Gartner’s latest worldwide survey of CIO agendas confirmed a shift in enterprise IT spend toward digitalisation of business processes. CIOs are refocusing their investment plans in response to digital business, with IT decision-makers already spending 18 per cent of their budget in support of digitalisation (set to increase to 28 per cent by 2018). The more successful the enterprise surveyed, the more money allocated to digitalisation.
The desire to become more deeply integrated into the digital ecosystem is driving uptake of database-driven decision-support tools, evidenced by adoption of SAP’s HANA in-memory data processing platform – a success story that, as its ThinkSystem SR950 and System x3950 server lines are the preferred hardware platforms, Lenovo shares.
For high-performance analytics, SAP HANA delivers performance levels that greatly exceed those of conventional database platforms. This is a compelling opportunity for businesses that need to be more agile and have more actionable intelligence to stay competitive, as Moor Insights & Strategy explains. It points out that business cycles “no longer allow the luxury of pondering data”: decisions must be made in real-time; decision-makers need to instantly access, model and analyse data as actionable information arrives via a widening range of inputs and sources.
But the compute power necessary to achieve the ‘instant access’ demanded by digitalised business processes pushes beyond the limits many IT architectures are constrained by. To deliver all it is capable of, SAP HANA must run on high-performance hardware that is design-optimised for its way of working. Achieving this entails more than the installation of extra high-spec servers to the IT estate. The challenge is also in bringing high-end database-driven analytics applications within reach of more enterprises with quantifiable ROI assurance.
As more SAP customers transition to HANA, analytics application workloads will expand way beyond current levels. Data growth, simultaneous with uptake of real-time operations, will intensify stresses on underlying platforms.
Lenovo is ahead of this change curve because of its special relationship with key technology players, specifically SAP, across a range of solutions. Lenovo knows that HANA demands high-performance IT because the performance characteristics of its in-memory database architecture are closer to the world of application-focused supercomputers than to typical multi-application IT environments.
But migrations to SAP HANA must still establish quantifiable ROI. It leads the argument that some precepts that have traditionally defined ROI should be reconsidered. ROI should no longer be mainly defined by a ‘bang for buck’ metric.
With a move toward high-performance computing that’s concomitant with a high-delivery platform like SAP HANA, other determinants, such as software-defined memory scaling, multi-generational processor upgradability and RAS (reliability, availability and serviceability) come further into play, and must be factored into ROI evaluations.
This key understanding informs Lenovo’s product engineering. For instance, Lenovo server platforms are designed for processor upgrades so that only core components are upgraded, and not entire hardware units. This feature, combined with Lenovo’s rival-beating scale-out configurations for both 4-processor and 8-processor server options, lowers CAPEX/OPEX levels across compute estates of any-sized enterprise. In fact, as analyst Quark + Lepton says in its comparison of costs and effectiveness of Lenovo System x for SAP HANA deployment, Lenovo’s x3850/x3950 X6 and SR950 ThinkSystem solutions for SAP HANA are “not only the most cost effective – over 20 per cent less costly on average for both scale-up and scale-out – but Lenovo servers also lead in customer satisfaction, technical support, overall uptime and availability according to ITIC’s 2015-2016 Global Server Hardware, Server OS Reliability Report”.
Another ROI factor is that, thanks for their IBM lineage, Lenovo’s System x and ThinkSystem servers are the only SAP-certified appliances built around the IBM Spectrum Scale, the parallel file system that has shown near-linear scalability in very large configurations. In comparison, XFS and NFS variants deployed by other server brands have shown more limited results, as Quark + Lepton also points out.
A wider view on ROI with ThinkSystem and System x
The close value relationship between Lenovo and SAP that ROI projections must take account of goes beyond optimised hardware provision. Another area where Lenovo offers enhanced support is in RAS, and its role in assuring uptime and server/system availability.
Lenovo server systems are designed to incorporate features that support SAP HANA high availability (HA) and disaster recovery (DR) features. In addition, x3850/x3950 systems are deployed with 70 RAS features to ensure high availability and seamless disaster recovery for unsurpassed business continuity.
These issues have always been critical to business operations, but in the real-time analytics environment, a few seconds of service degradation could result in a few million in lost revenue. The ITIC report found that 98 per cent of organisations said an hour of downtime costs over $100,000; 81 per cent said over $300,000; and a record 33 per cent said downtime costs exceed $1m–$5m.
Lenovo ThinkSystem SR950, Lenovo x3850 X6 and Lenovo x3950 X6 RAS
The importance of these features is key to establishing proven ROI superiority for Lenovo. Lenovo has engineered multiple-levels RAS functionality across its server product lines to ensure SAP HANA availability, and thus the ultimate expectation for business continuity.
Lenovo ThinkSystem SR950 and System x3850 X6 and x3950 X6 servers feature advanced RAS subsystems that work to deliver SAP HA, DR and Lenovo RAS benefits. The x3950 X6’s self-healing technology, for example, proactively identifies potential failures and takes necessary corrective actions. Standard RAS strengths have been incorporated into processor generations from another Lenovo technology partner, Intel, to strengthen error prevention, and to facilitate rapid error detection and correction capabilities. Intel’s Run Sure Technology is available on Intel Xeon E7-4800/8800 v4 processors used in the Lenovo System x3850 X6 and Lenovo System x3950 X6 models. Run Sure functions include MCA consumed error recovery, dual device data correction for memory, UPI faildown, and PCIe live error recovery.
Moreover, Lenovo platform designs ensure higher availability system monitoring and correction features, such as automated processor failover, automated memory page sorting and page retire, automated firmware backup, and advanced transaction recovery.
Lenovo X6 models include at least one storage controller for the internal disk drives, like the Intel S3710 400 GB Enterprise Performance SSDs. Dependent on the memory size of a given workload-optimised solution, there are also one or more controllers for external storage expansion enclosures. The SSD caching option of these controllers enables the SSDs to be configured as a dedicated pool of controller cache to help maximise the I/O performance by accelerating the performance of HDD arrays with only an incremental investment in SSD technology.
And Lenovo server systems are also differentiated by their industry-unique physical architectures that optimise modular autonomy, which reduces service time and enables redundancy support during component failures or planned maintenance. Modularity enhancements include compute books, storage books, I/O books, power supplies and fans. In addition to the above X6 RAS features, Lenovo XClarity, a new centralised systems management solution, further increases RAS for Lenovo servers.
Lenovo is a seasoned SAP HANA leader with more than 7200 deployments worldwide running on Lenovo platforms. Lenovo has customers – Calloway golf company and Freudenberg IT (FIT) are great use-case examples – that are already demonstrating ROI gains due to early investment in SAP HANA/Lenovo technologies, so it has the expertise to help SAP and Lenovo customers on their HANA journeys.