SAPonPower

An ongoing discussion about SAP infrastructure

IBM Power10 debuts with a new SAP Benchmark!

Today, SAP published a new SD 2-tier result for IBM’s soon to be announced Power E1080.[i]  First the highlights: 

  • 174,000 SD Users 
  • 955,050 SAPS
  • 120 cores

Wait, almost 1M SAPS with only 120 cores?  HPE achieved 670,830 SAPS (122,300 users) with 224 cores on their Superdome Flex 280 with the Intel Xeon Platinum 8380H Processor in January, 2021.  

This new result is almost 3 times the SAPS/core of HPE’s biggest and baddest system.  (Funny note, autocorrect tried to change “baddest” to “saddest”). This new result is also about 33% faster, on a per core basis, than the previous Power 980 result published at the end of 2018.  That is certainly not remarkable since Intel’s per core performance on this benchmark also increased about 69.5%, since 2017 … sorry, missed the decimal, 0.695%. (Comparing two Dell 2-socket results, Intel 8180 & Intel 8380).

Clearly, IBM has moved the microarchitecture technology ball forward with a huge improvement in per core performance.  And that is significant in that Intel seems to have given up on the microarchitecture game and only seems to be focused on increasing the core count (now up to 40 per socket).  

But isn’t the SD benchmark based on ECC 6.0 and primarily an app server benchmark, so do we really care if we are talking about SAP workloads?  For that matter, isn’t HANA the name of the game now and how can we correlate this result against HANA workloads?

Yes and you can’t.  I will answer the second question first.  SAP rules forbid comparisons against different benchmarks and for good reason; they don’t have the same logic, application code, database usage, memory dependency or anything else for that matter.  But, we will get to the impact on HANA a bit later in this blog.

The SD benchmark is rather removed from reality both by its age, its dependence on an outdated interface (the old and much loved SAP GUI, not) not to mention old non-HANA databases.  Fun fact: since 2005, 96 results are used MaxDB or Sybase, 155 – IBM Db2, 52 – Oracle, 413 – Microsoft SQL and 0 used HANA.  And since application servers can easily scale across dozens of systems, the performance per core doesn’t really matter all that much, and this equation usually boils down to $/SAPS.

At Hot Chips 2020, Bill Starke, IBM Power Chief Architect and Brian Thompto, Power10 core architect, revealed a bunch of amazing speeds and feeds including 2.25x the memory bandwidth for Power10 vs Power9 per socket.[ii]  We know that HANA eats memory bandwidth for breakfast, lunch, dinner and all snacks in between.  This new SD benchmark (and others that IBM will undoubtedly publish very soon) suggest that these new Power processors will be able to handle all workloads, including SAP HANA, with either fewer cores or with the same number of cores and tons of CPU cycles to spare.  

It might be tempting to consider using a smaller Power10 system, but this is where the problem gets a bit sticky.  HANA not only loves memory bandwidth, but unless you are going to provision a server with less memory than SAP recommends or use one of their tiered approaches, you still need the same quantity of memory regardless of server or microarchitecture.  You could certainly reduce the number of cores per socket or go to slower chip speeds and this might be a very good approach for reducing HANA system costs for a lot of customers.  Another option to consider is using those spare cycles for something else, after all HANA is supported by SAP for use with IBM PowerVM shared processor pools.

What other workloads might you use those cycles for?  We could get into a big discussion about all sort of other workloads, like AI, HPC, etc., but how about we keep this simple?  How about for the thing that the SD benchmark actually does test, application serving?  Even with S/4HANA and Fiori, you still need application servers.  And if you already purchased a server for HANA based on memory requirements and you have a ton of cycles left over, this means that the $/SAPS for those application servers essentially goes toward $0!  I have not priced an Intel server lately, but I am pretty certain that the price is not even remotely close to $0.

For existing SAP on Power customers (both HANA and non-HANA), Power10 is going to be amazing, resulting in either better performance, lower cost or both!  For customers still trying to decide on which type of system to use, I would strongly encourage a full landscape cost comparison be performed including production HANA and application servers, HA, non-prod and DR.  

And as good a news as this is for on-premise customers, cloud vendors that offer HANA on Power, such as IBM, Syntax and SAP, should be even more excited about how they can decrease their costs while offering better solutions to their customers with Power10.


[i] https://www.sap.com/dmc/exp/2018-benchmark-directory/#/sd

[ii] https://www.nextplatform.com/2020/08/18/ibm-brings-an-architecture-gun-to-a-chip-knife-fight/

September 1, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,

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