Hardware considerations for SAP HANA installations

Hardware considerations for SAP HANA installations

As a relatively young technology, early adopters of SAP HANA have learned valuable lessons about ensuring optimum performance. We look at the key hardware considerations based on their experiences.

The analytical horsepower of SAP HANA means that early adopters are focused on selecting the most advanced hardware to ensure optimum performance.

Considerations include multithreading, memory bandwidth and caching to ensure the speed of moving data through the system, but there are several options available in terms of architecture choice.

“Companies that run SAP enterprise applications and that have decided to move to HANA have a critical infrastructure decision to make,” says an IDC whitepaper titled For the first time, architectural choice for SAP customers that want to move to HANA.

The report points out that about a dozen vendors are offering HANA on standard architecture, either as an appliance or via SAP's Tailored Datacenter Integration (TDI) program. Now, however, the choice has widened further as since last year, HANA is available on all of IBM’s Power8 models in its Power Systems family, which gives organizations making the move to HANA a wider choice in terms of hardware availability.

IDC says in its report that the time has come when systems need to be able to combine transactional and analytical/reporting work.

“A key consideration for firms that are planning to migrate to HANA is that the infrastructure addresses the I/O bottleneck that characterizes analytical systems and update-intensive transaction processing systems. The selected solution must be extremely robust and scalable, have high reliability, availability and serviceability features, and be capable of massively parallel processing and in-memory processing,” says IDC.

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Early adopter benefits
Early adopters of HANA are hoping to reap benefits such as improved performance, columnar compression, reduced footprint, improved speed of access to do complex queries, lower cost of operations, and reduced storage needs.

To achieve these aims HANA requires hardware that is designed to handle massive transactional and analytical workloads.

One area that early adopters should look at is the throughput of architectures. IDC points out that IBM’s Power cores have simultaneous multithreading (SMT) capability, while standard architectures often provide only two-way threading.

“Multithreading offers distinct advantages in terms of queries per second that a system can handle as the number of users increases,” says IDC.

As more users want to exploit HANA’s power from a range of devices, IDC says it is critical that the infrastructure to run HANA is robust, scalable, and optimized for data-intensive applications.

“Scalability and expandability are key as the load on HANA will surely increase as more SAP software runs on this platform. The infrastructure must be designed to address the I/O bottleneck that characterizes analytical systems (which require access to groups of records) as well as update intensive transaction processing systems and the growing category of blended transactional-analytical systems,” says IDC.

To ensure optimum performance hardware must be designed to allow organizations to exploit the capabilities of SAP HANA.

For example, IBM Power Systems have been enhanced to take advantage of established Power chip capabilities like higher clock speeds, advanced virtualization, and SMT-8 multithreading and is an ideal match for the large datasets and demanding processing needs of HANA.

A good choice for business
SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems is a good choice for businesses eager to exploit big data. By deploying the technologies together, it is possible to realize up to twice the performance increase per core, greater flexibility and economies of scale.

“It’s not just a question of having a large amount of data accessible for analytics, but the ability to get at the data quickly,” says Anirban Chatterjee, IBM Power Systems product marketing manager.

Multithreading, memory bandwidth and caching are key features which have been improved in design.

He says that processors have four times as many threads per core compared to other architectures (eight threads per core rather than two threads per core) which means more instructions can be run simultaneously permitting more analytics in parallel.

Chatterjee says that Power8’s faster memory bandwidth is ideal for in-memory applications like SAP HANA. The memory bandwidth is four times what you get on existing HANA architectures so data can be moved very efficiently, with up to 16TB of memory available for a single server.

“This is one of the most important areas where you need to be able to perform for SAP HANA, as the more memory you have, the more important it becomes to access that memory quickly,” he says.

Five times more cache compared to other architectures ensures continuous data load for fast responses, and reduces latency.


Fostering academic innovation
Technische Universitat Munchen (TUM), a leading technical university, is an early adopter of SAP HANA which chose to run it with IBM Power Systems.

The university offers fast, simple, smart and inexpensive educational services enabled by low-management, energy-efficient solutions.

To make its latest hosting services offering based on SAP HANA a realistic proposition, the SAP University Competence Centre at TUM needed a cost-effective platform, agile enough to meet changing customer demands at low cost, while fostering academic innovation.

“We chose to test IBM Power Systems for SAP HANA because we feel that it gives us enough performance, power and flexibility to fulfill our customer needs, and is also very cost effective,” says Helmut Krcmar, Professor of Information Systems at TUM and academic director of the SAP University Competence Centre.

“When it came to choosing the platform to support our SAP HANA offering, we needed to take a variety of factors into account and find the right balance that would mean the best outcome for our staff, students and customers. The requests that we face from our customers are truly on-demand, with very great variation between workload types from one moment to the next, so we need a platform that can cope with that,” he says.

The business benefits achieved are important to the education sector – low running costs, competitive pricing, and cost-efficient power requirements, without sacrificing performance or flexibility. It also offers agility when it is difficult to predict what customers need.

The SAP HANA solution will also enhance the university’s research into proteins and chromosomes, a potential breakthrough area for human medicine. It will host a global database called ProteomicsDB on SAP HANA and IBM Power Systems, which will enable users from industry and research to browse proteins and chromosomes to explore the human proteome.

“By providing an insight into how different proteins work and fill in the gaps in the human proteome, the database is expected to make a very real contribution to progress in pharmaceutical research,” says Krcmar.