Lenovo Gains SAP HANA Plaudits/Benefits

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  May 12, 2015

Over the past few years, SAP’s annual Sapphire NOW partner and customer conference has turned into something of a love fest for the company’s HANA in-memory database solutions. But this year’s event seemed worthy of extra attention for a couple of reasons. First, it coincided with the launch of Intel’s newly updated Xeon E7 v3 processors which, with a 50% increase in memory capabilities, have been designed from the ground up for in-memory database applications. Second, Sapphire NOW 2015 was the first to feature Lenovo’s System x solutions and technologies which the company acquired from IBM last year.

Why is that such a big deal in regards to SAP HANA? Mainly because of the history that SAP and System x share. Like other IBM server offerings, System x solutions were designed with the performance and business requirements of enterprise customers in mind. That included the creation of IBM’s X-Architecture, a technology that enabled associated System x solutions to effectively support far more memory than competitors’ x86-based servers. That includes the latest (sixth) generation of System x X6 systems.

As a result, while other vendors beat themselves and their competitors bloody over market opportunities for lower-end 1- and 2-way x86-based solutions, System x fully dominated the 4-way and above Xeon server space. At the same time, System x’s enhanced memory capacity made its X6 servers the go-to solutions for SAP HANA. Not only does System x drive over half of all HANA sales, but the platform was (and is) also the reference architecture for SAP HANA. When IBM decided to sell System x, all those technical advances and market opportunities migrated to Lenovo.

So what happened last week at Sapphire NOW in Orlando? Several things. First, Lenovo proved that System x hasn’t lost a step in regard to innovative product development. The company introduced two updated high-performance X6 rack servers, the four-socket System x3850 X6 and the eight-socket System x3950 X6, both of which feature a modular design that allows for the easy swap-out of Compute Books to accommodate next-generation components, including processors, storage, full- and half-height I/O cards, fans and power supplies. That feature can substantially reduce costs and enhance TCO for Lenovo customers.

The company also announced new Lenovo Flex System X6 Compute Nodes, including the Flex System x480 X6 (scalable to four-sockets) and the Flex System x880 X6, the first scalable eight-socket Intel Xeon processor-based blade server. Both feature Intel’s new Xeon processor E7-8800/4800 v3 families. According to Lenovo, the enhanced solutions deliver faster application performance for workloads that require the highest levels of performance, memory capacity and high resiliency, such as mission-critical databases (both in-memory and traditional RDBMS) and analytics.

Lenovo also announced a number of new prequalified X6 solutions it developed with partners, including one for Citrix Xen Desktop 7.6, offerings for Microsoft Exchange Server 2013, Scale Out File Server, SharePoint Server 2013, and SQL Server 2014, and solutions for VMware Horizon 4.0 and vCloud Suite 6.0. In addition, the company introduced its own prequalified solutions for ANSYS, Engineering Analysis, Financial Services and Life Sciences.

Lenovo also extended its relationship with EMC, including delivering fully integrated solutions for SAP HANA featuring System x servers and EMC’s VMAX, VNX, and XtremIOstorage offerings. Lenovo’s recently announced VSPEX with Lenovo Flex for Private Cloud and Virtual Desktop solutions have been expanded to support SAP Business Suite landscapes, enabling faster implementation, simplified management and reduced TCO. These and the other new and updated X6 solutions all leverage Lenovo XClarity, a systems management solution developed by the company that comes in two editions; Lenovo XClarity Administrator and Lenovo XClarity Pro.

Final analysis

So how did Lenovo solutions do in SAP HANA benchmarking performance? In short, the System x platform continues to deliver the same record-breaking performance it always has.

The most significant result was on the SAP Business Warehouse Enhanced Mixed Load (SAP BW-EML) standard application test where Lenovo achieved record performance in both the 1 billion and 10 billion record benchmarks with a 7 node scale-out system using its System x3850 X6 servers, thus demonstrating both outstanding performance and scalability. Lenovo also achieved another world-record on the two-tier SAP Sales and Distribution (SD) standard application benchmark on Microsoft Windows where a System x3850 X6 delivered 22% improved performance compared to previous-generation solutions.

In other words, the news from Sapphire NOW 2015 showed Lenovo’s System x solutions doing what they have done for a very long time: expanding into new markets and areas, leveraging innovative relationships with partners such as Citrix, EMC, Microsoft and VMware, delivering maximum benefits for SAP HANA workloads and blowing the roof off the place performance-wise.

This is all highly positive, especially given the fact that Lenovo’s management of System x is still in early days. Though it will likely take additional time for the two organizations to become fully integrated and comfortable teammates, the news out of Sapphire NOW gives reason for optimism. It also casts light on a separate, yet associated competitive issue.

After Lenovo and IBM cemented the deal for System x, a number of competing vendors attempted to spread the same old/same old fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD), attempting to spook uncertain or fearful IBM customers. Given Lenovo’s turn at SAP’s Sapphire NOW, those same players may have trouble explaining to those same customers how instead of stumbling, Lenovo never missed a step in delivering yet another round of record breaking performances and innovative new System x solutions.

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