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Virtualize SAP – Risky or Not?

By Girish Manmadkar, VMWare Professional Services Consultant

In years past, some IT managers were not ready to talk about virtualizing SAP due to technical and political reasons. The picture is very different today, in part because of the increased emphasis on IT as a strategic function towards ‘Software–Defined Data Center’ (SDDC).

Virtualization and the road to SDDC expands the cost and operational benefits of server virtualization to all data center infrastructure—network, security, storage, and management. For example, peak workloads such as running consolidated financial reports are handled much more effectively, thanks to streamlined provisioning. Integrating systems because of company acquisitions are more easily managed due to the flexibility offered with virtualized platforms. And finally customers are leveraging their virtualized SAP environment to add additional capabilities such as enhanced disaster recovery/business continuity or chargeback systems.

Many customers have been realizing virtualization benefits ever since they moved their SAP production workloads to the VMware platform. As IT budgets continue to shrink, the imperative to lower operating costs becomes more urgent—and virtualization can make a real difference. Server consolidation through virtualization translates directly into lower costs for power, cooling, and space—and boosts the organizations “green” profile in the bargain.

Organizations Benefit from Virtualizing SAP

The main requirement for any IT manager supporting an SAP environment is to ensure high availability —even a few minutes of downtime can cause loss of dollars, not to mention angry phone calls from executive management as well as frustrated users. VMware virtualization takes advantage of SAP’s high-availability features to ensure that the SAP software stays running without any interruption and helps keep those phonelines quiet.

Greenfield SAP deployments are a great way to start building the environment right from ground zero by utilizing a building-block approach. You will start seeing the benefits of flexibility, scalability and availability of the newly built environment on VMware.

Upgrades comes with two scenario’s

  • A. SAP hardware refresh cycle
  • B. An SAP Application and/or database upgrade

Upgrades are a part of every SAP landscape and they can be complex and require long-term efforts. I have seen that most of my customers who go through their standard physical environment for SAP upgrades, spend many man hours or even days – if they have the hardware available at their disposal. However, in the virtual environment, the provisioning process is pretty rapid and can be executed in minutes, including the deprovisioning to reclaim required resources back in the resource pool which makes the upgrade process that much more streamlined and efficient. When going through an SAP upgrade – a very time and cost sensitive project, it is very important to provide required resources to the development team in a timely manner.

Time to Move

Let’s say that you’ve decided to virtualize your SAP environment—now the question is timing. I have seen many customers take the SAP upgrade and/or platform or hardware refresh as possible opportunities to move to the virtual platform.

A planned SAP upgrade can be a good time to move. I have seen some customers cash in on the planned move to SAP NetWeaver & other add-ons to virtualize their entire SAP landscapes—with savings of more than half of their capital expenses.

A hardware refresh is a great time to move. Many customers take advantage of the change in hardware to also consider a migration to virtualization at the same time. It allows customer to integrate the hardware refresh and virtualization projects to minimize disruptions and combine staff training for new hardware and software.

SAP Requirements: Security,Compliance and Disaster Recovery

Challenges like compliance and security policies often require substantial infrastructure changes, that can highlight the inherent inflexibility of the existing traditional hardware platform and persuade top management to invest in infrastructure. Many customers have successfully implemented VMware-provided solutions to ensure the security and compliance of their SAP environment so that they can experience the benefits from virtualization.

Disaster Recovery
A Business Continuity plan is imperative for many of our SAP customers. Disasters – a natural or man-made disaster severely impacts operation which impacts the bottom line. Which of course, is the reason why executives often order a review of the company’s disaster recovery/business continuity plans. VMware understands this importance and the risk which is addressed by VMware Site Recovery Manager product.

So is virtualizing your platform for your SAP environment too risky? All IT projects have risk. Is it so risky to pass up the benefits of virtualization? In my opinion, no – not if you follow the advice and methodology offered by my colleagues, David Gallant (Business as usual with Tier 1 Business Critical Applications? – Not!) and Eiad (Knowing Your Applications is Key to Successful Data Center Transformation). I ask you – if you haven’t already virtualized your SAP environment, why not explore it now? There’s been so many advances in technology and alliances, you can’t ignore it any longer.

Girish Manmadkar is a veteran VMware SAP Virtualization Architect with extensive knowledge and hand-on experience on various SAP and VMware products including various databases. He focuses on SAP migrations, architecture designs, and implementation, including disaster recovery.

 

Knowing Your Applications is Key to Successful Data Center Transformation

By Eiad Al-Aqqad, VMWare Professional Services Consultant

This decade has offered more Data Center transformation options than most IT Professionals were able to keep up with. Virtualization has dramatically changed the way things were traditional done in the datacenter. Having the largest Data Center is not something to brag about anymore, as it might be a symbol of inefficiencies. Next, the Cloud Computing storm hit the datacenter and while IT Professionals started to digest it, the Software Defined Data Center concept has evolved. While each of these Data Center Transformations has offered great advantages to adopters, it had its own challenges and quite frankly, planning was not optional for a successful implementation.

Planning is critical for Data Center transformation and does not stop at the infrastructure planning, but extends to understanding your applications.

Most organizations are good at conducting the infrastructure portion of planning, but have difficulties in planning their applications for transformation. I’ve witness many transformation efforts where the customer team has a hard time answering these  simple questions:

  1.      What are your Applications Priorities?
  2.      What are your Applications RPO/RTO and how are you planning to achieve them?
  3.      What are the security requirements of each of your APPs ?
  4.      What does your Application Dependency look like?

It is critical to know your applications well enough before starting any transformation effort. The four questions above are a good start. While the first three questions can normally be answered by collecting bits and pieces from contacting the right SMEs & business units, Application Dependency is more challenging and is what I want to focus on in this article. For more thoughts on workload classifications, please check out my colleague David’s post:  Business as Usual with Tier 1 Business Critical Applications? – Not!

Application Dependency has proved to be more challenging due to many reasons including:

  1.      Applications Dependencies aren’t static and can change on daily basis.
  2.      Most organizations have inherited legacy applications with very little   documentation.
  3.      Current Change Management systems while helping to document changes are still lagging when it comes to documenting Applications Dependencies.
  4.      Application Dependencies are always filled with unexpected surprises that no one wants to admit, like having a critical application dependent on a DB running on a PC hidden under a developer’s desk.

While Application Dependency Planning without the right tools might be challenging, the point is, before any data center transformation, thorough planning and investigation is required for a successful end game. Tools definitely help with your efforts but even more importantly, making sure you ask yourself the questions above is really the first step before anything.

At last the good news is the availability of tools and services that help automate the process of creating an accurate application dependency mapping of your environment.  ADM & the Virtualization Assessment service (includes the use of Capacity Planning & Application Dependency Planner (ADP)) offered by VMware can be quite handy in creating an Application Dependency Mapping for applications within your environment. For more information about ADP, please visit:  My VMware Application Dependency Planner Post

Eiad AlAqqad is a Senior Consultant within the SDDC Professional Services practice. He has been an active consultant using VMware technologies since 2006. He is VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX#89), as well an an expert in VMware vCloud, vSphere, & SRM.