Grid technology distributes computing capacity across a network made up of many individual PCs, which enables business software to be managed more simply, cost-effectively, and securely. This increases the effectiveness of investments in additional hardware, and in some cases no extra investment is needed at all. The service-oriented and scaleable design of the mySAP Business Suite solutions makes them ideally suited to a grid architecture. The flexible infrastructure of SAP NetWeaver enables application services to be launched decoupled from a fixed hardware base – they are essentially “virtualized”. The FlexFrame for mySAP infrastructure solution, launched by Fujitsu Siemens Computers around three years ago, provides functions that make life in the grid easier and more secure. Professional integration at the customer’s end is ensured by the implementation partner NYX3 GmbH.
Adaptive Computing provides transparency
The technological leap made by SAP AG from the classical client/server architecture in SAP R/3 to the Enterprise Services Architecture of the mySAP Business Suite put the topic of adaptive computing, which has been in discussion for around 20 years, back on the agenda. In classical IT environments, each required service is assigned to a specific server, meaning that a rigid relationship exists between a particular server and an SAP component, for example. Each new SAP component requires a new server. Replacing an existing server with a new one is laborious, expensive, and causes downtime in live operation.
While the component-oriented client/server architecture enabled all instances of databases and applications to be combined on a small, manageable number of servers, Enterprise Services Architecture requires them to be rebuilt for each additional service. In classical IT infrastructures, this would mean adding additional hardware.
Adaptive Computing, or the SAP Adaptive Computing Controller (SAP ACC) to be more precise, virtualizes the SAP services, that is, it loads them on to individual servers in real time or recalls them as required. Each defined service is assigned a virtual IP address and a host name on installation, enabling it to be launched on any available server. Using a simple command, the administrator can stop a service, such as a database, on server A and restart it on server B. The FlexFrame solution supports all functions of the SAP ACC and enhances its functional scope. For example, the entire SAP environment and all services – older SAP R/3 releases can also be integrated – can be kept permanently available via autonomous monitoring and control agents. A server can be replaced by another in the shortest possible time, without any changes being needed to the configuration files. The network for such applications consists of four logically separate individual networks, ensuring that no bottlenecks occur. Servers are maintained in separate pools. A pool that permits common use of the servers can be set up for each customer or department, for instance.
Agents and instruments of centralization
The primary components of the FlexFrame solution are the application nodes, NetApp Filer, and control nodes.
1. Application nodes – central operating system
In a FlexFrame configuration, the server systems on which one or more services run are termed the application nodes. All SAP-certified servers of the Primergy (Linux) and Primepower (Solaris) product ranges can be used for this purpose. These application nodes are booted via the network using the central operating system (Linux or Solaris), which exists as a copy on the common storage device (Network Appliance Filer) and is installed with read-only access. Booting a common operating system via the network and the exclusive read-only access prevent unwanted manipulation. Even if an unauthorized user is able to gain access to the operating system of an application node, he or she cannot make any changes.
If a new server is added, it can be integrated easily into the existing server topology, connected to the network and power supply, and made available to all SAP services via the control nodes. It is therefore quickly available for selection as a medium for booting in the network, without the administrator having to install an operating system or other software components on it.
2. NetApp Filer – central storage system
The NetApp Filers from FlexFrame are connected to the server systems via an IP network. All key operations in the file system occur on the central storage device and no longer on the individual servers. Data security is enhanced via special functions: the SnapShot function creates online backups like a screenshot and enables access to previous data versions within minutes. SnapRestore offers much the same for previous versions of a file system within a few seconds.
3. Control nodes – monitoring and high availability
All functions required for operating a FlexFrame infrastructure are integrated in the control nodes: booting from the network (Net Boot Service), data backup, and high availability agents for the application nodes and the SAP services. The control nodes each consist of two servers that are grouped independently of the application nodes. They ensure that all services required for the operation of FlexFrame and SAP solutions are available at all times.
Autonomous high-availability agents that contain specific knowledge about the resources required by the SAP services have been developed for the FlexFrame solution. For instance, they monitor the process list every few minutes at runtime to assess whether the SAP services have all been started, i.e. whether they are available.
Efficient operation of SAP solutions
Analyses that Bearing Point business consultants have conducted of their customers confirm that FlexFrame can reduce operating costs by as much as 60 percent. The average return on investment is less than 20 months. The modularity of the solution means that technical innovations can be integrated easily and realized economically. Only a single operating system needs to be maintained and changes only have to be performed once. The more application nodes a customer uses, the greater the savings in administration costs that can be achieved using these functions. Enhancements to an existing cluster of application nodes do not require any modifications to the configuration. There is also no need for complex testing.
The FlexFrame functions decouple SAP services from operating systems and servers. SAP services can be moved from one server to another within a matter of minutes. FlexFrame solutions can be used to stop SAP services that are not required. The resources freed up can then be deployed flexibly for other SAP services. For example, one server can run the payroll at the end of the month and then act as an additional application server for planning runs in production planning or for reporting within a data warehouse solution. This flexibility enables companies to provide SAP services to users and customers on demand and instantaneously.
For further information: www.fujitsu-siemens.de/flexframe