Why EMC IT Virtualized SAP HANA with VMware™

As our IT transformation journey here within EMC IT has been largely predicated on the benefits of virtualization, we continue to fold this strategy into our new implementations.  After going live with a “greenfield” SAP ERP implementation in 2012, we have more recently been focusing on enabling our business users and analytics through SAP HANA.  Not surprisingly, we are actively leveraging the power of VMware to support our SAP HANA rollout.

Many of the benefits of running SAP on a virtual platform apply to Virtualized HANA as well:

  • Cost and resource management (CAPEX and OPEX), leading to increased ROI
  • Increased flexibility and agility to quickly adjust to changing demands
  • Embedded High Availability
  • Efficiencies in automation

While we were certainly aware that there could be some minimal performance impacts of running Virtualized HANA versus a “traditional” physical appliance (yes, quotes are intentional), we felt that the operational and cost benefits far outweigh these impacts.  And as a service provider, does it matter?  The business users are abstracted from physical versus Virtualized HANA… and the advantages they’ve gained from a simple migration from a traditional RDBMS to Virtualized HANA have proven substantial.


SAP’s Business Planning and Consolidations (BPC) application is an online analytical processing (OLAP) engine, running on the same technology stack as SAP’s more versed Business Warehouse (BW) solution.  In fact, some customers choose to run BPC as an ’embedded’ application within BW, providing a consolidated footprint.  Within EMC IT, we chose to run BPC as a standalone engine, allowing for more flexibility and agility around maintenance and automation, as well as better performance.  Being a relatively small database (approximately 300 GB) and an OLAP engine, SAP BPC was a logical first target for migrating to SAP HANA.

We had been actively running operational reports on a “traditional” HANA appliance for over 18 months, so we were familiar with the technology.  As we’ve eluded to at events like SAPWeek and SAP TechEd, building skills is essential to realizing the benefit of SAP HANA, so we were ready to start expanding our HANA footprint.

Cost Management

Like many customers running SAP BPC as a ‘standalone’ engine, our implementation was running on smaller database.  Virtualizing SAP HANA for our BPC implementation allowed us to control costs and run with only the required memory footprint, versus a gross over-allocation of resources on the appliance-based model.  For example, the appliance we have in-house runs 512 GB memory per node, but after compression, BPC needed only 200 GB of memory (with room for growth).  So a more simplistic single node instance of Virtualized HANA was more than sufficient.  This deployment model allowed us to leverage existing VBlock converged infrastructure which was already SAP TDI (tailore

SAP HANA imagery

d data center integration) certified.  Additionally, Virtualized HANA allows for flexible elasticity to expand within the infrastructure, not bound to the physical limitations of an appliance.

Ultimately, this has led to lower entry cost on our SAP HANA investment.  Beyond this BPC implementation, we have also been able to leverage smaller Virtualized HANA instances to support other environments such as training, proof of concepts, and custom application development.

Performance and Business value

As it relates to a transition to in-memory computing, isn’t the bottom line benefit about performance?  The advantages of running SAP BPC on Virtualized HANA versus the previous RDBMS supported application have been significant.  Improvements in data retrieval activities have been greater than 400%, supporting compelling efficiencies in the analytics space.  The decision and business justification to run Virtualized HANA was based on the comparison to the application on the previous RDBMS, not on the comparison between physical hardware and virtual infrastructure.  Ultimately, this has led to more forecasting iterations and therefore results with a higher level of predictability and confidence for our planning business.

Business Use Case

From the start, it was our intention to provide our internal customers and users a performance and response-time optimized environment.  By increasing the performance significantly, we would provide concrete business efficiencies. Even though EMC IT’s strategy is to fully virtualize the entire SAP landscape, we had to show the value of using SAP HANA as a platform. The deployment of a smaller virtualized SAP module is the first step towards larger deployments of SAP HANA and a true justification of further investments to come. We started small, but are still thinking big in terms of SAP HANA.

High Availability

Implementing SAP HANA in a virtualized environment also allowed EMC IT to take advantage of many of VMware’s capabilities and functions.  One clear example of this has been in the high availability space.  While mission critical applications tend to require more costly clustering solutions to support “5 9’s” (99.999%), our general benchmark for VMware-based HA is that it provides “3 9’s” High Availability (99.9%), out-of-the-box.  Not only will this provide ample availability for business supporting applications, but also natively ensures availability of all non-production systems. Leveraging the VMware-based HA solution is allowing for higher ROI.  

Roadmap ahead

We have visions of continuing to leverage Virtualized HANA for downstream SAP applications planned for migration to SAP HANA, both in OLAP and OLTP applications.  By implementing a storage-based replication strategy to support zero data loss Disaster Recovery solutions, we foresee further management of costs with a reduced compute footprint in the DR instances.  As opposed to SAP’s current offering of a HANA DB-level replication of transactions, which requires significant ‘standby’ compute at your DR site, a storage-level replication solution will allow for reduced DR operational costs.


It’s no secret that SAP is positioning HANA as the backbone of their future innovation roadmap.  Many SAP customers are struggling to forecast ROI on potential HANA investments, as the licensing and infrastructure costs can be daunting.  While there will be short term limitations (we fully expect HANA to be a mainstream offering within the next 5 years), virtualizing SAP HANA allows a reduced infrastructure demand and thus cost management.  From my recent experiences and observations within various customer conversations and conference engagements, there is significant interest in this space.  Hopefully we can continue to collaborate with other SAP & EMC customers on opportunities to deploy Virtualized SAP HANA, leveraging the true tenants of cloud computing.

For more information, please read the latest white paper: SAP HANA in an EMC Private Cloud

About the Author: Michael Harding