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Leverage Your Current IT Infrastructure in SAP HANA Deployments: A Q&A on SAP Tailored Datacenter Integration Options

September 22, 2015

During this one-hour chat with SAPinsider readers, SAP HANA experts António Freitas, Sean Gilmour, and Allan Stone, all from EMC, answered questions on leveraging a current IT infrastructure in SAP HANA deployments and SAP Tailored Datacenter Integration options.

To review the full discussion, view the chat replay in the module below along with the edited transcript.

Panelists:

Antonio FreitasAntónio Freitas, SAP HANA Technical Architect, EMC
António Freitas has been working with SAP Systems since 1997, having performed diverse roles such as SAP Practice Manager, SAP Basis Consultant, SAP Systems Architect & SAP Basis Trainer advising customers on technology selection, deployment, transformation, operation based on the specifics of their business. In his current role as SAP HANA Technical Architect at EMC’s SAP Global Solutions Strategy and Technical Marketing Team, Antonio works as a liaison between the EMC SAP Engineering and Product Management Teams, and the Field, Partner, and Customer communities. His core calling is to represent the voice of the customer by advising the engineering and solutions teams on future development directions and roadmap definitions, and bring the new knowledge developed by corporate teams back to field, partners and customers.

Sean GilmourSean Gilmour, Global Applications Practice Manager, EMC
Sean Gilmour has over 20 years of designing and implementing IT solutions, for over 200 customers.  He provided architectural overview and migration strategy during Motorola’s Oracle to SAP migration. Since 2010, he has worked within VCE’s Engineering teams and Professional Services, developing SAP solutions based on VCE’s Vblock platform, and currently runs a team of SAP architects and implementation specialists. Sean’s knowledge and hands on experience of running enterprise systems like Oracle, DB2, SQL Server and HANA on Vblocks, ensure VCE customers are provided the latest and optimal solution for there SAP landscapes.

Allan StoneAllan Stone, SAP HANA Solutions Product Manager, EMC
Allan Stone has worked in IT for over 30 years as a mainframe Systems Analyst and Software Engineer. Since 1997 he has been trained as a SAP Basis Administrator for a global SAP roll-out at a fortune 100 company. He transitioned to International SAP Consultant for SAP Technical Core Team (TCC) managing and executing customer on-site Performance and Stress Testing globally for critical escalated SAP go-lives in retail, insurance, telecommunications, and manufacturing. Since 2005 he has worked at EMC with current role as a Pragmatic Certified Solutions Product Manager driving the SAP HANA Solutions Roadmap.

Live Blog Leverage Your Current IT Infrastructure in SAP HANA Deployments
 

Transcript

Natalie Miller, Moderator: Hello and welcome to today’s Q&A on SAP Tailored Datacenter Integration options. I’m Natalie Miller, features editor of SAPinsider and InsiderPROFILES and I’m pleased to have Antonio Freitas, Sean Gilmour, Allan Stone, and Andy Sitison here today to answer your questions.

Today’s panelists have decades of experience working with SAP solutions: Antonio is an SAP HANA Technical Architect at EMC, Sean is EMC’s Global Applications Practice Manager, Allan is an SAP HANA Solutions Product Manager at EMC, and Andy is EMC’s Senior Director of Global SAP GTM.

Welcome, Antonio, Sean, Allan, and Andy!

Allan Stone, EMC: Good morning, evening, everyone. Welcome aboard.

Sean Gilmour, EMC: Good morning, everyone.

Antonio Freitas, EMC: Hi, all. Looking forward to taking all your questions on SAP HANA TDI and Virtualization! You can also keep in touch with me through my Twitter handle: @revaewten.  

Natalie Miller, Moderator: There are already questions coming in from readers, so panelists, I’ll let you get started on those now!

Comment from Tausen: Are there any distinct advantages to TDI using traditional infrastructure components versus Converged Infrastructure?

Sean Gilmour: Hi, Tausen. Yes — VCE’s CI platforms attain one of the first checkmarks for TDI, which covers the use of “certified” hardware. Leveraging traditional infrastructure requires the customer to understand all the challenges around tuning their infrastructure hardware to meet the SAP KPIs, whereas leveraging a CI like VCE’s Vblock removes this challenge via the pre-engineering and validation done by VCE.

Antonio Freitas: Tausen, adding to Sean’s comments, what we hear from many customers all over the world is that they want to be able to use standard infrastructures across the datacenter, for HANA and non-HANA workloads, but many no longer want to deal with the engineering and integration of infrastructure components. Converged Infrastructures provide you the best of both worlds: A factory-engineered and integrated system with a single point of support, but also one that is multi-purpose and can be used for SAP HANA and non-HANA workloads. We see a lot of positive response to this possibility.

Comment from Tausen: Do you consider Converged Infrastructure solutions “TDI”?

Antonio Freitas: There is the option to have Converged Infrastructures as appliance and as TDI. The key aspect here is that appliances are dedicated infrastructure stacks to a single application, and that drives complexity in infrastructure operations as you’re building silos, and so drives lower utilization levels on your systems. We believe the best option for organizations is to use this infrastructure as TDI, which means they can share the same infrastructure across HANA and non-HANA to drive standards across the datacenter, and so reduces the overall TCO of running SAP HANA as a mainstream platform in the datacenter. Have a look at this white paper for further insights on why TDI is the option most customers are choosing for mainstream deployments.

Andy Sitison, EMC: They are separate in that TDI is a customer-certified deployment of HANA in a customer’s IT environment without the limitations of an appliance, and CI is a consolidated stack that often has optimizations like templates that maximize the stack. We have many customers who are choosing TDI, but deploying on a Converged Infrastructure.

Comment from Alejandro: We are configuring TDI using Cisco as the HANA appliance provider and EMC for storage. Can we use storage replication for BW on HANA with Dynamic Tiering?

Allan Stone: Absolutely. EMC has detailed papers for HANA storage replication. Go to emc.com and search for “HANA business continuity” — there are detailed configuration guides with “how to” information.

Comment from Ganesh: What are the prerequisites for implementing HANA?

Sean Gilmour: Hi, Ganesh. Deploying HANA in a TDI model requires that the HW be on the approved HW list (PAM), that the database pass an SAP-defined list of KPIs, and that the install be performed by a qualified SAP HANA installer.

Natalie Miller, Moderator: As more questions are coming in, can someone tell me if TDI can be used in production?

Andy Sitison: Absolutely! As a matter of fact, the Americas have a major trend of customers mainstreaming HANA into large production environments, and this is causing a major uptick in interest for TDI because of its TCO-lowering capabilities. While TDI is only required for the production environment, it’s a good idea to run all the environments in a compliant way.

Comment from Steve G.: How can we determine whether the TDI model is appropriate for our company?

Allan Stone: Steve, TDI is essentially the model that has been used for non-HANA implementations for decades. The TDI model has the best computing, best network, and best storage capabilities. Appliances add to long-term OPEX costs and can’t reduce CAPEX by using your existing storage. If you have storage that is HANA-certified, you can leverage that. You can start early and not even wait for an appliance if you have servers that can be used. So TDI is most likely appropriate and the lowest-cost option for the long term.

Andy Sitison: Here’s a simple test: Do you have an adequate IT department? And do you deploy multiple environments like DEV, QA, TEST, and PROD? If you answer yes, then TDI is your best solution. If not, then contact virtustream.com and have them put your environment in a mission-critical cloud. I have not seen a scenario where the appliance is a good IT decision based on cost, utilization, performance, operations, etc. I don’t buy my steaks at the convenience store, and I don't run HANA on appliances.

Comment from Guest: What are our installation options?

Allan Stone: Pretty much any certified server and any certified storage. Storage can use 10K or 15K drives. EMC recommends RAID groups for optimal performance. EMC detail recommendations can be found at community.emc.com (search for “VNX config HANA” or “VMAX config HANA” or “XtremIO Config HANA”).

Comment from Guest: Can you save time using TDI?

Sean Gilmour: Many customers view the ability to deploy a single platform that can address their entire SAP landscape as a time saver, so yes. There are also advantages around leveraging a deeper set of infrastructure tools like replication, backup, and dedupe, which are typically not included/supported in the traditional appliance model.

Andy Sitison: Adding to Sean’s comments, imagine you have HANA running for multiple environments internal to your datacenter and you are virtualizing HANA. You want to set up a new development environment. It’s pretty easy and fast to whip out an instance; instead of waiting for your appliance to ship, you only need TDI for production.

Antonio Freitas: Adding to Andy’s comments, one of the major benefits we hear from customers in regards to TDI is the ability to just start using the existing infrastructures and get a new development system up and running very quickly, which is always the biggest pressure when a new project kicks off.

Comment from Tom: Are there performance differences in running TDI?

Antonio Freitas: The application performance will be defined by the application workload profile. So, there is a set of recommended KPIs published by SAP that enable you to reduce the risk when making a fresh new HANA installation. Then it may happen that your application requires more or less “performance capacity,” and that’s one of the beauties of running in a TDI model — you’ll be able to adapt your configurations as you go, to have an optimal balance between performance and cost. After all, your organization will only implement SAP HANA in production if the benefits the business gains are far greater than the costs of implementing and operating this new technology.

SAP has published a nice set of information that helps you understand better the infrastructure implications in SAP HANA performance. Have a look, for example, at the SAP HANA Storage requirements white paper and also the TSI for Enterprise Storage responses on the SAP HANA FAQ, in particular question 7 on page 7. The point there is that not all SAP HANA systems are alike or have the same workload. A system with 6 TB and 3,000 users will not have the same requirements as a 200 GB system and 100 users.

Melanie Obeid, SAPinsider: Antonio, do you have to fulfill every KPI?

Antonio Freitas: Melanie, the KPIs are recommended. Bear in mind that all the discussion in regards to storage KPIs is about performance, not functionality. So, SAP recommends customers fulfill those KPIs, but also states that it is a choice by the customer whether to fulfill them or not. To paraphrase SAP’s SAP HANA TDI FAQ, “This is always up to the customer to decide if falling below the KPIs is acceptable for his/her daily operation of the SAP HANA system. The customer must decide whether the performance of his/her SAP HANA system is sufficient for his/her needs.”

Let me give you one example. I was discussing with a customer the migration of his full landscape to HANA. We were talking about 15 productive systems — two of them are very critical and when migrated to HANA will be larger than 1 TB, but the other 13 are less critical and have a lower memory footprint. The customer concern is that ensuring all the SAP HANA TDI KPIs for each of these 15 systems will drive a major investment in infrastructure that may block the decision to migrate everything to HANA. His decision was to accept that some of the performance KPIs for the smaller and less-critical productive systems would not be met as they would if in a TDI infrastructure. He can then monitor actual application performance once in production and allocate more capacity as needed. This way he balances performance and cost to get a positive ROI on his business case.

Comment from Thomas: Can I combine TDI with virtual HANA? Can I combine HANA system replication with storage replication?

Sean Gilmour: Yes, vHANA and TDI go hand in hand. Almost 75% of our TDI deployments leverage vHANA, nearly all leverage vHANA in non-production, and an ever-growing number want to leverage vHANA in production.

As for replication, we see customers leverage both methods. Many will leverage storage replication due to experience with it in other workloads, or where they want to leverage the target site for, say, Dev/QA and have a flexible SLA around recovery time. We see system replication more when customers want a very tight recovery time and want SAP to perform it.

Antonio Freitas: Adding to Sean’s comments, virtualizing SAP HANA is an option in addition to TDI. TDI is related to the physical infrastructure, so you can always chose whether to install the SAP HANA systems on bare metal servers or on virtualized ones. Doing this in a Converged Infrastructure enables you to mix physical and virtualized environments while leveraging common infrastructure components like Network and Storage.

In regards to replication, we often see customers setting SLAs for their applications at two levels: One, for single component failure (like a network card or a single server), and another for full datacenter loss. The probability and impact of these two risks are quite different. Then, they may decide for a very aggressive RTO for single component failure, but accept a larger RTO for a full site loss, as that would be a major disaster. One solution we see quite often is for the customer to use SAP HANA System Replication Sun In-Memory across two sites in the same campus or even across two systems in the same datacenter, and then use storage replication for long distance replication to protect against a full site loss.

Andy Sitison: Exploring this topic? Check out this webinar on Mainstreaming HANA with TDI and this blog on solving the HANA [infrastructure] Puzzle.

Comment from Guest: How long does it take to get up and running with TDI?

Sean Gilmour: Typically, when deploying TDI, the “long pole in the tent” is getting the hardware set up correctly; this is where the pre-engineered Vblocks help, since VCE has done this already. The remaining time mostly goes to performing the KPI benchmarks, which can take 3-8 hours to complete, depending on the size and complexity of your system.

A typical install from start to finish takes two to three days, including setting up the system, performing the OS and HANA install, benchmarks, failover testing, and backups. Larger installs (> 15 nodes), can take longer due to the benchmark timings.

Antonio Freitas: As Sean mentions, this is organization specific. Doing it with a Converged Infrastructure provides you the fastest and less risky option, but there are organizations with strong knowledge and experience integrating their existing infrastructure components. When properly advised, and assuming that they have spare capacity and certified components already in the datacenter, [it can be done relatively quickly]. I worked with one customer that got the infrastructure reconfigured to start a HANA installation in a couple of days.

Again, variables like whether there is available hardware in the datacenter, whether there are experienced resources in their operations teams, and whether they have at hand the proper configuration recommendation guides from manufacturers alongside their advice are critical. I need to reinforce again that when working with Converged Infrastructures, you don’t need to be concerned with any of this. VCE provides services to make all this work for you when working with a VBlock, which dramatically lowers your risk and time to get it running.

Comment from Guest: Are there certain pitfalls we need to look out for with TDI?

Allan Stone: HANA TDI is identical to what you do today. You have that same responsibility to determine the vendor to direct support questions to. With VCE, this is easy, as VCE support is that one call. For TDI without VCE, you have the SAP HWCCT tool, which is easy to use to determine if storage is an issue. EMC is prepared to support that.

Using the detailed EMC guides for TDI posted on our website, you are using EMC’s best practices. Follow those to ensure no issues. EMC has done lots of testing and documenting of those best practices. The “pitfall” of TDI is you can use what you are comfortable with and you don’t have to support a box you did not build. We and many customers see that as a huge advantage. See community.emc.com and search for “Config HANA” to find the storage details and commands to use with TDI.

Andy Sitison: I am going to flip the question a bit to cover what I see a lot in the customer base. If I had $100 for every time a customer said, “I wish I understood TDI before I bought all these appliances,” I could buy a beach house. The pitfall of TDI is that the LOBEs (line of business execs) don’t hear about TDI, and/or are sold on buying appliances. Many push appliances because they appear simple at the front end. This is done with little consideration for what they do to your IT landscape. That, to me, is a pitfall. Make sure your LOBEs are looking at the total picture, before it’s too late. And, if a hardware vendor is pushing appliances, inspect their motivation for doing so.

Comment from Heather: Can Business Suite run in a TDI infrastructure?

Sean Gilmour: Yes, it can. There are different guidelines around what is supported, since SoH has a higher memory allocation than BW. Currently, scale up is supported, with scale out coming hopefully next year (all dependent on SAP testing).

Andy Sitison: There are four types of SAP deployed on HANA: sidecar (third-party); BW; SOH (R/3); and S/4. All of these can be deployed on TDI. Sidecar and BW can be “scale up” or “scale out.” SOH and S/4 are recommended to maximize the scale-up configuration, and then scale out from there. Again, all these iterations can run on TDI.

Comment from Guest: Antonio, you mentioned a customer example in a previous response. Can you and your colleagues share other best practices based on your experiences with customers?

Antonio Freitas: Another comment I get a lot from customers who are in production with SAP HANA for a couple of years now is that operating the systems is much more costly than they expected in the beginning. Talking with them, the reason is related to multiple things, but let me highlight some examples.

One thing that you’ll need sooner or later is to add new functionalities to your productive system. This will include, for example, the refresh of data from production to QA systems. In the early days, the only option was appliances and they only had internal disks. When faced with this need today, customers realized that performing this task was a lot harder and more costly than what they had experienced in their “NetWeaver on AnyDB” world, where they leveraged, for example, storage snapshots to get data across fast and in a simple way.

Also, they say that they were led in those early days to define their whole architecture based on their larger systems, which today means wasted capacity on the datacenter. Companies buy IT to respond to business challenges, so having a positive ROI is paramount. What these customers are asking today is: “Do I size the infrastructure based on the majority of my landscape and define standards across the datacenter?”

If you have 300 SID, of these 70 productive, and SAP represents only 20% of your datacenter footprint, look at your datacenter standard in terms of architecture and operations practices and integrate HANA into that standard. If that standard is virtualizing everything with VMware to take advantage of functionalities like simpler HA, DR, and planned maintenance through vMotion, then include all the systems that fit this architecture and deal with the exceptions as exceptions. Meaning, those 5% of the systems that do not fit in this standard, if there is absolutely no way to fit them into the standard, define the exception but at a level that it leverages as much as possible your existing datacenter architecture, skills, and processes. This will drive major operational simplification, less risk, and less operating costs.

There is a lot more I hear from customers, and if you have a specific question, let me know so that I can share what I’ve learned on that specific topic.

Comment from Guest: Are there any security concerns with TDI?

Allan Stone: Absolutely not. TDI is using external storage instead of the storage supplied in an appliance model. TDI and most appliances use external storage so the security concerns are identical appliance and TDI. In addition, the data files are compressed and in HANA format, which would be very hard to read anyway, and much more than any traditional database. Great question, thanks.

Comment from Heather: What about certification? Are there any certification issues I might run into with a TDI infrastructure, and how can I avoid any problems?

Antonio Freitas: Yes, there are. SAP is doing a good thing by demanding a certification process for SAP HANA productive infrastructures. SAP HANA represents a very different workload when seen from the infrastructure perspective, in relation to other platforms. So, the infrastructure components can definitely be the same for SAP HANA and other applications, but the SAP HANA-specific profile will require different configurations.

The SAP certification procedure responds to this. By asking providers to do performance testing and availability testing, and document the configurations that respond to those requirements, SAP is reducing risk to their customers in building their own custom architectures by providing them documented best practices on infrastructure integration of the critical components of an SAP HANA infrastructure.

It is then required that, to get SAP productive support, you use certified components for servers and storage. This ensures that these components have been tested against the unique SAP HANA workload profile, and that there are best practice guides explaining how to configure them specifically for HANA. Then the recommendation is to always use certified components for your productive environment, and follow carefully the recommendations of the manufacturers to ensure your system runs in a stable and predictable way.

If your infrastructure teams tell you that these best practices are contradictory to what they have learned, tell them that HANA is a different IO profile, and so configurations for other workloads may not perform properly with HANA.

Comment from Guest: How does this year’s release of S/4HANA change the game?

Andy Sitison: [It doesn’t change anything] at an infrastructure level to any major degree, other than they shrink the environment a little as you convert from R/3. The products themselves are radically different and impactful. With every month, it’s getting generally easier and easier to run HANA on your landscape, virtualized/non-virtualized, cloud or on-premise. And remember, just because you run in the cloud, doesn’t mean TDI is not a factor. Paying someone to run an appliance in the cloud has the same inefficiencies as you running appliances.

Antonio Freitas: I would add that the S/4 announcement further makes the case for TDI, as with the separation of current and historical data announced by Hasso Plattner at this year’s SAPPHIRE event in Orlando — the in-memory data footprint will further be reduced by leveraging mechanisms like dynamic tiering. So, again, there’s no question that an appliance will no longer respond to the new needs of the innovation SAP is bringing to market.

Comment from Guest: Sorry if this has already been answered, but what servers are supported?

Andy Sitison: Anything on SAP’s certified list. There are a few that are pre-GA, like SGI, that are supported too.

Sean Gilmour: We will also be adding VCE VxRack Quanta servers to the list this week.

Allan Stone: Most Intel E5 and E7-based processor servers. See the link Andy provided. Anything outside of that would not be supported by SAP for production-based HANA.

Natalie Miller, Moderator: How are HANA appliance disk configurations different from HANA TDI configurations?

Sean Gilmour: Typically, the storage configurations between the appliance model and the TDI are the same (on the same storage platform). The benefit of the TDI model is the larger options open to customers, since typically the appliance model only has a single storage option, whereas with TDI, customers can choose from a number of options, from VNX2 to VMAX, or even 100% flash like XtremIO.

Comment from Guest: Can storage be shared between HANA and non-HANA workloads?

Sean Gilmour: In the TDI model, yes. In the appliance model, no. Typically, we create separate storage pools/groups to ensure performance, but non-HANA workloads can share the same storage array.

Comment from Guest: Are there particular marketplace trends that may affect HANA architectures that we should keep in mind, like IoT?

Antonio Freitas: A very good point. One of the things that SAP started to communicate is their concept of “Data Temperatures.” The principle is simple: Not all data has the same value for the organization, so not all data should have the same cost for storing and processing. Think of aspects like integrating structured and unstructured data on HANA — you may come to face volumes of data that far exceed anything you’ve seen in the NetWeaver on AnyDB world. While it may be valuable to have this year and last year’s data in memory to enable real-time business processes, for example, do you need the data from 10 years ago in memory? If the typical list price of 12 TB of RAM is around $1 million, any disk configuration for the same 12 TB costs a lot less than that.

With this in mind, SAP launched dynamic tiering as a function included in SAP HANA as of SPS09. It’s this in conjunction with SAP HANA Vora that is allowing the integration of Hadoop with HANA in a much simpler way, and will mandate a more flexible approach to infrastructure architecture for SAP HANA, to which an “appliance model” doesn’t respond anymore. So, we believe that TDI is the way of the future, to be ready to integrate all these new functionalities as they are demanded by your business units.

Comment from Heather: Are there any storage sizing requirements or guidelines I need to know about?

Allan Stone: Heather, yes — we have spent a lot of time not just getting the storage certified, but also providing the best configuration specific to the storage array in terms of disk, ports, balancing, etc. HANA is not disk-intensive, and 10K drives are fine. Please find all the detailed guides on EMC’s website (search for “config HANA”). An example for EMC VMAX can be found here.

Storage capacity is a moving target and SAP has a guide for that on its website.

Comment from Guest: Andy, you brought up cloud in a recent response. Can you expand on that?

Andy Sitison: Wow, cloud is a big topic for a reply screen! :) I recommend that you separate HANA and the cloud. First, decide what you want to do with HANA, and then decide if you can move to the cloud. I published this list of what I call the “golden 7” considerations of whether you can cloud. Review this, and it will help you navigate the conversation.

I will say, just like TDI, make sure you are considering a 3-5 year TCO of your total cloud decision. There are a number of “Hotel California’s” out there. You know how hard it is to move an SAP landscape from one datacenter to another — now imagine trying to do that on a cloud run by a company that has not developed the tools to help you. Tough proposition.

Check out Virtustream, which I mentioned earlier. Their customer list is long and full of household names — and they’re happy. Also, another thing to keep your eye on is VMWare’s Cloud connect Vmotion, which they announced at VMWorld. This is a “space elevator” to the cloud. Tools like this will make cloud easier over the next couple of years.

Natalie Miller, Moderator: Thanks to everyone who participated in today’s Q&A. And thank you to EMC’s Antonio Freitas, Sean Gilmour, Allan Stone, and Andy Sitison for your time and for your insightful answers.

Allan Stone: Thank you all for the great questions. We will respond to questions you post while visiting community.emc.com. Google everything SAP at EMC for more info. Have a great day.

Sean Gilmour: Thanks for all the great questions. If there is anything else you want to know, hit me up on Twitter (@scoobieboy).

Antonio Freitas: Thank you all for all the questions, and let me invite you to continue the discussion either through Twitter (@revaewten) or through a forum EMC has open on this same topic.

Andy Sitison: You can also contact me via Twitter (@ASitison). Thank you all that joined!

Natalie Miller, Moderator: For more on deploying SAP HANA in a Tailored Datacenter Integration model, check out the replay of EMC’s recent webcast “Make SAP HANA Mainstream in Your Data Center in a TDI Model.” Thanks again for joining us!

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