SAPonPower

An ongoing discussion about SAP infrastructure

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

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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

VMware pushes past 4TB SAP HANA limit

Excuse me while I yawn.  Why such a lack of enthusiasm you might ask?  Well, it is hard to know where to start.  First, the “new” limit of 6TB is only applicable to transactional workloads like SoH and S/4HANA.  BW workloads can now scale to an amazing size of, wait for it, 3TB.  And granularity is still largely at the socket level.  Let’s dissect this a bit.

VMware VMs with 6TB for OLTP/3TB for OLAP is just slightly behind IBM Power Systems’ current limitation of 24TB OLTP/16TB OLAP by a factor or 4 or more.  (yes, I can divide 16/3 = 5.3)

But kudos to VMware. At least now customers with over 4TB but under 6TB requirements (including 3 to 5 years growth of course) can now consider VMware, right?

With this latest announcement (not really an announcement, a SAP note, but that is pretty typical for SAP) VMware is now supported as a “real” virtualization solution for HANA.  Oh, how much they wish that was true.  VMware is now supported on two levels: min and max size of “shared” socket at ½ of the socket’s capacity or min of 1 dedicated socket/max of 4 sockets with a granularity of 1 socket.  At a ½ socket, the socket may be shared with another HANA production workload but SAP suggests an overhead of 14% in this scenario and it is not clear if they mean 14% total or 14% in addition to the 10% when using VMware in the first place.  Even at this level, the theoretical capacity is so small as to be of interest for only the very smallest demands.    At the dedicated socket level, VMware has achieved a fundamental breakthrough … physical partitioning.  Let me reach back through the way-back machine … way, way back … to the 1990s,  (Oh, you Millennials, you have no idea how primitive life used to be) when some of us used to subdivide systems along infrastructure boundaries and thought we were doing something really special (HP figured out how to do this about 5 years later (and are still doing this today), but lets give them credit for trying and not criticize them for being a little slow … after all, not everyone can be a C student).

So, now, almost 30 years later, VMware is able to partition on physical boundaries of a socket for production HANA workloads.  That is so cool that if any of you are similarly impressed, I have this incredibly sophisticated device that will calculate a standard deviation with the press of a button (yes, Millennials, we used to have specialized tools to help us add and subtract called calculators which were a massive improvement over slide rules, so back off!   What, you have never heard of a slide rule … OMG!)

A little 101 of Power Systems for HANA:  PowerVM (IBM’s hardware/firmware virtualization manager) can subdivide a physical system at a logical level of a core, not a physical socket, for HANA production workloads.  You can also add (or subtract) capacity by increments of 1 core for HANA production, increments of 1/20thof a core for non-prod and other workloads.  You can even add memory without cores even if that memory is not physically attached to the socket on which that core resides.  But, there is more.  During this special offer, only if you call in the next 1,000,000 minutes, at no extra charge, PowerVM will throw in the ability to move workloads and/or memory around as needed within a system or to another system in its cluster and share capacity unused by production workloads with a shared pool of VMs for application servers, non-prod or even host a variety of non-HANA,  non-SAP, Linux, AIX or IBM I  workloads on the same physical system with up to 64TB of memory shared amongst all workloads on a logical basis.

Shall we dive a little deeper into SAP’s support for HANA on VMware … I thing we shall!  So, we are all giddy about hosting a 6TB S/4 instance on VMware.  The HANA appliance specs for a 6TB instance on Skylake are 4 sockets @ 28 core/socket with hyperthreading enabled.  A VMware 6.7 VM is supported with up to 128 virtual processors (vps).  4 x 28 x 2 = 224 vps

I know, we have a small problem with math here.  128 is less than 224 which means the math must be wrong … or you can’t use all of the cores with VMware.  To be precise, with hyperthreading enabled you can only use 16 cores per socket or 2/3 of the cores used in the certified appliance test.  And, that is before you consider the minimum 10% overhead noted in the SAP note.  So, we are asked to believe that 128 * .9 = 115vps will perform as well as 224vps.  As a career long salesman from Louisiana, I have to say, please call me because I know where I can get ahold of some prime real estate in the Atchafalya Basin (you can look it up but it is basically swamp land) to sell to you for a really good price.

Alternately, we can disable hyperthreading and use all of 4 sockets for a single HANA DB workload. Once again, the math gets in the way. VMware estimates hyperthreading increases core throughput by about 15%, so logically, removing hyperthreading has the opposite effect, and once again, that 10% overhead still comes into play meaning even more performance degradation:   .85 * .9 = 77% of the certified appliance capacity.

By the way, brand new in this updated SAP note is a security warning when using VMware.  I have to admit a certain amount of surprise here as I believe this is the first time that using a virtualization solution on Intel systems is recognized by SAP as coming with some degree of risk … despite the National Vulnerabilities Database showing 1009 hits when searching on VMware.  A similar search on PowerVM returns 0 results.

This new announcement does little to change the playing field.  Intel based solutions using VMware to host product HANA environments will deliver stunted physically partitioned systems with almost no sharing of resources other than perhaps some I/O and a nice hefty bill for software and maintenance from VMware.  In other words, as before, most customers will be confronted with a simple choice: choose bare-metal Intel systems for production HANA and use VMware for only non-prod servers which do not require the same stack as production such as development or sandbox or choose IBM Power Systems and fully exploit the server consolidation capabilities it offers which continues the journey that most customers have been on since the early 2000s of improved datacenter efficiency using virtualized infrastructure.

September 26, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

TDI Phase 5 – SAPS based sizing bringing better TCO to new and existing Power Systems customers

SAP made a fundamental and incredibly important announcement this week at SAP TechEd in Las Vegas: TDI Phase 5 – SAPS based sizing for HANA workloads.  Since its debut, HANA has been sized based on a strict memory to core ratio determined by SAP based on workloads and platform characteristics, e.g. generation of processor, MHz, interconnect technology, etc.  This might have made some sense in the early days when much was not known about the loads that customers were likely to experience and SAP still had high hopes for enabling all customer employees to become knowledge workers with direct access to analytics.  Over time, with very rare exception, it turned out that CPU loads were far lower than the ratios might have predicted.

I have only run into one customer in the past two years that was able to drive a high utilization of their HANA systems and that was a customer running an x86 BW implementation with an impressively high number of concurrent users at one point in their month.  Most customers have experienced just the opposite, consistently low utilization regardless of technology.

For many customers, especially those running x86 systems, this has not been an issue.  First, it is not a significant departure from what many have experienced for years, even those running VMware.  Second, to compensate for relatively low memory and socket-to-socket bandwidth combined with high latency interconnects, many x86 systems work best with an excess of CPU.  Third, many x86 vendors have focused on HANA appliances which are rarely utilized with virtualization and are therefore often single instance systems.

IBM Power Systems customers, by comparison, have been almost universal in their concern about poor utilization.  These customers have historically driven high utilization, often over 65%.  Power has up to 5 times the memory bandwidth per socket of x86 systems (without compromising reliability) and very wide and parallel interconnect paths with very low latencies.  HANA has never been offered as an appliance on Power Systems, instead being offered only using a Tailored Datacenter Infrastructure (TDI) approach.  As a result, customers view on-premise Power Systems as a sort of utility, i.e. that they should be able to use them as they see fit and drive as much workload through them as possible while maintaining the Service Level Agreements (SLA) that their end users require.  The idea of running a system at 5%, or even 25%, utilization is almost an affront to these customers, but that is what they have experienced with the memory to core restrictions previously in place.

IBM’s virtualization solution, PowerVM, enabled SAP customers to run multiple production workloads (up to 8 on the largest systems) or a mix of production workloads (up to 7) with a shared pool of CPU resources within which an almost unlimited mix of VMs could run including non-prod HANA, application servers, as well as non-SAP and even other OS workloads, e.g. AIX and IBM i.  In this mixed mode, some of the excess CPU resource not used by the production workloads could be utilized by the shared-pool workloads.  This helped drive up utilization somewhat, but not enough for many.

These customers would like to do what they have historically done.  They would like to negotiate response time agreements with their end user departments then size their systems to meet those agreements and resize if they need more capacity or end up with too much capacity.

The newly released TDI Overview document http://bit.ly/2fLRFPb describes the new methodology: SAP HANA quicksizer and SAP HANA sizing reports have been enhanced to provide separate CPU and RAM sizing results in SAPS”.  I was able to verify Quicksizer showing SAPS, but not the sizing reports.  An SAP expert I ran into at TechEd suggested that getting the sizing reports to determine SAPS would be a tall order since they would have to include a database of SAPS capacity for every system on the market as well as number of cores and MHz for each one.  (In a separate blog post, I will share how IBM can help customers to calculate utilized SAPS on existing systems).  Customers are instructed to work with their hardware partner to determine the number of cores required based on the SAPS projected above.  The document goes on to state: The resulting HANA TDI configurations will extend the choice of HANA system sizes; and customers with less CPU intensive workloads may have bigger main memory capacity compared to SAP HANA appliance based solutions using fixed core to memory sizing approach (that’s more geared towards delivery of optimal performance for any type of a workload).”

Using a SAPS based methodology will be a good start and may result in fewer cores required for the same workload as would have been previously calculated based on a memory/core ratio.  Customers that wish to allocate more of less CPU to those workloads will now have this option meaning that even more significant reduction of CPU may be possible.  This will likely result in much more efficient use of CPU resources, more capacity available to other workloads and/or the ability to size systems with less resources to drive down the cost of those systems.  Either way helps drive much better TCO by reducing numbers and sizes of systems with the associated datacenter and personnel costs.

Existing Power customers will undoubtedly be delighted by this news.  Those customers will be able to start experimenting with different core allocations and most will find they are able to decrease their current HANA VM sizes substantially.  With the resources no longer required to support production, other workloads currently implemented on external systems may be consolidated to the newly, right sized, system.  Application servers, central services, Hadoop, HPC, AI, etc. are candidates to be consolidated in this way.

Here is a very simple example:  A hypothetical customer has two production workloads, BW/4HANA and S/4HANA which require 4TB and 3TB respectively.  For each, HA is required as is Dev/Test, Sandbox and QA.  Prior to TDI Phase 5, using Power Systems, the 4TB BW system would require roughly 82-cores due to the 50GB/core ratio and the S/4 workload would require roughly 33 cores due to the 96GB/core ratio.  Including HA and non-prod, the systems might look something like:

TDI Phase 4

Note the relatively small number of cores available in the shared pool (might be less than optimal) and the total number of cores in the system. Some customers may have elected to increase to an even larger system or utilize additional systems as a result.  As this stood, this was already a pretty compelling TCO and consolidation story to customers.

With SAPS based sizing, the BW workload may require only 70 cores and S/4 21 cores (both are guesses based on early sizing examples and proper analysis of the SAP sizing reports and per core SAPS ratings of servers is required to determine actual core requirements).  The resulting architecture could look like:

TDI Phase 5 est

Note the smaller core count in each system.  By switching to this methodology, lower cost CPU sockets may be employed and processor activation costs decreased by 24 cores per system.  But the number of cores in the shared pool remains the same, so still could be improved a bit.

During a landscape session at SAP TechEd in Las Vegas, an SAP expert stated that customers will be responsible for performance and CPU allocation will not be enforced by SAP through HWCCT as had been the case in the past.  This means that customers will be able to determine the number of cores to allocate to their various instances.  It is conceivable that some customers will find that instead of the 70 cores in the above example, 60, 50 or fewer cores may be required for BW with decreased requirements for S/4HANA as well.  Using this approach, a customer choosing this more hypothetical approach might see the following:

TDI Phase 5 hyp

Note how the number of cores in the shared pool have increased substantially allowing for more workloads to be consolidated to these systems, further decreasing costs by eliminating those external systems as well as being able to consolidate more SAN and Network cards, decreasing computer room space and reducing energy/cooling requirements.

A reasonable question is whether these same savings would accrue to an x86 implementation.  The answer is not necessarily.  Yes, fewer cores would also be required, but to take advantage of a similar type of consolidation, VMware must be employed.  And if VMware is used, then a host of caveats must be taken into consideration.  1) overhead, reportedly 12% or more, must be added to the capacity requirements.  2) I/O throughput must be tested to ensure load times, log writes, savepoints, snapshots and backup speeds which are acceptable to the business.  3) limits must be understood, e.g. max memory in a VM is 4TB which means that BW cannot grow by even 1KB. 4) Socket isolation is required as SAP does not permit the sharing of a socket in a HANA production/VMware environment meaning that reducing core requirements may not result in fewer sockets, i.e. this may not eliminate underutilized cores in an Intel/VMware system.  5) Non-prod workloads can’t take advantage of capacity not used by production for several reasons not the least of which is that SAP does not permit sharing of sockets between VM prod and non-prod instances not to mention the reluctance of many customer to mix prod and non-prod using a software hypervisor such as VMware even if SAP permitted this.  Bottom line is that most customers, through an abundance of caution, or actual experience with VMware, choose to place production on bare-metal and non-prod, which does not require the same stack as prod, on VMware.  Workloads which do require the same stack as prod, e.g. QA, also are usually placed on bare-metal.  After closer evaluation, this means that TDI Phase 5 will have limited benefits to x86 customers.

This announcement is the equivalent of finally being allowed to use 5th gear on your car after having been limited to only 4 for a long time.  HANA on IBM Power Systems already had the fastest adoption in recent SAP history with roughly 950 customers selecting HANA on Power in just 2 years. TDI Phase 5 uniquely benefits Power Systems customers which will continue the acceleration of HANA on Power.  Those individuals that recommended or made decisions to select HANA on Power will look like geniuses to their CFOs as they will now get the equivalent of new systems capacity at no cost.

September 29, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Is your company ready to put S/4HANA into the cloud? – Part 3

The third of a 4 part discussion about corporate requirements in support of S/4HANA and questions to be asked of cloud providers in support of placing this landscape in the cloud.

  • What backups must be performed? Some cloud providers might include daily, weekly, incremental or no backups.  They may include raw image backups vs. database aware backups. Just make sure that whatever backups you require are supported and included in the price for the cloud services.
    • Should corporate backup solution be used? For flexibility reasons as well as visibility, you may prefer that a backup solution that you have tested and approved works in the cloud environment.  Or, perhaps, it is an audit requirement.
    • Are extra server(s) required for backup solution? Your security and audit departments may not permit your backups to share infrastructure, including the network, with any other clients in a provider’s cloud environment.  One or more servers with or without dedicated network infrastructure may be required.
    • How quickly must backups be performed, restored and what is the RTO after database corruption? SAP HANA backups can generally take their time as long as the aggregate transfer rate is sufficient to backup the entire database prior to the next backup.  Well, that is unless you want to be able to restore to the prior day in the event of database corruption in which case you may want the backup finished prior to a specific time on the same day.   Just make sure you think about this and have the infrastructure necessary to meet your backup speed priced.  Even more important is how quickly the backup can be restored as well as what services are offered to restore the backups and roll forward any logs that have been created since that backup was initiated, i.e. the RTO for getting back up and running.
    • Will backups be available to DR systems? Not to be overlooked are backups in DR.  Not only will you want to be able to take backups in DR, but you would also need to be able to restore from a backup in the primary site to the DR site, not so easily done if the primary site is truly down and unavailable.  This means that you would need the backup server to have bi-directional replication with DR site as well as testing to ensure this works correctly.  What incremental costs are required for the replicated backup bandwidth?
  • Security – First a disclaimer. I am not a security expert, so may be only addressing a subset of the real requirements.
    • How will corporate single sign-on operate with the cloud solution? Whether you use Microsoft Active Directory, CA SSO, IBM Tivoli Access Manager or one of the dozens of other products on the market, you are probably using this solution to authenticate and authorize users in SAP.  Make sure it can integrate with the potential S/4HANA system in the cloud.  Make sure that your security administrators can control policies, assign and revoke privileges and audit as necessary.
    • Must communications to/from cloud be encrypted and what solution will be used? We all know that hackers want to access your data for malicious reasons, financial gain or industrial espionage.  Do you want your key strokes and data to and from the cloud to transmit in clear text?  If not, which solution will you use and how might the use of that solution impact performance?  How about between application servers and database servers at the cloud provider?
    • How will data stored in cloud be secured? It is one thing to have your personal email stored on storage devices shared with millions of other users, but do your corporate polices allow for corporate databases to be located on storage devices that are shared with other customers?  If not, do you require dedicated devices, of what kind and at what cost?
    • How will backups be secured? We touched on backups earlier, but this is now specific to the physical media on which those backups are stored not to mention replicated to the DR site as well as any external media that you might require, e.g. tapes, DVDs or removable disks.  How can you be ensured that no one makes a copy, removes a disk, etc?
  • What are the non-production requirements? All of the above was just talking about production, but most customers have an even more extensive non-production landscape.  Many, if not most, of those same questions can be applied to non-production.  Remember, there are few employees that command a higher salary than your developers, whether internal or external.  They create corporate intellectual property and often work with copies of production data.  Their workloads vary based on project demands, phases of implementation or problems to be addressed.  Many customers utilize DR capacity or underutilized capacity on HA systems to address non-prod requirements, however this may not be an option in a cloud environment, or if it is, at what cost?
    • How will images be created/copied, managed, isolated, secured? You may use SAP LaMa (Landscape Manager previously know as Landscape Virtualization Manager (LVM), backup/restore, disk replication, TDMS, BDLS and/or custom scripts to populate non-prod systems.  Will those tools and techniques work in the cloud and at what cost?

 

The last part of this discussion will deal with migration challenges when moving to the cloud and lastly, a few of the reasons that are often used to justify a move to the cloud.

May 5, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is your company ready to put S/4HANA into the cloud? – Part 2

And now, the details and rationale behind the questions posed in Part 1.

  • What is the expected memory size for the HANA DB? Your HANA instances may fit comfortably within the provider’s offerings, or may force a bare-metal option, or may not be offered at all.  Equally important is expected growth as you may start within one tier and end in another or may be unable to fit in a provider’s cloud environment.
  • What are your performance objectives and how will they be measured/enforced? This may not be that important for some non-production environments, but production is used to run part, or all, of a company.  The last thing you want is to find out that transaction performance is not measured or for which no enforcement for missing an objective exists.  Even worse, what happens if these are measured, but only up to the edge of the provider’s cloud, not inclusive of WAN latency?  Sub-second response time is usually required, but if the WAN adds .5 seconds, your end users may not find this acceptable.  How about if the WAN latency varies?  The only thing worse than poor performance is unpredictable performance.
    • Who is responsible for addressing any performance issues? No one wants finger pointing so is the cloud provider willing to be responsible for end-user performance including WAN latency and at what cost?
    • Is bare-metal required or if shared, how much overhead, how much over-commitment? One of the ways that some cloud providers offer a competitive price is using shared infrastructure, virtualized with VMware or PowerVM for example.  Each of these have different limits and overhead with VMware noted by SAP as having a minimum of 12% overhead and PowerVM with 0% as the benchmarks were run under PowerVM to start with.  Likewise, VMware environments are limited to 4TB per instance and often multiple different instances may not run on shared infrastructure based on a very difficult to understand set of rules from SAP.  PowerVM has no such limits or rules and allows up to 8 concurrent production instances, each up to 16TB for S/4 or SoH up to the physical limits of the system.  If the cloud provider is offering a shared environment, are they running under SAP’s definition of “supported” or are they taking the chance and running “unsupported”?  Lastly, if it is a shared environment, is it possible that your performance or security may suffer because of another client’s use of that shared infrastructure?
  • What availability is required? 99.8%? 9%?  99.95%? 4 nines or higher?  Not all cloud providers can address the higher limits, so you should be clear about what your business requires.
  • Is HA mandatory? HA is usually an option, at a higher price.  The type of HA you desire may, or may not, be offered by each cloud provider.  Testing of that HA solution periodically may, or may not be offered so if you need or expect this, make sure you ask about it.
    • For HA, what are the RPO, RTO and RTP time limits? Not all HA solutions are created equal.  How much data loss is acceptable to your business and how quickly must you be able to get back up and running after a failure?  RTP is a term that you may not have heard to often and refers to “Return to Processing”, i.e. it is not enough to get the system back to a point of full data integrity and ready to work, but the system must be at a point that the business expects with a clear understanding of what transactions have or have not been committed.  Imagine a situation where a customer places an order or paid a bill, but it gets lost or where you paid a supplier and mistakenly pay them a second time.
  • Is DR mandatory and what are the RTP, RTO and RTP time limits? Same rationale for these questions as for HA, once again DR, when available, always offered at an additional charge and highly dependent on the type of replication used, with disk based replication usually less expensive than HANA System Replication but with a longer RTO/RTP.
    • Incremental costs for DR replication bandwidth? Often overlooked is the network costs for replicating data from the primary site to the DR site, but clearly a line item that should not be overlooked.  Some customers may decide to use two different cloud providers for primary and DR in which case not only may pricing for each be different but WAN capacity may be even more critical and pricey.
    • Disaster readiness assessment, mock drills or full, periodic data center flips? Having a DR site available is wonderful provided when you actually need it, everything works correctly.  As this is an entire discussion unto itself, let it be said that every business recovery expert will tell you to plan and test thoroughly.  Make sure you discuss this with a potential cloud provider and have the price to support whatever you require included in their bid.

 

I said this would be a two part post, but there is simply too much to include in only 2 parts, so the parts will go on until I address all of the questions and issues.

May 4, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What should you do when your LoBs say they are not ready for S/4HANA – part 2, Why choice of Infrastructure matters

Conversions to S/4HANA usually take place over several months and involve dozens to hundreds of steps.  With proper care and planning, these projects can run on time, within budget and result in a final Go-Live that is smooth and occurs within an acceptable outage window.  Alternately, horror stories abound of projects delayed, errors made, outages far beyond what was considered acceptable by the business, etc.  The choice of infrastructure to support a conversion may the last thing on anyone’s mind, but it can have a dramatic impact on achieving a successful outcome.

A conversion includes running many pre-checks[i] which can run for quite a while[ii] which implies that they can drive CPU utilization to high levels for a significant duration and impact other running workloads.  As a result, consultants routinely recommend that you make a copy of any system, especially production, against which you will run these pre-checks.  SAP recommends that you run these pre-checks against every system to be converted, e.g. Development, Test, Sandbox, QA, etc.  If they are being used for on-going work, it may be advisable to also make a copy of them and run those copies on other systems or within virtual machines which can be limited to avoid causing performance issues with other co-resident virtual machines.

In order to find issues and correct them, conversion efforts usually involve a phased approach with multiple conversions of support systems, e.g. Dev, Test, Sandbox, QA using a tool such as SAP’s Systems Update Manager with the Database Migration Option (SUM w/DMO).  One of the goals of each run is to figure out how long it will take and what actions need to be taken to ensure the Go-Live production conversion completes within the required outage window, including any post-processing, performance tuning, validation and backups.

In an attempt to keep expenses low, many customers will choose to use existing systems or VMs or systems in addition to a new “target” system or systems if HA is to be tested.  This means that the customer’s network will likely be used in support of these connections.  Taken together, the use of shared infrastructure components may come into opposition with events among the shared components which can impacts these tests and activities.  For example, if a VM is used but not enough CPU or network bandwidth is provided, the duration of the test may extend well beyond what is planned meaning more cost for per-hour consulting and may not provide the insight into what needs to be fixed and how long the actual migration may take.  How about if you have plenty of CPU capacity or even a dedicated system, but the backup group decides to initiate a large database backup at the same time and on the same network as your migration test is using.  Or maybe, you decide to run a test at a time that another group, e.g. operations, needs to test something that impacts it or when new equipment or firmware is being installed and modifications to shared infrastructure are occurring, etc.  Of course, you can have good change management and carefully arrange when your conversion tests will occur which means that you may have restricted windows of opportunity at times that are not always convenient for your team.

Let’s not forget that the application/database conversion is only one part of a successful conversion.  Functional validation tests are often required which could overwhelm limited infrastructure or take it away from parallel conversion tasks.  Other easily overlooked but critical tasks include ensuring all necessary interfaces work; that third party middleware and applications install and operate correctly; that backups can be taken and recovered; that HA systems are tested with acceptable RPO and RTO; that DR is set up and running properly also with acceptable RPO and RTO.  And since this will be a new application suite with different business processes and a brand new Fiori interface, training most likely will be required as well.

So, how can the choice of infrastructure make a difference to this almost overwhelming set of issues and requirements?  It comes down to flexibility.  Infrastructure which is built on virtualization allows many of these challenges to be easily addressed.  I will use an existing IBM Power Systems customer running Oracle, DB2 or Sybase to demonstrate how this would work.

The first issue dealt with running pre-checks on existing systems.  If those existing systems are Power Systems and enough excess capacity is available, PowerVM, the IBM Virtualization Hypervisor, allows a VM to be  started with an exact copy of production, passed through normal post-processing such as BDLS to create a non-production copy or cloned and placed behind a network firewall.  This VM could be fenced off logically and throttled such that production running on the same system would always be given preference for cpu resources.  By comparison, a similar database located on an x86 system would likely not be able to use this process as the database is usually running on bare-metal systems for which no VM can be created.

Alternately, for Power Systems, the exact same process could be utilized to carve out a VM on a new HANA target system and this is where the real value starts to emerge.  Once a copy or clone is available on the target HANA on Power system, as much capacity can be allocated to the various pre-checks and related tasks as needed without any concern for the impact on production or the need to throttle these processes thereby optimizing the duration of these tasks.  On the same system, HANA target VMs may be created.  As mock conversions take place, an internal virtual network may be utilized.  Not only is such a network faster by a factor of 2 or more, but it is dedicated to this single purpose and completely unaffected by anything else going on within the datacenter network.  No coordination is required beyond the conversion team which means that there is no externally imposed delay to begin a test or constraints on how long such a test may take or, for that matter, how many times such a test may be run.

The story only gets better.  Remember, SAP suggests you run these pre-checks on all non-prod landscapes.  With PowerVM, you may fire up any number of different copy/clone VMs and/or HANA VMs.  This means that as you move from one phase to the next, from one instance to the next, from conversion to production, run a static validation environment while other tasks continue, conduct training classes, run many different phases for different projects at the same time, PowerVM enables the system to respond to your changing requirements.  This helps avoid the need to purchase extra interim systems and buy when needed, not significantly ahead of time due to the inflexibility of other platforms.  You can even simulate an HA environment to allow you to test your HA strategy without needing a second system, up to the physical limits of the system, of course.  This is where a tool like SAP’s TDMS, Test Data Migration Server, might come in very handy.

And when it comes time for the actual Go-Live conversion, the running production database VM may be moved live from the “old” system, without any downtime, to the “new” system and the migration may now proceed using the virtual, in-memory network at the fastest possible speed and with all external factors removed.  Of course, if the “old” system is based on POWER8, it may then be used/upgraded for other HANA purposes.  Prior Power Systems as well as current generation POWER8 systems can be used for a wide variety of other purposes, both SAP and those that are not.

Bottom line: The choice of infrastructure can help you eliminate external influences that cause delays and complications to your conversion project, optimize your spend on infrastructure, and deliver the best possible throughput and lowest outage window when it comes to the Go-Live cut-over.  If complete control over your conversion timeline was not enough, avoidance of delays keeps costs for non-fixed cost resources to a minimum.  For any SAP customer not using Power Systems today, this flexibility can provide enormous benefits, however the process of moving between systems would be somewhat different.  For any existing Power Systems customer, this flexibility makes a move to HANA on Power Systems almost a no-brainer, especially since IBM has so effectively removed TCA as a barrier to adoption.

[i] https://blogs.sap.com/2017/01/20/system-conversion-to-s4hana-1610-part-2-pre-checks/

[ii] https://uacp.hana.ondemand.com/http.svc/rc/PRODUCTION/pdfe68bfa55e988410ee10000000a441470/1511%20001/en-US/CONV_OP1511_FPS01.pdf page 19

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SAP HANA on Power – status update

This entry has been superseded by a new one: https://saponpower.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/there-is-hop-for-hana-hana-on-power-te-program-begins/

 

After Vishal Sikka’s announcement that SAP was investigating the potential of HANA on IBM Power Systems, it seemed that all that was needed for this concept to become a reality was for IBM to invest in the resources to aid SAP in porting and optimization of SAP HANA on Power (HoP) and for customers to weigh in on their desire for such a solution.

Many, very large customers told us that they did let SAP know of their interest in HoP.  IBM and SAP made the necessary investments for a proof of concept with HoP.  This successful effort was an example of the outstanding results that happen when two great companies cooperate and put some of their best people together.  However, there are still no commitments to deliver HoP in 2013.  SAP apparently has not ruled out such a solution at some point in the future.  So, why should you care since HANA already runs on x86?

Simple answer.  Are you ready to bet your business on x86?  

Do Intel systems offer the scalability that your business requires and can those systems react fast enough to changing business conditions?  Power scales far high than x86, has no artificial limitations and responds to changing demands almost instantly.

Are x86 systems reliable enough?   Power Systems inherited a wide array of self correcting and fault tolerant features from the mainframe, still the standard for reliability in the industry.

Are x86 systems secure enough?   Despite the best attempts by hackers, PowerVM has still never been breached.

Can you exploit virtualization or will you have to go back to a 1990s concept of islands of automation?  The PowerVM hypervisor is part of every Power system, so it is virtualized by default and the journey that most customers have been on for most of this millennium can continue unabated.

What can you do about this?  Speak up!!  Call your SAP Account Executive and send them notes.  Let them know that you are unwilling to take a chance on allowing your SAP Business Suite database systems to be placed on anything less than the most reliable, scalable, secure and flexible systems available, i.e. IBM Power Systems.    Remind SAP that Business Suite DB already runs very well on current Power Systems and that until SAP is willing to support this platform for HANA, there is very little compelling reason for you to consider a move to HANA.

Sapphire is just a week away.  This may be the best opportunity for you to deliver this message as most of SAP’s leadership will be present in Orlando.  If they hear this message from enough customers, it is unlikely that they will simply ignore it.

May 6, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

The top 3 things that SAP needs are memory, memory and I can’t remember the third. :-) A review of the IBM Power Systems announcements with a focus on the memory enhancements.

While this might not exactly be new news, it is worthwhile to consider the value of the latest Power Systems announcements for SAP workloads.  On October 12, 2011, IBM released a wide range of enhancements to the Power Systems family.  The ones that might have received the most publicity, not to mention new model numbers, were valuable but not the most important part of the announcement, from my point of view.  Yes, the new higher MHz Power 770 and 780 and the ability to order a 780 with 2 chips per socket thereby allowing the system to grow to 96 cores were certainly very welcome additions to the family.  Especially nice was that the 3.3 GHz processors in the new MMC model of the 770 came in at the same price as the 3.1 GHz processors in the previous MMB model.  So, 6.5% more performance at no additional cost.

For SAP, however, raw performance often takes second fiddle to memory.   The old rule is that for SAP workloads, we run out of memory long before we run out of CPU.   IBM started to address this issue in 2010 with the announcement of the Active Memory Expansion (AME)  feature of POWER7 systems.  This feature allows for dynamic compression/decompression of memory pages thereby making memory appear to be larger than it really is.   The administrator of a system can select the target “expansion” and the system will then build a “compressed” pool in memory into which pages are compressed and placed starting from those pages less frequently accessed to those more frequently accessed.  As pages are touched, they are uncompressed and moved into the regular memory pool from which they are accessed normally.  Applications run unchanged as AIX performs all of the moves without any interaction or awareness required by the application.   The point at which response time, throughput or a large amount of CPU overhead starts to occur is the “knee of the curve”, i.e. slightly higher than the point at which the expansion should be set.  A tool, called AMEPAT, allows the administrator to “model” the workload prior to turning AME on, or for that matter on older hardware as long as the OS level is AIX 6.1 TL4 SP2 or later.

Some workloads will see more benefit than others.  For instance, during internal test run by IBM, the 2-tier SD benchmark showed outstanding opportunities for compression and hit 111% expansion, e.g. 10GB of real memory appears to be 21GB to the application, before response time or thoughput showed any negative effect from the compression/decompression activity.  During testing of a retail BW workload, 160% expansion was reached.  Even database workloads tend to benefit from AME.  DB2 database, which already feature outstanding compression, have seen another 30% or 40% expansion.  The reason for this difference comes from the different approaches to compression.  In DB2, if 1,000 residences or business have an address on Main Street,  Austin, Texas,  (had to pick a city so selected my own) DB2 replaces Main Street, Austin, Texas in each row with a pointer to another table that has a single row entitled Main Street, Austin, Texas.  AME, by comparison, is more of an inline compression, e.g. if it sees a repeating pattern, it can replace that pattern with a symbol that represents the pattern and how often it repeats.  Oracle recently announced that they would also support AME.  The amount of expansion with AME will likely vary from something close to DB2, if Oracle Advanced Compression is used, to significantly higher if Advanced Compression is not used since many more opportunities for compression will likely exist.

So, AME can help SAP workloads close the capacity gap between memory and CPU.  Another way to view this is that this technology can decrease the cost of Power Systems by either allowing customers to purchase less memory or to place more workloads on the same system, thereby driving up utilization and decreasing the cost per workload.  It is worthwhile to note than many x86 systems have also tried to address this gap, but as none offer anything even remotely close to AME, they have instead resorted to more DIMM slots.  While this is a good solution, it should be noted that twice the number of DIMMs requires twice the amount of power and cooling and suffers from twice the failures, i.e. TANSTAFL: there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

In the latest announcements, IBM introduced support for the new 32GB dimms.  This effectively doubled the maximum memory on most models, from the 710 through the 795.  Combined with AME, this decreases or eliminates the gap between memory capacity and  CPU and makes these models even more cost effective since more workloads can share the same hardware.  Two other systems received similar enhancements recently, but these were not part of the formal announcement.  The two latest blades in the Power Systems portfolio, the PS703 and the PS704, were announced earlier this year with twice the number of cores but the same memory as the PS701 and PS702 respectively.  Now, using 16GB DIMMS, the PS703/PS704 can support up to 256GB/512GB of memory making these blades very respectable especially for application server workloads.  Add to that, with the Systems Director Management Console (SDMC) AME can be implemented for blades allowing for even more effective memory per blade.   Combined, these blades have closed the price difference even further compared to similar x86 blades.

One last memory related announcement may have been largely overlooked by many because it involved an enhancement to the Active Memory Sharing (AMS) feature of PowerVM.  AMS has historically been a technology that allowed for overcommitment of memory.  While CPU overcommitment is now routine, memory overcommitment means that some % of memory pages will have to be paged out to solid state or other types of disk.  The performance penalty is well understood making this not appropriate for production workloads but potentially beneficial for many other non-prod, HA or DR workloads.  That said, few SAP customers have implemented this technology due to the complexity and performance variability that can result.  The new announcement introduces Active Memory™ Deduplication for AMS implementations.   Using this new technology, PowerVM will scan partitions after they finish booting and locate  identical pages within and across all partitions on the system.  When identical pages are detected, all copies, except one, will be removed and all memory references will point to the same “first copy” of the page.   Since PowerVM is doing this, even the OSs can be unaware of this action.  Instead, as this post processing proceeds, the PowerVM free memory counter will increase until a steady state has been reached.  Once enough memory is freed up in this manner, new partitions may be started.  It is quite easy to imagine that a large number of pages are duplicates, e.g. each instance of an OS has many read only pages which are identical and multiple instances of an application, e.g. SAP app servers, will likewise have executable pages which are identical.  The expectation is that another 30% to 40% effective memory expansion will occur for many workloads using this new technology.  One caveat however; since the scan is after a partition boots, operationally it will be important to have a phased booting schedule to allow for the dedupe process to free up pages prior to starting more partitions thereby avoiding the possibility of paging.  Early testing suggests that the dedupe process should arrive at a steady state approximately 20 minutes after partitions are booted.

The bottom line is that with the larger DIMMS, AME and AMS Memory Deduplication, IBM Power Systems are in a great position to allow customers to fully exploit the CPU power of these systems by combining even more workloads together on fewer servers.  This will effectively drive down the TCA for customers and remove what little difference there might be between Power Systems and systems from various x86 vendors.

November 29, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Excellent PowerVM for SAP document

About 3 years ago, the IBM SAP Competency Center in Germany produced a very good document that took the reader through the reasons and rationale for virtualizing SAP landscapes and then explained all of the technologies available on the Power Systems platform to allow users to accomplish that goal.  As many improvements have been introduced in the Power Systems line as well as with its Systems Software, a new updated version was needed.  The Competency Center rose to the task and produced this completely refreshed document.

http://www.redbooks.ibm.com/abstracts/sg247564.html?Open

 

Here is the table of contents to give you a small taste of what it covers.

Chapter 1. From a non-virtualized to a virtualized infrastructure

Chapter 2. PowerVM virtualization technologies

Chapter 3. Best practice implementation example at a customer site

Chapter 4. Hands-on management tasks

Chapter 5. Virtual I/O Server

Chapter 6. IBM PowerVM Live Partition Mobility

Chapter 7. Workload partitions

Chapter 8. SAP system setup for virtualization

Chapter 9. Monitoring

Chapter 10. Support statements by IBM and SAP

 

It is not what one might call “light reading”, but it is a comprehensive and well written guide to the leading edge virtualization technologies offered by IBM on Power Systems and how SAP landscapes can benefit from them.

October 26, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment