Greenply Industries Limited (Greenply) is an interior infrastructure company and the domestic leader in the manufacture of plywood and medium density fibreboard (MDF). The company has four state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities for plywood and one for MDF, producing interior products for domestic and global markets.
In November 2014, Greenply Industries took a strategic decision to demerge its decorative business, comprising of laminates and related products, into Greenlam Industries. The proposed demerger was intended to create a new platform for independent growth for the decorative business, while allowing Greenply Industries to concentrate its growth efforts in the plywood and medium density fibreboard (MDF) businesses. This promised to strengthen both companies’ position as market leaders.
For parent company Greenply, the demerger meant that it would need to set up a new, resilient landscape — including disaster recovery options — for SAP ERP applications. Prior to the demerger, the consolidated company had been running SAP with IBM DB2 databases on the IBM AIX operating system, which runs only on proprietary IBM Power Systems servers.
Greenply saw an opportunity not simply to replicate the previous landscape but to optimise its whole approach to running SAP ERP. On the business side, the company was keen to cut its manufacturing costs and improve service levels by strengthening the supply chain. The key aim was to improve the integration of the supply chain with manufacturing, so that the company could avoid manufacturing too much or too little of a given product as demand levels fluctuated.
Dr. Vineet Bansal, CIO of Greenply, explains: “It was clear that gaining real-time stock visibility would improve our control over manufacturing and reduce our costs. We recognised that the SAP HANA in-memory database technology would give us this realtime capability, and this became the cornerstone of our plans for the new SAP landscape. This was a great opportunity for Greenply to take advantage of new technologies rather than just continuing down the existing path — which would also have been more costly.”
The company is keen to be as lean as possible in all areas, so total cost of ownership was an important consideration for the new SAP landscape. Setting up new SAP ERP applications on the same kind of IBM platform as its existing SAP landscape would be a low risk, low disruption option, but Greenply was concerned that the cost of acquiring and maintaining the AIX and Power Systems stack would be high. The company would then also be locked into this combination of proprietary operating system and hardware.
“We undertook an extensive review of the different options open to us, including remaining on AIX,” recalls Dr. Bansal. “Based on our key criteria for selecting a new operating system — simplicity, flexibility and speed — we determined that Linux would be a better option, particularly because we could run it on any x86 platform.”
Greenply compared SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and concluded that the SUSE operating system was better suited to its needs. “In terms of performance and stability, the combination of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and SAP HANA was the best,” says Dr. Bansal. “Equally, it was simpler and more costeffective to ensure high availability, because the SUSE Linux Enterprise High Availability Extension is included as an integral element in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications.”
The SAPcertified SUSE Linux Enterprise High Availability Extension enables Greenply to attain 99.999% availability. It incorporates not only a clustering solution for application servers, but also solutions for highavailability storage and network loadbalancing. “Choosing the SUSE operating system gave us a single, integrated route to high availability; with Red Hat, achieving the same would require us to licence and deploy three separate products for the OS, the storage and the network components,” says Dr. Bansal. “Another important reason for going with SUSE was that it offers a distribution of Linux that is certified for SAP ERP and finely tuned to its demands.”
SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications is a tailormade distribution of Linux specifically tuned for SAP software. SUSE runs a completely separate update channel for this distribution, pretesting all new and updated packages and reverting to the last good version of any package that is found to create problems in SAP — whether in terms of performance, security or stability. The company then works to fix the faults in the package so that it can be safely added back into the main branch of the distribution.
Greenply is taking advantage of a kerneltune option in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications to optimise performance for its large SAP workloads. As standard, the Linux kernel swaps out any application memory pages that are rarely accessed, using the freedup memory pages as a cache to speed up file system operations. However, some SAP applications need large amounts of memory to ensure fast access to business data — and some of this memory is only rarely accessed.
If a request from a business user requires the application to access memory that has been paged out by the kernel, this will naturally mean poor response times. The kerneltune option tells the kernel that once the pagecache is filled to the configured limit, application memory takes priority and should not be paged out. Using this feature, Greenply can limit the amount of pagecache used by the Linux kernel whenever there is competition between the application memory and the system pagecache, thereby avoiding the possibility of degraded response times.
As an early adopter of the SAP HANA technology in India, Greenply faced some implementation challenges, particularly around the creation of a clustered HANA landscape — because HANA does not use a shared storage model. With assistance from SUSE support, the company successfully set up four HANA servers, three in its primary data center and the fourth in its disasterrecovery site. At the primary site, one HANA instance is dedicated to testing and development, and the other two are clustered to act as the production database for the entire SAP ERP landscape.
Greenply migrated its SAP ERP landscape from AIX to clustered instances of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications hosted on VMware vSphere on Cisco blade servers. The company runs a full suite of SAP applications, including financials, costing, sales and distribution, materials management and quality management.
In order to migrate to SAP HANA, Greenply had to move up an Enhancement Package (EHP) level in its SAP landscape. This upgrade would have been easier to perform if the company was not migrating to a new operating system at the same time, but the company was sure that moving to the SUSE operating system was the right option.