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Author's profile photo Mike Nelson

What makes SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) the best operating environment for SAP infrastructures?

Anyone who has evaluated and ultimately selected SAP enterprise software over the years has probably noticed SAP’s marked “hands-off” approach to operating system and hardware selection. That’s not to say SAP doesn’t have an opinion – or many opinions – on the topic, it’s just that as a rule they have been wise enough not to engage on this front. System selection for SAP infrastructure has often been fraught with politics, coupled with vendors’ marketing muscle and salesmanship, sometimes ahead of true capabilities.  The SAP message to customers might be summed up this way: “If there’s an established infrastructure offering that’s suitable for your most critical business transactions and data, we’ll know about it and we’ll work with those vendors to make sure it’s fully supported. You, the customer, must decide which to choose.”

This approach has led to a remarkable variety of well-supported options for SAP’s diverse, global customer base.  From mainframe deployments all the way across the spectrum to 2-processor x86 servers running Windows, SAP has been an avid supporter of choice, and not just on the OS and server platform, but extending to storage and network hardware and software as well.

For all its inherent goodness and fairness, this approach has also allowed some SAP application deployments to become incredibly complex, difficult to maintain and costly to support. In fact, as SAP hatched their game plan for the SAP Business Warehouse Accelerator (SAP BWA), one of the risks they must have considered is that the success of SAP in the future would be affected by the particular system platforms on which it might be deployed.

Development leads and executives must have weighed the goodwill cost of restricting of the platform against the prospect that the failure of the first few dozen installations to prove reliable and game-changing for early adopters based on factors not under SAP’s control would likely harm the SAP HANA brand.  So they opted for an out-of-character, tightly-defined infrastructure recipe instead.   Only integrated x86 servers, with tested, pre-configured storage and networking components would be allowed to be sold as an appliance including the SAP HANA licenses. And they would all run on one operating system:  SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES).

With this one seemingly simple decision, SAP at once recognized the impact that open source software methods have already had on 21st century business computing.  They selected a Linux vendor and distribution that was not the global market leader, but one that had proven to be rock solid, performant and exceptionally well-supported.  SLES is the Linux distro that SAP developers had been working especially closely with since the late 1990’s.  SAP also must have seen that SUSE’s objectives were well-aligned with their own: SAP wouldn’t be forced into competing with their infrastructure software vendor, whether it be in the area of virtualization technology or web-based app development and deployment.  SAP NetWeaver as the technology platform supporting ABAP and Java would continue to be positioned as the #1 choice for SAP shops.

SAP again caused a stir – but probably few surprises – when they announced in February at the New York Stock Exchange that the centerpiece of the next-generation “S/4” product family would be the SAP HANA database technology.  Mixed environments will continue to be sold and supported for years into the future, but S/4 requires SAP HANA (and therefore Linux).  SAP has also eased its policies surrounding SAP HANA: Red Hat Enterprise Linux support was announced in 2014 and the “TDI” program (for Tailored Datacenter Integration) allows certified end user organizations, system vendors and integrators to build HANA solutions from an increasingly broad mix of components, and to do this on-premise rather than demanding it be done in the factory at the likes of HP, Lenovo, Dell and Cisco.

So, with all that history behind us, we’ll make a case for your choosing SUSE Linux Enterprise Server as your SAP HANA or S/4 HANA deployment platform.

Key benefits for SAP customers:

Excellent track record for SUSE + SAP…Approximately70% of SAP deployments on Linux are now on SLES, while as of June 2015, 99% of SAP HANA deployments are on SLES.

Commitment to collaboration –SUSE has engineers, architects and developers onsite in the SAP LinuxLab where they work very closely with SAP. This is the capstone on a collaborative tradition that has been in place since 1999. It was that collaboration which in 2011 led to the introduction of SLES for SAP Applications – the first Linux operating system made for SAP. Some of the advances that have been borne out of this collaborative environment which are now available within SLES for SAP Applications include:

  • Installation Wizard – SAP Installations have been simplified with a well-designed script written in concert with SAP product managers.
  • High Availability – Resource Agents for failover automation for all supported SAP HANA failover scenarios: Cost optimized, Performance optimized and Chain.
  • The SAP HANA Firewall –  secures your SAP HANA environment with a few clicks
  • SAP Priority Support – the one-stop shop for support for your SAP on SLES infrastructure. Open a call with SAP and all involved parties work behind the scene to find a solution for you in a timely manner.
  • Page Cache Management – this allows SAP applications to have data to stay resident in memory – operating system memory usage is actively limited in favor of SAP’s utilization of those resources.

Compatibility with your long-range transition plan that may include working with Microsoft, VMware and Oracle.  Microsoft and VMware favor SLES over the other players in the Linux market, while SUSE and Oracle have a long-standing record of mutual support.


SUSE and SAP continue to extend their long record of professional collaboration with a new and innovative approach to infrastructure (platform) support.  SAP is focusing its energies even more specifically on business applications and customer outcomes. By enhancing support for the Linux operating environment, they’re allowing customers to pay attention to their other priorities. And SAP finds itself able to devote more resources to mobile application development and support, for instance.  Myriad computer architectures will continue to be supported, but in more and more cases, the OS part of the solution will be Linux, and SUSE will certainly make every effort to keep its SAP customers happy and coming back for more SLES.

Special thanks to my SUSE colleague, Hannes Kuehnemund, Sr. Product Manager SUSE Linux Enterprise, for his help reviewing and editing this article.

– Mike Nelson  |   Partner Executive for SAP @ SUSE 

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      Former Member

      My pleasure Mike!