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Microsoft Ensures Smooth Operation of ERP System and Cuts Disaster-Recovery Time

Business Case Study

Published: May 2012

Microsoft, the world's leading software manufacturer, wants to reduce the risk of data loss in its mission-critical SAP ERP system. The enterprise decided to upgrade to Microsoft SQL Server 2012, to improve availability and disaster recovery by using the SQL Server Always On capability. As a result, the enterprise cut its recovery time from minutes to seconds, improved support for core business processes, and eased administration.

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Customer Profile

Situation

Solution

Benefits

Based in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft is a global leader in software, services, and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. 

Microsoft wanted to reduce the risk of data loss in its mission-critical SAP ERP system.

Microsoft decided to upgrade to Microsoft SQL Server 2012, and improve availability and disaster recovery with the SQL Server Always On capability.

  • Reduces risk of data loss and cuts recovery time from minutes to seconds.
  • Boosts support for mission-critical SAP ERP system.
  • Improves query performance while easing administration.

Situation

Based in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft Corporation operates in 89 countries. Its 92,000 employees worldwide rely on the company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to support core business processes, including finance, payroll, and procurement. To ensure uninterrupted service, Microsoft wanted to implement a new failover solution. Hans Reutter, Director of SAP® Applications at Microsoft, says, "Since our ERP system is so critical, having a very fast and robust disaster-recovery system in place is essential."

To support local redundancy, the company was using synchronous database mirroring in Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 R2 Enterprise data-management software. It also was using log shipping to back up transaction records to a remote site for disaster recovery. Although the system was highly reliable, it could take up to two minutes to back up, copy, and restore data from the secondary site. 

Because the ERP solution exchanged data with multiple systems, unplanned downtime during a transaction could cause a significant interruption in business operations. "For example, it could be a real challenge if an outage occurred after an order had been placed upstream, and a shipment or wire transfer had already been issued," says Elke Bregler, Senior Technologist, SAP Production Support Team at Microsoft. "It would require a huge effort to recreate the data without repeating the transaction and initiating another wire order or shipment with the customer."

"SQL Server 2012 brings value-added features that improve overall resiliency and make running the system much easier. Capabilities like SQL Server Always On directly support the daily operations of an SAP system that the whole company depends on."
Hans Reutter
Director, SAP Applications
Microsoft Corporation

Microsoft also looked for new ways to administer its growing volume of data more efficiently. It managed about 6.6 terabytes of compressed data in its SAP environment, and its larger tables contained between 2 billion and 5.3 billion rows, with sizes approaching 300 gigabytes. The company was using SQL Server Query Optimizer functionality to track table changes and automatically update statistics, which it then used to improve query performance. However, by default, this functionality would update statistics only after about 20 percent of the table rows had been modified. To ensure optimal performance, an administrator would then need to revise and update the statistics manually. "When you're talking about a truly large table, that's a lot of change that's happened since the last time you did the updates," says Eric Holling, Principal IT Application Engineer at Microsoft. "If the optimizer bases a query execution plan on out-of-date statistics, the response time could suffer."

Solution

In January 2011, Microsoft began working with an early version of SQL Server 2012 Enterprise running on the Windows Server® 2008 R2 operating system. It sought to improve redundancy by utilizing the capabilities of the SQL Server Always On availability group. The solution would replace the company's mirroring environment, which included just one secondary server for each primary server. In contrast, an availability group can include up to four secondary servers for each primary server. If a failover occurs on the primary node, a secondary replica on another database instance is automatically configured to become the primary server.

After extensive testing, Microsoft went live with the solution in November 2011. The company installed an availability group with one primary and two secondary servers in its data center. It also used asynchronous mirroring to replicate data to another secondary server at the disaster-recovery site. 

The solution improves both redundancy and administration. For example, Microsoft can run a full back up on the secondary server at the disaster-recovery site without affecting the production workload or copying terabytes of data across the network from the primary server. Additionally, the company replicates production data from the secondary server to the test environment.

Administrators also are improving query performance and management with the enhanced SQL Server Query Optimizer, which updates statistics based on a dynamic percentage rate instead of a fixed threshold. The modified behavior is enabled by using startup trace flag 2371. Trace flags are settings that enable temporary changing of server behavior. In this example, as more rows are added to a table, the threshold for triggering a change decreases automatically.

Benefits

By deploying its SAP ERP system with SQL Server 2012, Microsoft can reduce recovery time and support business processes enterprise-wide, while easing the management load.

Cuts Recovery Time from Minutes to Seconds

With SQL Server 2012, Microsoft can minimize the risk of data loss and ensure an uninterrupted flow of transactions across the enterprise. "Before, we had estimated that the potential data loss, in the event of a real disaster-recovery scenario, would be about two minutes," says Holling. "But with SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn, we can recover within seconds."

Boosts Support for Critical Operations

Microsoft, which has run its SAP ERP system on SQL Server since 1996, looks forward to future versions of the database software. "SQL Server 2012 brings value-added features that improve overall resiliency and make running the system much easier," says Reutter. "Capabilities like SQL Server Always On directly support the daily operations of an SAP system that the whole company depends on."

The company is confident that its core business processes will run more smoothly than ever on SQL Server 2012. Holling adds, "By implementing SQL Server Always On, we can further decrease the risk of data loss for our business and our partners, which is critical to success in this type of environment."

Eases Administration

Microsoft is improving its SAP environment with features that increase performance while easing the management burden. "With SQL Server 2012, we have gained a much smarter approach to updating statistics in larger tables," says Reutter. "It's now done automatically, and it's another hands-off capability that just works."

The company looks forward to further benefits. Starting in August 2012, Microsoft plans to implement SQL Server 2012 with SAP installations throughout the company.

Software and Services

  • Microsoft Server Product Portfolio
    • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
    • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise

For More Information

For more information about other Microsoft customer successes, please visit:

http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies

For more information about Microsoft products or services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Order Centre at (800) 933-4750. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information via the World Wide Web, go to:

http://www.microsoft.com

http://www.microsoft.com/technet/itshowcase

© 2012 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Microsoft, Windows, SQL Server, and Windows Server are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

This document is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.

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