SAP HANA support for VMware vSphere and vSAN 7.0 U3c on Intel Ice Lake

Happy to announce SAP HANA support for vSphere 7.0 U3c and later, including vSAN on Intel Ice Lake based server systems. See SAP support notes 2937606 (vSphere) and 2718982 (vSAN) for details.

After a challenging validation, a virtual SAP HANA system based on vSphere 7 and vSAN 7 on Intel Ice Lake with up to 40-CPU cores now passes all SAP validation criteria and shows exceptional performance compared to earlier CPU types and validations.

With this announcement, all customers can now use Intel Ice Lake based servers to virtualize SAP HANA workloads with vSphere 7. In addition, our SAP HANA HCI partners can offer Ice Lake based HCI systems.

Check out the SAP Certified Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Solutions webpage and select for VMware vSAN to see which Ice Lake based solutions are already certifed.

A note on Intel Ice Lake CPUs >32-cores and SAP’s concerns in their SAP note 2937606:

While the vSphere 7 ESXi kernel supports up to 896 CPU threads (PCPUs) per physical host and up to 768 vCPUs per VM, a vSphere 7 VM configuration allows maximal 64 vCPUs per virtual socket (coresPerSocket). This is not a limitation of the hypervisor, as noted by SAP, it is a configuration maxima all vSphere ESXi versions up to 7.x have. This is documented in Hardware Features Available with Virtual Machine Compatibility Settings under: “Maximum number of cores (virtual CPUs) per socket”. This configuration maximum increases in vSphere ESXi 8.0.

In the case of an Intel Ice Lake CPU with > 32-cores, like a 40-core Ice Lake CPU 2-socket based system, this configuration maximum is reached and instead of a 2-virtual socket VM a 4-virtual socket VM needs to get configured when all CPU threads (PCPUs) should get leveraged for a single large VM. This results that SAP HANA / the OS sees inside the VM a 4-virtual socket VM with, in the case of the 40-core Ice Lake CPU, 160 vCPUs, instead the expected 2-virtual socket VM. This is a normal and expected behaviour and shows the correct number of virtual-CPU sockets as configured.

The VM socket information is from the vSphere ESXi point of view a logical grouping of the CPU threads (PCPUs) presented to the OS level. All information like the CPU thread number per NUMA node gets exposed and is available for the application / SAP HANA running inside the VM.

Since SAP HANA is NUMA aware and uses the NUMA topology information to ensure memory locality. We do not expect any virtual socket related issues when 4- instead 2-virtual CPU sockets get configured. In addition, the SAP HANA on vSphere validation test was successful and did not show any related performance or functional problems.

In the case a customer experiences issues caused by this not physical hardware aligned VM configurations (e.g., wrong CPU-socket representation), then please follow VMware KB 89881 and open a SAP support ticket using our SAP support component BC-OP-LNX-ESX.

This configuration maxima is described in more detail in VMware KB 89879. No special configuration is required for Ice Lake CPUs with 32 or fewer CPUs cores.

The upcoming vSphere 8 release improves on this configuration maximum and will allow to configure >64 vCPUs per virtual socket (coresPerSocket) VMs once it is SAP HANA supported.

The executed SAP HANA validation tests and a public BWH benchmark executed by our hardware partner Fujitsu has shown, exceptional performance.

These results are especially of interest for all SAP HANA on Broadwell customers, since the Ice Lake platform has the same SAP defined standard 2 TB for OLAP (BW/4HANA) and 4 TB for OLPT (S/4HANA) workloads memory configuration support as the aged Broadwell platform for SAP HANA. Supporting the same memory sizes will allow to easily online migration of SAP HANA VMs from Broadwell based ESXi host to Ice Lake based ESXi host.

After the VM migration it is required to upgrade the virtual VM hardware to HW version 19 or later and to align the virtual CPU configuration to the selected Ice Lake CPU. After a reboot SAP HANA can instantly benefit from the new performance and CPU capabilities the Ice Lake platform provides.

SAP HANA Ice Lake based VMs Performance Snapshot:

Blow table and graphic shows a Fujitsu executed SAP HANA BWH benchmark running on a bare metal PRIMERGY RX2540 M6 server with Intel Ice Lake 40-core, 2-socket, 160 thread (PCPUs) CPUs vs. a vSphere 7 virtualized SAP HANA system, running on the same system. The executed BWH benchmark used 4 TB and was able to achieve over 3,000 QPH in phase 2, which is over the M-Class CPU category specified 2,500 QPH.

Please note that the BWH standard size for a 2-socket Ice Lake would be 2 TB. In internal tests, executed with SAP, the BHW benchmark result phase 2 was over 6,000 QPH and achieved the so-called BWH L-Class CPU sizing category (5,000 QPH).

Because of the 2 and 4 TB BHW results, a vSphere 7 virtualized Ice Lake system is supported for the L- and M-Class BWH sizing.

The table shows that the virtual BWH performance delta was in all categories way below 10% and only phase one, the data load phase showed a delta >5%. All other phases where below 3%, see table below and SAP benchmark certificates 2022023 and 2022024.

Below figure shows the differences of bare metal and VM based SAP HANA on Ice Lake BWH benchmark in a graphical way.

2-socket 160 CPU thread (PCPUs) BM Ice Lake system vs. 4-socket wide 160 vCPU Ice Lake VM SAP HANA BWH

Below figures show how a vSphere 7 SAP HANA VM based on an Ice Lake 2-socket 40c / 160 thread (PCPUs) CPU system compares against an aged 4-socket Broadwell 22c / 176 thread (PCPUs) CPU system running vSphere 7 SAP HANA VMs in the same test environment.

All validation tests got executed in the exact some test environment we have used some time ago for our Broadwell vSphere 7 re-validation and with the same versions (test tools and SAP HANA, vSphere and SLES versions). Because of this we can directly compare the test results of the aged Intel Broadwell and new Intel Ice Lake platform.

S/4 HANA Ice Lake Bare 160 vCPU VM vs. 176 vCPU Broadwell VM TPH result
S/4 HANA Ice Lake Bare 160 vCPU VM vs. 176 vCPU Broadwell VM QPH result

The performance improvements of vSphere 7 virtualized Intel Ice Lake VMs are significant and are showing up to 50% better TPH and QPH results, while the Broadwell system had 10% more CPU threads (PCPUs).

We also have measured between -70% to -30% lower database request times (see next figures), while using up to date 10 GbE network cards and the newer CPU platform.

S/4 HANA Ice Lake Bare 160 vCPU VM vs. 176 vCPU Broadwell VM OLTP DB Response Time
S/4 HANA Ice Lake Bare 160 vCPU VM vs. 176 vCPU Broadwell VM OLAP DB Response Time

In the case of a lower bin Ice Lake CPU gets used, then the less CPU threads (PCPUs) must be subtracted from the results, e.g., 32 c vs. 40 c Ice Lake CPU would have around 20% less TPH/QPH, with this performance it would be still more than sufficient to replace a Broadwell system.

The security and performance improvements of an Intel Ice Lake CPU (up to 50%), and the same memory support as Broadwell (up to 4 TB), makes Ice Lake a very attractive platform for a hardware and vSphere version refresh. The easy upgrade of a VM to adapt the Ice Lake platform changes is a matter of minutes and your SAP HANA installation will benefit greatly from an upgrade to vSphere 7.