Getting IT Infrastructure Under Control with Virtualization
How Decoupling Servers from Applications Reduces Costs and Improves Efficiency
It did not take long for companies to cut their IT budgets due to the current economic climate. At the same time, IT is challenged to help businesses adapt quickly to these turbulent markets. It is an old story, and one with which experienced IT executives are familiar: do more with less.
Doing more, however, has meant that the IT environment grows more and more complex, which hampers the ability for IT to allocate and utilize IT resources more efficiently.
In this article, Swen Conrad, SAP’s Director of Platform Marketing for IT Optimization
and SOA Governance, explains how — thanks to ne
w virtualization technologies — SAP customers can reduce costs and become more nimble.
Every company today grapples with how to run a business in an economy that is wildly fluctuating, and executive management is demanding that IT provide solutions to business problems faster to address ever-changing market conditions.
Director of Platform Marketing for IT Optimization and
Conventional wisdom tells you that with each new application you roll out, you need a corresponding increase in infrastructure. You will need more servers, which in turn means more power to operate and cool them, and more people to manage them. The challenge then is to maximize cost-efficiency, and virtualization technology can help. A virtualized environment — one with virtual (rather than actual) versions of operating systems, servers, storage devices, or network resources — aims to centralize administrative tasks while improving scalability and spreading the workload more efficiently.
Adaptive Computing Controller
SAP is a software vendor that provides missioncritical applications running on top of hardware platforms. With virtualization, enterprises can decouple specific applications from specific hardware resources. To manage this process, in 2005 SAP released the Adaptive Computing Controller tool, a central management tool for operating virtualized SAP system landscapes.
Adaptive Computing Controller is an SAP NetWeaver component (the most current release is 7.1) that can reduce operational costs, speed implementations, and increase the scalability of your IT landscape. The tool manages SAP instances on servers, networks, and storage — acting as the central point of control for dynamically and flexibly assigning computing resources and managing application services in your SAP landscape.
The interface provides visibility for system administrators into your infrastructure’s topology. Using this tool, you can see which servers are devoted to which SAP applications and centrally manage issues in your environment (such as easily identifying what servers are down).
More Flexible, Scalable, Efficient Systems
Historically, in most SAP implementations, each application or group of applications required its own dedicated server groups, including development, test, and production systems. Each group had dedicated servers that were often underutilized, especially during the night and weekends. For example, say in your environment, SAP ERP required 10 dedicated servers, each running at less than 50% capacity and SAP Customer Relationship Management required an additional five servers, also running at low capacity, but each with resource peaks requiring this overall capacity.
With adaptive computing virtualization, you can separate applications from specific servers to greatly improve flexibility and scalability. Now using Adaptive Computing Controller, you can run both applications virtually on the same servers, reduce the total number of servers needed from 15 to 10, and run the servers at 80% capacity. Not only will you require 33% fewer servers, but those servers will run more efficiently, reducing overall power consumption and required cooling in your data center.
However, if you do require additional server resources during scheduled resource-intensive business processing (such as a quarter-end close) or unplanned events (such as unexpected high traffic on your Web site), your administrators can use the tool to easily assign the additional server resources required.
While in the past, you had to know every single box in your data center and which SAP system was running on that box, a virtualized environment requires fewer servers to run all the same applications you run today.
SAP Virtualization Ecosystem
There are three primary approaches to virtualization: hardware-based, software-based or operating system-based. All three of these approaches are on a technical level. What makes Adaptive Computing Controller unique is that it moves virtualization to the next level of abstraction: the application level. You can control and manage applications running on virtual and physical server resources and take advantage of the lower-level virtualization. Administrators can use it for mass management operations such as a system start/stop or scheduled system resource allocation to address daily business system peak loads.
The current available release of Adaptive Computing Controller can operate physical as well as virtual servers in the adaptive computing landscape. SAP plans for future releases of the tool to actively manage hypervisorbased virtualization offerings from its partners. Close working relationships with SAP technology partners are ensured in the Adaptive Computing Council and with the Enterprise Virtualization Community that SAP launched this past April.
Using Adaptive Computing Controller, combined with virtualization system software and corresponding hardware, reduces the complexity of your application and data centers. You can now treat your servers as almost anonymous black boxes. More importantly, as your business grows and becomes more flexible, you can quickly scale it up.
Your costs go down because you need less hardware and you have a higher utilization of the existing hardware. With less hardware, you need less power; and with less power, you need less cooling, which for data centers can be a costly operating expense.
Because Adaptive Computing Controller can automate resource management, you will need fewer highly skilled employees to manage your infrastructure. The tool automates routine and simple administration tasks (like reallocating resources) that today may require an employee who has a deep technical knowledge of the underlying IT infrastructure. For many more complex tasks, the tool can be used by a Basis administrator, instead of a more expensive IT resource.
Reducing costs, combined with fewer employees, is the ultimate business benefit, especially in today’s challenging economic times.
Virtualization and Service-Oriented Architecture
You may have recently heard that a service-oriented architecture (SOA) requires a service-oriented infrastructure (SOI). With SOA, business processes are broken into encapsulated process building blocks, each with their own functionality and properties for behavior. One of these properties may be response time. With SOI, the response time property of the SOA process can request compute resources on the fly, which will be provided by the SOI in real time.
While such a scenario is in the future of business applications, SAP was able to build the first prototype of such a business process-driven infrastructure. To do so, SAP leveraged only standard capabilities from its SAP NetWeaver platform, as well as partner and open-source tools including Adaptive Computing Controller. Here is what happens:
An SOA-based SAP process violates its response time property, also referred to as a Web service policy. The violated policy is detected via an SOA management offering from AmberPoint. AmberPoint now informs the Adaptive Computing Controller tool about the policy violation. The tool responds and automatically provisions one or several new dialog instances to meet the necessary compute resource demand of the SOA-based process. No human intervention is necessary.
This policy-based alert system was built using standards-based, out of the box interfaces. And all with existing capabilities in the tools, demonstrating that SAP and its partners are on the right path.
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Dr. Christoph Brune
Account Manager, SAP
Data Center Efficiency Begins with Virtualization
The Question Is Not “If,” but “When”
Every company wants to do more with less to increase their ROI. Yet most companies don’t realize that while software upgrades and changes to business processes can certainly help them economize, their hardware might actually be causing money to leak out of the company budget.
Your server performance and storage systems determine how well you can run your mission-critical applications. However, studies have shown that, on average, server utilization is only in the 10% – 15% range, meaning that nearly 90% of all hardware spending is wasted. IDC estimates that roughly a three-year supply of idle capacity is currently deployed in the market.1 Therefore, companies are purchasing more servers than necessary while also paying to power and cool them — costs that are steadily rising with the global strain on natural resources. IT managers need to invest in platforms that can reduce the cost of operations while providing the performance, scalability, and flexibility necessary to quickly adapt to increasing demands and changing business requirements.
Do More with Fewer Resources
Sun Microsystems offers a complete and cost-effective virtualized platform to help enterprises efficiently deploy their SAP solutions. Virtualization allows companies to run hundreds of applications or several operating systems (OSs) on a single system, helping them to optimize system performance, increase business agility, better use system resources, automate the data center, and increase availability. Sun’s virtualized platform for SAP systems includes:
- Virtual desktops: Replace traditional PCs with virtual machines that you can manage from the data center. Sun Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Software lets users access virtual desktops from nearly any OS without the maintenance, upgrades, and operational costs that traditional PC architectures require.
- Consolidated SAP server landscape: Multisocket, multicore, multithreaded servers from Sun can handle the workloads of multiple SAP applications and their tiers, consolidating the SAP environment so you need fewer physical machines.
- Partitioned servers: Run different types and versions of systems and applications on a single server, reducing the number of servers you need for production, test, quality assurance, training, and upgrades. Sun presents a comprehensive offering of virtualization technologies, such as Dynamic Domains, Logical Domains, Solaris Containers, and the Sun xVM Server, providing highly isolated and secure environments at the hardware and OS levels.
- Cross-platform virtualization management: Technologies such as Sun xVM Ops Center provision and manage pools of resources that users can share and allocate to many SAP instances. Resource management features enable applications to use resources from other applications, bringing server usage close to 85% of capacity. Sun works with SAP to certify specifically designed solutions with the Adaptive Computing Controller tool from SAP. In addition, you can clone entire SAP environments to distribute them geographically or for disaster recovery purposes.
- Cost-effective data storage and management: Many companies use tape libraries to store data for backup, archiving, and recovery. Products like Solaris ZFS and Sun StorageTek Virtual Storage pool resources to manage storage as a single resource, which decreases the burden of managing large tape libraries, increases system usage and efficiency, and reduces the overall cost of protecting SAP data through improved tape utilization, shared tape resources, and reduced complexity.
Virtualization Help Is Here
As the economy continues to struggle, companies can’t afford to purchase systems that don’t perform as well as they should. Virtualization can help your company tighten its belt and get a better ROI in the process.
To learn more about what Sun Microsystems has to offer in this space, visit www.sun.com/sap/virtualization.
1 Sun Microsystems’ Solutions for Virtualization Across the Enterprise, John Humphreys, August 2007. [back]
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Global SAP Alliance VMware
VMware Virtualization Opens the Door to Enhanced System Service Levels
When choosing a platform on which to run your mission-critical SAP applications, you can’t compromise on reliability. Selecting a virtual platform for your SAP solutions-based development, test, training, and production environments can cost less and be just as reliable and productive as a purely physical infrastructure.
Virtualization allows multiple applications and operating systems to run independently on one server, enabling administrators to quickly move workloads from one virtual or physical workspace to another, prioritizing business needs and server resources.
With VMware Infrastructure — a solution suite that virtualizes servers, storage, and networks — companies running SAP deployments of all sizes can reap a full range of virtualization benefits, including server consolidation and containment, as well as business process and data center automation.
Why Go Virtual?
VMware ESX abstracts server processor, memory, storage, and networking resources into multiple virtual machines, forming the robust foundation of the VMware Infrastructure suite that supports the stability, reliability, and performance of SAP solutions. With VMware solutions, companies can:
- Manage risks: You need to keep out-of-control project costs in check and meet your compliance objectives, without the added stress of deploying noncompliant servers. VMware capabilities such as rapid environment provisioning, snapshots, cloning, and templating allow you to reduce costs for development and test environments, deploy environments as needed, minimize configuration drift during complex projects, and easily reset images to a clean state. The result? You can run more test cycles in less time, helping to keep projects on track and on budget. Additionally, VMware configuration templates are set up to meet regulations, easing the compliance process that deploying new servers involves.
- Manage data center resources more efficiently: In a typical server deployment, every tier resides on dedicated physical systems, which are underutilized much of the time. Meanwhile, computing equipment grows increasingly dense, and energy costs are on the rise. VMware virtualization can reduce your hardware and energy costs and dramatically improve your hardware usage, helping you get the most out of the hardware you already have in place.
- Meet service level agreements (SLAs) for availability, performance, and disaster recovery: SAP application owners, Basis administrators, and IT staff are hard pressed to meet SLAs that guarantee availability and performance targets for solution users. VMware virtualization tools work with SAP-provided functionality to deliver infrastructure and application performance and high availability for critical business functions. With VMware VMotion, for instance, you can perform hardware maintenance during regular business hours without scheduling system downtime that disrupts operations. And VMware Site Recovery Manager lets you implement a disaster recovery system without investing in an exact replica of your hardware.
- Respond more flexibly to business needs: VMware Infrastructure includes features that handle peak loads or sudden increases in demand, thereby enhancing your ability to design new services quickly. You can assign CPU “slices” to projects from a pool of resources and easily add more virtual server instances with standardized templates. To retire servers and repurpose hardware, you can simply change or even delete the virtual machines that run on any given physical system.
Visit www.vmware.com/sap to read case studies, download white papers, and learn more about the benefits of VMware Infrastructure for SAP landscapes.
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Director, SAP Alliance
Downtime Got You Down?
Eliminate Cluster Complexity with Fault-Tolerant Servers from Stratus
Successful companies of all sizes are leveraging powerful SAP applications to create integrated solutions that drive business performance. As business transactions increasingly depend on IT solutions, however, unplanned downtime can place significant strain on companies, resulting in lost revenue, lost productivity, or even a loss of regulatory compliance.
Fault-Tolerant Servers Provide the Answer
Stratus Technologies, an SAP Global Technology Partner, builds reliable, fault-tolerant servers and delivers the benefits of 99.999% or greater availability to SAP customers. The Stratus ftServer platform uses patented lockstep technology and duplicated hardware components that can simultaneously process the same instructions — in other words, these components work in tandem, performing the same actions independently of each other. This way, business can continue to run smoothly, even if some server components fail.
The ftServer platform is made of industry standard components, such as Intel Xeon processors, and runs standard operating systems such as Microsoft Windows Server and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The ftServer platform offers the simplicity of managing a standard x86 server, but it delivers uptime beyond that of traditional recovery solutions like clusters. The architecture also eliminates the failovers and data loss that often occurs with server clusters.
Why Fault-Tolerant Platforms?
Fault-tolerant platforms benefit many application areas throughout the enterprise:
- SME applications: Small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) often lack the IT resources to implement and sustain a complex infrastructure with high availability. Unlike server clusters that require IT support for multiple machines, the ftServer platform functions as one server so that SMEs can maintain their own systems while achieving outstanding service levels.
- Virtualization advantage: Although running SAP solutions on virtual machines offers many benefits, completely relying on a single physical server can drastically affect your business if that server goes down. A fault-tolerant server eliminates this single point of failure, delivering the benefits of virtualization to business-critical applications without the risk associated with using just a single server.
- Perfect Plant applications: Applications like SAP Manufacturing Execution by Visiprise and SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence (SAP MII) are most often implemented at the plant, rather than in the data center. Plant execution solutions have a high cost of downtime since they directly affect production, quality, and regulatory compliance. And while mission-critical execution systems have arrived at the plant, additional IT support has not. The ftServer platform provides the availability and operational simplicity required when deploying these applications to remote facilities.
Continuous Availability: A Necessity
The risk and cost of service interruptions grow higher as SAP applications become more powerful and integrated. Relying on proven and reliable fault-tolerant servers from Stratus Technologies can help you achieve the advantages you seek today without compromising the performance of your mission-critical applications. For more information, visit www.stratus.com/sap.
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