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SAP HANA Cloud expert panel – Ep 3: Tackling latency

A rapid response is not only desired but expected when dealing with SAP HANA databases and workloads. A HANA migration to Blue Chip Cloud doesn't just preserve this advantage, it vastly improves it. To explain, our expert panel go through the speed benefits users can expect.

Nayoka Oware

Disruptive Live presenter

David Spurway

IBM Power Systems CTO, UK & Ireland

Narendhar Tangella

Data Management Technical Architect, Blue Chip

Matt Lovell

CEO of Centiq

Nayoka Oware: Welcome back to Disruptive Live. I'm Nayoka Oware and today we will be discussing SAP HANA on the Blue Chip Cloud. I'm joined by three amazing guests, who happen to be experts as well! Matt Lovell from Centiq, Narendhar Tangella from Blue Chip and David Spurway from IBM, how are all of you doing?

Team: Very well! Great!

Nayoka: Wonderful. David, would I be right if I said that SAP HANA requires persistent storage as it is an in-memory database?

David Spurway: Excellent question, so, as you quite rightly say, SAP HANA works in memory, therefore the vast majority of the transactions take place inside the memory of the system itself. However, to be able to make sure that you can survive any kind of outage, you need to be able to have the answers and results that come out of that, deployed on to some form of storage that persists, should there be any kind of failure. So yes, you do need to have some persistent storage as part of your solution and the speed of that storage can be critical depending on what you're doing.

Nayoka: Thank you. What type of storage system and network would you recommend?

David: Well, we do find that there are different requirements, so as you deploy your SAP HANA instance, it's very possible that you might want to be very fast, that also combined potentially with reliability. The Power boxes, have a very long-standing and very justified reputation for being very very resistant to failures, they stay up and running a lot. But they aren't entirely fault-tolerant, it is possible for these elements to fall over. And therefore we talked earlier at different points about the needs, that if your customer has a requirement to keep things up and running, to the absolute maximum, they may need to have the ability to survive a failure of a server. At that point, if you're using fast external storage to be able to move across and you're able to move from a failed server to one that's still running, bring things back up and running and then the speed of that storage, if it's the sort of thing that can be very fast flash, if it can be that sort of element, you can get the information off the disks, up into memory, very very quickly and be back up and running at that point. Similarly, on the networking, you asked about the networking side, that very much depends on how many questions you're asking of this deployment at the time. If there's a lot of 'in/out' traffic taking place, you may need a very high-performance network to be able to handle that. If you have something that's sitting there, pondering things in the background if you will, it might need quite so much of the 'in/out' and the network might not be so critical. So as is very common in IT terms, 'it depends' would be the precise answer, but very high-performance on the external side can be very important.

Nayoka: Great, thank you for that. That helps. And Narendhar, what type of storage system and network would you recommend?

Narendhar Tangella: Anything really that provides low latency, because the memory, the Random Access Memory provides latencies of tens of nanoseconds really, so we really need a fast type of storage, especially the flash systems, or storage-class memory types, which are relatively new. But anything that can provide tens of microseconds to hundreds of microseconds, as opposed to tens of milliseconds, is a good fit for SAP HANA workloads.

Nayoka: Thank you! Matt, would you recommend internal or external storage?

Matt Lovell: I think for many customers, particularly as systems grow and what we've seen is a very significant acceleration in the growth of the size of HANA databases and customers are often challenged by two factors, and the first is the platform and the platform sizing and provisioning.
The second is more of a cost one, optimising the amount and the return on the investment. And HANA is often a very significant cost to the business and a significant investment, both in terms of platform and software licensing. So, customers should consider both internal and external storage, and we've had great advances, both in terms of SSD and flash disk in terms of that being directly supported, whether local to HANA, in terms of the appliance or the server, or indeed external storage. But, to David's point, I think another consideration we've got to have is if we wish to run HANA through multiple datasets and data loads, what customers might be doing is loading and unloading data. And that puts an additional reliance in the design upon the speed of that network and the storage connection. So they're important considerations for any customer, particularly as their business grows and the HANA investment or the HANA platform needs to take that growth into account, so it's going to be working harder but we need to manage the data that it's actually working on at that point in time.

Nayoka: Wonderful, thank you for that. Narendhar, back to you. It seems as though there are some restrictions in place as we have to keep our business data in the UK, which may be holding us back just a little bit! Is there an SAP cloud offering that could work for us?

Narendhar: Yes, absolutely! Blue Chip is a PCI-DSS accredited services provider, we have secure data centres. We secure the data using data-addressed encryption technologies and we have compliance standards that we strictly adhere to. We take a lot of care in making sure that customers are comfortable, holding their data, because it's really critical. We've seen a number of examples in the recent times what would happen if the data is lost and the data is not encrypted, it could, with the recent GDPR regulation, it could be a huge burden on businesses if they don't pay attention to data protection. So, therefore Blue Chip really invests a lot of money to make sure that the data is highly secure.

Nayoka: Wonderful, that's great to hear. And can we use storage-based data reduction capabilities for SAP HANA?

Narendhar: As David mentioned, it depends on the workload, it depends on the response time required, the latency requirements, but yes, absolutely. There are quite good flash systems from IBM that does data reduction capabilities, built into the system itself with no additional penalty on latencies, so, yes, absolutely, you could use software-based encryption. There's always some sort of compromise using software-based compression techniques, but, it could work. So, absolutely! It could save money, it could save a lot of money for customers, especially if they've got compressable workloads. We could use compression techniques, with less cost and still provide great performance.

Nayoka: You've said the magic words again! Saving money, less costs. Everything we want to hear! Lastly, this is a question for all of you gentlemen. Let's start with you David. What sort of read/write latency is acceptable?

Narendhar: Part of it, again, a very common IT answer is 'it depends', but if what we're doing, after all, is doing almost all the work inside of memory, then the majority of what happens is when you just write the answers down on to the disk and at that point it doesn't need to be so critical and I don't want you to move very very fast. If we're doing lots of movement on the data, however, if we're doing lots of transference, then the kind of latencies, do become very important, and again, we, IBM, can provide those kinds of infrastructures and then we see them deployed inside of the Blue Chip Cloud. Precise numbers I think can vary, but the very high speed can be important and we can deliver that when required.

Nayoka: Wonderful!

David: Can I pass that over?

Nayoka: Yes, please, to Narendhar.

Narendhar: Yeah, tens of microseconds would be a better response time for the majority of the applications. Current data applications do require tens of microseconds as opposed to milliseconds of latency. But the vendors are really geared up to provide that sort of latency and there's hyper-converged clouds as well, so everything is tidily linked together to provide the greatest performance for the most demanding workloads.

Nayoka: And last but not least, Matt.

Matt: So, I think it's really important for customers to think about cloud in terms of, if the workload dynamic changes, you know, the relationship between the amount of memory, the speed of memory and the processor and what might drive that is a business suddenly does more analysis on their data or they have a more analytical sequence of steps that they need to perform on the data, they need greater understanding of value from the data, then they can change the dynamic of the platform in the cloud. And they've got a proven methodology and sizing related to how IBM approaches this with SAP and how that's deployed within Blue Chip, that gives them the confidence to know how that needs to scale out and they can just replace those building blocks with the same implementation principles and with the same managed service wrap around it from all three partners.

David: And if I could just add on to that if I could, as the ratio as you say, of the memory and the processors, is something that we see as being to able to add differentiation again with the Power platform. We can do more memory to a processor, given the kind of architecture we're working with than anybody else can. Therefore we can actually deliver a kind of difference there. We can also deliver the scale, we can get bigger and we indeed have customers demanding bigger and bigger from us, all the time because they need that kind of scale and we're the ones able to deliver that. And SAP agreed, which is why they've been giving us a series of awards over the last number of years because we can keep driving that forward and customers can test it out, work with SAP to prove it works and then get that support and move forward from there. So yes, the building blocks are there and we can deliver them together.

Nayoka: Thank you, with all of this knowledge being imparted, I feel like a bit of expert myself now! Thank you for your time gentlemen, that's all we have time for. Unfortunately, that's all we have time for, but do join us again as we discuss SAP HANA on the Blue Chip Cloud. Thank you for watching!