New Flexibility in the Computer Center

Anyone who speaks of SAP landscapes in computer centers today at least partly means an implementation of SAP software components that has grown over the years as well as the logically related non-SAP environment, such as archiving, firewall, and backup software. The result has been very complex structures that come into being step by step, and do so in response to specific needs rather than according to a basic plan. Today’s computer centers often run dozens of servers with umpteen different operating system variations. The more complex the IT packages, the more difficult they are to manage, and they repeatedly show their complexities during daily administrative tasks. To handle such susceptibility, system administrators ordinarily assign individual software components to specific servers.

The Great Unknown

Client: BSH
Client: BSH

The battle against complexity in a computer center has led to a certain inflexibility. The principle of linking an assigned server to each software component squanders resources. Because the servers were selected so that they can cope with maximum loads, capacity often lies well beyond the average load. Often, large, unused potentials are not even recognized because there’s no information on the utilization of the SAP system landscape. The situation is similar to that of a wine cellar in which the vintner stores only half-filled bottles. The fixed links between components and servers must be broken. The unused potentials are too expensive. The goal is greater flexibility in the computer center to enable more dynamic adjustment of the SAP landscape.
Based upon its experience with several SAP projects, Sun has therefore developed the N1 Grid Advanced Architecture concept for SAP. This solution assigns the optimal resources to SAP software components and also offers cost transparency to system administration. Peak loads, bottlenecks in system performance, or long-term changes to the system load are thereby balanced in a flexible infrastructure that is also easy to operate. The tasks of system administration, such as upgrading the operating system, do not create additional effort and costs.

Tools for Analysis and Diagnosis

N1 Grid Advanced Architecture for SAP consists of three components. The Analyzer, the first component, captures the performance data of all servers in an SAP system landscape. This data lays the groundwork for the design and adjustment process of the SAP systems. The second component, the Builder, creates the foundation for the design and adjustment process in an SAP landscape. Based upon standard Solaris technologies, server systems are prepared for a specific use. The Deployment Engine, the third component, enables assignment and relocation of SAP system components and non-SAP software within the SAP landscape. The information from the Analyzer supports decisions about assignment or relocation. The Builder reorganizes system resources that have already been assigned, which results in dynamic load distribution. For example, batch runs now start at the exact time that other systems are not online, and thus do not demand any capacity.
N1 Grid Advanced Architecture for SAP achieves efficiency with the following installation and administrative structures:

  • As a special analysis or diagnosis tool, the Analyzer continuously monitors the load of each individual component. All available system resources can be assigned better based upon this analysis. The performance data captured here is also the basis for balancing capacity.
  • Task-specific images simplify the installation of new or changed SAP software components. All the administrator has to do is mark the component on the graphical user interface (GUI) – in other words, copy the image of the component – and then select the target system. The N1 Grid solution takes care of everything else, with minimal downtime.
  • A special image is available for central maintenance and administration of the operating system.
  • The operating system image and the image of the SAP components can be combined with a jump-start procedure. This approach accelerates installations such as upgrades, because predefined installation files only need to be copied and only the area being used must be adjusted. The procedure is similar to a network boot but it is much more flexible because users can cater to the individual requirements of a machine or a software package.
  • The SAP installation is based upon server configurations connected to a storage area network (SAN) or network attached storage (NAS). Accordingly, SAP software components can very easily be assigned logically within the infrastructure. Users need only change the pointer for memory allocation on the GUI; they do not need to move the actual contents of memory.

Optimizing an SAP Landscape

The primary goal of optimization is a significant increase in the load on the hardware. To this end, N1 Grid Advanced Architecture for SAP allows the first step in the process by setting fixed load levels. The corresponding capacity thresholds can be set individually, for example according to the threshold values of individual service level agreements. The display uses a traffic-light system to simplify analysis. For example, a yellow light signals 0–15 per cent load. In this case, the computers have insufficient load and work too expensively. The display of a green light indicates 15–85 per cent load, which is a good, medium load on the hardware. At a load of 85–100 per cent, a red light signals an alarm for a high load that might harm service level agreements in some situations. The second step uses the values that have been determined to draw conclusions for operations of the computer center. The following serve as examples of such conclusions:

  • Amalgamation of SAP components with a yellow load level to increase the load on one machine and free up others completely. The expected load profile can be displayed on the graphical interface as a chart.
  • Increased capacity of a red system by amalgamating hardware that has become free.

N1 Grid Advanced Architecture for SAP differs from traditional optimization projects in computer centers. Such projects run only once. The new solution is much more of a continuous process that customers can run themselves. N1 Grid Advanced Architecture for SAP was introduced in October 2003; system administrators are already using the new solution in about 20 projects.
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Ralf Zenses
Ralf Zenses