Six ways to easily dip your toe into SAP HANA

Since 2010 the SAP HANA database has been a flagship product of SAP. In 2015 SAP announced their new ERP product, S/4HANA, which will run only on the SAP HANA database.

Most people who work with SAP want to look at SAP HANA and S/4HANA, but the hardware and software costs associated with SAP HANA can make it difficult to try it out. This blog suggests six ways to try out HANA without a major investment.

Solution Manager 7.2 gives you an option to run SAP HANA without having to purchase any license, as it is generally available to any customer with an active SAP maintenance agreement. 

You need to upgrade or reimplement Solution Manager 7.2 before maintenance for 7.1 ends at the end of 2017.  If you are running a release older than 7.1 then you need to upgrade or reimplement immediately.

Solution Manager is often not a business system critical system, so it is an ideal opportunity for testing SAP HANA and training your internal team.

SAP have published relaxed hardware requirements for non-production systems that allow you to run SAP HANA on hardware that is not certified, increasing the chances that you can use your existing hardware.   

SAP HANA normally runs on certified appliances, or through the tailored datacentre integration option on specifically certified hardware.  The requirement for specific hardware, particularly large hardware, can be prohibitive for testing SAP HANA for use cases like Solution Manager.

The relaxed requirements are any server that has the following:

  • CPU: Intel Xeon E7 Westmere EX, (E7-x8xx v1), IvyBridge EX (E7-x8xx v2) , Haswell EX (E7-x8xx v3) or Intel Xeon E5 (E5-26xx v2/v3, 8+ cores)
  • Memory: 128GB+ (a new ERP install will run on 128GB)
  • Storage: 2x Memory, any local or shared with a proven filesystem of GPFS, NFS or XFS
  • Network: Standard networking components (no 10Gbit/s requirement)
  • Operating System: RedHat or Suse Linux Enterprise
  • Virtualisation: Any virtualisation or bare metal

The relaxed hardware requirements are suitable for non-productive use in your production landscape, for example for development and QA systems.  SAP will support them, but will not provide performance support on non-certified hardware.

For completely unsupported cases, SAP HANA will run on diverse hardware, even including AMD processors.  As long as you follow the installation guide you can attempt to install HANA on any Redhat or SuSE system.  Of course your mileage may vary, but I have HANA running successfully for sandbox purposes on some hardware that would otherwise be recycled already.

You can now run SAP HANA Express Edition on your laptop in a virtual machine for free. 

For up to 32GB of RAM, SAP HANA Express Edition is free to use.  Of course you cannot run an SAP ERP system with only 32GB, but you can use the SAP HANA database for native application development, test cases, and training for database administrators.

The three-step instructions to get SAP HANA running on your laptop are available here.

SAP’s cloud appliance library offers a range of preconfigured virtual servers that you can deploy to your own account on Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, with many available on a trial basis without license cost. 

Some of the available cloud appliances are:

  • SAP HANA Platform Edition
  • ERP 6.0 EHP 8 on SAP HANA (Suite on HANA)
  • SAP HANA Express Edition

You need to pay for the cloud hardware in all cases.  The first step is to sign up to Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, if your organisation does not use one of them already. 

Next, log into the cloud appliance library.  You set up access to your cloud account with AWS or Azure, then you can deploy preconfigured virtual machines.  Trial or development appliances can be free of charge from SAP, meaning you only pay for the cloud hardware costs.

The great benefit of the Cloud Appliance Library is that you get access to a virtual server, preconfigured with your desired software, that is yours to do what you want with.  For training and proof of concept exercises they are invaluable.

You can minimise cloud hardware costs with careful management of the virtual machines from the Azure or AWS console.  For example, shutting down the virtual machines when they are not in use.

I completed my first SAP HANA training and certification on a Cloud Appliance Library virtual machine, and strongly recommend it as an option to anybody 

Most hardware vendors have certified hardware appliances available now, and many are happy to work with their customers for proof of concept exercises. 

I have heard of several SAP HANA projects that have started with a hardware vendor offering an appliance for free for a few months.  The hardware vendor may ask that you participate in some publicity activities with them or share some details of your project’s success, for example through the SAP User Group, but those activities can be a major advantage to raise the profile of your own organisation, your own team or your own career as well.

A proof of concept exercise with your hardware vendor is the best step to take if you want to go ahead with a SAP HANA project across your production landscape.  You can get a copy of your own system running, without limitation or restriction, to test what SAP HANA can do for your organisation.

You can run a 30-day trail of S/4HANA directly from SAP, based on SAP’s Best Practice preconfigured scenarios so that you can try out S/4HANA yourself and see the functional benefits. 

You need to work with SAP to set up the trail, which you can request from the S/4HANA Trials website. 

You can run for up to 30 days without having to pay any SAP license costs, but extended running is possible too.  You do need to pay for the Amazon Web Services hosting costs of around $4 per hour, but you can shut down the system when you are not using it.

The quick start guide provides more information.

Using SAP HANA is easier than ever before, and there should not be any barrier to your team looking into SAP HANA and what it means for your SAP landscape. 

if you’d like to try out SAP HANA or understand what it can do for your organisation, please don’t hesitate to contact us and find out how we can help. 

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by Robert MacDonald, Senior SAP Consultant