While the usual trend for business critical applications is to run on the most expensive hardware with no questions asked, we are seeing a rapid change in this trend in the last 5 years where customers are migrating from the expensive world of Unix platforms (Capex and Opex wise) to the commodity world of x86 platform. To top it all, Intel has done a fairly good job to ensure that there processors are becoming robust by the day to ensure higher standards of hardware availability. So while the biggest benefit to the business is saving tonnes of money, they also get the benefit of making a traditional application like SAP run on a platform which gives it the flexibility to Scale, Perform, Migrate, Upgrade, Update & Recover from disasters in a much more efficient manner than the traditional platforms.
At the end of the day SAP is just a simple 3 tier application, hence the 1st mantra is that the environment which you choose to run this application on should be simple.
While I can say NOW, it is only true for greenfield environments. For brownfield, the time to virtualize SAP has to the most critical decision for sure. While technology is no longer a limitation with the growing scale of physical x86 servers and VMware virtual machines, from a business point of view if you are planning to migrate from a Unix based environment, then you have to wait for certain opportunities which would make the move less painful or more rewarding. Let us quickly review all the opportunities:
1- New SAP Deployment (Greenfield) –
A scenario where you are building your first SAP module grounds up in a new SAP deployment. In this situation, virtualization has to be the first choice. Remember this includes all the tiers of your SAP application including the Oracle database which is licensed with the SAP license and hence you don’t have to deal with Oracle licensing nightmares
. One the other hand if you are worried about the WHY’s then read above.
2- SAP Upgrade Cycle – This is a no brainer, since this is your opportunity to explore the approved downtime from business around upgrading the SAP landscape. The SAP upgrade is where you could re-architect the SAP environment inclusive of Test, Development and Production to ensure that you can get the benefits of virtualization such as High Availability due to a distributed install.
3- Migration to 64 Bit Net-weaver – This is similar to a platform re-architecture and another great tipping point where the new 64 bit architecture can be built on the Virtual Platform of vSphere.
4- Expanding to New SAP Modules – This is similar to a new deployment, however if you have an existing SAP environment, you might NOT want to extend that for new modules, rather go for the virtual environment with the bells and whistles of VMware as this might be a lesson learnt for you to move your existing apps on top of the Virtual x86 Servers.
5- Hardware Refresh – I think this is the most obvious reason for you look at the x86 world as both the Capex and the Opex to run on the traditional hardware usually costs a bomb.
Now that we have a good understanding of WHY and WHEN, it only makes sense to continue to the HOW part of the title!!
Well, with this series, I will run your through a real life project which I recently completed for a customer in virtualizing their SAP Enterprise Resource Planning system, which essentially is the backbone of their organization. This includes, the TEST, Development and Production environments with the key VMware solutions for Virtualization, Operations & Disaster Recovery. Hence, the rest of the parts of these series would dive into each of the areas and numerous design decisions keeping in mind the requirements of the SAP application. While most the principles would be similar to architecting a vSphere environment for any application, with this series, I will call out the specific areas of consideration for SAP, right from sizing to implementation.
With that I will close this article and will see you with the next part of this series which would be:
Part 2 – Sizing SAP to run on VMware vSphere (coming soon…)
Till then.. Stay tuned!!
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