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Why do I need Nimble Storage for my in-memory database?


SAP HANA is the foundation for the future of SAP business software. SAP announced in 2015 that it will end mainstream support for its software running on traditional RDBMs in 2025. While that date seems a far way off, time flies and SAP customers are already moving quickly to SAP HANA based systems.

As a result, hardware vendors have found it necessary to have their products certified for SAP HANA in order to stay relevant and meet the needs of the thousands of SAP customers.

The SAP HANA certification process is well documented and supported by SAP. While it can be time consuming, the benefits to both customers and vendors is important. For customers it provides a level of security that the hardware they purchase will meet the stringent performance needs of this new technology. For vendors, it eliminates the questions related to “will it work with SAP?” that get asked frequently.

Appliance vs. Tailored Data Center Integration (TDI)

SAP HANA is delivered using two models, appliance and tailored data center integration or TDI. The appliance model combines servers, network, and storage in a single bundle that is certified using SAP tools and sold as a complete unit. TDI allows separate server, network, and storage vendors to certify their components individually, allowing customers to choose their preferred vendor for each of the pieces to create a SAP HANA solution.

Scale-up vs. Scale out

When SAP HANA was first introduced, the maximum supported memory in a single server was 512GB. This was related to the processor to memory ratio SAP recommended as well as processor technology. This meant that for systems of even 1TB, customers would have to create a scale-out environment, combining multiple servers and distribute the database between the environments. Scale-out environments required a shared storage architecture which allowed a standby server to attach a failed server’s storage to continue processing.

Smaller systems could run in a scale-up environment, with the persistent storage installed directly in the server. Many vendors found it necessary to use spinning disk for the data area and flash storage for log storage to meet the latency for log writes required by SAP.

As processors have advanced, with more cores and sockets, the amount of memory supported in a single server has increased with some server vendors offering SAP HANA solutions with up to 32TB of memory.

As a result, the need for large scale-out systems to support even modest SAP HANA systems has greatly reduced. Storage systems that need to support 8, 16, or more SAP HANA servers have also become less necessary, except in the case of extremely large customers.

Shared storage for SAP HANA

With memory for scale-up systems increasing, the question becomes “Why do I need shared storage for my SAP HANA systems, if I can fit everything on a single server?”

The answer has several components. First, why did we move to shared storage originally? Much of the motivation was related to the resource silos that were created by servers with direct attached storage. This was an inflexible solution that did not allow for resource sharing. If I had too much capacity in one server, I couldn’t easily allocate it to another server that needed the capacity. Shared storage allows customers to grow and scale their environments seamlessly, allocating capacity for individual servers that need it and achieving better capacity utilization.

Second, upgrading a server meant a migration that required a significant amount of downtime to migrate data between the environments. This downtime could prove costly in SAP systems which run all the core business processes for customers. Adding capacity to a single server could also require downtime and, at the very least, reconfiguration. Shared storage reduces the downtime significantly. In many cases it is just a matter of turning one server off, attaching the storage to the new server, and turning the new server on.

Finally, modern storage systems offer features and functionality that a server with internal storage simply cannot match. Data reduction technology like compression improves space utilization and even performance. The ability to create snapshot backups in seconds to allow multiple recover points throughout the day to reduce risk. Those snapshots also provide the foundation for a zero copy clone, which allows customers to create systems for development, testing, and troubleshooting in a matter of minutes instead of hours or even days. Modern storage systems also offer data protection capability like replication and integration with third party vendor tools.

We at Nimble Storage have invested the time and energy to achieve SAP HANA certification for both our Adaptive Flash and All Flash storage arrays. As part of our certification, we have also created deployment guides which describe the configuration required to implement SAP HANA on Nimble Storage arrays. We have guides for both All Flash and Adaptive Flash arrays available on InfoSight. We also have a sizing questionnaire to help customers determine the requirements for their SAP HANA implementations.

We believe our systems offer great performance and functionality for SAP HANA.

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