Posted by: Dr. Werner Hopf
CIO, IT assets, SAP
With SAP recently announcing a major directional shift to its core business strategy, revealing that its SAP Business Suite will be running on SAP HANA, businesses are now faced with determining how to best prepare for that journey. SAP has essentially left it up to its customers to decide if they want to make the switch or keep their current systems, evaluating both cost and performance factors. If your IT organization is considering this journey, you may feel the need for a check list on how to proceed and what pitfalls to avoid on the road to SAP HANA. Here is a “roadmap.”
Companies that embark down the road to SAP HANA should be aware of one sobering aspect of this technology: it utilizes disk space on a “pay-as-you-grow” basis and because in-memory blades are rather expensive, cost becomes a consideration. Keeping databases as lean and mean as possible will be a major priority for businesses pursuing a HANA strategy. Even with commodity servers, the performance and scalability that SAP HANA offers can carry a considerable price tag. While it is inevitable that many companies will want to pursue the road to SAP HANA because of the clear performance advantages gained by keeping data in memory, it is important to understand that the process is more involved than flipping a switch, especially around the critical aspects of optimizing performance and database size.
Since the extra cost to add sufficient capacity can be higher than expected, most businesses need a more cost-effective approach. This involves moving large amounts of static data to a lower-cost, high-performance “nearline” storage (NLS) environment that complements the in-memory SAP HANA architecture. NLS is an inexpensive, scalable option for storing large volumes of data. When using NLS, it is critical to segregate frequently used, “high-value” information from data that provides lower business value, regardless of environment or current (or planned) platform. Data archiving is an essential part of this data management process and an NLS solution ensures the right balance between performance and storage costs. It also provides the ability to maintain size and growth of production environments through archiving processes, while protecting data for business and audit requirements.
Other considerations include what kind of database preparation and infrastructure is needed. For example, what data and documents should be migrated, what information is archived or purged, what are the access requirements, and what strategy should be adopted to maximize cost-to-performance ratio (which determines value to archiving efforts).
SAP is investing heavily in its partner and developer network and allocates resources for Web services and startups. This eventually will make the path to SAP HANA more straightforward, however, organizations currently weighing their options need a place to start.
To begin, evaluate current needs for streamlining infrastructure and accessing data. This first step identifies key performance indicators (KPIs) for system performance, and specific areas for cost reduction, management and avoidance. It also allows CIOs to more fully understand their environments, especially as they consider a move to SAP HANA, and understand what could be if they decide to pursue that path.
Another important consideration when migrating to SAP HANA is a comprehensive database assessment or HealthCheck. The HealthCheck from Dolphin is a proactive audit that will help safeguard against costly system down time and ensure that the in-memory infrastructure remains lean and stable.
The HealthCheck incorporates standard SAP reports and specifically designed utilities to identify areas that need attention. Based on assumptions and a series of non-intrusive transactions from the system, data focusing on opportunities in three key KPI areas can be gleaned. These include:
- System performance
- Size and growth of production environments
- Cost reduction/containment
The resulting report will provide an overview of the health of the database on a monthly basis.
What can businesses hope to achieve from this audit process? In this context, the HealthCheck for SAP archiving provides insight into realizing significant opportunities for SAP systems improvement and a clearer path to SAP HANA. It includes:
- Increased Performance: including smaller database size, faster data load, queries, back up, refreshes and upgrades.
- Sustainable & Predictive Growth: including reduced storage and server growth.
- Reduced Total Cost of Ownership: including operational, system infrastructure and administrative savings.
The Dolphin’s HealthCheck for SAP databases is a structured examination into what areas need attention. Whether or not a company running SAP systems is considering moving to SAP HANA, the need to evaluate their databases, taking stock and assessing system performance, its design for capacity, and the business needs for data, may uncover specific areas where building an archiving strategy, engaging in database clean-up, or more aggressive data archiving to nearline storage makes sense.
The recommendations that come out of that evaluation become the foundation for making informed decisions for an efficient, more cost-effective footprint. The benefits for increased performance and stabilized growth can result in substantial cost savings. Add to that a lower total cost of ownership and lower risk factors IT has a business win-win for the critical business stakeholders – Finance and Compliance.
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Dr. Hopf is responsible for setting the Dolphin’s strategic corporate direction and is the Archiving Principal. With more than 20 years of experience in the information technology industry, 14 focused in SAP, Dr. Hopf specializes in SAP Information Lifecycle Management initiatives including Data and Document archiving, SAP Archive Link Storage Solutions and Business Process solutions.