SAPonPower

An ongoing discussion about SAP infrastructure

Protecting HANA against Ransomware Attacks – Data and Applications

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog entry about securing SAP HANA systems against ransomware attacks from a Systems and OS perspective. As noted in that webinar, this addresses some angles of attack of hackers, i.e. admins with privileged access and other avenues by which admin level authority might be commandeered. These are critical because only those accounts with write authority to HANA and other critical system files can encrypt them and hold the keys to these files until a ransom is paid. This is one of the most common exploits used by ransomware hackers. These types of attacks can be crippling and, without a strong recovery strategy, leave the attacked entity no choice other than to pay the hacker. Even with a good recovery strategy, it is possible to have multiple days without your key HANA and other systems which could be financially devastating.

But this only addresses some of the potential avenues of attack and a relatively small population of employees and/or contractors. The much larger population is composed of application users. Attacks focused on these individuals can result in all sorts of unpleasant outcomes, ranging from users being denied access to fraudulent orders being placed to money transfers occurring as if a “vendor” is being paid or a refund is being issued to a customer. But the ransomware hackers can be much more malicious, actually stealing data of value to the company, e.g. trade secrets, banking and credit card information, sales related data such as customer contact info, PII or other protected data. In these types of attacks, the stolen data is held in an undisclosed location and, if a ransom is not paid, the data is released publicly or sold to the highest bidder. These types of attacks may not be as devastating as the above mentioned encrypted files attack, but could result in embarrassing data releases, loss of competitive advantage, or even sanctions and fines from authorities.

In order to explore these types of attacks more and help customers to design strategies to combat them, I enlisted the help of Ryan Throop, Executive Security Consultant, IBM Security Services – SAP Security & GRC. IDG hosted a call sponsored by Bob Friske, IBM Brand Manager at TD Synnex (formerly Tech Data), on which we explored how customers can secure their SAP HANA systems against ransomware attacks with a applications and data.  This webinar is available at https://www.cio.com/resources/225375/securing-your-sap-hana-systems-against-ransomware-attacks?brand_id=256&locale=1 

Though we discussed protection of SAP HANA, some of the tools and techniques are appropriate for other systems of value including non-SAP ERP systems.  The webinar is a little less than 30 minutes and has a special offer at the end for customers in North America.  

October 20, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Protecting SAP HANA systems against ransomware attacks – OS and Infrastructure

Cybersecurity threats seem to be everywhere.  It seems only logical that systems with the largest financial impact would be perfect targets.  This would imply that customers using SAP systems are being attacked and should be expending considerable effort to protect these critical systems.  To that end, I did some internet research into how hackers target these systems and how to protect them.  I realized that I was in over my head very quickly and enlisted the help of a few experts from IBM.  After these conversations, I came to three conclusions.

  1. Ransomware is one of the most common forms of attack on SAP systems and certainly has the biggest financial impact. 
  2. Hackers use a variety of methods to gain entry and hold data for ransom.
  3. Two avenues of protection must be pursued by every customer, one focused on the operating systems and infrastructure and the other focused on SAP data and applications.

I enlisted the help of Stephen Dominguez, WW Lead Consultant for AIX/Linux Security with IBM’s Systems Lab Services, and George Wilson, Security Architect / Security Team Lead with IBM’s Linux Technology Center.  IDG hosted a call sponsored by Bob Friske, IBM Brand Manager at TD Synnex (formerly Tech Data), on which we explored how customers can secure their SAP HANA systems against ransomware attacks with a focus on operating systems and infrastructure.  This webinar is available at https://www.cio.com/resources/form?placement_id=9e3b9689-abfd-4205-8e1e-e94070744ce0&brand_id=256&locale_id=1 .  Though we discussed protection of SAP HANA, the tools and techniques are equally appropriate for other systems of value including non-SAP ERP systems. 

The short 30 minute webinar has a special offer at the end for customers in North America.  We will be posting another webinar in the near future focused on SAP data and applications.

October 4, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

POWER10 – Memory Sharing and how HANA customers will benefit

As an in-memory database, SAP HANA is obviously limited by access to memory.  Having massive CPU throughput with a small amount of memory could be useful for a an HPC application that needs to crunch through trillions of operations on a small amount of data. By comparison, a HANA system typically scales up with both CPU and memory at the same time.

Intel attempted to solve this problem through the use of large scale persistent DIMMs.  Unfortunately, they delivered a completely unbalanced solution with their Cascade Lake processors that included a small incremental performance increase coupled with Optane DIMMs which are 3 to 5 times slower than DDR4 DIMMs (at best).  By the way, the new “Barlow Pass” Optane DIMMs, that will be available with next gen Copper Lake and Ice Lake systems, will reportedly only deliver 15% bandwidth improvement over today’s “Apache Pass” DIMMs.[i]  Allow me to clap with one hand at that yawner of an improvement.  Their solution is somewhat analogous to a transportation problem where a road has 2 lanes and is out of capacity.  You can increase the horsepower of each vehicle a bit and pack in far more seats in each vehicle, but it will likely to take longer to get all of the various passengers in different vehicles to their destination and they will most assuredly be much more uncomfortable.

IBM with POWER10, but comparison, attacked this problem by addressing all aspects simultaneously.  As mentioned in part 1, POWER10 sockets have the potential of delivering 3 times the workload of POWER9 sockets.  So, not a small incremental improvement as with Cascade Lake, but a massive one.  Then they increased the bandwidth to memory by at least 4x, meaning they can keep the CPUs fed with data … and in case memory can’t keep up, they added support for DDR5 and its much faster speeds and throughput.  Then they increased socket to socket communications bandwidth by a factor of four since transactional and analytic workloads, like HANA, tend to be spread across sockets and often need to access data from another socket.  And just in case the system runs out of DIMM sockets, they introduced a new capability, “memory clustering” or “memory inception”[ii] which allows memory on another physical system to be accessed remotely (more on this later) with a 50 to 100ns latency hit[iii].  And just to make sure that I/O did not become the next bottleneck, they have doubled down on their previous leadership with being the first major vendor to support PCIe Gen4 by including support for PCIe Gen5 with a potential for twice the I/O throughput.

Using the previous analogy, IBM attacked the problem by tripling the horsepower of each vehicle with lots of extra doors and comfortable seats, quadrupling the number of lanes on the road and enabled each vehicle to support tandem additions.  In other words, everybody can get to their destinations much faster and in great comfort.

So, what is this memory clustering?  Put simply, it is an IBM developed technology which enables a VM on one system to map memory allocated to it by PowerVM on another system as if it was locally attached.  In this way, a VM which requires more memory than is available on the system upon which it is running can be provided with that memory from one or more systems in the cluster.  It does this through the same PowerAXON (IBM’s SMP interconnect technology) as is used within each system across sockets.  As a result, the projected additional latency is likely to be only slightly higher than accessing memory across the NUMA fabric.

IBM described multiple different potential topologies, ranging from “Enterprise Class” at extreme bandwidth, to hub and spoke; mixing and matching CPU heavy with Memory heavy nodes to even multi-hop pod-level clustering of potentially thousands of nodes.  With POWER10 featuring a 2 Petabyte memory addressability, the possibilities are mind boggling.

For HANA workloads, I see a range of possibilities.  The idea that a customer could extend memory across systems is the utopia of “never having to say I’m sorry”.  By that, I mean that in the bad old days (current times that is), if you purchased, for example, a 2TB system with all DIMM slots used, and your HANA instance needed a tiny amount more memory than available on the system, you had three choices: 1) let HANA deal with insufficient memory and start moving columns in and out of memory with all of the associated performance impact implied, 2) move the workload to a larger system at a substantial cost and a loss of the existing investment (which always brings a smile and hug from the CFO) or 3) if possible, shut down the instance and the system, rip out all existing DIMMs and replace them with larger ones (even more disruptive and still very expensive).

With memory clustering, you could harvest unused capacity in your cluster at no incremental cost.  Or, if all memory was in use, you could resize a less important workload, e.g. a HANA sandbox VM or non-prod app server, and reallocate it to the production VM requiring more memory.  Or you could move a less important workload to a different server potentially in a different data center or perhaps a much smaller system and reuse the memory using clustering.  Or you could purchase a small, low GHz, small number of activated cores system to add to the cluster with plenty of available memory to be used by the various VMs in the cluster.  The possibilities are endless, but you will notice, having to say to management that “I blew it” was not one of the options.

Does this take the place of “Storage Class Memory” (SCM) aka persistent memory?  Not at all.  In fact, POWER10 has explicit support for SCM DIMMs.  The question is more of whether SCM technology is ready for HANA.  At 3 to 5 times worse latency than DRAM, Intel’s SCM, Optane, most certainly is not.  In fact, I call it highly irresponsible to promote a technology with barely a mention of the likely performance drawbacks as has been done by Intel and their merry band of misinformation brethren, e.g. HPE, Cisco, Dell, etc.

I prefer IBM’s more measured approach of supporting technology options, encouraging openness and ecosystem innovation, and focusing on delivering real value with solutions that make sense now as opposed to others’ approaches that can lead customers down a path where they will inevitably have to apologize later when things don’t work as promised.  I am also looking forward to 2021 to see what sort of POWER10 systems and related infrastructure options IBM will announce.

 

 

[i] https://www.tomshardware.com/news/intel-barlow-pass-dimm-3200mts-support-15w-tdp
[ii] https://www.crn.com/news/components-peripherals/ibm-power10-cpu-s-memory-inception-is-industry-s-holy-grail-
https://www.servethehome.com/ibm-power10-searching-for-the-holy-grail-of-compute/hot-chips-32-ibm-power10-memory-clustering-enterprise-scale-memory-sharing/
[iii] https://www.hpcwire.com/2020/08/17/ibm-debuts-power10-touts-new-memory-scheme-security-and-inferencing/

 

 

August 19, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Optane DC Persistent Memory – Proven, industrial strength or full of hype – Detail, part 3

In this final of a three part series, we will explore the two other major “benefits” of Optane DIMMs: fast restart and TCO.

Fast restart

HANA, as an in-memory database, must be loaded into memory to perform well.  Intel, for years and, apparently up to current times, has suffered with a major bottleneck in its I/O subsystem.  As a result, loading a single terabyte of data into memory could take 10 to 20 minutes in a best-case scenario.  Anecdotally, some customers have remarked that placing superfast, all flash subsystems, such as IBM’s FlashSystem 9100, behind an Intel HANA system resulted in little improvement in load times compared to mid-range SSD subsystems.  For customers attempting to bring up a 10TB storage/20TB memory HANA system, this could result in load times measured in hours.  As a result, a faster way of getting a HANA system up and running was sorely needed.

This did not appear to be a problem for customers using IBM’s Power Systems.  Not only has Power delivered roughly twice the I/O bandwidth of Intel systems for years, but with POWER9, IBM introduced PCIe Gen4, further extending their leadership in this area.  The bottleneck is actually in the storage subsystem and number of paths that it can drive, not in the processor.  To prove this, IBM ran a test with 10 NVMe cards in PCIe slots and was able to drive load speeds into HANA of almost 1TB/min.[I].  In other words, to improve restart times, Power Systems customers need only move to faster subsystems and/or add more or faster paths.

This suggests that Intel’s motivation for NVDIMMs may be to solve a problem of their own making.  But this also raises a question of their understanding of HANA.  If a customer is running a transactional workload such as Suite on HANA, S/4 or C/4, and is using HANA System Replication, wouldn’t at least one of the pair of nodes be available at all times?  SAP supports near zero upgrades[ii], so systems, firmware, OS or even HANA itself may be updated on one of the pair of nodes while the other continues to operate, followed by a synchronization of changed data and a controlled failover so that the first node might be updated.  In this way, cold restarts of HANA, where a fast restart option might make a big difference, may be driven down into a very rare occurrence.  In other words, wouldn’t this be a better option than causing poor performance to everything due to radically slower DIMMs compared to DRAM as has been discussed in gory detail on the previous two posts of this series?

HANA also offers a quick restart option whereby HANA can be started and the database made available within minutes even though all of the columns have not yet been loaded into memory. Yes, performance will be pretty bad until all columns are loaded into memory, but for non-production systems and non-mission critical systems, this might be an acceptable option.  Lastly, with HANA 2.0 SPS04, SAP now supports fast restart with conventional memory.[iii]  This only works when the OS stays up and running, i.e. can’t be used when the system, firmware or OS is being updated, but this can be used for the vast majority of required restarts, e.g. HANA upgrades, patches and restarts when a bounce of the HANA environment is needed.  Though this is not mentioned in the help documentation, it may even be possible to patch the Linux kernel while using the fast restart option if SUSE SLES is used with their “Live Patching” function.[iv]

TCO

Optane DIMMs are less expensive than DRAM DIMMs.  List prices appears to be about 40% cheaper when comparing same size DIMMs.  Effective prices, however, may have a much smaller delta since there exists competition for DRAM meaning discounts may be much deeper than for the NVDIMMs from Intel, currently the only source.  This assumes full utilization of those NVDIMMs which may prove to be a drastically bad assumption.  Sizing guidance from SAP[v]shows that the ratio of DRAM vs. PMEM (their term for NVDIMMs) capacity can be anything from 2:1 to 1:4, but it provides no guidance as to where a given workload might fall or what sort of performance impact might result.  This means that a customer might purchase NVDIMMs with a capacity ratio of 1:2, e.g. 1TB DRAM:2TB PMEM, but might end up only being able to utilize only 512GB or 1TB PMEM due to negative performance results.  In that case, the cost of effective NVDIMMs would have instantly doubled or quadrupled and would, effectively, be more expensive than DRAM DIMMs.

But let us assume the best rather than the worst.  Even if only a 2:1 ratio works relatively well, the cost of the NVDIMMs, if sized for that ratio, would be somewhat lower than the equivalent cost of DRAM DIMMs. The problem is that memory, while a significant portion of the cost of systems, is but one element in the overall TCO of a HANA landscape.  If reducing TCO is the goal, shouldn’t all options be considered?

Virtualization has been in heavy use by most customers for years helping to drive up system utilization resulting in the need for fewer systems, decreasing network and SAN ports, reducing floor space and power/cooling and, perhaps most importantly, reducing the cost of IT management.  Unfortunately, few high end customers, other than those using IBM Power Systems can take advantage of this technology in the HANA world due to the many reasons identified in the latest of many previous posts.[vi]  Put another way, if a customer utilizes an industrial strength and proven virtualization solution for HANA, i.e. IBM PowerVM, they may be able to reduce TCO considerably[vii]and potentially much more than the relatively small improvement due to NVDIMMs.

But if driving down memory costs is the only goal, there are a couple of ideas that are less radical than using NVDIMMs worth investigating.  Depending on RTO requirements, some workloads might need an HA option, but might not require it to be ready in minutes.  If this is the case, then a cold standby server running other workloads which could be killed in the event of a system outage could be utilized, e.g. QA, Dev, Test, Sandbox, Hadoop.  Since no incremental memory would be required, memory costs would be substantially lower than that required for System Replication, even if NVDIMMs are used. IBM offers a tool called VM Recovery Manager which can instrument and automate such a configuration.

Another option worth considering, only for non-production workloads, is a feature of IBM PowerVM called Memory Deduplication.  After different VMs are started using “a shared memory pool”, the hypervisor builds a logical memory map.  It then scans the pages of each VM looking for identical memory pages at which time it uses the logical memory map to point each VM to the same real memory page thereby freeing up the redundant memory pages for use by other workloads.  If a page is subsequently changed by one of the VMs, the hypervisor simply recreates a unique real memory page for that VM. The upshot of this feature is that the total quantity of DRAM memory may be reduced substantially for workloads that are relatively static and have large amounts of duplication between them. The reason that this should not be used for production is because when the VMs start, the hypervisor has not yet had the chance to deduplicate the memory pages and, if the sum of logical memory of all VMs is larger than the total memory, paging will occur.  This will subside over time and may be of little consequence to non-production workloads, but the risk to performance for production might be considered unacceptable and, besides, “Memory over-commitment must not be used” for production HANA according to SAP.

Summary

Faster restarts than may be possible with traditional Intel systems may be achieved by using near zero HANA upgrades with System Replication, HANA fast restart or by switching to a system with a radically faster I/O subsystem, e.g. IBM Power Systems. TCO may be reduced with tried and proven virtualization technologies as provided with IBM PowerVM, cold standby systems or memory deduplication rather than experimenting with version 1.0 of a new technology with no track record, unknown reliability, poor guidance on sizing and potentially huge impacts to performance.

 

[i]https://www.ibm.com/downloads/cas/WQDZWBYJ

[ii]https://launchpad.support.sap.com/#/notes/1984882

[iii]https://help.sap.com/viewer/6b94445c94ae495c83a19646e7c3fd56/2.0.04/en-US/ce158d28135147f099b761f8b1ee43fc.html

[iv]https://launchpad.support.sap.com/#/notes/1984787

[v]https://launchpad.support.sap.com/#/notes/2786237

[vi]https://saponpower.wordpress.com/2018/09/26/vmware-pushes-past-4tb-sap-hana-limit/

[vii]https://www.ibm.com/downloads/cas/M7X2YXZD

June 3, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

SAP HANA support for HPE nPar on Superdome Flex update

In addition to the outstanding support for virtualization technologies like PowerVM for HANA and the lukewarm support for VMware by SAP, SAP also supports other technologies that allow larger systems to be subdivided into smaller nodes.  Note that I did not say virtualization, but subdivision.  Physical partitioning (PPAR) is a technology invented in the 1990s and only allows components, e.g. boards or NUMA nodes, to be allocated to a separate workload from others on the same physical system.

On October 22, 2018, SAP updated its SAP Note for HPE nPar technology.[i]  With this update, SAP now supports nPars with Superdome Flex.  Granularity is incredibly fine (not).  As noted in the SAP note, “Via nPartitions, the following  partition sizes are supported in terms of the number of sockets:

    • Skylake based architecture: ScaleUp 16s, 12s, 8s, 4s; ScaleOut 4s, 8s, 16s

Or to put it in terms of cores, each socket has 28 cores, so granularity is 112 cores.  You need only 20 cores?  No problem, you get to consume 112.  You need 113 cores? Also no problem, you get to consume 224 cores.  But, on the positive side, these npars are “electrically isolated” which has 2 really important implications.  First, the only way to isolate one or more Superdome Flex drawers into a separate nPar is to physically change the mesh wiring of the entire system.  That means that if you decide to change the configuration of nPars, dynamic changes would be the exact opposite of what is supported.  In fact, according to customer reports, HPE requires a Statement of Work service contract to come out and rewire the system and it takes multiple days … one customer reported multiple weeks.  The second implication is that all resources on the node(s) in an nPar are dedicated to that nPar.  In the above example, if you need 20 cores, you probably require around a ½ TB of memory for BW or 1TB of memory for S/4.  It is possible to configure an nPar with as little as 1.5TB of memory which means that you might waste an entire TB if you only need ½ TB.  Alternately, if you have other workloads on other nPars that require more cores and memory and you want to keep all drawers consistent to allow for future changes, you might actually have up to 6TB per drawer meaning much more wasted memory if you only require ½ TB for a particular workload.  By the way, the only other elements that are shared when a system is broken up into physically isolated nPars are the frame(s), power supplies and the RMC – Rack Management Controller.  PCIe cards cannot be shared due to the physical isolation, so by using nPars, you essentially take a very expensive system and carve it into a bunch of smaller and very expensive, isolated systems which are difficult to reconfigure.  Alternately, if you really must use HPE technology for smaller workloads, you could purchase smaller systems at much lower prices.

I have really been trying to scratch my head and understand why anyone would want this type of 1990s era partitioning technology.  HPE certainly does because it results in higher profits from selling larger systems with more aggregate capacity while giving the false appearance of flexibility.  For customers, on the other hand, it offers massive waste and very limited flexibility.

My advice: Don’t be a sucker and get taken in by HPE’s misdirection play.  Either purchase appropriately sized systems for each workload or purchase systems that offer real virtualization, such as IBM Power Systems, with fine grained allocation of resources sharing of components such as PCIe adapters and true server consolidation, but don’t purchase one of these massive HPE systems and then eliminate any perceived value of using such a large system by cutting it up into smaller systems.

 

 

[i]2103848 – SAP HANA on HPE nPartitions in production

 

March 25, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SAP increases support for HANA on Power, now up to 16 concurrent production VMs with IBM PowerVM

On March 1, 2019, SAP updated SAP Note 2230704 – SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems with multiple – LPARs per physical host.  Previously, up to 8 concurrent HANA production VMs could be supported on the Power E880 system with 16 sockets.  Now, the new POWER9 based E980, also with 16 sockets, is supported with up to 16 concurrent HANA production VMs.  As was the case prior to this update, each VM must have a minimum of 4 cores and 128GB and can grow to as large as 16TB for OLAP and 24TB for OLTP.  The maximum VM count may be reduced by 1 if a shared pool is desired for one or more non-production HANA, any other SAP or non-SAP workloads. There is no restriction on the number of VMs that can run in a shared pool from an SAP perspective, but practical physical limits are usually hit before any PowerVM architectural limits. CPU capacity not used by the production VMs may be shared, temporarily, with VMs in the shared pool using a proprietary technology called dedicated-donating where the production VM, which owns the CPU capacity, may loan part of it to the shared pool and get it back immediately when needed for that production workload.

Most customers were quite happy with 8 concurrent VMs, so why should anyone care about 16?  Turns out, some customers have really complex landscapes.  I recently had discussions with a customer that has around 12 current and planned production HANA instances. They were debating whether to use HANA in a multi-tenant configuration.  The problem is that all HANA tenants in a mult-tenant VM are tightly bound, i.e. when the VM, OS or SAP software needs to be updated or reconfigured, all tenants are affected simultaneously.  While not impossible to deal with, this introduces operational complexity.  If those same 12 instances were placed on a new POWER server, the operational complexity could be eliminated.

As much as this might benefit the edge customers with a large number of instances, it will really benefit cloud vendors that utilize Power with greater flexibility, more sharing of resources and lower management and infrastructure costs.  Also, isolation between cloud clients are essential, so multi-tenancy is rarely an effective option. On the other hand, PowerVM offers very strong isolation, so this offers an excellent option for cloud providers even when different clients share the same infrastructure.

This announcement also closes a perceived gap where VMware could already run up to 16 concurrent VMs on an 8-socket system.  The caveat to that support was that the minimum and maximum size of each VM when running at the 16 VM level was ½ socket.  Of course, you could play the mix and match game with some VMs at the ½ socket level and others at the full or multi-socket level, but neither of these options provides for very good granularity.  For systems with 28-core sockets, the granularity per VM is 14 cores, 28 cores and then multiples of 28 cores up to 112 cores.  For those that are configured at 1/2 sockets, if there is no other workload to consume the other 1/2 socket, then the capacity is simply wasted.  Memory, likewise, has some granularity limitations.  According to VMware’s Best Practice Guide, “When an SAP HANA VM needs to be larger than a single NUMA node, allocate all resource of this NUMA node; and to maintain a high CPU cache hit ratio, never share a NUMA node for production use cases with other workloads. Also, avoid allocation of more memory than a single NUMA node has connected to it because this would force it to access memory that is not local to the SAP HANA processes scheduled on the NUMA node.”  In other words, any memory not consumed by the HANA VM(s) on a particular socket/node is simply wasted since other nodes should not utilize memory across nodes.

By comparison, production HANA workloads running on PowerVM may be adjusted by 1 core at a time with memory granularity measured in MB, not GB or TB.

In an upcoming blog post, I will give some practical examples of landscapes and how PowerVM and VMware virtualization would utilize resources.

With this enhanced level of support from SAP, IBM Power Systems with PowerVM is once again the clear leader in terms of virtualization for HANA environments.

March 11, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Power Systems – Delivering best of breed scalability for SAP HANA

SAP quietly revised a SAP Note last week but it certainly made a loud sound for some.  Version 47 of https://launchpad.support.sap.com/#/notes/2188482 now says that OLTP workloads, such as Suite on HANA or S/4HANA are now supported on IBM Power Systems up to 24TB.  OLAP workloads, like BW HANA may be implemented on IBM Power Systems with up to 16TB for a single scale-up instance.  As noted in https://launchpad.support.sap.com/#/notes/2055470, scale-out BW is supported with up to 16 nodes bringing the maximum supported BW environment to a whopping 256TB.

As impressive as those stats are, it should also be noted that SAP also provided new core-to-memory (CTM) guidance with the 24TB OLTP system sized at 176-cores which results in 140GB/core, up from the previous 113.7GB/core at 16TB.  The 16TB OLAP system, sized at 192-cores, translates to 85.3GB/core, up from the previous 50GB/core for 4-socket and above systems.

By comparison, the maximum supported sizes for Intel Skylake systems are 6TB for OLAP and 12TB for OLTP which correlates to 27.4GB/core OLAP and 54.9GB/core OLTP.  In other words, SAP has published numbers which suggest Power Systems can handle workloads that are  2.7x (OLAP) and 2x (OLAP) the size of the maximum supported Skylake systems.  On the CTM side, this works out to a maximum of 3.1x (OLAP) and 2.6x (OLTP) better performance per core for Power Systems over Skylake.

Full disclosure, these numbers do not represent the highest scaling Intel systems.  In order to find them, you must look at the previous generation of systems.  Some may consider them obsolete, but for customers that must scale beyond 6TB/12TB (OLAP/OLTP) and are unwilling or unable to consider Power Systems, an immediate sunk investment may be their only choice.  (Note to customers in this undesirable predicament, if you really want to get an independent, third party verification of potential obsolesence, ask your favorite leasing companies, not associated or owned by the vendor, what residual value they would assume after 1 year for these systems vs. what they would assume for similar Skylake systems after 1 year.)

The previous “generation” of HPE Superdome, “X”, which as discussed in my last blog post shares 0% technology with Skylake based HPE Superdome “Flex”, was supported up to 8TB/16TB with 384 cores for both OLAP and OLTP, resulting in CTM of 21.3GB/42.7GB/core.  The SGI derived HPE MC990 X, which is the real predecessor to the new “Flex” system, was supported up to 4TB/20TB with 192 cores OLAP with 480 cores.

Strangely, “Flex” is only supported for HANA with 2 nodes or chassis where “MC990 X” was supported with up to 5 nodes.  It has been over 4 months since “Flex” was announced and at announcement date, HPE loudly proclaimed that “Flex” could support 48TB with 8 chassis/32 sockets https://news.hpe.com/hewlett-packard-enterprise-unveils-the-worlds-most-scalable-and-modular-in-memory-computing-platform/.  Since that time, some HPE reps have been telling customers that 32TB support with HANA was imminent.  One has to wonder what the hold up is.  First it took a couple of months just to get 128GB DIMM support. Now, it is taking even longer to get more than 2-node support for HANA.  If I were a potential HPE customer, I would be very curious and asking my rep about these delays (and I would have my BS detector set to high sensitivity).

Customers have now been presented with a stark contrast.  On one side, Power Systems has been on a roll; growing market share in HANA, regular increases in supported memory sizes, the ability to handle the largest single image HANA memory sizes of any vendor, outstanding mainframe derived reliability and radically better flexibility with built in virtualization and support for a maximum of 8 concurrent production HANA instances or 7 production with many dozens of non-prod HANA, application servers, non-HANA DBs and/or a wide variety of other applications supported in a shared pool, all at competitive price points.

On the other hand, Intel based HANA systems seem to be stuck in a rut with decreased maximum memory sizes (admittedly, this may be temporary), anemic increases in CTM, improved RAS but not yet to the league of Power Systems and a very questionable VMware based virtualization support filled with caveats, limitations, overhead and poor, at best, sharing of resources.

March 28, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HPE Superdome is dead, but HPE marketing continues its deceptive ways.

Today, 11/6/17, HPE announced the “New” Superdome Flex.  If you did not look too closely, you would think that this was some sort of descendant of Superdome.  After all, the Integrity Superdome took the original Superdome and replaced PA-RISC chips and the SX1000 cell controller with Itanium chips and a faster SX2000 cell controller.  Superdome 2 took this further by upgrading to the latest Itanium chips, an even faster SX3000 cell controller and moved from a cell board to a blade configuration.  Superdome X changed out the Itanium chips for Intel Xeon chips which it upgraded over several generations.  So, it would be only natural to think that Superdome Flex did something similar and that is exactly what HPE wants you to think.

Except, this is not even remotely like any prior Superdome and has inherited almost nothing from it.  In fact, this is a very straightforward descendant of the SGI UV 300H, which HPE renamed the MC990 X after the acquisition.  A glance at the front of the “new” system shows the same basic design, a 4-socket, 5U chassis even down to the unique diagonal handles on the fans, but they apparently moved the NUMAlink fabric ports (no longer called that; renamed Superdome Flex ports) from the back to the front, perhaps to get rid of a little of the rats nest of cables which defined the SGI UV 300H.  This means there is no SX3000 or cross bar switch in the Flex and the blade design is gone.  Even the memory DIMMS are different which implies that nothing could be moved from an old Superdome X to a new “Flex” other than perhaps some old PCIe adapters.

So, if the entire design is based on an SGI acquired technology and it shares nothing from its “namesake”, one would need to avoided that course in ethics in high school or college to find it appropriate to suggest to customers that this is a related technology.  Imagine if Honda changed the engine, frame, transmission, trim and body style but called their new car an Accord “Flex” because it used the same bumper and tire sizes, would you feel as if they were trying to manipulate you?

Back to the more important topic, Superdome is now dead!  I have been saying this for a while and blogged about this several months ago.  I suggested that any customer considering investing in this technology view it as instantly obsolete and a sunk investment.  I pointed out the huge investment in ccNUMA interconnect technologies and how it was hard to imagine how HPE could afford to invest in 2 different ones at the same time, so only one system was likely to survive.  I explained that the SGI technology offered more space and power to host the new, larger, higher wattage and heat dissipating Skylake processors.  It appears that my projections were correct.  For customers that ignored that advice, I just hope you got a really great price and don’t mind paying a lot for old technology for any upgrades or dumping your old systems at a huge financial loss.  For any customer still considering a Superdome X, the writing is no longer on the wall.  It is on HPE’s web site.  https://news.hpe.com/hewlett-packard-enterprise-unveils-the-worlds-most-scalable-and-modular-in-memory-computing-platform/

Currently, no white papers have been published showing the architecture and detailed specs of this “new” system, only a relatively high level “Spec” sheet.  Perhaps HPE is too embarrassed to publish this since it would likely resemble the SGI UV 300H in way too many ways, including the old rats nest of 4-bit wide interconnect cables.  Once they do, I will investigate and will likely publish a separate post to share what I find.

On the SAP front, new HANA appliance specs have been published for “Flex”.   It is interesting, and again embarrassing for HPE, that only up to 8-socket configs are shown, with less BWoH memory support @ 6TB max than the old, and now obsolete, Superdome X.  Even more interesting is the lack of SoH and S/4 configs, and I have a suspicion as to why.  Turns out that the spec sheet does have one interesting point after all.  It shows the maximum size memory DIMMS are 64GB and the number of DIMMS slots is 48 with a max supported memory of 3TB per chassis, i.e. half of what is necessary to support the 6TB per 4-sockets that other competing Intel vendors support.

So, if you need a supported HANA configuration today with current generation processors for BWoH beyond 6TB, look at any vendor other than HPE with 8-socket Skylake systems or IBM Power Systems.  If you need a supported SoH or S/4 configuration with current gen processors, look at any vendor other than HPE and beyond 12TB, only IBM Power Systems is supported at this level.

November 6, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Support for HANA on Power with RedHat is finally here!!

SAP made a very exciting announcement this past Friday.  While it took a bit longer than expected, support for RHEL 7.3 with HANA on Power was announced by SAP in their usual overwhelming manner, i.e. they updated a SAP note:   SAP HANA 2235581: Supported Operating Systems.  RHEL is only supported on Power in Little Endian mode, i.e. only works with HANA 2.0.  This support is incredibly important for customers that have established RHEL as their standard for Linux and were either reluctant to introduce a different Linux distribution or were outright forbidden to by their corporate standards.  Taken together with the TDI Phase 5 SAPS based sizing announcement, yet another element that was inhibiting the already explosive growth of HANA on Power was removed.  I described that announcement as allowing the use of 5th gear after being limited to only 4.  Taking this metaphor a step further, RHEL support is like disengaging the parking brake.  I should mention that IBM does not develop a Linux variant of their own nor do they endorse any particular variety.  As such, I will not suggest any advantage of running RHEL or SLES for HANA and recommend, if a company has no firm policy either way, that you ask each distro partner to explain why they think theirs is better for HANA than the other.  At this time, both are supported only with PowerVM on Power Systems and with the exact same limits and multi-tenant/multi-VM flexibility.

October 9, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments