Coca-Cola Bottling swaps out Oracle for DB2

Spurred by a deal that would include DB2 with licenses for SAP products, Coca-Cola Bottling Co. decided Big Blue is better than Oracle.

In the process of upgrading his SAP ERP systems earlier this year, Tom DeJuneas, systems manager with Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, knew he faced another significant upgrade project related to the first. To get the most out of his new SAP systems, he would have to upgrade his Oracle databases from version 9 to 10g.

However, as DeJuneas was about to pull the trigger on an Oracle upgrade for the Charlotte, N.C.-based beverage manufacturer and distributor, an expanded licensing deal between Coca-Cola corporate and SAP changed everything. The new deal now made it significantly more attractive financially for Coke Bottlers to upgrade to IBM's DB2 database as part of its SAP license.

"At that point, I knew we had to buy more Oracle licenses for systems we were adding," DeJuneas said. "But when I looked at the SAP deal Coke got for the bottlers, it just made sense from a money standpoint to convert to DB2."

While the financial aspects of the deal made the decision easy, one concern DeJuneas had to deal with was the lack of technical expertise on IBM databases. His shop had had Oracle in place for more than 10 years, along with some of Microsoft's SQL Server. One of the first things he did was turn to his right-hand man, Andrew Juarez, a DBA and technical lead for SAP systems.

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 "We had zero DB2 experience in house, so I sat down with Andrew – tied him to his chair so he wouldn't fall off – and told him we were looking to switch from Oracle to DB2. At that time, Andrew had 12 years Oracle experience," DeJuneas said.

But as it turned out, the training curve wasn't so steep. IBM provided a two-day class that outlined the major similarities and differences between Oracle and DB2. Next, Juarez went to a week-long course that SAP offers on DB2 in order to get certified to do database migrations for SAP environments.

What also took some pain out of the migration were the tools SAP made available to carry out the work -- tools that Juarez and his team were very familiar with.

"We were able to use the standard SAP migration tools used for importing and exporting data, which basically interact with SAP's data dictionary," he said.

The Charlotte shop, the second largest Coke bottler in the country, migrated a total of 22 SAP systems over to DB2, although it still has between eight and 10 Oracle databases in operation. While Coke will continue to maintain Oracle and applications that run with it, its priority will be DB2.

"We'll still support Oracle for the apps that must have Oracle," Juarez said. "But if there is a choice in applications between the two, we'll go with DB2."

Coca-Cola Bottling Co. dedicated just four IT employees to the project, and they worked with a single employee from IBM's Global Services organization. Apparently, this small team was enough. They started the project in February, and by the middle of April it had converted its "R3 landscape," according to DeJuneas, and another one by the end of September.

"Our R3 production database was about 1 terabyte when we started the migration, and we got about a 40% improvement in compression during the migration," DeJuneas said. "We also did a unicode conversion during that same time and still got the 40% compression when we migrated to DB2."

Besides significantly reducing its storage costs, Coca-Cola Bottling has also reduced the time of batch runs by a little over 65%, which in turn has improved its overall supply chain efficiency. DeJuneas is pleased with the migration's cost savings and also with the amount of time it has freed up for his IT staff to focus more on SAP issues.

"We have been pretty pleased with the performance, compression savings and things like the self-tuning memory with DB2," he said. "But now the DBAs doing the work have a lot more time to focus on SAP issues rather than Oracle issues."

Coca-Cola Bottling didn't have to upgrade any of the IBM Power 560 servers to accommodate DB2 because of the compression savings and its existing IBM-based virtualization strategy, which has AIX Logical Partitioning at its core.

"Each of the P 560s are carved up into logical systems, so a box could hold X number of systems," Juarez explained. "What we did is create a copy of the systems we would be moving and bring it up so that we would have a source and a target to work with."

Several years ago, the Charlotte shop used predominantly Sun servers but has gradually retired those systems and replaced them with AIX-based IBM servers. DeJuneas said he started to phase out Sun around the time he decided to go with SAP.

"Once we went down the SAP path, Sun didn't step up like the other vendors. They sat back and figured since they were already in here, they didn't need to compete and so ended up losing the business," DeJuneas said. "We have one Sun box left that we should be retiring by the end of this year."

Another benefit to switching away from Oracle is that Coca-Cola and its bottlers no longer have to wait for the second release of an Oracle database to arrive in order for SAP to certify it to run with its applications. This has been a standard practice on the part of SAP for years and could force an end-user company to wait a year or more before it could upgrade.

"SAP has a standard practice where they won't certify an Oracle release until it hits Release 2," Juarez said. "[Oracle] 11g has been out for a while, but until it hits Release 2 and gets certified, we can't take advantage of any new features in that database."

SAP is much quicker to certify versions of DB2 to work with SAP. For instance, IBM released version 9.7 of DB2 this past June, and by the end of August, SAP certified it. Coke is currently on version 9.5 of DB2 and plans to move to 9.7 by the end of the year, according to DeJuneas.

The Charlotte shop is the first among the dozens of Coca-Cola Bottlers nationwide to take advantage of the new deal signed with SAP and is serving as a model for other bottlers now in the midst of making the switch. Even Coca-Cola corporate is in regular contact with Charlotte, asking for advice.

"Corporate already has a few systems switched over, so they are on their way," DeJuneas said. "We have been in constant contact with them, sharing ideas back and forth."

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