Article

Server upgrade powers Forbes Marshall's business expansion

Jasmine Desai, Principal Correspondent
For over six decades, Forbes Marshall Pvt Ltd has built steam engineering and control instrumentation solutions for the process industry. Since the time had come for Forbes Marshall to make its next step forward, the company felt the need to upgrade its Oracle ERP.

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A server as well as storage upgrade proved necessary to prepare for this leap. "The IBM hardware had exhausted its limit taking into account the three year guarantee we were given. It was not possible to scale up the servers anymore," says Sharat Airani, Forbes Marshall's manager of IT. As a result, the company that has been using IBM since 2004 chose to go back to the vendor for its server and storage upgrade.

At this point, it became imperative that this server upgrade kept in mind the type of operations Forbes Marshall planned to take recourse to. During the evaluation, it was deemed that the server upgrade took into consideration the following factors.

Forbes Marshall's earlier version of Oracle ERP ran on IBM's AIX server platform. Changing that server platform can be technically troublesome, though possible. Apart from that, it also called for a longer downtime. So the main challenge lay in changing the entire application to make it suitable to the new server platform. Also, a longer downtime in the financial year's last quarter is not practical. Considering these factors, Forbes Marshall decided to opt for the latest server's upgrade from IBM.

"In the earlier servers, the processors worked on eight cores. The new server upgrade uses three cores with the same kind of load." says Airani. A main reason why Forbes Marshall did not have any interest in other vendors for the server upgrade was IBM's promise of seamless support and efficiency in repairing and replacing parts.

Forbes Marshall's old hardware infrastructure consisted of IBM Power 5 processor-based servers. The company has now migrated to using IBM Power 6+ P550 servers. Earlier, it had two servers, of which the P5 servers have been replaced with P6 servers. Now although it is a single physical entity, the organization makes use of logical partitioning (LPAR) server virtualization with the latest server upgrade.

Apart from that, Forbes Marshall has also taken recourse in IBM DS 5020 for its storage upgrade, which offers a capacity of 8 TB, from the earlier 2 TB. The ERP backend runs on an Oracle database. Migration to the upgraded storage infrastructure took 24 hours, and a weekend of downtime. Other than that, a lot of time was given to housekeeping activity on the upgraded server, since application suitability required a lot of attention.

Benefits accrued

According to Airani, the server and storage upgrade has enabled users to transact more efficiently, which will create more overheads, when Forbes Marshall goes in for the next version of ERP. A major gain of the implementation has been the translation to 40 per cent savings on total cost of ownership (TCO).

ERP infrastructure like Forbes Marshall's requires more than a single server. The server upgrade has made it possible for Forbes Marshall to utilize LPAR, which dynamically allocates resources from one partition to another, which would not have been possible if the company had opted for individual servers. So the overall power consumption decreases, resulting in lower TCO.