Headquartered in Aachen, Germany, Wehmeyer GmbH & Co. KG is a retailer of fashion clothing. The company employs roughly 1,200 people and operates 44 outlets nationwide, including 13 superstores. In addition to exclusive Wehmeyer brands as Vunic and Steve Ketell, the company sells clothing from global brands such as Daniel Hechter, Esprit, Levis and Wrangler.
As part of a comprehensive systems refresh, Wehmeyer wanted to improve the availability and resilience of its core applications for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and information management. These applications were based on Oracle Forms 6i and Oracle databases version 8i, and the company wanted to migrate to a newer version of the software before support ended.
The Oracle databases were running on two clustered DEC Alpha servers under the Tru64 UNIX operating system, which was operating in "cold backup" mode. If the primary server crashed, Wehmeyer users would experience an outage of approximately 30 minutes while the databases were reopened on the backup machine.
Wehmeyer wanted to add more business functionality to the existing Oracle Forms, which made it all the more important to ensure high availability and eliminate potential downtime. A further concern was the relatively high cost of supporting and maintaining the proprietary DEC Alpha hardware, particularly since vendor support for the platform phased out.
Wehmeyer engaged Opitz Consulting GmbH to migrate its Oracle applications to a more resilient and cost-effective platform. The goals were to minimise downtime for users in the event of a system crash, to reduce total cost of ownership and to improve the flexibility and scalability of the Oracle application environment.
Opitz designed and delivered an Oracle grid computing solution running on SUSE® Linux Enterprise Server. The databases are hosted on a cluster of three servers running Oracle Real Application Cluster (RAC) 10g, while the forms applications are hosted on two servers running in a Failover Cluster under Oracle Application Server 10g.
"Opitz provided expert advice throughout the planning and implementation phases, and delivered the solution on time," said Georg Helzle, Head of IT, Wehmeyer. "As well as enabling us to reduce the infrastructure costs of our Oracle environment, the new solution has improved our resilience against system failures."
In the event of an unexpected outage, users of the failed grid node simply re-log in, and continue work, while other users are unaffected.
"The new clustered solution running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server has eliminated the 30-minute failover time, helping to keep our users productive even in the event of unexpected downtime," said Helzle. "In the past, a failure would leave all users unable to work, whereas now it would affect only a subset of the users, and then only briefly. In any case, the new Oracle clusters on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server are highly redundant, so failures are much less likely than before."
By opting for a grid architecture, Wehmeyer has significantly improved the scalability of its Oracle environment. New nodes can easily be added in response to growing workload, and Wehmeyer can also add dedicated high-performance servers to the grid for specific compute-intensive modules.
With plans for deploying wireless mobile applications in the pipeline, the ability to grow the solution is an important benefit for Wehmeyer.
"Oracle and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server work together perfectly, giving us a stable platform to support new initiatives," said Helze.
The combination of Oracle RAC 10g and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server gives Wehmeyer a reliable, scalable, cost-effective and high-performance environment for its core store management and sales support applications. The grid architecture adds a layer of redundancy to the infrastructure, making the business less vulnerable to component or network failures, and ensuring that vital systems are available at all times. Clustering has reduced potential downtime for business users from 30 minutes to just a few seconds.
"Availability has improved across the board, which translates into improved efficiency in the usage of our main applications," said Helzle. "SUSE Linux Enterprise Server offers very high availability, and gives us enterprise-class performance and reliability from commodity hardware at low cost."
The move from a proprietary operating system to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server gives Wehmeyer complete independence in its choice of hardware platform and will enable the company to scale the new grid architecture at much lower cost.
"By migrating to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server we gained a high-performance, high-availability operating system that has the added advantage of being hardware-independent," said Helzle. "We run Linux on commodity Intel-based servers rather than costly proprietary RISC-based systems, resulting in more than 80 percent annual savings in hardware costs which we can re-invest in better support for the business."