SAP HANA: EMC IT Trailblazes Into the Unknown So You Don’t Have To

Sometimes, when your organization is leading the way in adopting bleeding-edge technology, you need to be a trail blazer to help to advance the innovation as an early adopter. EMC IT has a history of doing that, most recently with its groundbreaking deployment of SAP HANA in the Business Intelligence landscape.

EMC IT has hit a new milestone in its use of SAP HANA as part of its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) transformation, a good example of how such efforts can pay off for us and our customers. After three years of using an interim, standalone HANA appliance for its real-time reporting needs, Big Data Services has successfully incorporated the real-time environment into our main Business Warehouse (BW) environment on HANA.

The migration and consolidation of data over the past six months has resulted in a more agile, efficient and cost-effective data environment where both real-time and batch operations are performed from a central location. The move not only saved EMC an estimated one-time $1.5 million, the transition also allows EMC IT to reuse the capacity freed up by eliminating duplicate data sets to expand our burgeoning BW.

The transition underscores the partnership between EMC IT and SAP in developing cutting-edge technology incorporating both SAP and EMC innovations. With EMC IT’s help as an early adopter of its fledgling technology, SAP has been able to mature its revolutionary analytics platform, SAP HANA, into a stable environment for mission-critical data. EMC IT was also able to establish the effectiveness of its backup and recovery technology in conjunction with HANA.

Acting as a Pioneer

In mid-2012, when EMC launched the first phase of its ERP project—the largest in EMC’s history as well as one of the largest SAP deployments in the industry—the SAP HANA in-memory data platform was brand new. Rather than entrusting mission-critical data to the new platform, EMC IT stood up the SAP Sidecar platform to leverage HANA for its real-time reporting needs.

This separate platform meant that real-time reports that were requested hundreds of times a day—such as manufacturing backlog or sales bookings—could be done without taxing the main SAP ERP system. With Sidecar, such reports could be done faster and would not add to the Enterprise Central Component (ECC) load, avoiding the possible slowdown of critical functions such as entering or processing orders.

However, maintaining both the real-time Sidecar and the Business Warehouse required duplicating a substantial amount of transactional and source data, including static items such as customer and product dimensions.  With the stabilization of SAP HANA, it made sense to fold the real-time data into the BW environment and eliminate the duplicate data, which took about six months.

The first step was to upgrade BW to the 7.4 SP9 version to take advantage of the new features on HANA. We deployed SAP replication software System Landscape Transfer (SLT) to run on BW replacing our stand-alone SLT server.  Tables from ECC and other non-SAP sources are now replicated in real-time into a separate schema on BW on HANA.  Tables are replicated 8x faster as we are now running SLT on HANA, have upgraded SLT, and have introduced parallelism when loading. To further improve the replication speeds, and reduce data volumes we added filtering and simple data conversions to SLT.

During a six- to eight-week testing period, we worked with business clients to help them understand what turned out to be fairly minor changes in how they structure their report queries with the new system. We then did a dual report run using both data environments at the end of Q3, letting report users review the results to make sure they were comparable to their previous reports.  With the test completed successfully, EMC IT has recently eliminated the Sidecar environment and is continuing to blaze new trails in partnership with SAP.

Gaining IT Proven Insights

Being a pioneer in new IT technology does take time and sometimes requires us to find work-arounds to help stabilize new capabilities.

We had to push the boundaries of BW on HANA.  The new features— Open ODS views to marry the existing BW and replicated real time data as well as Composite Providers to join the ODS views to standard BW objects—did not come without issues.   EMC worked with SAP to stabilize the new functionality and have provided input into future development opportunities for SAP to further round-out this technology.

However, we at EMC IT are committed to being in the forefront of technological innovation to drive creative and efficient uses of the new technologies.

In this case, now we are able to provide full high availability (HA) and disaster recovery (DR) capabilities using EMC technologies for the real-time reporting, which wasn’t possible with the standalone Sidecar. To protect the existing SAP implementation, we have been leveraging an SRDF Star configuration to support replication of mission-critical data to an alternate data center to support a zero data loss solution for HANA. EMC IT was also able to establish the effectiveness of its backup and recovery technology in conjunction with HANA.

The graph above shows how SRDF on VMAX will protect, most notably, the HANA log directories synchronously to a bunker site, where they are then asynchronously replicated to the DR site.  This means that we don’t need to run full DR copies of the HANA nodes, enabling us to free up memory for use on other non-production / testing activities while in normal operations.

EMC IT was instrumental in driving IT innovation and paving the way with SAP HANA in the Business Intelligence space.    Customers going forward will be able to take advantage of a stabilized SAP HANA platform and can leverage our knowledge and expertise through the EMC IT Proven program to gain insights on our trail-blazing experience.

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