SAS: Reduced Engineering and Support Costs with tc Server

February 26, 2014 Adam Bloom


featured-casestudy-sasBy standardizing on Pivotal tc Server and other Pivotal products, Cary, North Carolina-based SAS has reduced the costs associated with development, test, and support by millions of dollars. Instead of supporting three additional application servers and seven operating systems, the single app server standard is streamlining engineering operations and passing along additional benefits to their customers like lower procurement costs and better technical support.

For a company the size of SAS, providing a standard, open source-based application server is no small undertaking. SAS provides business intelligence and advanced analytics at over 65,000 customer sites in 135 countries, including 90 of the top 100 companies on the Fortune Global 500. They are a private, $2.8 billion dollar company, and, with over 13,000 employees, they are known as one of the best companies to work for on the planet. Their systems help with data analysis, integration, quality, mastering, access, cleansing and more. They ultimately help their customers drive smarter decisions, and their software is used across a wide number of industries, from financial to pharmaceutical to communications, with over one hundred unique SAS applications on their server platform.

The Challenge for the SAS Java Platforms Team

With such a large portfolio of Java EE applications, SAS began their open source journey several years ago, led by Dr. Zhiyong Li. Li chairs the Java Technology Board at SAS and is a senior manager of the SAS Platform Division where he manages all Java application server development groups, designs the underlying platform for SAS solutions, and covers areas like strategy, security, performance, and more. For years, SAS supported multiple application servers—Weblogic, Websphere, JBoss, and Apache Tomcat. As open source technologies continued to mature over the past 15 years, SAS began to focus on a single open source stack. Li said, “About five or six years ago, we started looking hard at open source stacks and became quite motivated to support both a platform and application framework from the open source environment. There were many reasons we wanted to do this. For one, there is a lot of work involved in supporting each platform, and we wanted to lower our costs and reduce development timeframes. We also thought customers would reduce their overall solution costs and get better support.”

Historically, SAS supported seven different operating system platforms for their middle tier products. If you multiply this number against three application servers, there are 21 combinations. For development teams, this means they will write and test runtime code for three different application servers instead of one. The testing team has to test 21 different environment combinations. Those working on installation and configuration must build, test, and document 21 combinations. Lastly, technical support processes like ticket and bug management as well as performance testing and tuning have to support 21 combinations of environments. This amount of variation is quite expensive.


The Results of Standardizing Java Runtimes on tc Server

By standardizing on Pivotal tc Server and Pivotal Web Server, SAS reduced their costs and moved from 21 configurations to seven. Starting in July 2013 with SAS 9.4, far fewer operating systems and only one application server are supported across software releases. According to Li, “Now that we have a single solution based on Pivotal tc Server and Pivotal Web Server, we are achieving the lower cost benefit of a single standard. We also gain superior support for the Spring Framework, our standard development framework. As well, all of our development, test, support, and documentation teams are now more effective and efficient.”

While there is a significant benefit for SAS, there are also benefits for SAS customers. First, Pivotal tc Server is lightweight. It typically consumes a fraction of the disk space—between 4x and 40x less than competitors. It also consumes 3x to 15x less memory at system start-up. As a runtime environment, this means lower costs and better performance. The server is built to scale, accelerates development, and delivers an enterprise feature-set for management, monitoring, diagnostics, security, and support. It is also 100% binary compatible with Apache Tomcat, ensuring a drop-in replacement.

In the past, SAS customers would buy a license and technical support contract for SAS applications and another license and contract for application servers from Oracle, IBM, or Red Hat. They would then follow one installation and configuration procedure for the application server and another installation and configuration for SAS. If there was an issue for technical support, customers would often have to open a ticket with SAS as well as Oracle, IBM, or Red Hat, and, when issues cross vendors, it is always harder and takes more time for customers to resolve them.

By deploying an OEM of Pivotal tc Server, there is also a significantly more cost-effective model for SAS customers. Customers don’t have to buy a separate piece of application server software to use SAS. Pivotal Web Server and Pivotal tc Server are pre-packaged in the SAS installation and configuration process. Customers don’t have to worry about how to install or configure them. When application-server related issues come up, customers can now open one ticket with SAS to cover everything about the stack, and SAS separately consults Pivotal support when needed.

For more information on Pivotal tc Server:
– Watch a video on this topic, featuring Zhiyong Li, from SpringOne 2GX 2013, titled “Migrating from Weblogic, Websphere, JBoss to Pivotal tc Server.”
– Check out Pivotal tc Server’s product overview and downloads and documentation.
– Download case studies on tc Server from Intela, John Muir Health, NPC International, The University of Illinois, and The University of Zurich.
– Read “Why Lean Application Servers are Faster, Cheaper, and Better for Business” or “Doing Agile? 10 Features of an Agile App Platform
– Learn about Pivotal tc Server’s smaller footprint for disk and memory
– Find out why system integrators and customers see for ROI and cost savings and deployment advantages


About the Author


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