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SAP and Intel: The Co-Innovation Story

by Bill Lawler | insiderPROFILES

April 1, 2013

SAP is now one of the largest proponents of co-innovation, and its partnerships are critical to the company’s overall business mission of innovating for customer benefit. One such partnership is with Intel. Both SAP and Intel have been working together for more than 25 years, and their most recent venture is the Petascale Cloud Lab.
 

“Two heads are better than one!” We’ve all heard that proclamation before — most likely for the first time in grade school from a frazzled teacher struggling to get children to work together. And while we might not have known it at the time, that teacher was introducing us to the concept of co-innovation.

Co-innovation is becoming commonplace in the business world as companies realize they can accomplish much more through collaboration. SAP is now one of the largest proponents of co-innovation, and its partnerships are critical to the company’s overall business mission of innovating for customer benefit. One example of successful co-innovation is SAP’s long-term work with the world’s largest semiconductor maker Intel. The two companies have been working together for more than 25 years, historically focusing on joint innovations built into SAP R/3, SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator, SAP Business ByDesign, and more recently, SAP HANA. Intel has a permanent team located at SAP headquarters in Walldorf, Germany, working hand-in-hand with SAP engineers. And now, the teams are focused on their most recent venture, the Petascale Cloud Lab.

The Bolstering of SAP HANA

SAP and Intel’s partnership is symbiotic in nature. As the leading provider of business applications, SAP has focused on software and functionality, not hardware, in the past. Conversely, Intel’s primary business deals with the inner workings of IT hardware, such as processors, memory, and motherboards. Working in tandem, the companies are able to help improve each other’s products to create more robust end-to-end solutions.

In fact, this symbiotic relationship contributed to the success of SAP’s in-memory database SAP HANA. SAP was confident in the concept of in-memory computing, but leveraged Intel’s expertise to ensure the appliance would deliver the benefits SAP envisioned. Now, SAP HANA runs on Intel’s Xeon processor E7 family-based servers and has completely changed the way companies look at their data. (See “The Power of SAP HANA” sidebar to learn how SAP HANA has helped companies improve their business processes.)

What If…?

The functionality behind SAP HANA isn’t the only recent technological advancement that’s resulted from SAP and Intel’s co-innovation, however. Last year, with more customers running SAP HANA, SAP began to think of its SAP ERP customers and the vast amount of data those companies deal with. Questions arose, such as: “If we could host this data for customers in a single place, what types of efficiencies could we discover? What new types of applications could we create to help customers improve their bottom lines and run their businesses more smoothly?”

To answer these questions, SAP once again turned to Intel, and the two companies co-invested to create the Petascale Cloud Lab, a lab environment with 100TB of RAM memory, and deployed SAP HANA into this environment. The Petascale Cloud Lab has two main purposes: 1) Customers can use the lab to test large-scale proofs of concept (PoCs) before deploying SAP HANA and other solutions in their companies; 2) The lab provides a massive research and development (R&D) environment that SAP can use to optimize existing technologies and test and create new innovations.

Customer PoCs

Even with the successful use cases for SAP HANA already available, many companies are hesitant to invest in a new technology without knowing if it will work for their particular business processes.

The Petascale Cloud Lab allows customers to deploy their live data and see what SAP HANA can do for their company. The lab provides these customers with full control over the infrastructure during testing using their preferred tools and applications — even if the customers are using third-party solutions. Rather than simply hearing what SAP HANA can do for other companies, the lab presents real-world solutions so companies leave knowing exactly what SAP HANA can help them achieve.

Other customers want to reduce the complexity of deploying and managing mission-critical applications and are considering combining on-premise and cloud solutions to simplify their landscapes. The Petascale Cloud Lab can be used to explore different combinations of hardware and software to help solve customer challenges.

For example, a large global beverage company is using the Petascale Cloud Lab to run large-scale performance and scalability tests on real-world production code before deploying in a production environment. Running simulations on production code under different configurations allows architects and engineers to test theories and deliver greater insights more rapidly.

Besides helping customers make informed decisions, the PoCs also provide SAP with real-world data that can be used for the Petascale Cloud Lab’s second purpose — R&D.

A Massive R&D Environment

The reason SAP has been so successful with innovative new technologies like SAP HANA is because the company is always looking ahead. While the customer PoCs for SAP HANA are incredibly important, SAP also decided to use the Petascale Cloud Lab to test new technologies and concepts. By using real-world customer data and scenarios, SAP and Intel will be able to ensure that all of the solutions they co-develop operate smoothly within existing landscapes and technologies.

The Petascale Cloud Lab will be used to test a number of Intel’s solutions and to see how well they scale to SAP HANA. For example, Intel Data Center Manager, a power management solution for data centers, provides accurate, real-time power and thermal monitoring for individual servers, racks, and other IT equipment to reduce the overall energy footprint. When companies tested this solution in the lab to deploy SAP HANA more efficiently and reduce the overall cost of deployment, they found that the wiring in the lab’s data center was interfering with the cold air input. Rerouting the wiring in the center allowed for the addition of another four servers in the rack, increasing the density of the racks. In the near future, testing is planned to see how companies can incorporate Intel Data Center Manager with SAP HANA to manage the entire facility.

Another product that will be tested in the Petascale Cloud Lab is integration of the Intel Cache Acceleration software — a solution that delivers application-specific performance on physical servers and virtual machines — with SAP HANA. Intel’s software accelerates targeted applications and drives performance improvement while reducing overall latency. SAP and Intel believe the software could be integrated with SAP HANA to expand the size of data sets in memory and improve overall performance. SAP and Intel also plan to test solutions and concepts in other important areas like cloud security, infrastructure, and maintenance.

A Leap of Faith

When investing in any IT solution, customers must look beyond what is the most popular solution at the moment and, instead, look at how vendors historically sourced innovation for their products and customers. One way to do that is to evaluate a vendor’s partnerships — what have they accomplished together and what are their future initiatives? It often takes courage and even a leap of faith to invest in something that is new or untested, and it’s that risk-taking attitude that makes a company truly innovative. The Petascale Cloud Lab exemplifies this attitude and shows what a powerful collaboration between two large companies can produce.

To learn more about SAP and Intel’s collaboration or the Petascale Cloud Lab, please visit saphana.com/docs/DOC-2592

Bill
       

Bill Lawler (william.lawler@sap.com) is Senior Director of Technology Partner Marketing on the SAP Global Ecosystem and Partner Marketing (GEPM) team. He is responsible for developing, promoting, and executing best-in-class partner marketing strategies and programs for, through, and with SAP technology partners.

           
Rob
       

Rob Shiveley (robert.shiveley@intel.com) is Senior Manager of Software Partner Marketing in Intel’s Software and Services Group (SSG) team. He drives partner marketing programs around Intel’s role in working closely with software engineers to enable, optimize, and tune data center software to better take advantage of Intel’s built-in hardware capabilities to deliver world-class performance for enterprise workloads.

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