I remember writing my first serious computer program
specifically for a 64 KB mainframe computer
back in 1970. By 1985, the mainframe computer in
the same company had 64 MB of addressable memory!
And around 2000, server machines with 64 GB of
main memory were not uncommon.
This growth in computing power is fast and it is inevitable.
One version of Moore's Law1 states that RAM storage
capacity increases at the same rate as processing power.
This translates to a 1,000-fold increase of available
main memory within 15 years, or a factor-10 growth
every 5 years — staggering when you think about
it. Yet these expectations of exponential growth have
become commonplace in the industry.
Many SAP customers are using this pervasive growth
in technology to their advantage and have already enhanced
their processing power by making the transition from
32-bit processing to 64-bit technology. SAP has supported
64-bit Unix operating systems for many years now,
and 64-bit servers are already a prerequisite for
running SAP software on many operating systems.
But for those SAP customers that have not yet made
this move — such as those running 32-bit Linux
or Microsoft operating systems — the time to
prepare for 64-bit is now. With shifting technology,
changing industry standards, and the business-critical
performance benefits that come from greater processing
power, new releases of SAP solutions will exclusively
run on 64-bit servers as soon as 2007. The benefits
will be significant and measurable: better performance,
higher throughput, and better supportability, along
with widening possibilities for breakthrough innovations.
Let's start with the performance benefits of
moving to 64-bit processing.
With 64-bit addressing, the theoretically addressable
memory has the unbelievable size of 18 billion GB.
With 32-bit processing, the addressable memory is limited
to a comparatively paltry 4 GB. Commercially available
computers already come with tens or hundreds of gigabytes
of main memory today; so while high-end supercomputers
already use main memory of 50 TB and more, we are not
so far from crossing the 1 TB limit for industry-standard
What will this mean for the speed of transactions in
your SAP systems? There is a direct correlation between
available main memory and the speed with which certain
problems can be solved.
After all, retrieving data from secondary media like
hard disks not only requires device and network time,
but also significant amounts of processor instructions.
As a rule of thumb, accessing data from disk takes
1,000 times longer than accessing data already residing
in main memory. This means that more and more use
has been made of main memory, for example to:
- Preload all frequently needed program code
- Cache all frequently needed data from database
- Maintain index structures for large data
sets in main memory
- Maintain intermediary results
of all kinds of transformations and calculations
in main memory
For those companies running on Windows- and Linux-based
servers, however, many are discovering that 32-bit
application servers present increasing challenges
to these uses, and a growing number of installations
have already hit main memory limits.
Achieving productivity and performance gains and avoiding
serious performance problems make 64-bit processing
a necessity for SAP solutions and their users. While
a switch may seem dramatic, it doesn't require
abandoning your previous software investments. (For
more on leveraging existing IT assets, see the section "SAP
Support of 64-Bit Servers Is Already Well Established.")
Technology and hardware innovations ensure that this
transition can be a smooth one.
For several years now, 64-bit addressing has become
standard for high-end processors and the corresponding
Unix operating systems. With Intel's Itanium
technology, 64-bit support reached the Windows and
Linux operating systems some years ago.
But a real breakthrough came with the advent of X86-64
(or "X64" for short) technology. The AMD
Opteron and equivalent Intel EM64T technology provided
an extension to 64-bit addressing while at the same
time allowing companies to run all their existing 32-bit
software on the same chip and under the same operating
system. These X64 machines are now mainstream in the
server market and are offered by all major hardware
vendors. And since 2004, the vast majority of newly
sold servers are based on 64-bit technology.
As mentioned previously, SAP has long supported 64-bit
Unix operating systems, and 64-bit servers are already
a prerequisite for running SAP software on servers
with HP-UX, AIX, and Solaris operating systems, as
well as IBM's OS/400 and zLinux. SAP NetWeaver
2004 and 2004s, and all applications running on SAP
NetWeaver, require 64-bit servers for all operating
systems — except for Windows and Linux.
With the advent of X64 technology for commodity servers,
64-bit support can now also be offered for Windows
and Linux operating systems. Some remaining gaps (related
to the availability of Java virtual machines in 64-bit
technology) will be closed in the course of 2006.
Even older versions of R/3 can run on these 64-bit
operating systems, although only the newer versions
can fully leverage the 64-bit addressing capabilities.
For the customer, it means that you can continue to
run your older systems in accordance with SAP's
maintenance policy, but also now take advantage of
SAP's investments in high-processing technology,
including new innovations for faster analytics and
planning capabilities (see sidebar).
SAP has made investments over the last 20
years to leverage computing resources (like
growing main memory) and to create completely
new categories of real-time applications. On
the infrastructure side, program and table
buffers residing in main memory have contributed
to higher scalability and performance of all
SAP application systems. For example:
- SAP LiveCache, which is built on a highly
optimized, main-memory-based, object-oriented
database management system, has enabled
a new generation of planning and optimizing
applications that were simply not possible
without this new technology.
- More recently, the BI
Accelerator is a real breakthrough in terms of performance
and response time for queries on millions
or even billions of data records.2 The analytics capabilities with the BI Accelerator
would not have been achievable without 64-bit
With the advances
technology, the performance benefits of 64-bit, and
SAP's waning support for 32-bit technology, SAP
Service and Support strongly recommends a transition
to 64-bit application servers for SAP NetWeaver 2004-based
To assist customers as they plan for this transition,
SAP will continue to provide maintenance for released
32-bit software according to the published maintenance
strategy, as long as the infrastructure components
required by SAP are also maintained by their respective
vendors. These components include, in particular, 32-bit
operating systems and the databases supported by SAP
running on these operating systems. SAP will also continue
to provide 32-bit versions of components that end users
use on their desktop PCs — such as SAP GUI or
SAP NetWeaver Developer Studio.
Plan for the move to 64-bit servers today, and you
will be able to leverage the benefits in terms of better
performance, higher throughput, and better supportability — and
ensure that your infrastructure is well prepared for
the functional advances made possible by technological
For more information, see http://service.sap.com/platforms.
servers are currently a prerequisite for
running SAP software on servers with HP-UX,
AIX, Solaris, OS/400, and zLinux operating
NetWeaver 2004 and 2004s, along with all applications
running on SAP NetWeaver,
require 64-bit servers for all operating
systems — except
Windows and Linux.
2007 on, new releases of SAP NetWeaver — and
SAP applications based on SAP NetWeaver — will
no longer be supported on servers running
with Windows and Linux 32-bit operating
will continue to provide maintenance for previously
released 32-bit software, according to the
published maintenance strategy, as
long as the infrastructure components required
by SAP are also maintained by
their respective vendors.
will also continue to provide 32-bit
versions of components
that are used on desktop PCs by end users — such
as SAP GUI or
SAP NetWeaver Developer Studio.
| Dr. Franz-Josef
Fritz has a Ph.D. in mathematics and 30 years
of experience in all areas of IT. Workflow and
business process management have been particular
areas of interest for much of his life. He has worked
at SAP since 1993 as Program Director and Vice President
with responsibility for the Business Process Technology
and Internet-Business Framework departments. Since
2003, he has been responsible for several areas within
SAP NetWeaver Product Management.