SAP HANA virtualisation for production using the TDI (Tailored Datacenter Integration) model

Translated from an original article by Reynald Fléchaux at published on 12th October 2015.

No, HANA is not necessarily synonymous with appliance.  Since mid-2014, SAP supports production deployments of its database on top of VMware's vSphere 5.5.  But the use cases are strictly defined by the ERP vendor.

In the minds of many CIOs, HANA, SAP's In-Memory database, is still synonymous with dedicated appliances, provided by certified manufacturers (Bull, Cisco, Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, Lenovo for the main).  An option often criticized for its lack of flexibility and high cost.  In fact, in 2012, SAP opened the door for virtualization on VMware (vSphere 5.1) for non-production environments.  And has gradually expanded the opportunities for production teams.

"Over the past year, opportunities have opened up", says Nicolas Sipha, one of the founders of Endexar [part of the same group of companies as PASàPAS]. "The model known as TDI (Tailored Datacenter Integration) now allows you to deploy HANA on VMware, including production environments.  Even if the storage and servers must still be certified by SAP, we gain flexibility. "

Through collaboration with hosting specialist Hisi, Endexar, originally focussed on SAP projects and support, has now developed a Cloud offering, "so that enterprises can buy SAP processing capacity in incremental units", explains Nicolas. The management console, under development, is expected to launch in early 2016.  According to Endexar, the platform built on OpenStack, but with VMware hypervisor, is already operational and it is on this platform that Endexar intends to offer HANA environments on demand.

Less than 1TB, one physical server per VM

If SAP has opened the floodgates of virtualization, it scrupulously controls the flow.  Firstly, virtualization is limited to the hypervisor provided by VMware.  Then with vSphere 5.5, SAP's support remains confined to databases of less than 1 TB.  And for deployments of Business Suite on HANA, each physical server can only host one production VM (the software vendor is more flexible for its BW data warehouse on HANA). "This limitation will be dropped, for sure," predicts Dimitri Delbosq, the other founder of Endexar.

Even with these limitations, some companies are interested in this form of virtualisation. This is particularly the case for Exacompta Clairefontaine (3500 employees, 551 million euros in sales in 2014), a manufacturer of office products who chose the virtualized solution both for its Business Suite on HANA prototype project (conducted in May-June 2015) and for the transition into production, expected in early 2016.  "We already have in-house expertise on VMware, whereas  my teams are less comfortable with the Microsoft cluster which currently runs SAP", says Thierry Tissot, head of systems and networks.  "Eliminating this cluster should help us to improve reliability", says the systems specialist, and to finalize our BCP (Business Continuity Plan), as the target infrastructure architecture offers fault tolerant hardware (storage and servers) and real-time asynchronous replication on the database.

Soon 4TB per database

For now, the move to virtualized infrastructure for production systems remains the exception, according to the evidence we have collected.  While choosing a multitenant architecture is gaining ground on the storage part (e.g. it is the choice of Elior for its two SAP instances - Retail and FICO – on HANA).  "We use the public cloud for sandboxes and during projects”, explains Luc Provost, Director of Business Development at Oxya, a specialist in SAP outsourcing who claims to have 18 clients hosted on HANA. Since HANA architectures are expensive, virtualization enables a quicker return on investment. “Today, almost all new installations go through the TDI mode for the project phases.” But not for production "as the constraints are too great for now", says Maxime Sion, architect at Oxya. Particularly those concerning the maximum size of the database (which excludes large accounts) and limitation to one instance per physical server.  However, these constraints should gradually be lifted. "With VMware version 6, the maximum size of HANA databases will increase to 4 TB" says Guillaume Fin, the consultant at EMC we met at the USF convention.

Author: PASàPAS Team