Aug 31 ’11

Driving E+H: System z Supports the Swiss Industrial Conglomerate’s Worldwide Business

by Gabe Goldberg 

Running a complex worldwide industrial conglomerate—with annual revenue of more than a billion euros—from a single data center violates the “all eggs in one basket rule.” But one such System z installation supports Switzerland-based Endress+Hauser’s network of 89 companies in 42 countries.

Now operating with more than 8,400 employees worldwide, E+H began humbly in 1953 as what would today be called a “garage business,” though its first home was, in fact, a converted bedroom. After initially selling an innovative electronic-level sensor imported from England, growing business led the founders to build their own production facilities, creating the foundation for continuous growth.

Sales and services, first concentrated in Germany, expanded throughout Western Europe, with the first overseas branch offices opened in Japan and the U.S. in the ’70s. Sensors and devices for other physical variables, such as pressure, flow, analytics and temperature, were also developed, produced, and sold. In the ’80s, the company set out to be a technological leader in microelectronics; today, it ranks as a global market leader.

Since 2000, E+H has evolved from manufacturing sensors for the process automation industry to being an international provider of automation solutions targeting process industries such as chemical, pulp and paper, energy, oil and gas, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical. Today, the company offers a broad range of services and the most comprehensive array of industrial sensors on the market, including devices for measuring level, pressure, temperature, and flow; analytical systems; data acquisition/recorders; and components for integrated systems. One of the largest privately owned companies in the global automation industry, E+H provides product sales, services, and consulting in 97 countries on six continents.

Demonstrating Mainframe-Based Global Informatics Competence

This large, global company stands out from the crowd by running centralized, billion-dollar worldwide operations from a mainframe data center. Mainframe-based SAP—their primary comprehensive application suite—supports thousands of users in multiple job functions (manufacturing, supply, sales, etc.). If they lost multi-faceted SAP—their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system—for weeks, days, hours or even minutes, company operations around the world would stop. So, they've built a bulletproof backup with a parallel data center connected by high-speed lines.

Endress+Hauser InfoServe GmbH+Co KG. is the IT service provider for all E+H Group operations. Founded in 1997, it effectively concentrates the group’s many years of information technology experience and expertise within one company, providing centralized worldwide corporate IT department planning, budgeting, development, operations, and support to all E+H sales, production, and support centers. Outside IT vendors can be used only with InfoServe’s cooperation.

Supporting a complex, industrial powerhouse of this nature imposes unique geographic, cultural, language, and technology challenges. For example, all world time zones rely on InfoServe; even though formal Service Level Agreements (SLAs) aren't used, this means essentially no downtime is allowed beyond two planned Sunday outages annually, and SAP transactions are targeted for 600 ms or better response. Print services must accommodate local character sets. Network connections must reach exotic locations. Continuous support is needed because the sun never sets on E+H. Upgrades to components such as SAP follow detailed project plans to avoid disruption.

Organic InfoServe mainframe growth is driven by E+H Group expansion, planned over three-year periods and averaging 5 to 10 percent annually. Workload is measured via Resource Measurement Facility (RMF) data and SAP statistics. Two z10 systems are installed, allocated as 14 Central Processors (CPs) for DB2, and 82 Integrated Facilities for Linux (IFLs) for Linux on System z and SAP.

InfoServe has more than 250 employees plus about 20 student interns; headquartered in Weil am Rhein, Germany, it has regional offices in Freiburg, Germany; Greenwood, Indiana; Shanghai, China; Aurangabad, India; and Tokyo, Japan.

Aribert Starnell, division manager in InfoServe's Production Computer Center, notes that InfoServe's comprehensive IT services “give companies in the Endress+Hauser Group a competitive edge.” He adds, “We help them reach their business objectives by offering business process analysis and support and by introducing customized business software.”

InfoServe has many years of experience and expertise in business processes, applications and solutions, and provides all modern data center services—including computer capacity, hosting applications, and all-in-one standard packages. It specializes in local and global networks, providing training and courses to help users get the most out of their information technology solutions.

Besides major System z data centers in Weil am Rhein and Freiburg, large business area locations operate non-mainframe servers and storage systems. Despite geographic dispersion, there isn’t much localization of applications, and the entire corporate IT ecosystem help desk is centralized in Germany.

BT and T-Systems are main worldwide network providers; even before InfoServe's formation, E+H installed its first mainframe in 1985 to run SAP R/2 ERP and now runs nearly all SAP components. Since SAP is fundamental to E+H operation, the vendor is a long-time strategic partner; E+H is one of the largest SAP customers in the world. Supporting strong growth in SAP development, InfoServe has deep international experience in SAP implementation, well-founded knowledge of SAP applications and business processes, certified SAP consultants with many years of practical experience, and uses SAP Project System's standardized phase model.

The SAP/E+H relationship provides active and direct collaboration based on R/3 and contracts. Rigorous certification as an SAP Customer Competence Center (CCC) demonstrates both competence in the SAP application landscape and the quality of processes used. InfoServe is an SAP service provider for more than 60 E+H companies worldwide, providing comprehensive functions such as:

As an SAP mid-sized business partner and certified SAP Hosting Partner, E+H also provides services to customers outside the Endress+Hauser Group. For more than a decade, E+H SAP has run on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), SUSE’s implementation of Linux on System z; E+H is one of the oldest, largest mainframe SLES implementations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). SLES was chosen to support running SAP on one system, combining database function with application servers and exploiting the hardware's traditional scalability, stability, performance, and disaster recovery. The accompanying sidebar (click here to view) offers further information about how InfoServe meets the various needs of its parent organization.

Employee Development

InfoServe employs about 140 application developers, 70 staffers supporting data center and networks, 36 people providing international support, 25 in management and administration, and 16 handling education. Astonishingly small for this large enterprise, System z staff includes just six specialists and one cross-trained individual.

To address continuing professional development, E+H partners with Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University in Lörrach and Stuttgart, training young people in business informatics, information technology, and applied informatics. E+H hires up to eight graduates yearly, offers internships, and helps students find topics for bachelor’s or master’s degree theses.

Employees also improve skills with continuing professional development; in-house and third-party training lets them keep pace with the evolving field of information technology. They can take computer-based training, customized to individual needs and schedules. Highly qualified trainers regularly offer courses in project management, leadership, and English language skills.

Starnell studied computer science at Technical University of Berlin, worked as database developer at Nixdorf Computer AG and Software AG, and has been with E+H since 1992. Initially an SAP administrator, he became a department manager, and since 2009 has been division manager responsible for z10 systems, including z/OS, z/VM, Linux for System z, DB2, and SAP.


E+H has relied for more than 25 years on System z and previous mainframe generations, so calling it merely "IT" or even "technology" doesn't reflect its strategic importance to the company's diverse product and services offerings; it provides foundational worldwide, strategic infrastructure. There’s no question—the issue never arises—of changing the central technology. It’s dramatically more cost-effective than alternatives, they couldn’t operate without it, and it lends itself to robust, predictable disaster planning and recovery.

Diverse SAP applications are why they have the mainframe; the mainframe lets SAP support their complex, growing operation. E+H is leveraging the benefits of IBM’s mainframe strategy and the mainframe’s immense scalability, reliability, and cost-effectiveness.