An ongoing discussion about SAP infrastructure

HANA on Power hits the Trifecta!

Actually, trifecta would imply only 3 big wins at the same time and HANA on Power Systems just hit 4 such big wins.

Win 1 – HANA 2.0 was announced by SAP with availability on Power Systems simultaneously as with Intel based systems.[i]  Previous announcements by SAP had indicated that Power was now on an even footing as Intel for HANA from an application support perspective, however until this announcement, some customers may have still been unconvinced.  I noticed this on occasion when presenting to customers and I made such an assertion and saw a little disbelief on some faces.  This announcement leaves no doubt.

Win 2 – HANA 2.0 is only available on Power Systems with SUSE SLES 12 SP1 in Little Endian (LE) mode.  Why, you might ask, is this a “win”?  Because true database portability is now a reality.  In LE mode, it is possible to pick up a HANA database built on Intel, make no modifications at all, and drop it on a Power box.  This removes a major barrier to customers that might have considered a move but were unwilling to deal with the hassle, time requirements, effort and cost of an export/import.  Of course, the destination will be HANA 2.0, so an upgrade from HANA 1.0 to 2.0 on the source system will be required prior to a move to Power among various other migration options.   This subject will likely be covered in a separate blog post at a later date.  This also means that customers that want to test how HANA will perform on Power compared to an incumbent x86 system will have a far easier time doing such a PoC.

Win 3 – Support for BW on the IBM E850C @ 50GB/core allowing this system to now support 2.4TB.[ii]  The previous limit was 32GB/core meaning a maximum size of 1.5TB.  This is a huge, 56% improvement which means that this, already very competitive platform, has become even stronger.

Win 4 – Saving the best for last, SAP announced support for Suite on HANA (SoH) and S/4HANA of up to 16TB with 144 cores on IBM Power E880 and E880C systems.ii  Several very large customers were already pushing the previous 9TB boundary and/or had run the SAP sizing tools and realized that more than 9TB would be required to move to HANA.  This announcement now puts IBM Power Systems on an even footing with HPE Superdome X.  Only the lame duck SGI UV 300H has support for a larger single image size @ 20TB, but not by much.  Also notice that to get to 16TB, only 144 cores are required for Power which means that there are still 48 cores unused in a potential 192 core systems, i.e. room for growth to a future limit once appropriate KPIs are met.  Consider that the HPE Superdome X requires all 16 sockets to hit 16TB … makes you wonder how they will achieve a higher size prior to a new chip from Intel.

Win 5 – Oops, did I say there were only 4 major wins?  My bad!  Turns out there is a hidden win in the prior announcement, easily overlooked.  Prior to this new, higher memory support, a maximum of 96GB/core was allowed for SoH and S/4HANA workloads.  If one divides 16TB by 144 cores, the new ratio works out to 113.8GB/core or an 18.5% increase.  Let’s do the same for HPE Superdome X.  16 sockets times 24 core/socket = 384 cores.  16TB / 384 cores = 42.7GB/core.  This implies that a POWER8 core can handle 2.7 times the workload of an Intel core for this type of workload.  Back in July, I published a two-part blog post on scaling up large transactional workloads.[iii]  In that post, I noted that transactional workloads access data primarily in rows, not in columns, meaning they traverse columns that are typically spread across many cores and sockets.  Clearly, being able to handle more memory per core and per socket means that less traversing is necessary resulting in a high probability of significantly better performance with HANA on Power compared to competing platforms, especially when one takes into consideration their radically higher ccNUMA latencies and dramatically lower ccNUMA bandwidth.

Taken together, these announcements have catapulted HANA on IBM Power Systems from being an outstanding option for most customers, but with a few annoying restrictions and limits especially for larger customers, to being a best-of-breed option for all customers, even those pushing much higher limits than the typical customer does.




December 6, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

ASUG Webinar next week – Scale-Up Architecture Makes Deploying SAP HANA® Simple

On October 4, 2016, Joe Caruso, Director – ERP Technical Architecture at Pfizer, will join me presenting on an ASUG Webinar.  Pfizer is not only a huge pharmaceutical company but, more importantly, has implemented SAP throughout their business including just about every module and component that SAP has to offer in their industry.  Almost 2 years ago, Pfizer decided to begin their journey to HANA starting with BW.  Pfizer is a leader in their industry and in the world of SAP and has never been afraid to try new things including a large scale PoC to evaluate scale-out vs. scale-up architectures for BW.  After completion of this PoC, Pfizer made a decision regarding which one worked better, proceeded to implement BW HANA and had their go-live just recently.  Please join us to hear about this fascinating journey.  For those that are ASUG members, simply follow this link.

If you are an employee of an ASUG member company, either an Installation or Affiliate member, but not registered for ASUG, you can follow this link to join at no cost.  That link also offers the opportunity for companies to join ASUG, a very worthwhile organization that offers chapter meetings all over North America, a wide array of presentations at their annual meeting during Sapphire, the BI+Analytics conference coming up in New Orleans, October 17 – 20, 2016, hundreds of webinars, not to mention networking opportunities with other member companies and the ability to influence SAP through their combined power.

This session will be recorded and made available at a later date for those not able to attend.  When the link to the recording is made available, I will amend this blog post with that information.

September 29, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Large scale-up transactional HANA systems – part 1

Customers which require Suite on HANA (SoH) and S/4HANA systems with 6TB of memory or less will find a wide variety of available options.  Those options do not require any specialized type of hardware, just systems that can scale up to 8 sockets with Intel based systems and up to 64 cores with IBM Power Systems (socket count depends on the number of active cores per socket which varies by system).  If you require 6TB or less or can’t imagine ever needing more, then sizing is a fairly easy process, i.e. look at the sizing matrix from SAP and select a system which meets your needs.  If you need to plan for more than 6TB, this is where it gets a bit more challenging.   The list of options narrows to 5 vendors between 6TB and 8TB, IBM, Fujitsu, HPE, SGI and Lenovo and gets progressively smaller beyond that.

All systems with more than one socket today are ccNUMA, i.e. remote cache, memory and I/O accesses are delivered with more latency and lower bandwidth than local to the processor accesses.   HANA is highly optimized for analytics, which most of you probably already know.  The way it is optimized may not be as obvious.  Most tables in HANA are columnar, i.e. every column in a table is kept in its own structure with its own dictionary and the elements of the column are replaced with a very short dictionary pointer resulting in outstanding compression, in most cases.  Each column is placed in as few memory pages as possible which means that queries which scan through a column can run at crazy fast speeds as all of the data in the column is as “close” as possible to each other.  This columnar structure is beautifully suited for analytics on ccNUMA systems since different columns will typically be placed behind different sockets which means that only queries that cross columns and joins will have to access columns that may not be local to a socket and, even then, usually only the results have to be sent across the ccNUMA fabric.  There was a key word in the previous sentence that might have easily been missed: “analytics”.  Where analytical queries scan down columns, transactional queries typically go across rows in which, due to the structure of a columnar database, every element in located in a different column, potentially spanning across the entire ccNUMA system.  As a result, minimized latency and high cross system bandwidth may be more important than ever.

Let me stop here and give an example so that I don’t lose the readers that aren’t system nerds like myself.  I will use a utility company as an example as everyone is a utility customer.  For analytics, an executive might want to know the average usage of electricity on a given day at a given time meaning the query is composed of three elements, all contained in one table: usage, date and time.    Unless these columns are enormous, i.e. over 2 Billion rows, they are very likely stored behind a single socket with no remote accesses required.  Now, take that same company’s customer care center, where a utility consumer wants to turn on service, report an outage or find out what their last few months or years of bills have been.  In this case, all sorts of information is required to populate the appropriate screens, first name, last name, street address, city, state, meter number, account number, usage, billed amount and on and on.  Scans of columns are not required and a simple index lookup suffices, but every element is located in a different column which has to be resolved by an independent dictionary lookup/replacement of the compressed elements meaning several or several dozen communications across the systems as the columns are most likely distributed across the system.  While an individual remote access may take longer, almost 5x in a worst case scenario[i], we are still talking nanoseconds here and even 100 of those still results in a “delay” of 50 microseconds.  I know, what are you going to do while you are waiting!  Of course, a utility customer is more likely to have hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of transactions at any given point in time and there is the problem.  An increased latency of 5x for every remote access may severely diminish the scalability of the system.

Does this mean that is not possible to scale-up a HANA transactional environment?  Not at all, but it does take more than being able to physically place a lot of memory in a system to be able to utilize it in a productive manner with good scalability.  How can you evaluate vendor claims then?  Unfortunately, the old tried and true SAP SD benchmark has not been made available to run in HANA environments.  Lacking that, you could flip a coin, believe vendor claims without proof or demand proof.  Clearly, demanding proof is the most reasonable approach, but what proof?  There are three types of proof to look at: past history with large transactional workloads, industry standard benchmarks and architecture.

In the over 8TB HANA space, there are three competitors; HPE Superdome X, SGI UV 300H and IBM Power Systems E870/E880.  I will address those systems and these three proof points in part 2 of this blog post.


July 1, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments