If your company isn’t one of the 6,400 reported to be using SAP HANA as of June 2015, chances are good you wish it were. Like many companies though, your company may be postponing the move the SAP HANA because internal implementations can take a lot of time and require a significant investment.
Why SAP HANA?
Traditional SAP infrastructures use disk-based storage, and mission-critical IT systems are run separately for each other. Those systems include those for SAP enterprise-resource-planning (ERP), customer-relationship-management (CRM), and supply-chain-management (SCM) systems. The separation helps ensure that the performance of non-mission-critical systems or processes doesn’t disrupt the performance of mission-critical ones, which can happen due to performance delays caused by the inherent latency of disk-storage.
SAP HANA moves items off the disk and into random access memory (RAM), which speeds up data queries by reducing latency and allows both online transaction processing (OLTP) and online analytical processing (OLAP) to run on a single platform. The significantly increased processing speeds compared to a traditional disk-based platform enable real-time data analysis.
To SAP HANA in a Flash
There are solutions that allow companies to bypass the time and cost barriers of implementing SAP HANA internally while still realizing all of the benefits of using SAP HANA—some solutions provide these benefits without an organization even needing to migrate. Such solutions run SAP HANA or virtualized SAP HANA on all-flash storage, or all-flash array, instead of disk storage. All-flash array uses solid state storage disks comprised of multiple flash memory drives rather than traditional hard disk drives. So there are no moving parts.
All-flash array delivers faster, more consistent speed than disk storage, which eliminates the need to run mission-critical and non-mission-critical applications separately. OLTP and OLAP can run on a single all-flash array platform—even for SAP solutions other than SAP HANA. Companies can get the faster speed made possible by SAP HANA for SAP itself—simply by ditching the disk. And while SAP HANA can be run on any storage solution, all-flash array enables it to run even faster.
Added benefits of all-flash array are that it can be used in combination with traditional disk storage, so companies can add flash storage as quickly or only as needed. Companies can even run SAP HANA simultaneously with other SAP solutions using all-flash array—alone or in combination with disk storage—without the time and cost required for a typical internal implementation for SAP HANA.
The Pure Storage All-Flash Play
Several companies, including VMware, HP, IBM, and SUSE, offer virtualized SAP solutions using all-flash array. Pure Storage is one company that has recently caught our attention because of its mix of marketing savvy combined with sound technology and what seems to be a solid understanding of customer needs.
Pure Storage’s product offerings include all-flash storage as either a point storage solution, called FlashArray//m, or as a converged-infrastructure solution, called FlashStack. Pure Storage FlashArray//m is an appliance, whereas FlashStack is a bundle of components, including a Cisco server and a FlashArray//m appliance. In addition to these solutions, Pure Storage promotes a host of branded features and services—such as Evergreen Storage that allows customers to upgrade for 10 years. It also touts both inline deduplication and compression, which helps maximize—or minimize—the amount of data stored, thereby minimizing the capacity that has to be purchased.
The Potential Benefits of Virtualized SAP Solutions, including SAP HANA on a Pure Storage Flash Solution
Pure Storage claims to run SAP software 10x faster on its solutions than SAP software runs on a traditional disk-based storage platform. And because any IT implementation needs storage, there’s nothing to lose by choosing flash storage—with Pure Storage or any other vendor—especially by adding it in addition to existing disk storage. Pure Storage participates in the SAP HANA Tailored Datacenter Integration (TDI) program, which lets companies use their existing compute, networking, and storage components for SAP HANA implementations and can help ease the move to SAP HANA even further.
In addition to these benefits, Pure Storage claims that:
- Companies can deploy its solution for SAP HANA in a few hours and without migrating any data.
- Companies can access 10 years of controller or solid-state drive (SSD) technology upgrades with its solutions—with the previously mentioned Evergreen Storage.
- Companies can purchase only the capacity they need and no more or less with Pure Storage—called the Right-Size Guarantee.
- Companies can protect data by using Pure Storage snapshots that enable an entire SAP landscape to be cloned in seconds.
SAP HANA Will Become a Necessity With or Without All-Flash Array
The need for companies to migrate to SAP HANA or SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA (SAP S/4HANA) will take on growing urgency in the coming decade, because SAP R/3 is scheduled to be discontinued in 2025. Whether companies choose to move to SAP HANA with all-flash array or not will depend on the company. For companies that choose all-flash array, there are a lot of flash-storage players in the market. Only time will tell whether Pure Storage continues making name for itself.
From our perspective, Pure Storage is a smart, savvy company with a keen sense of how to solve the pain points around SAP HANA migration and what customers want and need in general—not just through marketing, but through sound, innovative solutions. Theirs is a future that we’ll be watching.
You can learn more about Pure Storage’s solution for SAP HANA on their all-flash platform in the white paper, “Modernize Your SAP Implementation—Make Real-Time Business A Reality.”
 SAP. “SAP Delivers Next Release of SAP HANA.” June 2015. http://news.sap.com/sap-delivers-next-release-of-sap-hana/.
 Pure Storage. “Evergreen Storage. A Perfect 10.” https://www.purestorage.com/why-pure/evergreen-storage.html.