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By | Chris Mellor 11th November 2011 10:51

SAP, EMC and VMware in 3-way cloud orgy

I want your appliance in my VMAX

SAP, EMC and VMware have signed a three-way deal about a converged EMC-SAP stack running an in-memory analytic database leading to the possibility of SAP HANA running inside VMAX arrays.

SAP is the world's leading supplier of enterprise business automation software and its main competitor is Oracle. EMC is the world's main supplier of storage and one of its main competitors is Oracle with its Exadata and Exalogic systems combining storage, servers and Oracle software in an integrated IT stack. SAP and VCE, the EMC-VMware-Cisco Vblock converged IT stack troika, have already signed a co-operation deal, with VCE becoming a SAP Global technology partner and both companies pushing customers towards cloud-based infrastructures.

VCE EVP Todd Pavone said: "VCE will work closely with SAP across many areas of our businesses to accelerate the adoption of best-in-class converged infrastructure in SAP solution-based environments.”

Now EMC, VMware and SAP are getting even closer together but leaving Cisco out of the loop. The three state: "SAP will work closely with EMC and VMware and is currently evaluating options to deliver an end-to-end stack optimised for running mission-critical SAP applications. "

There are several strands to this new SAP-EMC-VMware relationship:

  • SAP and VMware expect to deliver an extended support program by integrating a configuration and health check for SAP systems running on VMware cloud infrastructure into SAP GoingLive Check services and EarlyWatch Alert service.
  • SAP will evaluate the delivery of vSphere-based virtual appliances, orchestrated by declarative models in the TOSCA language. TOSCA is a declarative language for orchestrating cloud applications, which was developed by a consortium of about a dozen companies, and was recently submitted to OASIS for standardisation. The three plan to develop new automation and management tools that can interpret and execute TOSCA models provided by SAP.
  • SAP and EMC aim to combine SAP's HANA in-memory database and EMC's fully automated storage tiering technologies (FAST).

HANA stands for High-Performance Analytic Appliance, and it is a column-oriented, in-memory database appliance from SAP (more here – PDF.). FAST is EMC's technology to move data up and down storage tiers, between the fastest and most expensive tiers and the slowest but highest-capacity tiers.

We can envisage VMAX arrays with bulk SATA drive data tubs, faster 10K SAS disk drives, solid state drives (SSDs) that are faster still, VMAX flash cache, and then, providing the fastest access to stored data of all short of DRAM, server-side flash: EMC's project Lightning.

The idea here is that, instead of the storage arrays working out what to cache based on past events, a server application can tell the array what to cache, what to bring up-tier, based on what it wants to be ready. EMC's Chuck Hollis, VP for global marketing, blogs about this, saying:

The magic trick to leveraging server memory, server-side flash, storage-side flash, disk tiers, etc is getting the right information in the right location at the right time: preferably *before* it's used.

There are two general approaches to this challenge. One is to use historical behaviour and external application knowledge to make very intelligent guesses as to the dynamically optimised location of information elements ... The other approach is to ask the application environment to give us infrastructure vendors "hints" as to what's important from a performance perspective, and what's less so...

[T]he SAP environment can do a better job of knowing which information elements are important at a given point in time, and thus should be drawn ever-closer into the server: whether that information lives on DRAM or server-side storage flash. To the extent that EMC can create progressively larger tiers of automated storage/memory behind HANA (server-side flash, storage-side flash cache, storage-side flash storage, etc) – and get explicit hints from SAP – the better."

Hollis points out that this is: "a fascinating industry case study of how one company (EMC) can – over time – wrap its entire value proposition around that of another company – SAP ... SAP is a critical enterprise data source for the next generation of big data analytics applications, and thus plays nicely into what we're doing with Greenplum and xCP."

We could envisage other SAP applications getting a FAST treatment from EMC.

Now let's go further and add all this to the coming VMAX products which will have dozens of application-running engines; Lightning flash card-enhanced servers embedded in the array, which could, obviously, run SAP HANA and we have a self-contained SAP HANA VMAX system with no Cisco or, indeed, any other supplier's servers.

Here, indeed, is VMAX wrapped entirely round a SAP app and, in so doing, providing an attacking defence against Oracle for both EMC and SAP. ®

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