Being at the forefront of cutting-edge technology is the natural order of business for PMC-Sierra, a pioneering fabless semiconductor and software company in the heart of Silicon Valley that specializes in driving innovation across networks that connect, move, and store big data.
With the volume of worldwide data doubling every 18 months, and the presence of PMC’s specialized microchips in storage, optical, and mobile networks, the business has grown rapidly, including expansion into new markets, acquisitions, and development of new technologies. To help manage this growth, PMC wanted to consolidate these steady changes within a unified business and information technology strategy. It deemed this an organizational digital transformation, which started in 2011 with the rollout of a single SAP ERP instance for its numerous manufacturing facilities, global sales offices, design centers, and corporate offices.
At the same time, PMC overhauled its non-SAP data warehouse, replacing this aging system with SAP Business Warehouse (SAP BW) running in conjunction with the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence (BI) suite. While the legacy system had adequately served its purpose when reporting was fragmented across a number of transactional systems, consolidating the company’s transactional systems into the SAP implementation better facilitated PMC’s new, unified approach.
Enterprise BI solved some challenges for PMC, but in keeping with its reputation as a forward-looking, high-tech organization, the company wanted to take it a step further by adding top-tier performance capabilities. This desire for a state-of-the-art BI environment was cemented with the company’s entry into the rapidly growing enterprise flash memory controller market, signaled by its 2013 acquisition of Integrated Device Technology’s (IDT) flash controller business. After all, the business’s complex, high-performance enterprise Flashtec products are built to facilitate rapid data access through the use of solid state drives (SSDs).
“After having established scalable transactional systems to support PMC’s growth, the next frontier was to establish a world-class data-analytics infrastructure to enable timely access to actionable, accurate, and predictive BI for our knowledge workers and business leaders,” says Adhir Mattu, PMC Vice President and CIO. “Everyone can build data warehouses, but PMC conquered the last mile by delivering data analytics to the users, who now have capabilities to quickly slice and dice, drill down, and perform root-cause analysis. The fact that we are in the business of providing fast data access speeds solidified the decision to speed up the information reporting performance any way we could.”
After having established scalable transactional systems to support PMC’s growth, the next frontier was to establish a world-class data-analytics infrastructure to enable timely access to actionable, accurate, and predictive BI for our knowledge workers and business leaders.
Adhir Mattu, Vice President and CIO, PMC-Sierra
A Step in the Right Direction
After several meetings with SAP about performance optimization and its BI roadmap, PMC decided on an SAP BW 7.3 upgrade to implement SAP BW powered by SAP HANA. Because the company wanted to optimize its entire reporting platform, it also upgraded to SAP Business Planning and Consolidation 10.0 in parallel with the SAP BW upgrade, with the latest version of SAP Business Planning and Consolidation also supported by SAP HANA.
“We had a lot of discussions and conducted a lot of research, and our decision came down to SAP HANA not only addressing performance challenges in our BW environment, but also helping us achieve one of the main goals of our digital transformation project, which was to become as close as possible to a real-time enterprise,” says Mattu. “Gone are the days when simply having good transactional systems made everybody happy.”
PMC also decided to implement SAP BW powered by SAP HANA with an eye toward the future, knowing that SAP’s roadmap includes resting its entire solution portfolio on the in-memory platform. Having the ability to analyze live SAP ERP data brought PMC a step closer to fulfilling the company’s ultimate vision. Venkat Nr, PMC’s Senior Manager of Business Applications, says, “With SAP maneuvering to convert all of its core systems to SAP HANA, it made a lot of sense for us — as a cutting-edge technology company that has already invested a lot in SAP software — to remain ahead of the curve, and SAP BW powered by SAP HANA positions us well for the future.”
Following a Non-Disruptive Path
To prepare for its SAP BW upgrade and SAP HANA migration, PMC first condensed its financial data in SAP Business Planning and Consolidation as an initial step to more manageable reporting. Integration between SAP Business Planning and Consolidation and SAP BusinessObjects BI tools ensured a less fragmented reporting environment by allowing the company’s users to continue using familiar SAP BusinessObjects BI tools for dashboards and reports.
Rather than stand up a new SAP BW environment, the company replicated its existing SAP BW instance before the upgrade and migration to its new SAP HANA appliance, enabling it to complete the rollout with little to no disruption of its existing infrastructure.
The timing of PMC’s digital transformation project — started in 2012, in conjunction with the initial release of SAP BW powered by SAP HANA — made the company somewhat of an early adopter. SAP eased the transition by helping the business navigate through a lot of early SAP HANA upgrades. The company also had assistance from implementation partner Bristlecone, with which it had contracted for its initial SAP ERP implementation.
“We hit the sweet spot and trifecta of support,” Mattu says. “As one of the first companies in the semiconductor industry to explore an SAP HANA use case, we had a lot of support from SAP and from Bristlecone.”
A Real-Time Window
PMC went live with SAP BW powered by SAP HANA in August 2014. Results included a runtime reduction of approximately 120% for reports coming out of SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, and an average runtime reduction of 70% for the top 10 reports from its SAP BW system. And, because an in-memory database requires no data extraction into a traditional relational database management system, PMC estimates a roughly 400% improvement in the extract, load, and transfer (ETL) process. Overnight batch processing is now completed in just minutes, and the business expects to capitalize on this speed with twice daily data refreshes versus previous weekly or monthly cycles.
According to Mattu, this significant time savings has transformational capabilities for the company. “A company in our industry that can process this information more intelligently has tremendous advantages,” he says. “In the old days, disparate reporting consisted of passing around many spreadsheets, and it wasn’t easy to determine what was happening in specific regions, countries, product lines, channels, etc. There were phone calls to make, IT to contact; the process had a tremendous opportunity for efficiency enhancements. Having the ability to see this data earlier, and make more intelligent decisions because it’s presented in the context of an enterprise BI platform, was one goal heading into this digital transformation. With SAP HANA, we are moving in the direction of a real-time enterprise.”
Mattu views this technology as a potential “building block” for eventually running all of the company’s solutions on the SAP HANA platform to embed analytics directly into transactional systems. “I see that as the next step once we fully exploit and optimize the SAP BW powered by SAP HANA piece of it,” he says. “For PMC-Sierra, this was a big step in the right direction.”