SAP Hana For IBM Power Officially In The Works
June 9, 2014 Alex Woodie
IBM and SAP last week started talking publicly for the first time about running the HANA in-memory database on Power to create a potent solution for combined analytics/transactional workloads. There’s no firm date yet when we’ll see Power HANA, but the work is progressing as part of a test and evaluation program, the mega-vendors say.
The notion of running the in-memory HANA database on IBM’s Power processors is not a new one. Executives with SAP told IT Jungle it was a possibility when we spoke with them about it last year. “Power is something that we’re looking at very closely right now,” SAP’s vice president of SAP Hana product marketing Ken Tsai told us last January. At the time, HANA on Power was a research project at the Hasso Plattner Institute.
The project got a little closer to becoming a reality last week at the German software giant’s SAPPHIRE NOW show, which was held in beautiful Orlando, Florida. In a joint statement, IBM and SAP said they “continue to collaborate closely with the intent to enable SAP Hana to run on the IBM Power technology, including Power7+ and the newly introduced Power8 system on Linux.”
Only a select group of customers will be invited into the test and evaluation program, which will utilize SUSE Linux, SAP’s preferred penguin flavor. (SAP just certified Red Hat Enterprise Linux to run HANA last week, with a special version of RHEL 6.5; it will also be supported on the future RHEL 7.) Little else is known about the program, including whether there is actual code to run at this point, who will be involved in the testing, and when we might hear whether this is something that will become a generally available product at some point. IBM executives were traveling and unavailable to answer IT Jungle‘s questions before this issue of The Four Hundred went to press.
IBM’s general manager for Power Systems Doug Balog provided these comments: “SAP and IBM have a long-standing successful technology partnership, and we are excited about extending that partnership with the Test and Evaluation Program for SAP HANA running on Linux on IBM Power Systems,” he stated in a press release. “We believe that this combination provides clients a catalyst for open innovation and the ability to transform into better run, data insights driven businesses.”
IBM is hot to trot out Power8 as an Intel-killing, big-data workload machine. The company says Power8’s superior processor core count, I/O bandwidth, and multi-threading capabilities give it a decided advantage over Intel Ivy Bridge Xeon chips when it comes to distributed analytic workloads.
As part of that positioning, IBM will be pushing its distribution of Hadoop, called InfoSphere BigInsights, running on horizontally distributed clusters of relatively small Power Linux machines. Also running on Power is DB2 BLU, the column-oriented add-on for the DB2 for LUW database, which was recently certified to run SAP’s Business Warehouse BI suite. And let’s not forget the OpenPower Foundation, in which IBM is empowering a group of partners to build “white box” servers based on Power8 to tackle transactional and analytical workloads.
What’s so special about HANA is that it can be used to host analytical and transactional workloads within the same database. That feature, which was introduced in early 2013 when HANA expanded from a pure-play analytic database, has the capability to cut down on the management complexity and the hardware footprint that result when analytic and transaction workloads are isolated.
Adding HANA to the Power mix will be good for both IBM and SAP. Customers need options when it comes to where to run critical business workloads. While the system software war has basically come down to Windows and Linux (it’s sad but true; most executives can’t even spell IBM i.), Intel threatens to run away with the system hardware show on its own. Getting HANA on Power Linux will not only give customers options, it will keep Intel from getting too comfortable.
The wildcard in all of this, at least as far as IBM i shops are concerned, is how this will impact them. There is probably not much of a chance that HANA will run directly on IBM i (although it’s not completely out of the question; remember MySQL?) But getting HANA running on the same box that runs SAP Business Suite applications on IBM i (or even in a sidecar formation would be the next best thing, and would deliver a lot of the benefits that having HANA directly on IBM i would bring. At last count (in 2006) there were 1,100 SAP customers running their ERP systems on IBM i, and the number was growing. This is probably several thousand customers by now. This is not insignificant.
The prospect of HANA on Power has drawn the attention of Alfred Freudenberger, the head of sales for IBM Power Systems for SAP in North America, who writes SAPonPower blog (which isn’t affiliated with his day job). Freudenberger says HANA on Power (or HoP) would deliver key advantages over Intel in the areas of performance, reliability, flexibility, efficiency, and cost.
“HANA on Power will enable not just freedom of choice for customers, but the mission critical reliability and performance that may have been holding them back from trying Suite on HANA,” he writes in his blog. “We are looking forward to working with SAP and our customers to explore this exciting new offering.”