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Blog Open Source and Cloud

Open Source: A Cornerstone Of Digitalization

Applications companies find themselves challenged to embark on a new chapter in the use of SAP, in tackling the digital transformation. What is predestined to be the mainstream in this is the use of Hana and S/4 Hana as “digital core".

Also on the agenda for change: new or different IT-infrastructure technologies and provider-models. These are supported by Suse with several perfect-fit, open-source solutions. The adoption of new, innovative technologies is a process that is being completed in ever shorter time-frames. For instance, the almost-complete market penetration by smartphones, both in the consumer sector and in the business environment, unfolded at a formidable pace.

Yet a look back reveals the following: established firms from the telephone and mobile-phone sectors do not rank among today’s players in the smartphone sector. Yesteryear’s well-worn names were replaced by new names. The change did nothing less than completely turn around the mobile-communication market. A disruptive innovation newly defined the market’s rules of the game.

Companies from practically all business sectors need to engage with the digital transformation or with digitalization, in one way or another. Indeed, they have to change their ways – to further reinforce what has been achieved or to expand upon it. The lever pulled to effect this is disruptive innovations – such as using Hana and S/4 Hana as digital core, including a new user-experience, with Fiori as its foundation.

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As part of this, the new business suite takes into account both ERP-use and also the deployment of big data, analytics, mobile computing, business networks or the internet-of-things (IoT). It does this in on-premise operation or in cloud-operation, or in hybrid form on-premise or in the cloud.

Naturally, digitalization entails a whole series of changes – in a variety of respects. For the digital transformation also presents new challenges to applications, application development and the operation of data centers – based on the DevOps model. In this, application development and IT operation are interwoven, intelligently and in a way that matches demand, so as to make new applications available quickly.

Moreover, with the SAP Core Data Services, Hana and S/4 pull closer together, thereby lending support to the DevOps concept. The core of this, with regard to digitalization and IT infrastructure, is the need to have a dynamic and highly-flexible IT infrastructure and IT components, based on the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC).

In minimizing the distance between application and operation, it is the open-source model that particularly gains significance, through the use of open standards – the SAP environment has been doing this for quite some time. In this, Suse provides support to SAP customers as an open-source pioneer with innovative, high-performance software solutions and services.

New infrastructure technologies

At Hana and S/4 Hana, new or other infrastructure technologies are of major significance. Here, Linux plays an even stronger role as the open-source operating-system platform.

Also open-source: Hadoop as an important component for big data, OpenStack for providing the private-cloud / server interaction, or Cloud Foundry as platform for the Hana Cloud Platform – the latter acts as the hub for developing the app and for making it available when S/4 Hana is used. Added to this are cloud-provider models such as IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and SaaS (Software as a Service) – practically without exception, this is all offered with open-source-based software solutions.

For a long time now, Suse Linux Enterprise Servers (SLES) for SAP Applications (using the current version, no. 12) has been offering a stable, flexible backbone for SAP use – including the integrated Suse High Availability Extension (HAE) as a tried and proven high-availability solution, with disaster-recovery functionality. As part of this, SLES also makes available the open-source virtualization solutions KVM and XEN.

In what, by now, is many thousands of SAP Hana and S/4 Hana installations, SLES has proven its worth outstandingly well. It is as if it were ‘made for’ SAP use, so to speak. What has paid dividends here is the interaction with SAP or, to be more precise, with the SAP Linux Lab.

The goal in this has always been to ensure absolutely optimum Hana operation (in on-premise operation and cloud operation) in the mission-critical environment. SLES is additionally complemented by Suse OpenStack Cloud for the orchestration activity and Suse Manager for the system management.

In this context, what was and is at the forefront for Suse, particularly in use of SAP Hana, is three requirements that the solutions provided must meet: firstly, so-called ‘Towards Zero Down­Time’ must be ensured. Secondly, maximum performance must be guaranteed, to attain processing times and response times that match the needs.

Additionally, simplified-operations features are needed, enabling Hana installations and Hana operation to work in a simple, effective, cost-efficient way.

For many customers, attention is on the use of on-premise SAP in the switch towards Hana and S/4 Hana. A considerable proportion of R/3 conversions or ERP S/4 Hana conversions thereby takes place in company-internal data centers – despite an ever greater transition to cloud use.

In this context, it is important that Suse, with the open-source operating-system platform SLES for SAP Applications, and as the sole Linux platform for Hana and S/4 Hana, provides support both to x86-Intel servers and also IBM-Power-on-Hana servers. It does so according to scale-out principles and also scale-up principles. SLES for SAP Business One on Hana is also available and demand for it is rising all the time.

Suse: anchor of stability

It has long been high on the priority list to fulfil requirements with regard to distinctive data-center readiness, in the use of SAP-Hana on-premise; this aim was accomplished in a joint project with the Walldorf software group. SAP customers sustainably profit from Suse – the anchor of stability.

So what are the themes with regard to Hana data-center readiness? What topics do IT managers and IT operations experts have to examine here, as priorities? And which specific features does Suse offer?

As regards data-center readiness, the focus is on the following topics or activity areas – in the Hana and S/4 Hana era, these are by no means wholly new but do need handling differently here and there: high availability, performance, virtualization operations, back-up and security with auditing.

he new Suse technology, kGraft, in conjunction with Suse Linux Enterprise Server HAE, and also combined with the Hana system replication, hugely reduces down-time and offers specific and distinctive high-availability functionality in the present-day SAP data center. This render support in pursuing the “Towards Zero Downtime” objective.

The kGraft technology, developed by Suse, is a live-kernel patching technology that makes it possible to update security patches online, without a reboot and without waiting for the next planned service-window. Emphasis should also be given to so-called Hana Resource Agents (RA), supplied with SLES for SAP Applications 12. These enable Hana database instances and replications to be administered, supervised and controlled.

HA and DR: covering needs

As mentioned, the SuseLinux Enterprise Server High Availability Extension (HAE), already included for years in SLES for SAP Applications, offers a well-proven and leading high-availability solution for improvement of business continuity/high availability, as well as disaster-recovery functions for SAP solutions.

Especially for Hana use, the solution was optimized / further developed, constituting a type of standard for HA and DR in the Hana environment. In particular, SAP makes Hana system-replication (SR) mechanisms available for HA, which are usually managed and used manually.

The SLAs regarding an automation are extended so as to encompass use of the Suse High Availability Solution (HAE) of SLES for SAP Applications 12. Generally what is preferred as a central HA solution for Hana is a system replication via a memory preload in a cluster (e.g. two-node cluster).

The switchover can be automated comfortably by means of Suse HAE, e.g. in a two-node cluster with a (second) HA system running synchronously for a Hana on-site system (this would then be node number one). For a DR scenario, the Hana system replication makes an asynchronous replication possible onto one further site (e.g. a further data center) so that the disaster-recovery case is covered in this way.

Optimum performance

For quite a while now, SAP and Suse have been addressing the topic of ‘optimum performance’ in the use of SAP Hana, with specific optimization features or solutions. SAP customers attain advantages in use both from the Linux extension, Page Cache Limit, and also from Hana Pattern, the installation-support instrument.

The extension of Suse Linux Enterprise Server, so as to include the Page Cache Limiter, substantially contributes to a constantly high availability and performance being provided by SLES for SAP Applications; this applies even in the event of maximum use of CPU and RAM capacity.

So what is possible is to manage the available capacity resources of the working cache in such a way that Linux and Hana, or Hana-based applications such as S/4, optimally harmonize their operations – notably so that there is no downturn in performance.

Within the framework of the digital transformation, big data/analytics constitute a core topic. For SAP customers the focus in this is on Hana and on the open-source solution, Hadoop – these are not rigorously divided but rather act in concert. This particularly applies when the basis used is the SAP solution and the enquiry engine Hana Vora – the latter offers the context-analyses for data in company systems and other distributed data-sources with in-memory technology.

SAP application users who take the Hana and Hadoop option, when the topic is big data, or respectively the Hana Vora option, derive benefit from the operating-system platform Suse. This is because SLES supports both Hadoop and also Hana and Hana Vora.

As regards the Hana Patterns made available with Suse Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications 12, this is an installation package, including opportunities for fine-tuning – it can also be brought into play for updates, and can be used to attain performance improvements.

It also brings about a simplification and a high level of automation, based on best practice and workflows; in turn, this also results in an increased level of security in the case of SAP installations. 

Simplified installations

In SAP data centers, visualization (or virtualization solutions) acts as the standard. Around two years ago, VMware was the first certified virtualization solution for Hana. There is an SLES-VMware integration. It is significant that, in the case of VMware high-availability, the focus is on the hardware or on the server – and not on the Hana services.

This means that the server functionality lends itself to being monitored or indeed controlled via VMware. As regards HA Management and HA Feature use of Hana Services, such as database function protection, fail-over mechanisms and others, these are the responsibility of other Hana system elements.

With regard to Hana-HA matters, a fundamental hub is the SAP Netweaver High Availability Cluster 730 Certification’. With this, for the first time, SAP has provided a cluster-reference architecture in advance; this includes stipulations on clustering, and those offering solutions must adhere to it.

Suse participated in the development of this architecture on clustering. It is now years since Suse – as an exclusive SAP-Hana development partner – teamed up with SAP and took on the topic of ‘simplified operations’ – they discussed it and evaluated it; then there was development work and testing, in order to simplify Hana operation and to shape it efficiently.

All important and necessary operations-related subjects on mission-critical use of SAP Hana were taken into account. 

Operations for Hana

The outcome was that, with Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) for SAP Applications, tools or services are made available today from which SAP customers also derive benefit in many instances, including the following: the installation of SAP Hana systems; the superimposition of high-availability (HA) for a Hana System Replication; the automated and optimized setting of kernel parameters; automated administration on Linux servers via the web, and the automated process of maintaining care of release-status levels for SAP-base-divisions, right through to reduced workloads involved in upgrades.

Specifically, a sophisticated installation wizard provides support in simplified installation of SAP Hana systems.  Additionally, the so-called Hana Patterns offer fine-tuning possibilities in the installation process. In particular, this type of pattern ensures a high level of automation based on best practice and workflows.

The outcome is greater security in SAP-Hana installations, but also more generally in an SAP installation.

For instance, (obligatory) parameters are automatically set correctly, as are optimum kernel parameters.Furthermore, within the framework of Simplified Operations, the High Availability Web Konsole (HAWK) can be used. This brings about a simplification in the process of superimposing high-availability and in monitoring it, based on the Hana system replication (see above).

Also usable are Web Yast, a tool making it possible to automate the administration of Linux servers, and the Suse Manager – this enables a staging procedure to be depicted for the SAP base (TEST, DEV, PROD).This means no more than the following and also no less: it is simpler and less effort to automate the provision of care to the release-status levels in the SAP base. In this context, a reporting engine supplies evaluations. The latter then provide the foundation for compliance by the SAP base.

With regard to ‘Simplified Operations’, it is also significant that there is an Extended Service Pack Overlap Support (ESPOS) from Suse; this prolongs the service-pack’s supported-status from 24 to 36 months, simultaneously reducing the resource-commitment involved in upgrades by 33 per cent, over a five-year timeframe of reference. This is because, only by doing it this way, two upgrades are essential instead of three.

Through its involvement on the Hana developments, and also due to much Linux-security experience, Suse is able to make available a far-reaching security-package for Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) for SAP Applications; this covers all conceivable security aspects involved in use of Hana-Suse.

Security Package for SLES

Firstly, SLES fulfils the requirements of numerous important security certificates. Secondly, Suse continuously provides security-updates/security patches for SLES. And thirdly, Hana-Suse customers can make avail of a dedicated security guide – this rigorously describes the specific hardening of the SAP in-memory database in connection with SLES.

A ‘Suse Firewall for Hana’ can also be used. This counteracts local network attacks or the opening of certain ports from outside. Beyond this, mechanisms can be used that highlight which operating-system packages absolutely need to be available and which are dispensable if so required or wished.

A whole new extension in Suse Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications is Suse Connect, presented last month at Sapphire. This enables customers of Hana or S/4 Hana to make avail of an app store and directly tie-in or use Suse-partner solutions into their SAP infrastructure environments. SLES also interlocks with the partner-solutions.

The first partner-solutions include CanaryCode from Datavard: this is integrated via Suse Connect in SLES for SAP Applications 12 (here also see the feature ‘Closely Connected’, starting on Page 55 in this E3 cover-story). Further solutions from Suse partners will follow in the near future.

Very often, new cloud-provider models really give a boost to the digital transformation. IaaS, PaaS and SaaS have long since been in vogue. Obtaining and using resources from the cloud frees up space, giving flexibility and faster availability of applications and digital services, or cost-savings.

In the SAP environment also, the transition to the cloud is constantly progressing. Yet in many instances SAP customers opt for hybrid cloud environments (a combination of private and public cloud). Hana and S/4 Hana are also available as cloud solutions, along-side the SAP solutions of SuccessFactors, Ariba or Fieldglass. 

Transition to cloud-use in the SAP environment

Beyond this, there is the Hana Cloud Platform (HCP) and the Hana Enterprise Cloud (HEC). As with Hana and S/4 Hana, Suse was involved in the SAP developments on the HCP and the HEC, pushing ahead on these jointly with the Walldorf-based software group.

Using HCP – SAP‘s own PaaS-Cloud solution, including in-memory technology, (web) applications and solutions can be developed and made available or supplied to customers, simply, cost-efficiently and quickly. As we know, PaaS as a cloud-service is based on IaaS. With regard both to IaaS and to PaaS, SAP is taking the open-source option or using open standards – specifically, it is using OpenStack and Cloud Foundry.

OpenStack and Cloud Foundry

Like the OpenStack Foundation, the Cloud Foundry Foundation is a free project, supported by many big-name companies (currently 55) as a non-profit organization, and spanning a range of manufacturers. The number includes SAP and Suse.

As the first Linux distributor of all, Suse has been a member of the OpenStack Foundation since 2012; that year, with Suse Cloud, it presented the first Enterprise-OpenStack solution. Suse has been a Cloud Foundry Foundation member since 2015. The foundation produces specific software, with Cloud Foundry and the Cloud Foundry components, in accordance with open-source development principles. The counterpart to OpenStack also certifies the Cloud Foundry members‘ various PaaS solutions.

That way, and above all, it is ensured that cloud platforms are mutually compatible and mutually consistent, based on a uniform and open standard. What Suse and SAP have in their sights in their interaction is to make available an OpenStack Cloud Provider Interface (CPI).

The main goal here is to use a CPI to simplify, or respectively to automate, the communication between Cloud Foundry and the OpenStack infrastructure situated beneath it. This enables apps to be tested more simply and to be immediately rolled out and used in private or public clouds.

Cloud environments and digitalization

Many advantages can be gained by use of an open-source OpenStack-based IaaS-cloud (private cloud or on-premise cloud) for SAP applications – including the fact that SAP solutions can be rolled out efficiently and cost-effectively. This means that, as digitalization progresses, services or applications can be provided quickly and flexibly.

As part of this, the three Suse open-source solutions – namely SLES for SAP applications (for SAP Classic, Hana and S/4 Hana), Suse OpenStack Cloud and Suse Manager – collaborate in an ideal way. This is true especially when the subject is reduction of complexity, minimization of costs, or provision of reliable, innovative services.

The three open-sourced-based building-blocks fulfil all the latest requirements governing data-center readiness, with distinctive functionality that is optimized to match SAP customers‘ necessities in the cloud environment and is oriented towards the digitalization needs of today and tomorrow.

Source:
Suse and E-3 Magazine (German) Cover Story June 2016

About the author

Friedrich Krey, Suse

Friedrich Krey is Global Alliance Director SAP at Infosys.

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