An ongoing discussion about SAP infrastructure

HPE, in an act of desperation, is spreading misinformation about SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems

Misinformation is a poor characterization of HPE’s behavior.  HPE, or some of its employees, are showing customers charts with a variety of statements which are simply untrue.  In any normal definition, this is called a lie.  This is unethical and unprofessional.  I will repeat what it says in my profile, these are my opinions, not a reflection of those of IBM.

You may have seen the blog post from Vicente Moranta: or my own post on IBM Systems Blog: . At IBM, we have this set of ethical rules called “IBM Business Conduct Guidelines” (BCG).  This 15 to 20 page document is required reading every year with a mandatory test to ensure comprehensive understanding of these rules.  I can boil down one of the most important themes into two words: DON’T LIE!

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you may question whether I am too verbose and that may be fair as I thoroughly research each subject and include attribution for claims, usually including direct links to the source of those claims.  I would never think of making up “facts” and, on rare occasion when a reader has informed me of a mistake, I always correct the mistake as well as include a comment to that effect.

Some background:  A few weeks ago, a customer sent us a list of questions about SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems.  At first, the questions seemed bizarre as they included some very pointed misunderstandings about HANA and SAP in general and IBM’s role with SAP in particular.  As I read them more thoroughly, I realized that someone or some entity had coached the customer.  This was confirmed when I received a copy of a HPE presentation from a completely different source with almost identically worded statements.  By the way, back to the BCG, IBM employees are not allowed to view much less share information from a competitor marked confidential and this presentation was not marked with anything, meaning it was being shown to customers with, or without, HPE management’s official knowledge.

Some of the lies it shares:

  • HPE has 99%+ share of the HANA market. It is kind of funny to note that this claim is contradicted in the same table where it shows 80% share for Intel.  I guess they are confusing SAP and SAP HANA markets which is misleading at best.  More importantly, SAP does not release market share information and even if they did, I think the Lenovo, Cisco, Dell and Fujitsu might together claim more than 1% of the market.
  • IBM, not SAP “delivers” HANA code to customers because they have access to SAP code and have created a “special” version of SAP HANA. Wow, it is hard to figure out where to start here.  SAP owns HANA and only they distribute code.  They refused to support other operating systems than Linux, including AIX, for the very reason of wanting a common code tree for all platforms.  HPE is correct that IBM works closely with SAP to optimize HANA code, a fact which should be lauded not criticized.  Apparently, HPE must not have such a relationship and are jealous?  What HPE does not understand is that regardless of who, IBM, Intel or other, contributes code to SAP or suggests modifications to code, SAP makes all decisions regarding that code, including support, and incorporates it into the common code tree meaning all platforms can benefit if the code is not related to a specific, proprietary instruction set.  When Intel contributed code for TSX, Power HANA was not able to use this code, but with appropriate modifications, SAP was able to add the code to call IBM’s similar “Transactional Memory” calls.  Now, there is simple logic which ensures the appropriate call is made depending on the underlying processor architecture.  Likewise, when IBM saw that the huge number of threads in its architecture might push limits in HANA, it worked with SAP to improve the thread and workload dispatch mechanisms in HANA.  When Intel released their Broadwell-EX 24-core chips and SAP approved large socket counts, these systems would have hit the same threading issues, but with the new mechanisms already in place, were able to benefit from IBM & SAP’s joint effort.  Maybe HPE means that SAP has to compile the same code as used for Intel systems on the Power platform.  Well duh, it is a different chip architecture, so this is computer science 101, but hardly a different “version”.
  • Release priority – #1 Intel, #2 Power. Wrong again HPE!  HANA 2.0 released simultaneously on Intel and Power, as they did for S/4HANA 1610 on-prem edition, support for SoH with HANA 2.0, etc.  Where do you get your misinformation HPE?  This information is widely available on SAP’s Service Marketplace and the SAP PAM.
  • Sizes supported – HPE shows Power support of “only” 4.8TB for BW, 9TB for SoH vs. 24TB for Intel and No scale-out HANA on Power – I will give HPE the benefit of the doubt on the 4.8TB statement as 6TB just came out, but the “only” part is strange in that in the same table it shows “only” 4TB support on Intel. As to 9TB SoH and lack of scale-out HANA, both are wrong and have been for a while with 16TB SoH available since December 4th, 2016, see SAP Note 2188482 and scale-out HANA since November 2015. As to the 24TB claim for Intel, the largest supported HANA appliance is 20TB, so HPE, once again, seems to be making up facts.

There were other lies, but I think you get the idea.  Here are a few suggestions:

To HPE management: Shame on you for permitting such behavior or if done with your knowledge, for encouraging it.  If you have any “integrity” (pun intended), you will fire the employees and managers responsible for knowingly spreading lies and will print a retraction in appropriate press sources and on your web site.  If you don’t, then you are demonstrating, loud and clear, that your company is not to be trusted.

To HPE employees: Unless your management takes the above suggestions to heart with appropriate action to rectify this wrong, I am not sure how you can sleep well working for a company that considers truth to be something to be sacrificed at their convenience.  Hope they are truthful about your benefits.

To SAP customers: I can only speak for myself; when a restaurant, retailer or manufacturer lies to me and/or the public, I refuse to ever do business with them again.  The old saying applies, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”  When you consider the minimal differences, if any, in cost of acquisition between all HANA system providers on the market, including IBM Power

May 15, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SAP performance report sponsored by HP, Intel and VMware shows startling results

Not often does a sponsored study show the opposite of what was intended, but this study does.  An astute blog reader alerted me about a white paper sponsored by HP, VMware and Intel by an organization called Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG).  The white paper is entitled “Lab Validation Report – HP ProLiant DL980, Intel Xeon, and VMware vSphere 5 SAP Performance Analysis – Effectively Virtualizing Tier-1 Application Workloads – By Tony Palmer, Brian Garrett, and Ajen Johan – July 2011.”  The words that they used to describe the results are, as expected, highly complementary to HP, Intel and VMware.  In this paper, ESG points out that almost 60% of the respondents to their study have not virtualized “tier 1” applications like SAP yet but expect a rapid increase in the use of virtualization.  We can only assume that they only surveyed x86 customers as 100% of Power Systems customers are virtualized since the PowerVM hypervisor is baked into the hardware and firmware of every system and can’t be removed.  Nevertheless, it is encouraging that customers are moving in the right direction and that there is so much potential for the increased use of virtualization.


ESG provided some amazing statistics regarding scalability.  ESG probably does not realize just how bad this makes VMware and HP look, otherwise, they probably would not have published it.  They ran an SAP ECC 6.0 workload which they describe as “real world” but for which they provide no backup as to what this workload was comprised of, so it is possible that a given customer’s workload may be even more intensive than the one tested.  They ran a single VM with 4 vcpu, then 8, 16 and 32.  They show both the number of users supported as well as the IOPS and dialog response time.  Then, in their conclusions, they state that scaling was nearly linear.  This data shows that when scaling from 4 to 32 cores, an 8x increase, the number of users supported increased from 600 to 3,000, a 5x increase.  Put a different way, 5/8 = .625 or 62.5% scalability.  Not only is this not even remotely close to linear scaling, but it is an amazing poor level of scalability.  IOPS, likewise, increased from 140 to 630 demonstrating 56.3% scalability and response time went from .2 seconds to 1 second, which while respectable, was 5 times that of the 4 vcpu VM.


ESG also ran a non-virtualized test with 32 physical cores.  In this test, they achieved only 4,400 users/943 IOPS.  Remember, VMware is limited to 32 vcpu which works out to the equivalent of 16 cores.  So, with twice the number of effective physical cores, they were only able to support 46.7% more users and 49.7% more IOPS.  To make matters much worse, response time almost doubled to 1.9 seconds.


ESG went on to make the following statement: “Considering that the SAP workload tested utilized only half of the CPU and one quarter of the available RAM installed in the DL980 tested, it is not unreasonable to expect that a single DL980 could easily support a second virtualized SAP workload at a similarly high utilization level and/or multiple less intensive workloads driven by other applications.”  If response time is already borderline poor with VMware managing only a single workload, is it reasonable to assume that response time will go up or down if you add a second workload?  If IOPS are not even keeping pace with the poor scalability of vcpu, it is reasonable to assume that IOPS will all of a sudden start improving faster?  If you have not tested the effect of running a second workload, is it reasonable to speculate what might happen under drastically different conditions?  This is like saying that on a hot summer day, an air conditioner was able to maintain a cool temperature in a sunny room with half of the chairs occupied and therefore it is not “unreasonable” to assume that it could do the same with all chair occupied.  That might be the case, but there is absolutely no supporting evidence to support such a speculation.


ESG further speculates that because this test utilized default values for BIOS, OS, SAP and SQL Server, performance would likely be higher with tuning.  … And my car will probably go faster if I wash it and add air to the tires, but by how much??  In summary and I am paraphrasing, ESG says that VMware, Intel processors and HP servers are ready for SAP primetime providing reliability and performance while simplifying operations and lowering costs.  Interesting that they talk about reliability yet they, once again, provide no supporting evidence and did not mention a single thing about reliability earlier in the paper other than to say that the HP DL980 G7 delivers “enhanced reliability”.  I certainly believe every marketing claim that a company makes without data to back it up, don’t you?


There are three ways that you can read this white paper.

  1. ESG has done a thorough job of evaluating HP x86 systems, Intel and VMware and has proven that this environment can handle SAP workloads with ease
  2. ESG has proven that VMware has either incredibly poor scalability or high overhead or both
  3. ESG has limited credibility as they make predictions for which they have no data to support their conclusions


While I might question how ESG makes predictions, I don’t believe that they do a poor job at performance testing.  They seem to operate like an economist, i.e. they are very good at collecting data but make predictions based on past experience, not hard data.  When is the last time that economists correctly predicted market fluctuations?  If they did, they would all be incredibly rich!


I think it would be irresponsible to say that VMware based environments are incapable of handling SAP workloads.  On the contrary, VMware is quite capable, but there are significant caveats.  VMware does best with small workloads, e.g. 4 to 8  vcpu, not with larger workloads e.g. 16 to 32 vcpu.  This means if a customer utilizes SAP on VMware, they will need more and smaller images than they would on excellent scaling platforms like IBM Power Systems, which drives up management costs substantially and reduces flexibility.  By way of comparison, published SAP SD 2-tier benchmark results for IBM Power Systems utilizing POWER7 technology show 99% scalability when comparing the performance of a 16-core to a 32-core system at the same MHz, 89.3% scalability when comparing a 64-core to a 128-core system with a 5% higher MHz, which when normalized to the same MHz shows 99% scalability even at this extremely high performance level.


The second caveat for VMware and HP/Intel systems is in that area that ESG brushed over as if it was a foregone conclusion, i.e. reliability.  Solitaire Interglobal examined data from over 40,000 customers and found that x86 systems suffer from 3 times or more system outages when comparing Linux based x86 systems to Power Systems and up to 10 times more system outages when comparing Windows based x86 systems to Power Systems.  They also found radically higher outage durations for both Linux and Windows compared to Power and much lower overall availability when looking at both planned and unplanned outages in general: and specifically in virtualized environments:  Furthermore, as noted in my post from late last year,, VMware introduces a number of single points of failure when mission critical applications demand just the opposite, i.e. the elimination of single points of failure.


I am actually very happy to see this ESG white paper, as it is has proven how poor VMware scales for large workloads like SAP in ways that few other published studies have ever exposed.  Power Systems continues to set the bar very high when it comes to delivering effective virtualization for large and small SAP environments while offering outstanding, mission critical reliability.  As noted in, IBM does this while maintaining a similar or lower TCO when all production, HA and non-production systems, 3 years of 24x7x365 hardware maintenance, licenses and 24x7x365 support for Enterprise Linux and vSphere 5.0 Enterprise Plus … and that analysis was done back when I did not have ESG’s lab report showing how poorly VMware scales.  I may have to revise my TCO estimates based on this new data.

October 23, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments