For decades now, we have been operating SAP® applications in ever more complex structures, starting with SAP® R/2 on the mainframe, then SAP® R/3 on client-server landscapes, and subsequently more and more SAP applications alongside the classic ERP: BW, CRM, SCM, SRM, not forgetting the SAP© Solution Manager and many others.
As time passed, all this was virtualized, to make optimum use of hardware capacity. In part, applications were added that are operated from a managed service provider and – to put it in street language – come ‘from the cloud’. In many instances this leads to a kind of hybrid IT.
Some applications and data remain in-house, particularly if the data is competition-critical and business-critical. Other services that are not continuously needed are made available from the hosting provider – if needed.
After this, everything had to become faster and priority was given to business processes being able to be changed proactively. In-memory computing is the name of the magic formula. SAP® HANA™ is the center of the digital transformation.
The next step requiring our full attention is SAP® S/4HANA™. Through the years, the specalist departments and the datacenter must collaborate constructively, in order to react flexibly to changes and to keep the costs under control.
As I write this I am thinking ‘we’, because Lenovo is itself a large SAP customer, one that operates the largest SAP®-BW system in Asia, for instance. Simultaneously Lenovo is a reliable partner that collaborates closely with SAP© and employs specialists who know the SAP architecture in detail. They understand what SAP customers use and know how the complexity, as just described, remains controllable.
Takeover of x86 Servers
Around two years ago, Lenovo took over IBM’s x86 server division. Our uppermost premise in doing this was – and is – to guarantee continuity for datacenter operators (in-house suppliers and hosting-suppliers).
Paralleling this, we use our comprehensive logistic-specialist experience from the globally familiar Thinkpad product-area to offer our customers the best-possible service. It can be of interest to SAP customers to get the server infrastructure and the end-equipment from a single source.
This makes it possible to provide mobile applications and also back-end support for the IT team, from start to finish. Lenovo supports the datacenter requirements for the continued availability of server components, based on Windows and on Linux, for all SAP applications – on all SAP-supported databases.
For instance, many SAP customers still operate their SAP Business Warehouse on a classic DB/OS combination, using the SAP® Business Warehouse Accelerator (BWA) to accelerate the call-off of database information.
Some customers are not yet at the stage at which they migrate their whole SAP® BW onto SAP HANA, and the BWA fulfills its task perfectly. BWA is supported by SAP until 2020 and Lenovo is now the sole supplier that continually keeps the server components for BWA up-to-date.
Only recently (July 2016), in certifying the Lenovo Flex System 240 M5, we made the newest Intel processor generation, Broadwell, available for our customers in pre-defined BWA configurations. Beyond that, we have certified SAP®-BWA systems (x3850 and x3950 x6) that are reusable as SAP-HANA systems in the event of a later migration.
The operating topics in the datacenter are given a high level of attention, both for classic SAP®-IT landscapes and for SAP-HANA-based applications.
If the SAP applications from the datacenter are not available, all innovation comes to a halt. This means that the old familiar ITIL disciplines such as the phasing-in of new systems, monitoring, maintenance, back-up/restore, continuous availability and disaster protection, as well as security topics, are still of central importance.
This must be taken into account, especially with regard to SAP HANA, as a central component which the industry is still happy to associate with the word ‘appliance’. In the classic arrangement, SAP HANA is supplied in a firmly-defined configuration with a precisely-fixed activity sequence for the first installation.
The operating issues – and the responsibility – are then in the customer’s hands, unless these activities (monitoring, administration and care) are bought-in as a service. Recently I spoke with a customer who now operates large parts of his SAP systems on an externally-hosted basis.
However, the attributed costs appear to be so high that the following question must be asked: why aren’t you operating this yourselves? It cannot be so difficult and ought to be less expensive.
This question is not easy to answer and needs to be analyzed in the individual instance. Each SAP customer environment is individual to a very large degree – how many so-called TCO studies have I already seen in my career?
Generalizations are not what is needed. Both forms of operating (hosting or running one’s own operation) can make sense, depending on the accompanying circumstances.
Preparation for introducing and deploying SAP S/4HANA has to begin now – to get an orientation for the future of SAP applications. It is not a matter of ‘whether’ but solely of ‘when’. When planning the hardware landscape, responsible action is what is needed.
I particularly advise users to reduce the database sizes to the necessary minimum. Regular archiving of data is more important than ever. I know that this is difficult because the specialist departments have to define which business cases are completed and no longer need to be held in the primary database.
However, archiving does not mean throwing away.
The data is safely transferred to another medium and can be made available at any time if needed.
Architecture Principles of Lenovo
At present, the configuration of transactional systems (SAP® ERP, CRM, SRM, SCM etc.) is limited to single-node configurations. We must wait and see whether general approval is given to the possibility for scale-out configurations (clusters with several HANA nodes), for business-suite applications and thereby for SAP S/4HANA-based applications.
Above all, HANA stands for real-time, for a previously unknown speed in critical business decisions, and new, innovative application scenarios. Lenovo provides ideal support to this through the architecture principles, with a modular approach and investment protection.
We offer SAP-HANA systems with 2-socket, 4-socket and 8-socket configurations, from 128 GB up to 12 TB main memory.
Of course, care is taken both to ensure that all configurations correspond to the SAP reference architecture and to comply with what is allowed for the various application scenarios (analytical: 4 TB nodes; or transactional: 8 TB nodes for production-purpose systems).
Recently all-flash configurations (with SanDisk products) also became available; for these products the persistence layer for SAP HANA, and its security.