Faster SAP BW

There are options to making an existing SAP BW quicker including, but not only, SAP HANA.  The question is what do you want to speed up and what is it worth to your organization?  I often hear that a query runs too long, but then I find that the person who reads the results doesn’t pick up the report for days.  Putting query on SAP HANA so it runs in 3 seconds doesn’t return any value if someone who cares about the result doesn’t read it for 3 days.  To take advantage of the 3 second turn around you  need  to modify the business process so it is near real time as well.

Speed and speed of information delivery is increasingly important in our more competitive 7×24 world.  We all want to go fast, be speedy, and highly responsive, but  we need to spend the company’s money wisely.  Here is a range of options to consider and evaluate just assuming you really require that speed.

faster sap bw

Housekeeping:

The most overlooked area for speeding up BW is good housekeeping.  First look to see if you have lots of unused data.  Are you loading items no one uses or running reports no one looks at.  Back in the manual distribution of printed reports days, I put an orange stop letter inside the first page of 300 reports saying if you didn’t call us, we’d stop the reports.  I stopped about 280 reports from running the next week and only one person called to complain and ask for their report.   I had a lot more cycles for those the remaining reports and saved a small forest of paper, ink, effort, and money.

Tuning as part of housekeeping is important.  I’ve seen savings of 40% of server capacity at one of my clients through aggressively hunting down poorly performing programs, tables, and indexes.  A good performance SAP Basis person with OS and DB knowledge can identify and tune some of it.    You do have to follow through with making programming changes, so be sure to prioritize and budget the required development resources.

While housekeeping is not as sexy as HANA, it is important.  Check to see if your company has a good housekeeping checklist for its SAP systems since it applies to more than just BW.

IBM FlashSystem:

What if you could speed up any database under SAP?  FLASH is an option that enables any database to run quicker by simply moving your disk based storage files to FLASH in just a few hours.  There is no migration or optimizations required.  It runs with all your existing equipment.

A lot of time used in SAP in general, and specifically in BW, is accessing the database on the disk.  HANA is an in-memory database for the same reason.  What if you could put a traditional database in memory so it will just run faster.  Previously, this meant using large caching devices in front of storage arrays.  Caching works well if you have small amount of data relative to the entire database that you access frequently.  It does not help with any long, sequential actions like restoring a table or backups.  Large caches are an excellent way to allow you to exploit lower cost disk, but has limits.

More recently, speeding up storage meant including some or all of the data on Solid State Disk (SSD).  SSD’s are significantly faster, but most solutions involved some percentage of the array using SSD’s in combination with cache.  While larger than the cache, SSD’s were rarely used for the whole database and SSD memory is non-volatile meaning it doesn’t lose its storage when the power is removed.  Flash is similar in using NAND based memory, but faster.  FlashSystem uses some RAM for write buffering, clients can rest assured knowing that FlashSystem includes redundant and hot swappable batteries to provide the power needed to flush these buffers before shutting down gracefully.  FLASH is considered as safe and reliable, or more, as standard arrays and disks.

IBM FLASH  is NAND and is very, very fast.  More importantly works at speeding any traditional database like DB2, Oracle, or Microsoft SQL.  Clients are seeing real, measurable improvement in their SAP systems.

  • Over 400% improvement in response over disk only
  • Over 150% better CPU utilization
  • 75% lower operational costs
  • 2-4x overall performance improvement for critical month-end batch process
  • Critical application was improved from 2.5 hours to 6 minutes of processing time

FLASH, or any memory based disk, has to be installed correctly.  It has to have a Universal Power Supply (UPS) to make sure it doesn’t go down even for microsecond.  It is more expensive than standard disk and SSD, so you might elect to use it with critical table spaces or logs.  It can even be utilized as the disk storage for SAP HANA based systems.

how to integrate flash into SAP

Beyond just improved performance, the FLASH disk are providing savings in power and with improved server performance, it can enable substantial savings on database licenses due to increased CPU efficiency assuming your license costs are based on a per server cost common to many Oracle Enterprise licenses.  FLASH is one option you should consider that works with all databases and doesn’t required modifications of SAP or a database migration.

IBM DB2 BLU:

What if you could speed up your IBM DB2 database under SAP?  DB2 BLU  is a free option for users of DB2 10.5 to exploit with BW.  It enables you to move some or all of your tables into the computer’s memory.  IBM DB2 BLU is executing  long-running SQL queries shortened on average, by a factor of 8x to 25x and storage compression savings of up to 10x over systems with uncompressed data.  Like FLASH, you would now be using that very fast RAM for storage.  Like FLASH you need to make sure your computer has UPS protection and will write out to some sort of non-volatile storage when the power is shut down.

It has the advantage of not requiring you to re-write or migrate your applications to gain the speed of an in-memory database.  It provides world class support for SAP and non-SAP applications from the inventor of relational databases.  IBM DB2 and SAP started with R/3. DB2’s history is founded on IBM Fellow Dr. Codd’s work on System R in the 1970’s and has been product since 1983.  IBM has long, rich heritage as database company.

IBM DB2 BLU

Today, DB2 BLU is only certified for use with columnar stores in a SAP BW 7.3 system and for the associated Near Line Storage (NLS).  NLS is used age data out of expensive storage, in this case in-memory, to slower, less costly storage.  IBM is continuing to work with SAP on how SAP can utilize more of the power of DB2.  Specifics for SAP DB2 BLU are in SAP Online Support System (OSS) note #1819734 .  I’d keep an eye on it.  You may see some new capabilities emerge in the near future.

If you are not on DB2, why would you migrate to it? Again, migrations are not cheap, easy or without risk.  While HANA might be your choice for SAP, HANA does not run the 100’s or even 1000’s of commercial applications at your company; whereas, DB2 will run most.  Some clients want to have everything on a single database technology.  You also might not be interested in putting all of your SAP applications in memory (various reasons), your company is a late adopter of technology, your system will not fit in the HANA Intel architecture limitations, or you want to be able to run your database on non-Intel based systems.  IBM DB2 remains a very good and economical way to run your SAP systems and potentially a way to speed up your SAP BW system.

SAP HANA:

SAP HANA is an excellent way to speed up your BW system.  HANA is SAP’s in-memory database for SAP and non-SAP use.  It currently only runs on Intel based servers running  SUSE Linux.  It must be run on certified hardware configuration on premise or on a cloud provider.  It can run on the VMware hypervisor only and only for non-production.  It works with BW, but also works with most SAP systems which is referred to as Suite on HANA (SoH).  SAP has a clear, articulate roadmap of where HANA works today and in the future.  SAP continues to provide new optimizations and high value features for business via HANA.  HANA is the database of choice for SAP and is critical to SAP’s current and future strategy as an application and as company.

SAP HANA In-Memory Platform

The question is SAP HANA critical to your company and meets the business case.  IBM’s SAP practice has helped many clients implement HANA for solid business reasons and with great success.  I believe it will continue to become easier to implement and more valuable over time.  SAP is building some highly compelling business capabilities.   Assuming SAP’s continued investment in HANA, for most companies, it is not question of “if HANA”, but “when HANA.”  Eventually, some or all of your SAP applications will want to be on the SAP HANA bus.

I’ll go deeper on SAP HANA in  a future blog entry on HANA.  I offer it here for completeness.  There is plenty of material online for your consideration.  SAP’s SAP HANA website is good (see above).  I often consult Jon Reed’s blog  as a starting point.  Jon is an outspoken proponent of SAP HANA.

Summary:

For most companies, SAP BW is a critical data store, data warehouse, and a source for SAP analytics, operational, and business reporting.  Speed and speed of information delivery is increasingly important in our more competitive 7×24 world.  You owe it to your company to see how some, or all of these options, might give your company the information edge over the competition.

Comments: 2
Chuck Kichler

About Chuck Kichler

Charles “Chuck” Kichler is the IBM GBS Global SAP Practice CTO and an IBM Distinguished Engineer (DE). He leads IBM's SAP technology services including SAP Basis, Architecture & Infrastructure Consulting, AMS, Development, Integration, Optimization, and SAP Cloud Architecture. At work, I try to apply the great human gifts of intelligence, imagination, and the opposable thumb. Off work, I'm usually found with my family, near a large body of water, reading, enjoying wine, friends, trying to overcome enthalpy, and thinking about work.
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2 Responses to Faster SAP BW

  1. Pierre Perdaems says:

    Charles, I fully share your view. Do you think appliances such as PureData NETEZZA could also play a role ? Also could we say these various solutions provide a range of “perf improvement vs time to value” and while SAP HANA may provide the best boost, its also to longest option to implement… While FLASH is most probably the easiest and most transparent…Comment ?

    • Chuck Kichler Chuck Kichler says:

      Pierre,
      Thank you. I’m not aware of PureData Netezza being certified for SAP applications. I know some clients who do use Oracle’s Exadata appliance. I don’t know what the plans are for Netezza for use with SAP applications such ECC, BW, etc. It does work with BOBJ and could be part of clients larger enterprise data strategy. While I agree with your “perf improvement vs time to value” comment in general, I don’t know that HANA is always the longest option. The IBM SAP practice has done some targeted HANA implementations in a few weeks. In the next few weeks, I’ll talk about the options for faster BW on HANA and how to get there. The key is the simplest solution (see comments on Occam’s Razor http://cloudubq.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/we-are-all-mad-men-for-our-own-brand/)) that drives the highest value for the client both now and in future.

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