety of forms—both structured and unstructured. Businesses are faced with the challenge of analyzing all of this data to uncover trends that can be acted upon so they can grow their business. This is exactly where Mainline’s Business Analytics practice delivers value to its clients. Mainline works with customers to turn their data into actionable insights. From data modeling, virtualization, quality, lineage, and hybrid data repositories to enterprise reporting, advanced analytics, dashboarding, and integration with applications, the company has developed customized solutions to fit their clients’ business needs.
So how does Mainline’s Business Analytics practice benefit SAP customers?
“While SAP HANA BW is an analytic tool, today’s technology is enabling new advanced analytics through Artificial Intelligence,” says McCarthy. Existing customer analytic tooling will be able to continue with little change to the new SAP HANA platform. However, entering into the world of Artificial Intelligence is another thing altogether. Organizations are allured by the promise of additional and more accurate insight for business value from AI, which is a complex undertaking. By integrating an SAP HANA implementation strategy with an AI strategy from the initial design point, companies can move toward the future of high performing productivity (SAP) combined with new business insights (AI).
Mainline can provide this integrated approach with its Business Analytics practice and SAP HANA implementation skills. The SAP HANA system design requirements and resulting architected solutions will necessitate a designated hardware platform recommendation. Mainline has found that almost all solutions that need to support an SAP HANA database of more than 2TBs are best met with IBM Power Systems POWER9 servers. “Today, even SAP is recommending IBM POWER9 servers as the best server for SAP HANA and has implemented POWER9 servers in their SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (SAP HEC),” says Ron Gordon, Mainline Director of Power Systems. There are many reasons for this, including high memory capacity and bandwidth. This means that a SAP HANA solution can be contained on a single scale-up server as opposed to several smaller clustered servers that create a performance and management issue. The other major factor for running SAP HANA on Power Systems is the Power virtualization layer called PowerVM. This enables higher efficiencies, better resource utilization, and less management in dynamic workloads and more SAP HANA instances on a single system. A Legacy of Innovation and Ingenuity
Mainline has an Innovation Center at its corporate headquarters that enables clients to engage in Proof of Concepts so that they can make informed decisions prior to purchasing. Some of the solutions that Mainline offers its clients include Business Analytics solutions such as IBM Cloud Pak for Data and Apache Hadoop appliances, Security management solutions, storage data management and protection, and an IBM Z environment to showcase Linux on System Z, Docker Containers and Blockchain.
Aside from technology platforms, Mainline invests in skills such as its cybersecurity practice that helps enterprises with any aspect of data protection, including security assessment, planning, solution design, and implementation. “We also partner with specialized firms who focus on SAP security, and our expertise in backup solutions has helped our SAP customers protect their data,” says Gordon.
One such customer is PACCAR Inc., one of the largest designers and manufacturers of light-, medium-, and heavy-duty commercial vehicles in the world. For their upcoming growth opportunities, PACCAR needed a server environment with lightning-fast processors and the ability to scale and dynamically allocate resources. As part of their due diligence, they examined several options, including a study comparing the performance of SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems versus on the Intel-based x86 server.
“PACCAR had an aggressive growth plan with several global projects slated for the coming year. We anticipated scaling from about 2TB of data per system to 5-10TB per system, and a server environment that can support that capacity,” says Maqsood Ahmed, Technical Fellow, PACCAR.
Mainline proposed IBM Power System E980, the only solution in its class that can support PACCAR’s growth. The company helped PACCAR migrate to IBM Power System E980 with zero downtime, and the solution provided best-in-class response time, rapid scalability, and dynamic allocation of resources. The implementation yielded substantial cost savings with fewer software licenses needed. PACCAR found themselves with IBM Power System E980 running with 6-10x more resources and the ability to add more systems for better performance at a lower cost, ultimately creating even deeper trust in the Mainline partnership.
Making a Difference
A major differentiating factor for Mainline is their collaborative work environment. “An interesting statistic is that the average tenure at Mainline is 9.2 years, and 50 percent of our employees have an actual tenure of 10 or more years. Pretty significant when you contrast that with the average tenure in the IT industry of just 1.8 years,” informs Marie Ashway, Mainline Director of Marketing.
Mainline’s long tenure, coupled with its focus on customer success, directly results in long-term relationships that they appreciate and enjoy with their clients. “We enjoy long term relationships with our clients because we consistently deliver the skills and solutions that solve their IT challenges,” says Jeff Dobbelaere, Mainline VP Technical Sales and Services. “We continue to invest in a 2:1 ratio of technical resources to sales resources, which our clients depend upon.”
Going beyond its successful partnerships with customers, Mainline also has a sustained history of strong community support. “The Kearney Center is a perfect example of Mainline’s investment in our community,” says McCarthy. Rick Kearney, Mainline Chairman and Founder, offered the upfront funding of a new homeless shelter, which officially opened on April 2015. The new shelter is a facility for comprehensive emergency services.
Into a Bright Future
McCarthy is confident about the chartered path of Mainline. “Going forward, we expect to continue forming new partnerships with manufacturers, developers, and service providers. We acquired RTP Technologies earlier in the year, bringing us north of $900M in annual revenue and giving us entry into the NY Metropolitan geography,”states McCarthy. Mainline already enjoys a thriving partnership with Red Hat, which is expected to evolve with IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat. The company will also continue to develop partnerships with services partners where they need additional skills. “As we have for more than 30 years, Mainline will continue to explore M&A opportunities to grow our customer base and invest in growing markets,” concludes McCarthy.