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IT Harmonization & TCO Reduction using Virtualization, Commodity Infrastructure & Private Cloud

There’s nothing new about consolidating IT infrastructure, any good datacentre manager does it on a regular basis as a matter of course. This is generally hardware focussed and the applications tend to be impacted as little as possible. More recently, however, there has been a more acute focus on IT infrastructure consolidation and harmonization to drive cost reduction and increase operational efficiency from the CIO level rather than as an IT initiative. Reduced budgets are driving CIO’s to focus in on consolidation from both an application perspective but also from a hardware and from an infrastructure perspective.

So, how do you achieve this in the context of SAP? Well, there are plenty of schools of thought on the subject ranging from going to a shared application infrastructure to removing apps altogether.

Put simply, if you could achieve the same or greater infrastructure resilience as you get on your big expensive hardware, whilst moving to a commodity platform, increasing agility, reducing operational overhead AND reducing the maintenance costs of your SAP software, all the while reducing your footprint from physical server and therefore datacentre and environmental perspective, would you not leap at the opportunity? No, you wouldn’t because you’re a wily old fox and you know that there’s a catch somewhere…

Let me explain. I would hope that if you’re reading this blog, you know SAP is a tier 1 application, it holds your business’ transactional data, employee information, business partner interactions and a bunch of other information that is critical to the day-to-day running of your company’s back and front office operations. Further, if you’re running SAP Business Suite you’re unlikely to be an SMB but rather in the Medium to Enterprise class. Naturally, you lock your SAP system away, you keep it running as best you can on the best hardware you can afford and you don’t let any numpty out there touch it without good reason. Perfectly understandable, I would do the same thing and further, I would make sure I’m prioritising my budget toward the tier 1 business applications and ensuring that they are safe, before I start thinking about other applications in the landscape which are of a lower priority.

So, in a nutshell, it’s not going to be easy to take SAP as an application in your landscape, and tell the business that you’re going to put it on a cheaper platform, or try this now thing called virtualization, which some people still believe is an experimental technology, not ready for the enterprise. So, you have a business critical application that you’re used to running in a configuration that you’ve deployed on either high end hardware, or bare metal commodity hardware that ultimately leaves you inflexible. What to do?

Enter HIT – our reference architecture for a highly automated, standardized, low cost, high resilience, agile SAP deployment. HIT stands for Harmonization service for IT cost reduction (blame Marketing 🙂 ). So we have an acronym, what does it actually translate into? Well, it’s more than just a reference architecture. It combines a low cost infrastructure deployment, with a number of tools for the management of your SAP environment. Think of your entire SAP stack, from the servers, storage and switches all the way up through your OS, DB, Application right up to the management and automation of your application lifecycle and operations.

Why a reference architecture? Simply because SAP is platform agnostic we tend to recommend that customers chose to run SAP on a platform  that the business is most comfortable with to ensure that SAP is accepted and supported in the IT organisation with as little change as possible. However, what tends to happen is that customers and SI’s supporting their deployment will take a traditional view of deploying tier 1 applications and go for something that they view as being significantly more robust than say a commodity platform or an “experimental technology” such as virtualization, and deploy on this architecture without considering any of the other options. Linux is a prime example, I once heard a customer quote along the lines of “Why would I run my SAP system on something that comes free on the front of a magazine?” Yet, Linux is an immensely capable OS, backed by some of the largest Software Vendors out there and currently the OS of choice for a lot of SAP’s Enterprise customers who have nothing but good things to say about it.

Simply put, if you want to make a significant TCO reduction in your SAP estate (and when I say significant I’m talking about real-world, reference-able numbers in the order of 50-80%) you have to challenge the misconceptions that may or may-not exist within your organisation. The only way to do that is to start talking about your deployment with nothing left off the table and leverage examples of similar organisations who started off in the same place you are in right now. Otherwise, how can you honestly expect to make any progress? Let’s talk…

Craig Gray

Virtualization & Cloud Services Lead, EMEA

SAP Cloud & Virtualization Services


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      Former Member

      Well written document Craig !. The thoughts are clearly articulated. What I feel is the most import aspect of any customer going for cloud implementation outside their premise is the 'trust' factor. The trust between the cloud provider and the customer. The underlying technology , the TCO reduction, bottomline - all play a secondary role here. Customers always looks for a trusted partnership with the cloud service providers in terms of data security , then the next immediate priority will be availability and performance.