"Because they exploit all the advantages of the Cisco UCS, the Kemp LoadMasters fit seamlessly into our system landscape. They were fast and simple to install. In the short space of time they have been running, we have been really impressed by their scalability and performance. All in all, they offer an excellent cost-benefit ratio."
SMA Solar Technology AG, based in Niestetal Germany, is a global leader in the manufacturing of PV inverters for all applications. Represented in all the important photovoltaic markets in 21 countries, the company has a staff of over 5,000 and a sales volume of over $2 billion (2012).
Photovoltaics (PV), a method of generating electrical power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity using semiconductors, is a key clean energy technology of the future. The most vital component in a photovoltaic system is the inverter. The inverter converts the direct current generated in the photovoltaic cells into alternating current compliant with grid requirements for the producer's own consumption or for feeding into the public power grid. As an intelligent system manager, it also monitors the photovoltaic array and the power distribution grid.
High availability for critical applications
SMA Solar's manufacturing systems are absolutely critical to the success of the business. Production at SMA is set up in a way that permits the company to flexibly respond to market requirements. This requires 24x7 monitoring of applications critical to the manufacturing process. In order to safeguard this capability, the company has implemented failover clusters for its database systems and load balancing within the network. For load balancing, SMA previously utilized the Microsoft Windows Network Load Balancer (WNLB) for its Web Application Servers.
SMA faced a new scalability challenge due to the high network load it caused; the load was so high at times that it caused packet loss on virtualised systems due to a hypervisor overload. The decision was therefore made to migrate to a better-performing solution. "It was important that the new solution could be used for both virtual and physical systems. It also needed to be highly scalable, ensuring we would be able to employ it for a period of several years and not have unused resources sitting around," said Markus Böhnke, the person responsible for server solutions at SMA, describing the company's requirements.
SMA eventually opted for the high-performance Kemp LoadMaster ADC software running on Cisco UCS ucs B-Series servers. The decision was simplified by the fact that SMA had been using the UCS infrastructure since its market introduction and Kemp had just recently launched its new LoadMaster ADC for Cisco's UCS B-Series servers. The product boasts excellent scalability and, once in operation, has minimum administrative overhead. "We downloaded a test version from the Kemp website and installed it. Giving us a full range of functionality for a 30-day period, this test version enabled us to check whether it met all our requirements in real-time operation," said Böhnke, commenting on the selection process.
Given that its part of SMA's IT strategy to use Cisco Unified Computing System servers, the new LoadMaster version fit seamlessly into the existing infrastructure. The Kemp LoadMaster operating system (LMOS) integrates directly onto high-performing B-Series server platforms to take advantage of Cisco's advanced computing and I/O capabilities. Customers deploying this full-featured, high-performance load balancing solution can maintain their established Cisco configuration, achieve a seamless integration and continue to manage IT in the way in which they are accustomed.
Greater virtualisation without any adverse effects on network performance
The devices were installed at the beginning of November 2013 and ready for production use soon afterwards. The Kemp LMOS is eminently scalable: when the company's application demands grow, additional resources can be added and the performance suitably adjusted. Because the optimised applications no longer need to communicate with a load balancing appliance external to the UCS infrastructure, communication paths and response times can be minimised and more predictive, avoiding conventional latency issues.
An important advantage for SMA is that the Kemp load balancing solution permits the company to expand virtualisation of its own IT without any adverse effects on network performance. SMA expects the integration to be finalized in mid-2014, by which time all its web applications will be running on the new LoadMaster ADCs.
"Because they exploit all the advantages of the Cisco UCS, the Kemp LoadMasters fit seamlessly into our system landscape. They were fast and simple to install. In the short space of time they have been running, we have been really impressed by their scalability and performance. All in all, they offer an excellent cost-benefit ratio,"said Böhnke in closing.