Out in the Open: The Enterprise of the Future

SAP and Open Source
SAP and Open Source

SAP on Linux is a successful model. Since SAP first released SAP R/3 4.0B on Linux the number of Linux-based installations has doubled annually. In 2002 SAP delivered its 1,000th installation on Linux. In 2003 it is expected that in terms of the number of new installations Linux will catch up to the established UNIX variants: AIX, HP-UX and Solaris. It is anticipated that 1,000 installation packages for Linux-based SAP products will be delivered to SAP customers and partners this year.
Numerous customers operate Linux application servers in conjunction with UNIX database servers and UNIX application servers, the number of hybrid Unix/Linux or Linux only SAP installations is over 2,000. This establishes SAP as the leading provider of Linux-based business solutions. All SAP products based on SAP R/3 4.x and the SAP Web Application Server run on Linux. With SAP DB, DB2, Oracle and Informix databases, all of the important relational platforms are available.
An analysis of installation statistics shows that SAP customers are very satisfied with the Open Source operating system: there is practically no migration of existing systems away from Linux. With a share of more than 20% on Linux, the Open Source SAP DB is even more prevalent than the versions of SAP DB on other operating systems supported by SAP.

Ongoing development as a joint effort

As a technologically modern operating system with effective memory management and highly scalable SMP support, Linux has a development dynamic that matches the demanding requirements of SAP software. SAP itself has contributed to the development of Linux: the company initiated the implementation of the Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX)-compliant Shared Memory File System, which is now a standard feature of the Linux kernel. The existence of this important POSIX-compliant interface to the operating system proved advantageous in porting the SAP Web Application Server. In accordance with the conventions of the Open Source community, customers’ SAP systems run on an “untainted” kernel; all modules loaded by the Linux kernel are available as Open Source. This ensures optimal support by the entire development community.


Because SAP has made this extension publicly accessible, it benefits all of the larger applications available on Linux. SAP DB is freely available under the GNU General Public License (GPL). The decision to combine the expertise from the SAP DB and MySQL teams to produce an Open Source enterprise-grade database will speed the adoption of Open Source databases in the enterprise market.
Within SAP, the SAP LinuxLab is working on laying the same foundations for Linux as an operating system as provided for the UNIX variants supported by SAP. Represented at the SAP LinuxLab are hardware partners HP, Dell, IBM and Bull; distributors SuSE and Red Hat; as well as the technology consulting firm Realtech. Sun is also establishing a Linux presence in the SAP environment. With guidance from SAP, the team has taken on the task of providing a stable platform for customers and SAP development. Hardware partners in the SAP LinuxLab certify all released hardware components thus ensuring high quality and full compatibility. In addition, the SAP LinuxLab provides development support for SAP customers and is available to answer questions at linux@sap.com.

High-availability solutions for Linux

Last year development at the SAP LinuxLab focused on the introduction of high-availability solutions. SAP achieved this objective in conjunction with SteelEye, a company which has been offering high-availability solutions for SAP with its LifeKeeper product since October 2002. Moreover, the SAP LinuxLab worked with Fujitsu Siemens Computers (FSC) to introduce a prototype for server consolidation in SAP environments. This solution combines the advantages of cost-effective blade computers with the scalable SAP architecture and benefits from the ability to load and boot a Linux operating system over a network. This created a solution that offers the greatest possible flexibility with cost-effective administration. All SAP hardware partners have recognized the benefits of blade architecture and are able to offer an SAP solution based on the LinuxLab prototype that can run on blade servers.
The blade concept also takes advantage of the fact that an SAP database on the basis of SAN (Storage Area Network) offers high-performance operation with low administrative overhead. Together with the SAP AIP (Advanced Infrastructure Program) department – established for the development of advanced infrastructure concepts – the SAP LinuxLab is further developing the blade concept through integration in administration and monitoring tools as an administrator-friendly consolidation variant.
In 2003, the main focus of the SAP LinuxLab is on providing 64-bit solutions for Itanium-based hardware. To that end, in November 2002, SAP launched a pilot program with its hardware partners. The first successful customer projects have already been implemented in cooperation with SuSE, IBM, and HP. The goal of supporting a broad spectrum of SAP applications by the summer, beginning with SAP R/3 4.6C has come within reach. In particular, liveCache, the object-oriented second database within the SAP Advanced Planner & Optimizer (SAP APO), which as an in-memory database benefits from 64-bit addressing, will complete the offering of additional SAP architecture components on Linux. With its availability on the powerful, Itanium-based hardware, Linux is becoming a full-featured alternative even for high-end SAP systems.

Portability through diversity

With Linux as a development platform, SAP ensures that its technology components are available on Linux at an early stage. This especially benefits customers who prefer UNIX operating systems: initial feasibility studies can be conducted in the familiar UNIX environment on cost-effective Linux systems.
Since development on multiple platforms ensures software portability, in the end this strategy benefits all SAP platforms. In contrast to earlier efforts, where Windows-centric development often resulted in products that were difficult to port, SAP can now respond more flexibly to customers’ needs.

Linux – an alternative for the desktop

Meanwhile, Linux on the server has become established in the SAP environment as a first-class platform. On desktops too customers increasingly regard Linux as a worthwhile investment and cost-effective alternative to Microsoft Windows. With KDE (K Desktop Environment) and GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) two intuitive integrated desktops are available for Linux and Sun offers a powerful office suite with its OpenOffice and the commercial StarOffice.
The cost benefits of Open Source solutions compared with commercial software are particularly evident on the desktop. With the SAP GUI for Java, SAP offers a platform independent alternative to the SAP GUI for Windows. The public sector in particular, for which SAP offers powerful solutions, will help establish Linux on the desktop a serious competitor to Windows. When SAP software generally will be used via a web browser Linux will be the first choice of SAP customers on the desktop as well. Here too the Open Source model, upon which the development of the software is based, will become one of the most important guarantors that Linux will prevail against the competition.
An overview of SAP’s Linux offerings is provided online at http://www.sap.com/linux. In accordance with Linux philosophy, the site is available without restrictions.

Dr. Manfred Stein