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Solaris ZFS, Managing your SAP Data

Solaris ZFS offers a dramatic advantage in data management and I wanted to share.  We have more and more customers using ZFS (coupled with Solaris Containers) that I wanted to take a moment to point to some good resources and share some info about it. 


Solaris ZFS is the only self-healing, self-managing general purpose file system on the market. It gives administrators enormous flexibility in managing multi-machine server implementations and takes the headache and risk out of planned downtime and upgrade sessions.


I can recall watching the results of this little experiment on the ZFS file system. A team of our researchers placed their entire research program on twelve (12) USB sticks and plugged them into a remote port, connected to a machine running ZFS. They then unplugged the USB sticks and randomly plugged the sticks back in to different ports. ZFS recreated the file system as it was originally assembled, irrespective of the location of the disk media.


You can imagine the implications of the USB experiment on a larger scale: if the motherboard on your disk-based machine fails, you can move the disks to a new machine, and ZFS will rebuild the volumes you created on the new machine with a single command.


Here are some other factors that make ZFS the ideal file system for your SAP implementation:


  • Administrative strength: ZFS automates and consolidates storage administration concepts such as “copy-on-write” and “snapshots” and can reduce administrative overhead costs by up to 80 percent.

  • Data integrity: Data is protected with a 64-bit checksum that preserves file paths and can correct silent data corruption. So if you write an object or an extension to the object, ZFS will either complete the task, guaranteed, or notify the operator that the extension did not execute. In its metadata layer, ZFS stores a complete history of your work, so that if an extension fails, you can revert to any previous version. It is nearly impossible for a file structure to become corrupted under ZFS.

  • Scalability: The 128-bit ZFS offers 16 billion times the capacity of 32- or 64-bit systems. That’s a lot of organizational power that will significantly increase the efficiency of your maintenance windows. And I know from talking to many of you that those maintenance windows aren’t getting longer, in fact, in many cases, they are getting shorter, as more and more application and network demands materialize.

  • Portability: You can play musical chairs with hardware all day, and ZFS will tirelessly replicate the file paths you have created. That is a huge advantage in today’s network administration workspaces, where the demands for hot swaps of hardware and virtual machines are greater than ever. The less time you have to spend reconstructing relationships between data structures and machines, the more time you have to expend on higher level activities such as research and development or supply chain improvements.

  • Replication: Perhaps most salient for SAP users, ZFS will allow you to clone any SAP system without downtime. For example, the “instant snapshot” feature will make copies of the blocks it writes to disk. So, if you wish to perform a database upgrade, you can create a snapshot of the existing database, and then begin the database upgrade on its clone. If you would like to pause or cancel the upgrade, a single command will return you to the working version of your database.


You can even use the “instant snapshot” feature on a live production system while it is conducting open transactions. Create a clone, perform an upgrade on the clone while the production system is still running, and the transactions that run on the production system during the upgrade are captured, and then relayed on to the upgraded (cloned) system. You won’t get full performance during this upgrade, but there will be no downtime that is detectable by the user, and, because you took a snapshot, you can recover the database.


In other words, technicians maintaining their SAP installations on Solaris can reap huge benefits from the ZFS file system and pass those benefits on to the end user. The irony of it is, this will be seamless to the end user who will never know what is going on. 


To learn more, download the whitepaper that uses concrete examples to describe the architecture of a system landscape based on Solaris Containers and Solaris ZFS technologies. This architecture allows enterprises running Solaris to operate an SAP environment at lower cost in a more flexible way, while retaining high availability.

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