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Architecting Virtual SAP HANA Using VMware Virtual Volumes And Hitachi Storage

VMWorld Recap: SAP HANA and VMware Virtual Volumes

This is a follow up to my earlier VMWorld blog; “Virtualizing SAP HANA Databases Greater Than-1TB On vSphere-5-5”, where I discussed SAP Multi-Temperature Data Management strategies and techniques which can significantly reduce the size and cost associated with SAP HANA’s in-memory footprint. This blog will focus on Software-Defined Storage and the need for VMware Virtual volumes when deploying Mission Critical Applications/Databases like SAP HANA as discussed in my VMWorld session.

Multi-Temperature Data Management Is By Definition Software-Defined Storage

SAP and VMware customers who plan on leveraging multi-temperature strategies, where data is classified by frequency of access as either hot, warm or cold depending on data usage is the essence of Software-Defined Storage. This can also be equated to EMC’s Information Lifecycle Management which examines the value of data to the business over time. To bring the concept of the Software-Defined Data Center and more precisely Software-Defined Storage to reality, see Table 1. This table depicts the various storage options for SAP HANA so customers can create an architecture that aligns with the business and its applications demands.

Table 1: Multi-Temperature Storage Options with SAP HANA


Planning Your Journey To Software-Defined Storage

As we get into the various storage options for SAP HANA, VMware has made it very easy to create and deploy software defined storage in the form of Virtual Volumes. However I want to stress the actual definitions of how the storage should be abstracted is a collaborative task, at a minimum you must involve the storage team, VI-Admins, application owners, and dba’s in order to create an optimized virtual architecture; this should not be a siloed task.

In my previous post I discussed the storage requirements for SAP HANA In-Memory, Dynamic Tiering, Near-Line Storage, and the Archiving Components; one last option I did not cover in Table 1 is Data Aging which is specific to SAP Business Suite. Under normal operations SAP HANA does not preload data into memory, data is loaded upon first access, so the first time you access data its always off disk.

With Data Aging you can essentially mark data so its never loaded into memory and will always reside on disk. This is not available on all modules for Business Suite, so please check with SAP for availability and roadmap with respect to Data Aging.

Essentially this is another SAP HANA feature which enables customers to reduce and manage their memory footprint more efficiently and effectively. The use of Data Aging can change the design requirements of your Software-Defined Storage, if Data Aging becomes more prevalent in your SAP Landscape, VMware Virtual Volumes can be used to address the changing storage requirements of the application by seamlessly migrating data between different classes of software-defined storage or VMDKs.

VMware Virtual Volumes Transform Storage By Aligning With SAP HANA’s Requirements

Now lets get into Virtual Volumes and the problems they solve, with Virtual Volumes the fundamental model is centered around provisioning storage based on the application needs rather than the underlying infrastructure. When deploying SAP HANA using the Tailored Data Center Integration model, the storage KPIs can be quite complex, so how do customers translate latency, throughput for reads – writes – and updates, at various block sizes to the storage layer?

Plus how does a customer address the storage requirements for SAP HANA’s entire data life cycle, whether you are planning on using Dynamic Tiering, with or without Near-Line-Storage and what is the archiving strategy storage requirements as well. Also some of the storage requirements do tie back to the compute layer, as an example with Dynamic Tiering if you plan on using Row Level Versioning there is a compute to memory relationship for storage that comes into play when sizing

Addressing and achieving these design goals using an infrastructure centric model can be quite difficult because you are tied to physical LUNs and trust me, with mission critical databases, you will always have database administrators fighting over LUNs with the lowest numbers because of the concerns around radial density. This leads to tremendous waste when provisioning storage using an infrastructure centric model.

VMware Virtual Volumes significantly reduces the storage design complexity by using an Application Centric model because you are not dealing with storage at the LUN level, instead vSphere admins use policies to express the application requirements to the storage array, then the storage array maps storage containers to the application requirements.

What are VMware Virtual Volumes?

At a high level I’ll go over the architecture and components of Virtual Volumes, this blog is not intended to be a deep dive into Virtual Volumes, instead my goal is to convey that mission critical uses cases for VVOLS and software-defined storage are real. For an excellent white paper on Virtual Volumes see; “VMware vSphere Virtual Volumes Getting Started Guide”.

As shown in Figure 1., Virtual Volumes are a new type of virtual machine object which are created and stored natively on the storage array. The Vendor Provider also known as the VASA Provider, which are the vSphere Storage APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA) that provide the storage awareness services and mediates out of the box communications between vCenterServer and EXi Hosts on one side and the storage system on the other side.

The storage containers are pools of raw storage that a storage system can provide to virtual volumes and unlike LUNS and NFS, they do not require pre-configured volumes on the storage side. Also with virtual volumes you still have the functionality you would expect when using native VMDKs

Virtual Datastores represents a storage container in a vCenter Server instance, so it’s a 1:1 mapping to the storage systems storage container. The ESXi Hosts have no direct access to the virtual volumes on the storage side, so they use a logical I/O proxy called a protocol endpoint and as you would expect VVOLs are compatible with industry standard protocols, iSCSI, NFS, FC, and FCoE

The Published Storage Capabilities will vary by storage vendor depending on which capabilities have been exposed and implemented. In this blog we will be looking at the exposed capabilities of Hitachi Data Systems like latency, throughput, Raid Level, Drive Type/Speed, IOPS, and Snapshot frequency to mention a few.

Figure 1: vSphere Virtual Volumes Architecture and Components


VMware HDS: Creating Storage Containers, Virtual Volumes, and Profiles for Virtual SAP HANA

Now Virtual Volumes are an Industry-wide Initiative, essentially a who’s who of the storage industry are participating in this initiative, however this next section will be representative of the work done with Hitachi Data Systems

And again the guidance here is collaboration when architecting software-defined storage for SAP HANA landscapes and for that matter any mission critical application or database. Because the beauty of software defined storage is once created and architecture correctly you can then provision your virtual machines in an automated and consistent manner.

So in the spirit of collaboration, I got together with Hitachi’s SAP alliance team, their storage team, and database architects and we came up with these profiles, policies, and containers to use when deploying SAP HANA landscapes.

We had several goals when designing this architecture; one was to use virtual volumes to address the entire data life cycle of SAP HANA, the in-memory component, Dynamic Tiering, Near-Line storage, and archiving or any supported combination of the above when creating a SAP HANA landscape. And secondly we wanted to enable rapidly provisioning of SAP HANA landscapes, so we created profiles, policies, and containers which could be used to deploy SAP HANA databases whose in-memory component could range from 512GB to 1TB in size.

I’ll review some of the capabilities HDS exposed which were used for this architecture:

  • Interestingly enough we were able to meet the SAP HANA in-memory KPIs using Hitachi Tier 2 storage which consisted of 10K SAS drives for both log and data files, as well as for the Operating System and the SAP HANA shared file system. This also simplified the design. We then used high density SAS drives for the backup areas
  • We enabled automatic storage managed snapshots for HANA data, log and the OS; and set the Snapshot frequency based on the classifications of Critical, Important, or Best Effort.
  • So snapshots for the data and log were classified as Critical while the OS was classified as Important and the backup area we didn’t snapshot at all
  • We also tagged this storage as certified, capturing the model and serial number, since the SAP HANA in-memory component requires certified storage. We wanted to make sure that when creating HANA VM’s you’re always pulling from certified storage containers.
  • The Dynamic Tiering and NLS storage had similar requirements so could be provisioned from the same containers and since these are disk based columnar databases we selected Tier 1 storage SSDs for the data files based on the random read/write patterns
  • And stuck with SAS drives for the log files since sequential workload don’t benefit much from SSDs. Again because of the disk based access we selected Tier 2 to satisfy the IOPS and Latency requirements.
  • Then finally for the archiving containers we used the lowest cost & highest density storage, pretty much just a file system.

Now there’s just too much information to cover in this effort with HDS but for those of you interested, VMware and Hitachi we will be publishing a Co-Logo White Paper which will be a much deeper dive into how we architected these landscapes so customers can do this almost out of the box.

Deploying VMware Software-Defined Storage With vSphere and Hitachi Command Suite

Example: SAP HANA Dynamic Tiering and Near-Line Storage Tiers. These next couple of screen captures will show how simple virtual volumes are to deploy once architected correctly

Figure 2: Storage Container Creation: SAP HANA DT and NLS Tier


Figure 3: Create Virtual Machine Storage Policies SAP HANA DT/NLS Data/Log File


Figure 4: Create New SAP HANA DT VM Using VVOLS Policies With Hitachi Storage


Addressing Mission Critical Use Cases with VMware Software-Defined Storage

SAP HANA and Multi-Temperature Data Management is the poster child for mission critical software-defined storage use cases. VMware Virtual Volumes solves the complexities and simplifies storage provisioning by using an application centric model rather than an infrastructure centric model.

The SAP HANA in-memory component is not yet certified for production use on vSphere 6.0, however Virtual Volumes can be used for SAP HANA Dynamic Teiring, Near-Line Storage, and Archiving. So my advice to our customers is to start architecting now, get together with your storage admins, VI Admins, application owners, and database administrators to create containers, policies, and profiles correctly so when vSphere 6.0 is certified you are ready to “Run SAP HANA Simple”.



Virtualizing SAP HANA Databases Greater than 1TB on vSphere 5.5

VMWorld 2015 Session Recap

I’m almost fully recovered from VMWorld, which was probably one of my busiest and most enjoyable VMWorld’s I’ve had in my 6 plus years at VMware because of the interaction with attendees, customers, and partners.  I’ll be doing a series of Post-VMWorld Blogs focused on my SAP HANA Software-Defined Data Centers sessions but my first blog will cover the misconceptions associated with sizing SAP HANA databases on vSphere. There are many good reasons to upgrade to vSphere 6.0, going beyond the 1TB monster virtual machine limit in vSphere 5.5 when deploying SAP HANA databases is not necessarily one of them.

SAP HANA is no longer just an in-memory database, it is now a data management platform.  It is NOT confined by the size of available memory since the SAP HANA warm data can be stored on disk in a columnar format and accessed transparently by applications.

What this means is the 1TB monster virtual machine maximum in vSphere 5.5 is an artificial barrier. SAP HANA multi-terabyte size databases can be easily virtualized with vSphere 5.5 using Dynamic Tiering, Near-Line Storage, and other memory management techniques SAP has introduced to the SAP HANA Platform to optimize and reduces HANA’s in-memory footprint.

SAP HANA Dynamic Tiering (DT)

SAP HANA Dynamic Tiering was introduced last year in Support Pack Stack (SPS) 09 for use with BW, Dynamic Tiering allows customers to seamlessly manager their SAP HANA disk based “Warm Data” on an Extended Storage Host, essentially placing data which does not need to be in-memory on disk. The guidance SAP gives when using the SAP HANA Dynamic Tiering option for SPS 09 is up to 20% of in-memory data can reside on the Extended Storage (ES) Host, for SPS 10 up to 40% can reside on the ES Host, and in the future up to 70% of the SAP HANA data can reside on the ES Host. So in the future the majority of SAP HANA data which was once in-memory can reside on-disk.

Near-Line Storage (NLS)

In addition to the reduction of the SAP HANA in-memory footprint DT affords customers, Near-Line Storage should be considered as well. With NLS, data is moved outside of the SAP HANA database proper to disk and classified as “Cold”, due to its infrequent accessed and can only be accessed read only. SAP provides examples showing NLS can reduce the HANA database in-memory requirements by several Terabytes (link below).

It is also important to note that both the DT Extended Storage Host and NLS solutions do not require certified servers or storage, so not only has SAP given customers the ability to run SAP HANA in a reduced memory footprint, customers can run on standard x86 hardware as well.

There is a white paper authored by Priti Mishra, Staff Engineer, Performance Engineering VMware, which is an excellent read for anyone considering DT or NLS options. “Distributed Query Processing in SAP IQ on VMware vSphere and Virtual SAN”

Importance of the VMware Software Defined Data Center

To their credit SAP has taken a leadership role with HANA’s in-memory columnar database computing capabilities and as HANA has evolved the sizing and hardware requirements have evolved as well. Rapid change and evolving requirements are givens in technology; the VMware Software Defined Data Center provides a flexible and agile architecture to effectively react to change by recasting compute, network, and storage resources, in a centrally managed manner.

As a concrete example of the flexibility VMware’s Platform provides, Figure 1. illustrates the evolution of SAP HANA from SPS 07 to SPS 09. For customers who would like to take advantage of SAP HANA’s multi-temperature data management techniques but initially deployed SAP HANA on SPS 07 (all in-memory); through virtualization customers can reclaim and recast memory, storage, and network resources in their virtual HANA landscape to reflect the latest architectural advances and memory management techniques in SPS 10.

Figure 1. SAP HANA Platform: Evolving Hardware Requirements

sap hana vmware

Since SAP HANA can now run in a reduced memory footprint, customers who licensed HANA to be all in-memory can use virtualization to reclaim memory and deploy additional virtual databases and make HANA pervasive in their landscapes.

As a general rule, in any rapidly changing environment The VMware Software-Defined Data Center provides an agile platform which can accommodate change and also protect against capital hardware investments that may not be necessary in the future (certified vs. standard x86 hardware). For that matter, the cloud is a good option to deploy any rapidly changing application/database in places like VMware vCloud Air, Virtustream, or Secure-24 just to mention a few.

Virtual SAP HANA Back on track

After speaking with session attendees, customers, and partners, at VMworld about SAP HANA’s Multi-temperature management capabilities, I was happy to hear they will not be delaying their virtual HANA deployments due to the vSphere 6.0 roadmap certification timeline. As I said earlier, the 1TB monster virtual machine maximum in vSphere 5.5 is an artificial barrier. It really is a worthwhile exercise to take a closer look at the temperature of your data, age of your data, and your access requirements in order to take full advantage of all the tools and features SAP provides their customers.

I was also encouraged to hear from many session attendees that my presentation at VMWorld brought the SDDC from concept closer to reality by demonstrating actual mission critical database/application use cases. My future post VMWorld blogs will focus on how I deconstructed the SAP HANA Networks Requirements document and transformed that into a virtual network design using VMware NSX from my desktop. I’ll also cover Software Defined Storage, essentially translating SAP’s Multi-Temperature Storage Options into VMware Virtual Volumes and Storage Containers.

“SAP HANA SPS10- SAP HANA Dynamic Tiering”; (SAP Product Management)


“Distributed Query Processing in SAP IQ on VMware vSphere and Virtual SAN”; Priti Mishra, Performance Engineering VMware


Blog: Bob Goldsand; “SAP HANA Dynamic Tiering and the VMware Software Defined Data Center”





Case Study: Big Data/Hadoop on vSphere and Other Blogs

A new customer technical case study on Skyscape’s use of vSphere as their platform for deploying Hadoop in the cloud was published recently. Skyscape, based in the UK,  deploys Hadoop clusters on demand for their UK Government customers from the company’s public cloud infrastructure. Citizen services data and analysis tools are provided by these government departments that leverage Hadoop for data gathering and analysis.


The newly provisioned Hadoop clusters are based on the Hortonworks HDP platform today, but plans are in the works for providing other Hadoop distributions also in the future. The Skyscape engineers really innovated in an impressive way on the Big Data Extensions (BDE) platform. The system not only provides the end user with a Hadoop cluster capability but also with an Ambari Server of their own to manage and monitor their Hadoop cluster. This is all done on X86 hardware servers with direct-attached storage. Skyscape also made use of the BDE REST APIs to achieve their goal. They had five separate end-user customer groups signed up for use shortly after releasing the Hadoop service to their community.

Two other very interesting and useful blogs on virtualization of big data appeared recently: one on Using Big Data Extensions 2.2 written by Julie Roman, a Technical Account Manager at VMware who has worked on big data projects and another (from LinkedIn) on Big Data as a Service by George Trujillo, who is a VP at a Financial Services company. Both of these are very useful reads on their respective areas!

New Release: vCenter Server 5.5 Update 2d

Today VMware released an update to its vCenter Server management solution.

vCenter Server 5.5 Update 2d | 27 JAN 2015 | Build 2442329
vCenter Server 5.5 Update 2d Installation Package | 27 JAN 2015 | Build 2442328
vCenter Server Appliance 5.5 Update 2d | 27 JAN 2015 | Build 2442330

Please make sure to review the release notes and download from vmware.com

While this is a minor release it does resolve many issues previously experienced as summarized here:

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vCenter Server 5.5 Update 2 Released

Today VMware released Update 2 of its vSphere management solution, vCenter Server. In this release there are updates to the supported database versions and many resolved known issues.

What’s New

  • vCenter Server database support: vCenter Server now supports the following external databases:
    • Oracle 12c. Important: For pre-requisite requirements, see KB 2079443.
    • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1
    • Microsoft SQL Server 2014
  • vCloud Hybrid Service: The vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) introduces a new container, Hybrid Cloud Service, on the vSphere Web Client home page. The Hybrid Cloud Service container contains the vCHS installer and the new vCloud Connector installer.
  • Customer Experience Improvement Program: The vSphere customer experience improvement program is introduced to collect configuration data for vSphere and transmit weekly to VMware for analysis in understanding the usage and improving the product. For more details, see the vSphere Documentation Center.

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VMware Feature Walkthrough: Step-by-Step VMware How-to’s

If you are like me, VMworld 2014 in San Francisco left my brain on overload. With so many new product and services announcements, plus breakout sessions filled with technical information and demos in the expo floor booths, it’s hard not to feel like you are drinking from the proverbial fire hose.  Throw in a party or three, plus the pile of work waiting when you get home and all that great info you gathered starts to turn up with some CRC errors in your memory.
VMware Feature Walkthrough Home

Fortunately, VMware has a tool that you can use to refresh your memory on the VMware solutions and services that you explored at VMworld.  The VMware Feature Walkthrough site (http://featurewalkthrough.vmware.com) provides technical overviews and step-by-step guidance for installing, configuring and managing our solutions.  Each walkthrough includes screen shots with relevant steps highlighted and text explaining the process.

VMware vSOM Walkthrough

The Feature Walkthrough site is a great for stepping through a self-paced demo of a particular VMware product or feature.  We’ve made the site mobile friendly, so go ahead and open it on your tablet and take it into the data center to guide your proof-of-concept install of the products you saw or heard about during VMworld, or to simply refresh your memory on just where exactly that checkbox to enable a product feature is.  Use it to show your boss that cool feature you saw at VMworld, or to familiarize yourself with the basics of a product before you jump into a live Hands-on Lab environment.

We’re always adding new walkthroughs; the vSphere with Operations Management (vSOM) series of Walkthroughs was recently refreshed, and NSX and Virtual SAN walkthroughs are now available. If there are any particular products or features that you want to see added to the site, feel free to drop me a note at featurewalkthrough@vmware.com or leave a comment below!

vCenter Server 5.5 Update 1b released

Today VMware released an update to its virtualization management solution, vCenter Server. The update brings several fixes as documented in the release notes which can be reviewed in full here.

The new versions are as follows:

  • vCenter Server 5.5 Update 1b | 12 JUN 2014 | Build 1891313
  • vCenter Server 5.5 Update 1b Installation Package | 12 JUN 2014 | Build 1891310
  • vCenter Server Appliance 5.5 Update 1b | 12 JUN 2014 | Build 1891314
    downloaded now from vmware.com

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Which vCenter Server platform should I use – Appliance or Windows?

One of the most repetitive questions that I get asked is which version of vCenter Server should I be using. This obviously is based on the decision between using the vCenter Server appliance (VCSA) introduced with vSphere 5.0 or the trusted and proven vCenter Server on Windows.


It has been general knowledge that the vCenter Server appliance, since its introduction has lacked features to that of its Windows counterpart. With vSphere 5.5 the vCenter Server appliance has come a long way, it supports all solutions that integrate with vCenter Server (vCD, vCOPs, SRM, VUM etc) but is it production ready? I can confidently say yes but will it meet your requirements?
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vCenter Server 5.5 Update 1 Released

As hinted throughout most of the day, the vCenter Server 5.5 Update 1 has been publicly released this evening.

vCenter Server 5.5 Update 1 | 11 MAR 2014 | Build 1623101
vCenter Server 5.5 Update 1 Installation Package | 11 MAR 2014 | Build 1623099
vCenter Server Appliance 5.5 Update 1 | 11 MAR 2014 | Build 1624811

Whats New

  • vCloud® Hybrid Service™ vSphere® Client Plug-in, is now available in vSphere Web Client
  • vCenter Server is now supported on Windows Server 2012 R2
  • This release delivers a number of bug fixes

Full release notes can be found here

Download bits here

Getting ready to upgrade production to vCenter Server 5.5? Make sure you’re using the correct deployment option

Over the last few months, many customers have been testing and familiarizing themselves with vSphere 5.5 however deployment into a production environment is usually stalled until the availability of the first update or service pack. As we are nearing the typical time frame of when such an update or service pack may become available, I wanted to share some findings that may affect your deployment selection of vCenter Single Sign-On when deploying or upgrading to vCenter Server 5.5

During the installation of vCenter Single Sign-On server you are asked on the deployment option of the vCenter Single Sign-On instance. Below is the intended use case for each deployment option.


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