More Performance, Fewer Servers

Feature Article | February 20, 2006 by admin

Also during 2006, many companies have to upgrade their SAP landscapes. Company growth may have elevated the number of SAP users, transactions or modules that the current infrastructure must support. This can lead to system degradation, slow application performance, and increased workload from new modules that may impact the business with lost productivity. In addition, companies may be faced with replacing older servers in order to improve SAP landscape reliability.
As IT managers upgrade their server infrastructures, they need to balance reliability and performance needs while providing SAP services at low total cost of ownership (TCO). However, lowering TCO can be difficult. Adding more servers to the existing landscape can amplify space, power, and cooling requirements in the data center. When factoring in other indirect costs such as increased server management complexity and administration, adding servers to an SAP landscape may not be a cost-effective way to upgrade the infrastructure. Server consolidation to fewer, more powerful servers becomes an attractive option for helping to contain spiraling costs and provide excellent system performance and reliability. When IT managers decide to consolidate servers, they want to know what types of server platforms can deliver outstanding SAP application performance while at the same time keeping the TCO as low as possible.

Reducing performance bottlenecks

Legacy architecture versus Direct Connecting

Legacy architecture versus Direct Connecting

AMD Opteron processors have several technology advantages that can help improve the performance of an SAP application. AMD64 with Direct Connect Architecture and HyperTransport technology helps reduce the bottlenecks inherent in traditional front-side bus-based systems by directly connecting processors, memory, and I/O devices to each core. These bottlenecks can arise because all requests for memory and I/O access as well as cpu-to-cpu data transfer are directed through a single memory controller, thereby reducing system performance and throughput. By directly connecting these key system components, an AMD Opteron-based server can then move data more efficiently throughout the system. These improvements can boost transaction rates and reduce response times – allowing an enterprise to host a greater number of users on fewer servers.
In early 2004, Microsoft Corporation needed to boost the sales functionality of its enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications. However, the company’s servers for SAP R/3 were approaching their end of life and were already at full capacity. Microsoft’s Enterprise Application Services (EAS) team foresaw greater performance degradation, longer dialog response times, lengthier batch processing jobs, more frequent out-of-memory errors from ad-hoc reporting and user processes, and extremely high CPU utilization rates within the SAP environment. Because the SAP solution supported core finance, supply chain, and human resource functions critical to Microsoft worldwide, the team was concerned that these IT issues would have a negative impact on business processes.
Running one four-processor HP ProLiant DL585 server with AMD Opteron processors alongside two older x86-based single core eight-processor servers, Microsoft discovered that the HP ProLiant DL585 in conjunction with an upgrade to 64-bit versions of Windows Server, SAP R/3, and SQL Server created 40 percent more sales orders in the first hour and also completed twelve batch jobs 38 percent faster than the two eight-processor servers combined. Consequently, the staff replaced six eight-processor servers with three AMD Opteron processor-based HP ProLiant DL 585 four-processor servers, and consolidated the overall application server landscape from nine servers down to six. The company reports that having fewer servers will improve administrative workloads and overall software licensing costs.
“We are absolutely seeing great performance and high transaction loads on HP ProLiant servers with AMD Opteron processors. As a result, we streamlined our server landscape and reduced costs,” said Mike Hatch, Application Architect, Microsoft Corporation.

Increased SAP workload

AMD runs their SAP R/3 4.6C installation on HP ProLiant servers using the Windows operating system. Over the past year, robust company growth led to more users and more transactions placing more load on AMD’s older SAP servers. The number of concurrent SAP users − mostly sales and shipping staff − jumped up 250 percent, while data volumes tripled and average dialog steps per day increased 56 percent.
AMD’s own SAP upgrade to four-processor servers using Dual-Core AMD Opteron processors, replacing the older x86-based single-core eight-processor servers, led to 29 percent faster average dialog response times, a 64 percent reduction in average application processing CPU time and 33 percent faster BW database response times. And, keep in mind these performance improvements happened while the workload increased by 56 percent. Even during high utilization periods, the platform improved end-user response times. “Our reliable HP ProLiant platform is running all of our transactions significantly faster,” said Walter Smith, AMD’s director of Global IT Infrastructure and Shared Services.
Both Microsoft and AMD were able to yield significantly better response times, by upgrading their SAP system landscape to AMD Opteron processors. This upgrade resulted in lower hardware acquisition costs than if they had remained on their older, single-core x86 based servers. An added benefit is that AMD Opteron processors provide support for newly released 64-bit SAP software, making AMD Opteron processor-based servers a good choice as the deployment platform for additional SAP modules.

Pare down space, power and cooling requirements

When IT managers add more servers to the SAP solutions landscape – rather than consolidating onto fewer, more powerful ones − data center costs may increase. Adding servers can alleviate cooling and space requirements in the data center. These servers consume additional electricity and generate heat which can place strains on the cooling system within the data center. In many data centers, the amount of energy expended and heat dissipated limit the number of servers that can be mounted in a rack system and may require the company to obtain more floor space for housing additional racks.
Dual-Core AMD Opteron processors are designed to provide superior performance per watt, advantages that are not available in competitive x86 processors. In a typical 2P server configuration, AMD Opteron processors may consume 190 watts of power, compared to 300 watts for competitive dual-core x86 processors. The power efficiency of AMD Opteron processors can make cooling the data center more economical while also maximizing valuable floor space by enabling rack systems to be populated to increased levels.

High reliability

Along with the performance and price of servers, IT managers’ other chief concern is reliability. SAP has stringent reliability requirements that must be met in order to obtain an official SAP certification. SAP-certified servers powered by AMD Opteron processors are available from Egenera, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, HP, IBM, and Sun. These leading manufacturers also provide software tools to aid server reliability and enable the management of newer and older servers with a single toolset.
AMD’s server selection for its own SAP deployment was based on the ability to manage older servers alongside newer ones. Walter Smith acknowledged that by deploying HP ProLiant servers using AMD Opteron processors, there were no changes required to the systems management tools and processes. “Our team already uses HP Systems Insight Manager and Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) Advanced Pack, so we didn’t have to retrain. We could also use the same storage, application software, and backup and recovery solution. This benefit lowers our total cost of ownership”, he said.

SAP Benchmark results

SAP benchmark results

SAP benchmark results

SAP-certified servers using Dual-Core AMD Opteron processors provide a significant performance increase above competitive x86-based servers. Comparing the results of two-tier SAP Sales and Distribution (SD) Standard Application Benchmarks, AMD Opteron-based systems deliver the top three results on four-processor servers, and the top four results on two-processor servers. (Results as of 2/24/2006. For more information or latest benchmarks visit www.sap.com/benchmark)

Benchmarks quoted

Benchmarks quoted

In the two-tier SAP SD Standard Application Benchmark, the HP ProLiant DL585 with four Dual-Core AMD Opteron processors, running SAP R/3 Enterprise 4.7 on Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition (64-bit) and SQL Server 2000 (32-bit) delivers the leading result on four-processor servers with 1,772 SD benchmark users, or 8,900 SAPS (SAP Application Performance Standard). The nearest result using other x86-based dual-core processors in a four-processor server, delivered 1,345 users, or 6,750 SAPS. Dual-Core AMD Opteron based servers provide up to a 32 percent higher user and SAPS capacity over servers using other dual-core x86-based processors. As upgrading a SAP server infrastructure, this AMD Opteron Dual-Core performance advantage can translate into significantly fewer servers.

Mark Finkernagel

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