IBM 2011: Servers, DB2, and Alloy

Feature Article | March 25, 2011 by Daniel Hardt

Famous for driving IBM’s Jeopardy!-winning supercomputer, Watson, the POWER7 series can also support up to 126,000 SAP users (image: IBM)

POWER7 series: supports supercomputer Watson and up to 126,000 SAP users (image: IBM)

Having worked with SAP for 40 years, IBM is currently one of the company’s global partners and the largest integrator of SAP software. The core areas of the two IT giants’ alliance include Internet software, making SAP available on all of IBM’s servers, and optimizing DB2 databases for use with SAP’s software products. However, IBM and SAP only recently came together to develop their first joint software – Alloy.

At this year’s CeBIT, IBM presented its plans to collaborate with SAP in 2011. Read on to find out about their new cooperative elements, those set for expansion, and how customers will benefit in connection with the following products and services:

Next page: pureScale for databases, benchmark testing

IBM Power 795: the new flagship of the POWER7 series (image: IBM)

IBM Power 795: the new flagship of the POWER7 series (image: IBM)

Scaling DB2 databases with pureScale

Designed for the relational database management system (RDBMS) DB2, the cluster technology DB2 pureScale is now available to SAP customers as part of a pilot program. With it, users can make necessary adjustments to applications for online transaction processing (OLTP) workloads. The technology’s scalable architecture also enables applications to grow along with the requirements of business without requiring recoding.

DB2 pureScale runs on Linux, UNIX, and Windows and supports select POWER6 and POWER7 servers from the IBM Power Systems series, as well as the x3650 M3, x3690 X5, and x3850 X5. Based on IBM’s System z architecture, pureScale offers nearly unlimited virtual capacity and can adapt to accommodate up to 128 servers.

The pilot program for SAP will include support for AIX – IBM’s own flavor of UNIX for servers and workstations – and Linux. Those interested in registering for the pilot can access this SAP Note for further information (requires access to SAP Service Marketplace). For more on SAP and DB2, including additional links, check out SAP Software Development Network (SDN) and the SDN blog.

The pureScale concept (image: IBM)

The pureScale concept (image: IBM)

IBM server handles up to 126,000 users

In a recent appearance on Jeopardy!, Watson – a computer system based on the IBM POWER7 series – outclassed the game show’s two best-ever human contestants thanks to its ability to understand human language and recognize irony, wordplay, and hidden meaning. The system’s performance represents a significant step in the development of learning computers that can analyze and leverage data in novel ways.

Other servers in the POWER7 series, meanwhile, are ready for the market and everyday business right now. The SAP Sales and Distribution Standard Application Benchmark (SAP SD) was designed to show what such machines can do, taking the number of users whose queries they can process in less than a second as its KPI. In late 2010, IBM put one of its heavy-duty servers through its paces in a two-tier SAP SD benchmark test.

The IBM Power 795 in question came equipped with 32 processors and a total of 256 cores, each running at 4GHz. Along with this horsepower, the server included 4,096GB of RAM, a DB2 9.7 database, and AIX 7.1 as its operating system. The business software used for the test was SAP ERP with enhancement package 4 installed.

The results: IBM’s system proved able to maintain an average response time of 0.98 seconds at a maximum load of 126,063 users while generating 688,630 SAPS of throughput. The SAP Application Performance Standard (SAPS) indicates a system’s performance in an SAP environment, with one SAPS corresponding to 20 order line items (OLI) per hour.

Next page: Alloy for Lotus Notes


Alloy’s architecture unifies IBM and SAP components (image: SAP AG) Alloy’s architecture unifies IBM and SAP components (image: SAP AG) Alloy’s architecture unifies IBM and SAP components (image: SAP AG)

Alloy’s architecture unifies IBM and SAP components (image: SAP AG)

A new interface: Lotus Alloy

Alloy is collaboration software that originated from IBM and SAP’s joint development efforts. Representing an alternative interface to SAP GUI and SAP NetWeaver Portal, Alloy has at its foundation the transfer technology “Project Gateway,” which SAP first presented at SAP TechEd 2010.

The aim of Alloy is to make SAP system data available on various platforms and mobile devices without requiring it to be coded in SAP’s own programming language, ABAP. For more on Project Gateway, take a look back at the article “Two-Minute Apps.

Alloy enables users to easily access SAP systems – both online and offline – through the Lotus Notes client software. End users can thus retrieve business data from SAP ERP and use it in various applications from within a familiar Lotus environment. A service-oriented architecture (SOA) based on Web standards serves as the necessary basis.

According to IBM, the initial version of Alloy contains the following features:

  • Access to reports in SAP ERP and SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse
  • Simple, incremental integration of SAP business workflows into Lotus Notes
  • Standardized end-to-end business scenarios, such as for business travel, vacation planning, and procurement
Example: managing a procurement process with Alloy (image: SAP AG)

Example: managing a procurement process with Alloy (image: SAP AG)

Alloy to live long and prosper

Starting from the Gateway concept, Alloy is to undergo expansion into an SAP integration toolkit that would make it possible to incorporate applications into Lotus environments without further effort. Backwards compatibility with SAP R/3 4.6c is also under consideration.

New Lotus technologies such as Xpages and Gadgets are also set to benefit from Alloy. Ultimately, SAP and IBM plan to make Alloy part of “Project Vulcan,” an effort to develop a cloud-based collaboration tool that facilitates real-time communication and represents a new generation of Lotus Notes software.

Next page: Cloud services for SAP

Yes, it’s that fast: creating an Alloy workflow (image: SAP AG)

Yes, it’s that fast: creating an Alloy workflow (image: SAP AG)

A place in the cloud: an IBM server room (photo: IBM)

A place in the cloud: an IBM server room (photo: IBM)

Cloud services for SAP

Since receiving certification from SAP in December 2010, IBM has been offering various cloud platforms and hosting models for its partner’s applications, including:

  • SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM)
  • SAP ERP
  • SAP Product Lifecycle Management (SAP PLM)
  • SAP Supply Chain Management (SAP SCM)
  • SAP ERP Corporate Services

One highlight of these services is that they make it possible to manage all of IBM’s cloud platforms through a single menu window, including functions such as dashboards, reporting, procurement, service catalogs, a self-service portal, and data migration to the cloud.

IBM’s portfolio contains infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings in both private- and public-cloud configurations, as well as in combinations of the two (hybrid cloud).

In addition, a configured, standalone IBM service management solution based on the company’s Cloudburst concept provides the hardware, software, and services needed to quickly assemble private cloud environments. IBM Tivoli Service Automation Manager (TSAM) also handles the implementation, management, and monitoring of cloud services and provides a number of preconfigured workflows.

A single window for all your cloud management needs (image: IBM)

A single window for all your cloud management needs (image: IBM)

Private-cloud services

The SAP Managed Services organization provides established support for SAP software and applications. The services offered in IBM’s private cloud, which functions as a PaaS environment for SAP applications, include automatic updates, system maintenance, and preconfiguration.

This helps SAP customers reduce expenses stemming from their SAP environments, basic support, and database administration. IBM’s services also make it easier to expand SAP development environments and manage companies with SAP software. Meanwhile, both the private and public clouds can automate steps typically required in the maintenance of SAP environments.

When taking advantage of IBM’s services, customers only need licenses for the SAP software and databases they use. IBM provides the rest for operating systems, monitoring, security, cloud management, and more.

Structured IaaS from a public cloud

IBM Smart Business Development and Test on the IBM Cloud gives SAP users the chance to advance their development and testing domains in the cloud. This standardized, configurable server environment accelerates application development and implementation while providing fast access to virtual server environments. It is also suitable for SAP dev/test.

Along with the typical features of a public cloud – fixed, usage-based prices, for example, and practically no IT infrastructure requirements – IBM offers a self-service Web portal for account management, a variety of software images, tools, and standardized configurations.

Next page: Virtualization with SAP NetWeaver ACC

SAP NetWeaver ACC provides an overview of virtualization (image: IBM)

SAP NetWeaver ACC provides an overview of virtualization (image: IBM)

Virtualization with SAP NetWeaver ACC

The virtualization of hardware, operating systems, and applications is a pillar of many companies’ activities. To keep complex system landscapes running, such organizations have to ensure the integration of their hardware and software. However, harmonizing the management of SAP applications and virtual systems is often a difficult prospect. IBM Systems Director, for example, focuses on IT infrastructures, while SAP Solution Manager keeps an eye on the monitoring and management of SAP software.

SAP NetWeaver Adaptive Computing Controller (SAP NetWeaver ACC) is designed to link these two areas by managing and monitoring virtualization. The tool can connect to IBM Live Partition Migration, for instance, which is used to virtualize IBM Power Systems. SAP NetWeaver ACC also supports SAP applications running on IBM System z and x86-based hardware. IBM Power Systems run on Linux, AIX, and IBM i, while IBM System z supports z/OS, z/VM, and Linux. Meanwhile, the IBM Hardware Management Console (HMC) handles the necessary system landscape management.

SAP NetWeaver ACC makes comprehensive virtualization monitoring possible starting from the HMC, continuing through a logical partition (LPAR) – which divides mainframes into multiple virtual systems – and then on to actual SAP applications.

Migrating partitions with SAP NetWeaver ACC (image: IBM)

Migrating partitions with SAP NetWeaver ACC (image: IBM)

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