High Professionalism, Low Operating Costs

The database’s suitability for SAP environments is not a coincidence. MaxDB – which started out with the name SAP DB – was designed and optimized by SAP itself for its ERP solutions. SAP has been marketing the product jointly with open source specialists MySQL since the end of 2003.
The database is also suitable for business-critical applications in the area of hosting, where experiences with several hundred servers and more than 1,400 customer systems show that the costs for operation and maintenance with MaxDB are considerably lower than for other SAP-certified database systems.

Cost advantages on acquisition

Open source software offers particularly attractive benefits for users with regard to overall operating costs, starting with low acquisition costs. MaxDB is available as a free download and runs on a Linux operating system that also costs nothing. Even users that do not want to open up their database developments, as required by the General Public License (GPL), can enjoy considerable cost benefits. While they need to purchase the commercial version of MaxDB, they still save around 70 percent compared with other SAP-certified databases, according to estimates by the Meta Group. For use in SAP solutions, the database is shipped together with the software, and the license costs are a proportion of the price of the SAP software package. “At three percent of the overall price, the costs are 50 to 80 percent lower than the competition, depending on the cost group. Companies can expect an average saving of 70 percent,” says Patrik Backman, Director of SAP Alliance at MySQL AB.
Over the long term, however, the comparatively low support costs and the option of using low-cost standard hardware are more important than low acquisition costs. According to studies conducted by the market research company IDC, the total cost of ownership (TCO) for database systems is made up, more or less equally, of downtimes, training costs, personnel costs, and the costs for software and hardware.

TCO for databases
TCO for databases

In the case of MaxDB, the costs for license and support, at just 15 percent, are the smallest element. In contrast, personnel costs amount to 21 percent. In view of this, it is of financial benefit that considerably fewer administrators are required for MaxDB than for other database systems, as SAP Hosting’s experiences have shown. The effort involved in running MaxDB is reduced thanks to special solutions that take on typical tasks such as installation, data backup, file organization, or performance monitoring.

Broad selection helps companies make savings

Costs can also be optimized when configuring the system, as a broad selection of possible components is available. Linux is the lowest-cost operating system, but the conventional Windows variants and Unix derivatives from IBM, HP (HP-UX), and Sun are also suitable.
With regard to hardware, low-cost standard platforms such as those offered by AMD and Intel can be used. Both 32 and 64 bit architectures are possible. The latter are becoming the standard in the field of databases as they support a far larger main memory, which is needed for the rapid buffering of frequently requested data. Most 32 bit systems provide an application program with a maximum of three to four GB of address space, which is often not enough for the latest database applications. The 64 bit architecture overcomes this limit, and in addition enables the use of a fast main memory with a capacity that is practically only limited by that of the processor. MaxDB supports not only Opteron and Athlon from AMD or Intel’s Nocona and IA 64 (Itanium), but also the Risc platforms Power, PA-RISC, SPARC, and True64.

Installation as routine

Operation of MaxDB is also simplified thanks to user-friendly installation routines. The database offers a graphical tool and console-based installation tool for this, each of which offers advantages. The Installation Manager is available on all platforms with a graphical interface. Its wizard-like structure guides the user through the installation without denying experienced users access to detailed information. New users benefit from the option of creating a demo system. Together, software installation, basic configuration, and the creation of a database instance take just 15 minutes with the Installation Manager.
While the graphical installation is particularly straightforward and user-friendly, especially for less experienced users, experts value the advantages offered by console-based tools, which allow unmonitored installation. All configuration settings can be entered as parameters on the “SDBINST” installation tool, so that the user does not need to enter any data during installation.
As all the information is available in the form of parameters, unmonitored installation enables incorporation in scripts. These are an important automation device wherever installation tasks need to be carried out frequently, such as in hosting, for example. They reduce the workload involved in repeat tasks, for example the implementation of the backup strategy, and ensure standardized, verified, and reproducible processes.
After software installation, many systems require a time-consuming and knowledge-intensive check on the database parameters. In the case of MaxDB, however, the required parameters are clearly divided into three groups: general, advanced, and support parameters. For basic configuration, a user merely needs to know the 20 values from the group of general parameters. However, the default values already provide an effective basis for many applications.

Low costs for maintenance

According to IDC, operating costs represent the greatest burden, at 28 percent. With MaxDB, a low-maintenance file organization helps to ensure a smooth process and supports interventions that increase performance. Unlike many rival systems, no reorganization processes are needed to ensure optimum access structures and minimum memory requirement. As a result, neither production downtimes nor administrator capacities are required for maintenance tasks.
In addition, as for installation, both self-explanatory graphical interfaces and console-based tools can be used for all administrative tasks. As a result, tasks such as changes to the size of the database can be automated using scripts.
Operating downtime is not necessary even if MaxDB reaches the storage space limits for data or log files. New data files, known as data volumes or log volumes in MaxDB, can be added at any time without the need for additional maintenance windows.

Fine tuning of the database
Fine tuning of the database

It can sometimes be quite costly to maintain database performance. Even though MaxDB’s reorganization flexibility and effective parameter values guarantee good out-of-the-box performance, it makes sense to use optimizers to determine the fastest execution plan for an SQL query.
Optimizers can either determine information for data distribution during query processing or can access specially collected information. However, it does take some time to determine the statistics at runtime, so any time gained through optimization may be cancelled out. The process is faster if the distribution information is already available, but the disadvantage of this is that this collected information may become outdated and may cause the optimizer to make an incorrect decision.
MaxDB combines the advantages of both approaches. When queries to individual tables are optimized, collected information is processed at runtime. Joins make use of stored statistics, and MaxDB provides support for maintaining these. If the database sees that the statistics no longer reflect the current data, it asks the administrator to perform an update. The administrator therefore does not need to worry about optimizer maintenance until MaxDB reports the need for an update, and thus does not need to monitor and evaluate data changes to determine whether they could have an adverse effect on the statistics.
Special tools are also available for the fine tuning of the database, operating system, and application. In addition, MaxDB can be integrated in external monitoring systems, if required.
Overall, experiences with customer installations show that the downtime can be reduced by up to 60 percent compared with other systems. Administrator costs can also be at least halved.

Ulf Wendel
Ulf Wendel