Solving the HANA Puzzle: Optimized Infrastructure Choices


I was recently meeting with SAP customers while traveling through Singapore and Bangkok. What I found on these travels was a growing market with unique challenges, and some brilliantly spicy food. I also found a customer base dealing with the same global questions of “HANA” and “Cloud”. It’s a statement of fact that IT must evolve by reducing the on-going cost equation, and replatform to faster, more flexible architectures in order to keep pace with the Line of Business (LOB). One of my old mentors from the 90’s had a tag line: “Speed Kills”. The sensibility of this statement has only become more relevant over the last 20 years.

Yes, HANA and Cloud are the two levers of change in the SAP customer base, and I find a constituency that is focused on getting this right. IT budgets aren’t what they were in the 90’s, and they are dealing with the major realities of running mature global IT operations. I interpret their collective position as one trying to solve a challenging puzzle.

As I prepared to present last week, I wanted to engage the audience. While waiting for my turn to speak, I came up with the “HANA Puzzle” concept below. The “HANA Puzzle” went over pretty well with the audience and I think it’s relevant for the broader SAP community, so I wanted to share it with you. Here’s a quick step through of my Whiteboard talk.

Slide2

“Can you solve it?” I asked the audience. They trained their eyes on the seemingly arbitrary list of letters, yet found no hidden key. So, I began to explain to them, the HANA puzzle.

The first letter is “A”, that stands for…

APPLIANCE – When HANA was first released, SAP limited infrastructure variability by requiring every deployment of HANA to be installed on a certified appliance. This ensured HANA had the appropriate compute horsepower required to run, and it simplified the deployment process for the customer. Even today there are many customers who are inclined to consider an appliance model for their deployment of HANA because of its initial simplicity. In reality, the appliance model was a contemporary of early HANA when limits were welcomed, but it loses favor for mature deployments. Today where HANA deployments moving into their second, third, fourth step of evolution, TDI has become the model of choice.

TAILORED DATA CENTER INTEGRATION (TDI) – TDI is the ability to install HANA on top of a customer’s IT landscape through a self-certification process. There are still some requirements for component validation, but the effect is a significant savings in overall TCO. I recommend this paper by Antonio Freitas on the mainstreaming of TDI for a full review of TDI’s impact.

Why is TDI a better solution for TCO? Simple, IT operations have been refined for multiple decades to optimize on a horizontal model. Key optimization techniques like capacity planning and load balancing are a function of the maximization of shared resources. Most customers have found that they can run HANA successfully within their existing landscape, or optimize their infrastructure with new tech that maximizes across multiple axes, not just their HANA deployment. As important as cost, this additionally provides the maximum flexibility for operations. Finally, using IT standards leverages the company’s existing skill sets.

All of these are key optimizations that TDI enables, but probably the most singularly important optimization TDI supports is our “V” in the puzzle. Here is a blog by SAP’s Bill Zang covering the impact of TDI and virtualization on the cost of systems operations.

VIRTUALIZATION – OK I am guessing a few of you figured out the “V” in the puzzle was virtualization, because virtualization’s power to optimize is well known. If you are curious how that specifically impacts HANA, here’s a quick read on the basics of Vsphere 5.5 support specific for HANA. I am comfortable in saying that, today, virtualizing non-production HANA is common practice. The savings created through standing up and shutting down Virtualized HANA development environments and the improved model for HA and DR alone justify including HANA in your non-production environments. However, some companies have ventured even further, using virtualization in production. Watch Bill Reid talk about his deployment of virtualized HANA in production for EMC IT.

Well the puzzle is in the process of being solved, can you guess was “P” is for?

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PRIVATE CLOUD – It’s a short, but steep leap from Virtualization to private cloud. Private cloud adds in the next level of application/DevOps functionality to the stack, which further abstracts and automates HANA away from the physical data center and into the cloud. Private cloud does this while the providing the most cloud protection via hard-walled environments. There are many ways to deploy HANA on private cloud including the market leading solution from Virtustream called xStream Cloud Management software. This solution granularizes the environment into small compute chunks and optimizes the layout to minimize the HANA workload’s footprint. Then xStream routinely monitors usage of each unit of compute. The system will further automate the starting and stopping on SAP environments, minimalizing the amount of human interaction needed for HANA landscape operations. This is useful, for customers who deploy “on-premise” and “off-premise”.

ON/OFF PREMISE – Let’s continue the conversation on xStream to apply its optimization to an off-premise environment. If you have contracted Virtustream for managed services or are using xStream sfw for hosted private cloud, then the products ability to turn off and on small compute units called “MicroVMs” translates into significant savings. By monitoring whether a MicroVM is on or off every 5 mins, Virtustream minimizes their charges to actual consumption, only charging for compute units that are “on”. Add in the automated starting and stopping of SAP workloads, and a hosted private cloud can translate to 20, 30, 50% or more savings over your existing deployment.

SAP sees private cloud as a key catalyst to the success of HANA. SAP created a specification for private cloud called HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) which they provide through a small certified list of providers (including EMC/Virtustream).

Can you guess the “H” yet?

Slide4

HYBRID CLOUD – Now we’re getting serious. Hybrid cloud is the next frontier of HANA and SAP computing. Only the most advanced SAP companies have begun to venture into the future of a hybrid cloud model. There is some ambiguity in the market as to what defines a hybrid cloud. Is a customer who has Success Factors SAAS and a hosted private cloud for HANA, a hybrid cloud? Well yes, probably; and by this definition hybrid is somewhat mainstreamed. However, when I mention an elite group of customers heading to the future… well I’m talking about more advanced functionality. I am referring to the ability to create elasticity by bursting workloads from on premise to off or from one cloud location to another. This is the promise of a huge step in further optimization, but there are natural roadblocks to hinder progress. “How big is your data?” or “HANA is an in-memory platform” are two great examples. So today you can not slice off an intra-workload within HANA and seamlessly float it to the cloud. However, think of needs for elasticity in development, system migration, HA, or DR? Hybrid functionality can be really impactful to operations of global businesses.

Let me tell you about one personal experience. Again I am going to use xStream Cloud Management software as an example. I recently worked with resources from Virtustream, EMC and VCE to test out a bundled solution putting xStream on a Vblock. The objective was to allow customers run the cloud optimizing software within their data centers and operationally communicate with other xStream-based clouds. We put this solution through the paces. There were several scenarios like “cloud site failure”, and “system migration between sites” that were proved out. In our first few phases of testing we have had amazing results. Check out this solution brief for more information.

PUBLIC CLOUD – The final “P” is for public cloud. For mission critical systems, public cloud is less impactful than its sister cloud derivations, yet it can’t be overlooked when SAP customers are looking at overall optimization. Public cloud can provide a variety of offerings from SAAS offerings like SuccessFactors, to small online HANA development environments, to offloading a company’s traditional landscape or as a tool for addressing big data requirements. Here’s a story from about BlueFin’s leverage of public clouds for their SAP landscape. As companies plan their replatforming efforts they should consider public cloud as a tool to round out their overall strategy.

Well… We’ve solved the “HANA Puzzle”.

Slide5

I called it the “HANA Puzzle” because for many companies its not a question of why HANA, they know that HANA is the future; yet the “how” and “what” can be confusing because of the amount of evolution we’ve experienced in the last few years. I hope you see an “answer” in my solution to this puzzle. Everyone has to define their own journey, but there is tangible precedence in the market on what decisions will maximize both your operational flexibility and TCO.

Delelet

For current and future EMC customers, I want to point out; EMC Federation (including EMC, Virtustream, and VMWare) provides the market with the hardware, software and services to address each and every iteration and derivative of HANA you may choose, across the entire “puzzle”.

I hope this helps you solve your own path for HANA. Please feel free to share your story or ask for details on any of this as needed.

(As for the hot and spicy food… a few of my favorites were Rendang, Laksa and this spicy bamboo salad in Bangkok… Man, it doesn’t taste the same in the States… Loved it.)

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What Happened in Vegas – SAP Insider Follow Up


ImageWell I’m back home from a trip to SAP Insider’s conference and I promised to answer a series of questions based on my conversations from the show. If you will allow me, I am going to change how I deliver on my earlier commitments.  I found my questions morphed drastically as I engaged the attendees.  Why?  well frankly I stink at being a reporter and in fairness, the show’s attendance changed this year enough that I found myself going in a different direction.

Go back four or five years ago and there were two shows called “Admin” and “BI”. They were primarily attended by BASIS teams who were dealing with infrastructure issues.  With SAP’s M&A strategy and SAP’s messaging evolution, the event has changed to reflect the new SAP. Now the show had divested to create “Cloud & Virtualization”, “Mobile”, & “Business Objects Bootcamp”.  Let’s admit it, since 2009 the economy and general show attendance has fluctuated. I am sure that has something to do with the shows coming together in a co-located venue allowing for those attending to stay in a single track or blend their experience across multiple domains.  This is not intended to be an Oracle Open World or SAPPHIRE level event, it’s not that big. In my experience the 2nd-3rd level shows tend to be better attended on the east coast.  So net-net, even with the bundling of multiple shows, the attendance was a little light this year. Additionally a show that used to be a haven for BASIS teams seems to have changed in personnel and now is a different show entirely.  I think this is important because it is a reflection on the wider changes in the SAP industry.  I have a couple of insights about this that I will explain through a discussion of those who attended amd those who didn’t.

 There were 3 types of people present at the show and 2 types surprisingly absent:

1)      PRESENT: Those who want to catch up on virtualization/Cloud.

If I generalize the group, the Cloud attendees were a more “matter of fact” group. They were either going to the cloud, had an upcoming RFP, or presented themselves in a way that they felt they needed to “catch up” with everyone and get virtualized or to the cloud.  This is an interesting dynamic given that this same time last year Cloud was the fresh buzz and only those with iron guts were talking about venturing their mission critical to the cloud.  This shows the pace of innovation in the current market and ultimately that the cloud benefits have “held” and the scary risks have subsided. This adoption is also in the face of all the HANA interest which today is not (practically) a cloud ready product. So in a careless and causal way I’ll make the broad generalization that many if not most are taking a “get to the [private, hybrid, public] cloud now and pilot HANA in the lab” approach with the assumption HANA will somehow fit into their overall architecture as they mature their programs.

 

2)      PRESENT: Those who want to deploy HANA or are active BOBJ users:  

I arrive at my statistical certainties by the scientific process of “# of questions asked” and how many people attend various session topics. Given my sample size, time of day differences, and the deviation in how much coffee I have consumed at a given time, make my prognostications suspect at best. However, let’s not let truth stand in the way of knowledge.   I would have to give the hands down vote of “topic of highest interest” to HANA. HANA sessions were packed  most attendees seemed to be staging HANA pilots or were BOBJ users who were investigating how HANA would impact BOBJ over the next few years. The Keynote given by Steve Lucas, Senior Vice President and General Manager Business Analytics at SAP was all Big Data. He talked about open source, unstructured data, Hadoop and brought it all back to SAP’s data analytics stack, which is based primarily off HANA and remnants of the Sybase.  SAP is Big Data obsessed and so are its customers.

 

3)      PRESENT: Those who are looking to deploy mobile apps that integrate with SAP

I must admit I am most impressed with SAP’s dive into the mobile market. Within just several months they have taken this global ERP company, added Big Data and integrated a mobile BYOD story as if it was always there. It’s very tight messaging, even if the technologies are still coming together in a few spots. I really enjoyed the well attended sessions on the details of the SUP.  What’s “SUP”… “dunno, What’s up with you?”  SUP is Sybase Unwired Platform. This is the API and code set that was added to SAP’s arsenal through the Sybase acquisition which allows users to write platform specific or platform agnostic applications. As they pulled back the covers at the show, it’s not perfect yet, but it does provide a solution that many of the install base can use to close down on the “last mile” (aka the mobile user).

 

4)      ABSENT: Those who’ve already began executing the Cloud

The Surprising VOID of the show was the contingent of folks who are actively deployed or who are deploying a cloud solution.  I personally/causally know many who just weren’t there. Of those I talked to before the show, I had a perspective. They said they are deep in deployment and weren’t sending anyone. What I didn’t realize was how pervasive a phenomenon this was.  I’m not saying there was no one chasing the cloud, but it was notably down and my minor investigations into this, presented a plain fact. Customers “get it” and are “doing it”. Interestingly enough, this is exactly where EMC IT is in their multi-phased process to reach Cloud-enabled ITaaS.  They too stayed home this year. Though I missed the constant discussion of Cloud, I realize a more important event has happened. In past blogs I have talked about Gladwell’s Tipping Point for the cloud. I think we’re there.  Cloud for mission critical has moved into the mainstream.

 

5)      ABSENT: Those who are making investments in Big Data other than HANA:

Another interesting attribute of this event was that the broad heterogeneous all encompassing world of Big Data is seamlessly shrunk to nothing but BOBJ and HANA (with a token Hadoop thrown in).  Ok, you may say that SAP has aggressively driven the competition away from the venue. Maybe, but that isn’t the vibe I get. Even those that come up to you in conversation, do not seem to have a vocabulary or interest that extends much further than the SAP Landscape. I attribute this to a couple of factors. One is that SAP is a big animal. It’s like a youthful trip to the amusement park. You couldn’t see the boundaries, it felt endless. I think many who build their careers on SAP, live within a large ecosystem that can consume your focus without the need to test the boundaries.

 

Secondly I think it is a function of how “new” data analytics/Big Data is to SAP. BOBJ is Business information integration technology, and before Sybase there were few who considered SAP in the realm of database management.  HANA is a fairly new concept, only appearing a few years ago.  So the SAP user community is comprised of people who haven’t traditionally been players in the pre-cursors to Big Data and thus possibly not broadly trained on the overall market.  This is not to imply an inability to execute, only that this is really new and the SAP ecosystem is evolving. It will look notably different in a couple of years.

 

So those were my major insights from SAP Insider sessions in Vegas. I hope you pulled at least one nugget from the pan. Until next time, stay informed. Adios.

“The CLOUD of the TITANS” – SAP, EMC, and VMware Strengthen their Partnership around Cloud Computing


 In Madrid Spain, on November 10th, Pat Gelsinger, Paul Maritz and Vishal Sikka virtually join together and take the keynote stage at SAPPHIRE NOW Madrid. The three will talk about what is covered in today’s SAP Press Release: “Preferred Three-Way Strategic Collaboration with EMC and VMware to Deliver Greater IT Efficiency and Business Agility

Before we dive into the details of this release, let’s look at these 3 people on stage:

    • Ever heard of Paul Maritz?  He was a key leader during the rise of MS Windows into the ubiquitous desktop and server operating system it is today.  Later he created a company, “PI Corporation” focused on what was then the obscure concept of “Cloud Computing”.  Now he’s the CEO of VMWare
    • How about Pat Gelsinger? He contributed to the Intel 286 and 386 chip design which brought the computer to the masses, and then was the executive over the development of a continuous line of best in class products that made the Intel brand what it is today. Now he is the President/COO of EMC.
    • Vishal Sikka has been the CTO at SAP since 2007, overseeing the rollout out of ECC 6.0, acquisition of Sybase and now the adoption of HANA into the SAP customer base. He sits in the technical top seat for a company with over 120,000 customers.

It’s rare to see 3 people who’ve had more impact in our industry, co-presenting on a stage.  It is probably worth listening to what they have to say.

So, what is being talked about in Madrid?  Here are some of the notable excerpts from the release:

  • “SAP will work closely with EMC and VMware and is currently evaluating options to deliver an end-to-end stack optimized for running mission-critical SAP applications. Together, the three companies plan to invest and integrate best-of-breed application, database, virtualization, management and information infrastructure technologies, as well as deliver new services to support and accelerate customers’ journey to the cloud.”
  • “SAP and VMware expect to deliver an extended support program by integrating a configuration and health check for SAP systems running on VMware cloud infrastructure into SAP® GoingLive™ Check services and SAP EarlyWatch® Alert service…”
  • “SAP also intends to drive a radical improvement in the manageability of enterprise applications in private clouds by evaluating the delivery of VMware vSphere®-based virtual appliances, orchestrated by declarative models in the TOSCA language…”
  • “SAP and EMC will explore collaboration opportunities around the SAP HANA™ platform to deliver high-end system availability and EMC’s fully automated storage tiering technologies (FAST). This deep collaboration will further strengthen SAP in-memory computing technology…”
  • “SAP’s next-generation architecture is truly bringing the power of these disruptive innovations to our customers without disruption. Our work with EMC and VMware demonstrates this.

So why should you take note of these “notes”:

  • My first reason I’ve already pointed out. There is a convergence of pioneers in our industry lining up around these technologies, around these companies.
  • End to End Stack”, that is a powerful statement coming from this group.  Think about the last time EMC and VMWare reported on a triangulation with Cisco.  The company VCE was born and they deliver the “Vblock” which is already having an impact on the SAP install base. SAP, EMC, and VMware together could really change the playing field. Best in class, market share leaders, all in one end to end package.
  • Virtualization Health Check, Application Manageability, these are both improvements that will help the large SAP community further adopt virtualization and private cloud improvements. Allowing even the conservative IT departments to progress on platform modernization.
  • HANA & FAST, This is an interesting announcement between EMC and SAP. EMC is the first non server company to be singled out in this way.  One can assume that this collaboration will lead to best in class model that provides a clean scale out solution for the HANA in-Memory platform, allowing for better controls, availability and information protection.
  • First to Market Fitness, What this messaging really communicates is here are the current innovators for the new generation of SAP landscapes that are driving into the cloud. These 3 companies individually have been the most active in innovation for the support of SAP over the last few years. Customers want to accelerate their consumption of modern platforms that are more agile, and that have better price to performance, yet they feel they must wait for the proper level of maturity to be demonstrated. This collaboration is an accelerant.  If you want to mitigate risks in mission critical environments, what better way, than to bring together this group of titans? A Recent Study Named EMC as the No. 1 choice for Applications. The IDC study showed EMC swept the no. 1 slot including SAP. A similar study by Goldman Sachs showed EMC no. 1 choice to support VMWare environments.  These companies together, have an over whelming level of capital in “Market Trust”.

These press releases tend to come and go. What excites me is the promises made within. Keep your eye on the things to come.

Link to Press Release: http://tiny.cc/gfxbi

Liv’n the Dream at SAP TechED


 A New Era Underway 

I am sitting in my hotel room in Las Vegas. I just packed and I am ready to head to McCarran airport for my trip home. This week I attended SAP TechED. I know “what happens in…stays in…”, but I wanted to take a moment and share some insights I took away.

SAP has made it clear, all bets are on Hana.  Hana is SAP’s vision of a new platform for their landscapes that will reside in memory. Most customers and System Integrators are interested, most are still trying to determine exactly what it is and how it will apply to their specific environments. The concept creates big changes for everyone. Everything will need to be integrated to Hana, both SAP’s products, their partners’ solutions, and customers’  landscapes.

There are a wealth of things to consider and address, like backup, high availability, disaster recovery, systems management, piping data between Hana and non Hana piece parts.  Many things are still unclear as this vision gets realized; it’s really new so it’s understandable. I grew up in North Carolina and have seen my share of Hurricanes. The climate at TechED reminded me of that feeling you get right after a storm goes through. Everyone’s not sure what to do yet, but we’re all in the yard picking up sticks, and working together to make progress. Hana is their future, that much is solidified.  Here’s a write up from ComputerWorld on the same topic.

Ok, I tend to bring “cloud” into the conversation and I want to live up to my reputation…  First let me say, cloud is not the biggest topic for SAP, they tend to talk of terms like “TCO”, “Business Process Realization”, etc. They have traditionally minimized their focus on the architectural mechanisms upon which SAP sits and allowed the world-class eco-system drive this segment. Hana arguably starts to change that. Hana will have more impact on the design of the infrastructure than past approaches.  Then the question is can Hana exist in a Cloud?  I believe it will, but I’m not sure we all know exactly how yet.  And will SAP find themselves deeper in the Cloud discussion out-right.

Much of the official dialog still tends to focus on traditional landscapes where a customer buys and deploys everything as one chunk either on premise or hosted.  However, their customers are innovating.  People are connecting up a diverse mix of on premise, hosted functionality, and cloud offers all within the same environment. Here’s a little taste of what is being realized.

I have to start by saying “virtualization is king”. I estimate in my own discussions virtualization was mention 99% of the conversations. I spent some time with Andre Kemp of VMWare. Andre is a key resource at VMW covering SAP. With Vsphere 5 released, capacities increase and virtualizing SAP is not an interesting idea, I would call it a mandate. Andre is one of the busiest guys in the business right now. I did an informal survey as I talked with customers. My straw poll showed the market is overwhelmingly VMWare, with a notable number of companies using LPARs on AIX. I also heard Citrix and Hyper-V more than once.  I also mentally collected why most were creating initiatives. The top three reasons were:

1)      Reduce hardware costs

2)      More flexibility in their architecture

3)      Improve disaster recovery service levels

Yes I know those are obvious reasons, I didn’t say you were going to be shocked and impressed! It’s the basics that matter and boy do they matter.

Let’s get back to the clouds. There were other interesting models coming out. In fairness to my large and powerful friends who work for the large system integrators and service providers, they tend to make their sponsorship investments in “Sapphire” each spring. Those who attend TechED are there to learn. This year was no different, what we saw in the booths were smaller, specialty SI’s and are the focus for this conversation.  

A few years back Texperts showed up on the scene as one of the innovators driving cloud. Over that time, they have built a full suite of cloud services to help customers understand and integrate private systems; or to buy a service level offering. They were one of the few pioneers driving the message. The notable difference this year was they weren’t alone. I had at least five companies approach me to tell me about their cloud offerings.  The services market for cloud has arrived; the best and brightest are making their bets for cloud in 2012.

Another company who has worked with our customer base quite a bit over the years is Wharfedale Technologies (WFT).  They too have been pioneers on the “virtual prairie”. They specifically have been involved in some of our recent Vblock customer deployments for SAP and have been really helpful to the effort.  They brought, to the show, one of the most innovative ideas I have seen yet. A good friend of mine, Ganesh Radhakrishnan, is the CEO of WFT and demo’d for me his newly released “WFTCloud”.  WFTCloud is a web venue where users can purchase SAP development environments over the web for a daily price of buying a can of soda.  You go on the web, sign up and boom you have an environment that has many profile options for getting the hardware/VMs to look like your environment.  Ganesh was showing me this on his mobile phone and we watched a couple orders come in while we were talking.  This could be a great opportunity for increasing development productivity for many companies and individual contractors.

OK, how about EMC?  Well I could talk a while about all the different solutions we showed and events we held at the show, but I’m not a marketing guy and this is my blog, so I won’t.  Instead I’m going to grab just one moment from it all.  One of our speaking sessions we had Bernhard Schulzki and Bill Reid present.  Can you say too much talent for just one stage?  Based near SAP’s Walldorf headquarters, Bernhard recently became EMC’s VP covering the SAP relationship. Prior, Bernhard worked for Vishal Sikka heading up many of their virtualization and cloud initiatives over the last several years. Bernhard took the packed audience through several key technologies. Duplicate snaps, geo clustering, security, de-duplication, virtualization and cloud where covered. He also shared how we are investing to further integrate with SAP like their new LVM product for managing virtual environments.  Bernhard then introduced Bill Reid. If you haven’t met Bill yet, you’re missing something. I am a big fan of Bill’s. He is Director in charge of our “Project Propel”. Propel is the very large deployment of a green, 100% virtualized SAP deployment and based on my knowledge of the install base, it will likely be the largest, 100% virtualized SAP deployment worldwide when it goes live next year.  Bill drips data when he sweats. The guy is so jam packed full of knowledge nuggets, that I’m not going to attempt a  proper summary of Propel. However, I will  point you to EMC IT’s  blog site that gets into a lot of what they are working on. Let’s just say he’s putting to practice what we preach to our customers and his team is invaluable to our cause. 

In Summary we’re all “Liv’n the Dream”. Big visions, with real payoffs, that are works in process.  There were no head spinning new announcements, we didn’t need any. The buzz was on the progress of customers who are on the move to a new era of landscapes and the organizing eco-system that supports them to get there.