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.

 

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