Storage for real-time business

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SAP is one of the world’s largest software companies. IBM and SAP have maintained a strong relationship for many years. It’s instructive to glance at the original objective of SAP, which was to “…develop standard application software for real-time business processing.”

Note the phrase: “Real-time business processing.” To enable real-time results, you need powerful IT infrastructure, especially storage, that provides as close to real-time responsiveness as possible. For this reason, more and more SAP users are turning to IBM’s award-winning FlashSystem all-flash array.

Until recently, deployments of SAP infrastructure included conventional storage not optimized for flash. The resulting architectures were too expensive, suffered from poor performance, and/or had significant downtime windows–making them unsuitable for business-critical applications such as SAP. Slow transactions–often the direct result of slow storage–meant slower end-user experiences, productivity loss and negative impact to revenue across SAP ERP, OLTP, data warehouse, business intelligence and analytics workloads.

Finding infrastructure solutions using IBM and SAP

IBM has been working with SAP to change this story by developing, testing and certifying a wide range of infrastructure solutions to enhance and accelerate SAP ERP and SAP HANA environments. During this process SAP has certified many systems across the IBM storage portfolio, including multiple members of the IBM FlashSystem, DS8000, and Storwize families, plus Spectrum Scale Elastic Storage Server from our number-one-ranked Spectrum Storage family of software-defined storage solutions.

Recently, SAP announced certification of our newest IBM FlashSystem family members–FlashSystem A9000 and FlashSystem A9000R–for SAP HANA environments and workloads. You can read this blog post from Michael Kuhn, VP of Offering Management Storage Solutions, for more details.

IBM FlashSystem and SAP make real-time possible

IBM FlashSystem helps enterprises around the world realize the real-time envisioned by the founders of SAP.

For example, the large Spanish pharmaceutical distributor Grupo Hefame needed to manage hundreds of thousands of orders every day to sustain customer satisfaction and win market share. IBM FlashSystem was deployed with IBM POWER8 servers in support of the company’s SAP applications and analytics. Immediately, Grupo Hefame saw remarkable performance gains in their SAP applications, business analytics reporting and invoice processing, leading to better decision-making, on-time deliveries and more agile growth and competitiveness. Amando Vela, their CIO, described the results:

“Our SAP platform refresh was a triumph—the numbers speak for themselves. SAP application performance has increased by 50 percent, enabling us to cut our monthly invoicing process in half, thus improving efficiency and customer satisfaction by reducing payment delays and errors. Better still, we have accelerated our business analytics reporting by 99%, from more than two days to just 30 minutes in some cases. With IBM solutions supporting our business, we can confidently pursue our goal of becoming Spain’s second-largest pharmaceuticals distributor.”

A rapidly growing supermarket chain in Russia had scalability and performance issues owing to a conventional IT architecture that was not up to the task of powering their SAP HANA application. IBM Lab Services conducted a successful proof of concept and migrated their data away from the legacy HDS infrastructure and onto IBM POWER8 servers with IBM FlashSystem and Storwize storage arrays. The IBM solution utilized six times fewer CPU cores, producing optimized performance, great scalability, easier management and lower operational costs.

Speaking of SAP HANA, a major global consumer products company sought a factual analysis to justify the addition of flash technology to improve performance. Along with IBM FlashSystem, the company was also considering flash storage from other major vendors. A data pattern analysis provided by the local IBM Flash Center of Competency showed that deploying multiple IBM FlashSystem storage arrays to power their SAP HANA and VMware environments would be the optimal solution. When IBM FlashSystem was added, the company was able to double the system IOPS to over two million, nearly tripled the throughput, markedly improved an already efficiently-performing system, reduced latency and lowered costs. Don’t forget that we had outcompeted the other vendors head-to-head.

As these customer examples demonstrate, IBM FlashSystem and other members of the IBM Storage portfolio have been accelerating SAP HANA environments for years. And with the certification of our new IBM FlashSystem A9000 and FlashSystem A9000R platforms, real-time business analytics continues to be much more than a company’s dream.

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