SAP HANA Your Way
SAP’s impending phase-out of traditional support models as soon as 2025 has left some confused about how to proceed. But IBM can help with the transition.
By Kristin Lewotsky09/01/2017
Whether the task is serving customers or serving up data, the traditional business structures are no longer enough. Organizations must develop new approaches and do so faster than the competition. In retail for example, buying models are rapidly evolving to meet customer demands, from in-store and mail order to online, and now online orders for in-store pickup. IT architecture must evolve as well to support the near real-time inventory tracking and analytics that such buying models require. Systems exist to facilitate these seismic shifts, but IT shops may be hesitant to migrate because of the logistical challenges and capital expense typically associated with the process.
“You can use your existing infrastructure. If you like your existing OSs and the workloads you run on them, you can continue to run them side-by-side with your SAP HANA partitions. If you have a skills gap, we help you close it. IBM has your back.”–Vicente Moranta, IBM director of Offering Management, SAP on IBM Power Systems
Across industries, SAP HANA combines application-specific analytics with an in-memory database management structure to deliver actionable information, which organizations can then leverage to stay competitive in a fluid business landscape. However, software is only as good as the infrastructure on which it runs. Deploying SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems* with IBM services allows organizations to streamline migration from traditional databases to an in-memory database offering. This eliminates many of the pain points normally encountered in that process, including forklift upgrades and abandoning their preferred OS for Linux*.
When Swiss supermarket giant Coop Group added “click and collect” buying to its integrated purchasing model, it needed hardware and software offerings that could enable the organization to serve its 2.5 million members in the retail and wholesale markets (ibm.co/2vSMSRK).
“Ensuring inventory information is always accurate and the products customers order online are actually available for collection in their preferred store at their preferred time is a major challenge. To offer this service, we needed to transform internal processes and gain almost real-time insight into stock levels at all locations,” explains Thomas Vielhauer, head of ERP Processing at Coop Group, which operates 2,200 stores and outlets across Switzerland.
“Knowing the reliability and low administration requirements of the IBM Power Systems platform from previous experience with our major SAP applications and databases, we were curious to see how SAP HANA would perform on high-performance POWER8* processor-based servers,” he adds.
“In the past, we had to cut down the volume of data we used for SAP Customer Activity Repository analytics because of the limitations of the x86 infrastructure we were using. This made it difficult to gain a near real-time overview of inventory movement,” says Christoph Kalt, lead IT architect at Coop Group. “The IBM and SAP solutions allow us to offer customers complete flexibility and convenience, which increases customer satisfaction and gives us a real competitive edge over other retailers.”
A Trusted Platform
Under the terms of the Tailored Datacenter Integration (TDI) program, SAP has certified IBM Power Systems servers to host SAP HANA. TDI permits licensees to establish multiple partitions running separate instances of SAP HANA alongside virtual machines running AIX*, Linux and IBM i. The architecture enables organizations to get the benefits of SAP HANA without leaving behind the OSs they love and have trusted to run their mission-critical workloads for years.
“With Power Systems deployments, clients get reliability, availability, scalability, backup redundancy, etc.—everything we built into the IBM Power Systems is now available to support their SAP HANA implementation,” says Alison Butterill, IBM i offering manager.
Motivation to Migrate
Conventional databases are located on hardware external to the processing system. They can be effective, but the distance introduces latency that mounts up over the course of millions of I/O operations. This issue prompted the development of in-memory databases that use primary system memory to hold data.
In-memory databases may significantly speed I/O. SAP HANA, SAP’s in-memory entry, combines memory management software with a suite of application-specific analytic tools. An additional development environment within SAP HANA enables organizations to write their own code to customize operations. Hardware must be purchased separately.
Today, businesses are adopting SAP HANA for various reasons. Companies already running SAP Business Suite on AIX or IBM i may need functionality they can only get from applications supported by SAP HANA. Alternatively, the IT shop might be directly interested in shifting to SAP HANA, whether for the in-memory database functionality or for some of the associated analytics and industry-vertical solutions. In other cases, senior executives may mandate the move as part of a calculated digital transformation.
“The important message is that if you’ve decided you need to be using SAP HANA as part of your overall solution, then IBM can help you do it. It runs better on IBM Power Systems than it does anywhere else.”–Jennifer Lin, senior offering manager, AIX
Timing may be one of the biggest reasons to migrate, given that SAP is actively guiding users toward SAP HANA. Although the company has pledged support for SAP Business Suite through 2025, many organizations are developing their roadmaps to transition to SAP HANA now.
With these factors in mind, the question becomes less about why companies would want to move and more about why they haven’t already made the switch. And yet, many organizations running SAP Business Suite on AIX and IBM i are hesitant. In some cases, their existing SAP applications are addressing their business needs, so they don’t yet feel compelled to make a change. In other cases, the issue might be a skills gap. An IT shop may be well-versed in AIX or IBM i but lack Linux or SAP HANA expertise—and the time and funding to acquire it.
Often, it comes down to simple risk aversion: Organizations with mission-critical workloads running stably on AIX and IBM i may be reluctant to make changes, particularly if their implementations involve a significant amount of custom code. They have a stable system. They have built their staff around the needs of their infrastructure. Why spend money and take time to switch over to a system that may not work as effectively?
From Follower to Leader
The most immediate response is that change is coming whether they want it or not. The reality is that companies that wait until change is forced upon them are inevitably the followers in their markets and not the leaders. For organizations that want to be leaders, the true solution is the combination of SAP HANA and the IBM Power Systems platform, which delivers top computing performance with a migration path that mitigates many of the pain points experienced with other platforms.
“We offer a path for moving to SAP HANA on Power Systems hardware that is faster, less disruptive and more cost-effective than the alternatives,” says Vicente Moranta, IBM director of Offering Management, SAP on IBM Power Systems. “You can use your existing infrastructure. If you like your existing OSs and the workloads you run on them, you can continue to run them side-by-side with your SAP HANA partitions. If you have a skills gap, we help you close it. IBM has your back.”
Power Systems Advantage
Initially, SAP HANA was only supported on x86-based servers. This meant organizations had to invest in that hardware, even if they ran other SAP applications on IBM Power Systems. Migrating to SAP HANA from a Power Systems server and Oracle meant a forklift upgrade. Budgets also came into play—many IT shops balked at the large capital outlay required for x86 appliances.
Today, SAP HANA licenses can be acquired in two ways: as an appliance or as part of the TDI program. With an appliance, the organization buys the SAP HANA software license for a dedicated server preconfigured for the task. The server can only be used to run SAP HANA, frequently as a single instance. Additional workloads must be hosted on a separate server, which in turn means shelling out more money for additional servers.
In 2015, SAP certified a pair of IBM Power Systems products to run SAP HANA within the TDI model. SAP recognized the IBM Power Systems servers as resilient, robust and secure enough to support multiple partitions of SAP HANA. Even better, they certified the platform to support those instances alongside AIX, IBM i and Linux partitions running other workloads.
Sandbox to Production
With IBM Power Systems technology, moving to SAP HANA doesn’t always require a large capital expense for new hardware. The system administrator simply defines a new LPAR on an existing server and deploys the SAP product. The IT shop can use the partition as a sandbox running independently of their current database and side-by-side with their existing Power Systems workloads. This allows staff to explore the capabilities and move their custom code without disturbing their stable workloads.
“As you go through user validation testing and everything else that SAP requires, you can get to a point where the LPAR that started as a sandbox leads you all the way to a full production environment for SAP HANA,” Moranta says.
“You’re doing that all in the same box so you’re saving the cost of having to buy a new server and having to integrate that into your data center,” says Jennifer Lin, senior offering manager, AIX. That’s a stark contrast to the forklift upgrade required with x86-based servers.
It’s important to note the applications in the additional partitions can access the data stored in the SAP HANA LPAR, with all of the performance benefits that delivers. This holds for virtual machines running AIX, IBM i or Linux.
“It wasn’t that hard once SAP certified that SAP HANA is supported on the Power Systems platform,” says Moranta. “Obviously, the apps are executed differently with a different instruction set, but once a server is communicating with another server—an LPAR that is running AIX to an LPAR that is running Linux—it’s transparent to the user. SAP is really good about that kind of validation.”
From a performance standpoint, IBM Power Systems servers running SAP HANA deliver the same benefits as they do for an SAP application suite that already may be running on the hardware. “Existing users chose to run the SAP suite on IBM Power Systems for a reason,” Lin says. “The IBM Power Systems platform gives them the reliability for their mission-critical data, the flexibility with virtualization and capacity on demand, and better per-core performance with reduced data footprint. All of those things continue to be true if they decide to make a gradual transition to SAP HANA on the same box.”
Flexibility to Meet Business Demands
Given the power of the IBM processor, the platform offers another significant benefit: flexibility. The more ambitious the project, the more likely the scope will change over time, and migrations definitely count as ambitious. IBM’s Capacity Upgrade on Demand (CUoD) program enables system administrators to scale memory and activate or deactivate cores as required to adjust the SAP HANA implementation in the long term and short term.
Contrast this with the appliance model: If the scope of the project changes six to nine months after it begins, the customer must buy additional hardware or begin decommissioning.
“Moving to SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems gives clients a nice way to get started without going through another procurement cycle,” says Moranta. “We know that it’s very important for clients who are evaluating SAP HANA to be able to quickly determine if this is for them or not. We can help them determine that even from a temporary core activation. I think it gives clients a lot of flexibility and a lot of peace of mind to be able to do the migration in a way that meets their requirements.”
Your Migration Partner
SAP’s impending phase-out of traditional support models as soon as 2025 has left some clients confused about how to proceed (bit.ly/2uvLl6K). Many IT shops are reluctant to move, especially with a seemingly far-off deadline. “They may be questioning how they switch over,” says Moranta. “Many clients are thinking about their careers and the challenges involved in learning new things. I think that for the UNIX* world, it’s a little bit easier to make the transition to Linux. For IBM i, it may be a little more difficult, but—and this is important—it’s not an unknown path. And it’s not a path you have to travel on your own. IBM has helped companies transition and we have helped them develop both sets of skills and it’s the same teams who are managing SAP HANA with Linux on one side and they continue to do the apps inside of IBM i on the other. Whatever you need, we will get you there.”
IBM is poised to help simplify even the most challenging migrations. “We have partners who specialize in helping customers migrate and make the transition from whatever technology they have today to the new technology such as SAP HANA,” says Moranta. “They go through the code and identify elements customers need to change, modify and optimize.” IBM’s Lab Services includes the Migration Factory, a service built to assist clients with even the trickiest migrations. Read more about the Migration Factory in “Planning Your SAP HANA Migration?”.
Coop Group found success in migrating to SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems. “In the past, if we needed to provision new large SAP HANA systems we would have had to buy, install and configure new physical appliances,” Kalt says. “Today, we can simply spin up new logical partitions as and when needed, making the process of provisioning new SAP HANA systems up to 20 times faster—a huge improvement. Being able to make resources available more quickly in this way enables us to react more rapidly to changing customer requirements and to new business demands.”
It is a success story that is by no means isolated. Regardless of the specifics of the problem tackled, IBM is ready to support a client’s journey. “The important message is that if you’ve decided you need to be using SAP HANA as part of your overall solution, then IBM can help you do it,” says Lin. “It runs better on IBM Power Systems than it does anywhere else.” Learn how IBM can help you on your journey to SAP HANA: ibm.co/2v5MtvY .
Kristin Lewotsky is a freelance technology writer based in Amherst, NH.More →
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