Fastening systems are literally what holds our world together. From buildings to trains, aircraft, and cars, almost everything we build today relies on components, systems and tools from SFS Group. The company’s fastening solutions are also found in the smartphones we carry in our pockets, and even hearing aids benefit from the highly specialized miniature screws that it develops and produces.
Headquartered in Heerbrugg, Switzerland, SFS Group employs 10,000 people at over 100 locations in 26 countries. To support this global workforce and coordinate work at its manufacturing plants efficiently, SFS Group relies on tightly integrated processes. Continuous production planning and plant operations are crucial to the company’s success.
As technology advances, so do customer expectations. To meet these expectations, SFS Group is constantly seeking ways to improve its operations. That’s why the company has kicked off a major digitization and transformation program, which involves introducing next-generation business applications such as SAP S/4HANA.
To ensure fast performance for these highly demanding in-memory applications, the company needed to expand its private cloud substantially. Urs Lüchinger, Head of IT Infrastructure Backend at SFS Group says: “Digitization should lead to large efficiency gains, but the need to consolidate systems and processes also creates new challenges for our data centers. And due to changes in the global economy, we face increasing pressure to improve cost-efficiency further as we roll out new business solutions.”
Building a Modern and Powerful Private Cloud
SFS Group has selected Hitachi Vantara to provide its entire private cloud infrastructure including converged and hyperconverged solutions. “Extending our Hitachi Vantara private cloud was critical to meet new business requirements,” remarks Lüchinger. “Hitachi Vantara has proven to be an excellent partner throughout our relationship—providing reliable, easy-to-manage solutions with great performance and outstanding support.”
The company’s mission-critical applications are powered by over 70 Hitachi Advanced Server DS120 and DS240, as well as the hyperconverged solution Hitachi Unified Compute Platform HC. Data is stored on Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform G350 and Hitachi VSP G600 hybrid flash systems.
“We chose Hitachi Unified Compute Platform HC because of the ease of use,” says Lüchinger. “The highly integrated solution was deployed quickly with full support from Hitachi. It has helped us to reduce operational risk and strengthen our disaster recovery processes.”
SFS Group uses its private cloud on Hitachi UCP CI to manage 800 virtual and physical servers, running Linux and Microsoft Windows Server operating systems to support SAP ERP, Oracle Database and Microsoft SQL Server software. Most workloads are distributed across large VMware vSphere clusters, using virtualization to maximize reliability, availability and resource utilization. The team uses 300 virtual servers to provide virtual desktops to the worldwide workforce using Citrix technology.
Driven by the strategic move to SAP S/4HANA, SFS Group is working to consolidate its ERP applications and streamline its operations. The goal is to align business processes more closely with established industry standards, minimizing the need for costly customizations and reducing maintenance costs. As part of this group-wide digitization program, the company has migrated several applications, including its online stores, to SAP HANA running on the Hitachi Vantara private cloud solution.
To minimize the risk of data loss, all data from SFS Group’s enterprise storage platform and its Hitachi NAS Platform and Hitachi Unified Storage VM file storage is backed up centrally using the Hitachi Data Protection Suite. Backups are stored on a range of Hitachi storage solutions, including Hitachi Content Platform for scalable, low-cost object storage.
“Rapid backups and disaster recovery processes are crucial for us to maintain availability for our manufacturing lines,” explains Lüchinger. “Using Hitachi Content Platform to archive SAP data according to compliance and auditing requirements has proven highly effective and cost-efficient. For improved resiliency, we’re currently expanding our implementation of Hitachi Data Protection Suite, powered by Commvault, to include in-memory business data from SAP HANA.”
Our single-vendor data center strategy with Hitachi Vantara has helped our IT team become an internal innovation partner for our business departments. Thanks to fast and efficient Hitachi Vantara solutions, we can deliver next-generation IT applications and facilitate business transformation.
Head of IT Infrastructure Backend SFS Group
Optimizing Processes Enables Cost Savings and Boosts Reliability
Adopting a single-vendor strategy has helped SFS Group streamline operations and procurement processes, as well as simplify support. If any issues arise in the private cloud infrastructure layer, the Hitachi Vantara team is always on hand to help.
“Hitachi Vantara has been a trusted partner of SFS Group for many years, we value their collaboration highly,” says Lüchinger. “We can always reach out to Hitachi Vantara contacts directly without complex support request processes getting in the way. That easy, direct communication is crucial for our joint success.”
The company has boosted IT productivity with a more integrated team organization, which has increased flexibility for business departments when requesting new IT services. Building the infrastructure around a single, standardized platform and automating system administration processes has accelerated system provisioning substantially. Adding up all the benefits, SFS Group estimates that it has reduced total cost of ownership by approximately 20%.
Stability has always been a key concern for the company. The Hitachi Vantara solutions continue to deliver reliable performance for a wide range of business workloads. “The Hitachi storage offerings in particular are first-class,” notes Lüchinger. “Thanks to the powerful server and storage solutions, we can adjust our services quickly when needed. For example, it was a smooth transition when suddenly more staff from all departments around the world started working from home.”
The solution has also massively simplified the disaster recovery configuration for its SAP application server cluster, while seamlessly mirroring data between two locations using Hitachi Global-Active Device for synchronous replication. As a result of the reduced complexity, the team is saving several hours on administration and maintenance tasks every month.
“Sometimes, speed is everything,” explains Lüchinger. “Saving minutes for essential disaster recovery tasks can make all the difference when it really counts. With Hitachi Vantara storage solutions, we can use well-rehearsed, routine workflows that allow us to act much faster and with more confidence whenever issues occur.”
Lüchinger concludes: “As a company, we develop innovative solutions with our customers. Our single-vendor private cloud strategy with Hitachi Vantara has helped our IT team become an internal innovation partner for our business departments. Thanks to fast and efficient Hitachi Vantara solutions, we can deliver next-generation IT applications and facilitate business transformation.”
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