Comparing SAP HANA on Power Systems on Prem vs x86 and Cloud

May 2nd, 2019 Comparing SAP HANA on Power Systems on Prem vs x86 and Cloud

Ron Gordon
Director » Power Systems

SAP is a major force in Enterprise computing, as it is usually the life blood of the company.

Customers who choose SAP, and now SAP HANA, use it to run their ERP, CRM, analytics, inventory, finances, etc. So, as SAP is moving to SAP HANA (converging a multi-database strategy into a single in-memory database and supported by new landscapes, such as S/4 and C/4 for added function and performance), it is very important to choose the infrastructure that provides the most value and highest cost benefits. Basically, this means choosing between Power Systems and x86 (aka Intel) systems, as well as cloud vs on premise, or a hybrid combination of both.

While I have a Power System focus, I also recognize that the magnitude of the SAP HANA environment, as well as the number of users, amount of data, and type of landscapes are very critical factors in deciding infrastructure for the data center. Customers with relatively small database requirements and a small number of users, and possibly only running SAP HANA with C/4, can utilize infrastructure that may not be the best choice for much larger and more critical SAP HANA requirements requiring multiple terabytes of data, BW and S/4 landscapes. Rather than discuss each infrastructure element piece by piece by platform, I will try to keep this at a higher level in reviewing the flexibility, scalability, and resiliency of Power Systems, which are the key elements that Power Systems bring to a mission-critical SAP HANA infrastructure. These are the primary reasons that over 2000 customers have chosen Power Systems for their infrastructure, to manage their processes, data, and key business needs, within the last 36 months.


IBM Power Systems support SAP HANA with certified Power Systems models 922, 924, 950, and 980, which offer different numbers of cores and memory to meet the TDI Phase 5 requirements, usually on a single system. The x86 SAP HANA infrastructure is more limited in this capacity for SAP HANA, and it normally offers only a scale-out solution. Because of the larger capacity and performance on Power Systems, they can provide scale-up solutions for most SAP HANA designs, which offer higher performance than scale-out clustered solutions, especially for OLTP, such as S/4. Power Systems support up to 16TB of memory for BW and up to 24TB of memory for S/4. This compares to 3TB and 6TB, respectively, for Intel x86 Skylake systems. On x86, if your database requirements exceed these numbers, you need to scale-out. There is also the processor core’s flexibility in Power Systems for SAP HANA. In Power Systems, you can granularly grow in one core and 1 GB increments; with virtualization, Power Systems provide this growth in increments of 1/10thof a core. In x86, the minimum is .5 sockets, and then growth is by socket, with relative memory. Also, since this is an in-memory database, the Power Systems memory bandwidth of up to 230GB/s is far faster than x86, which varies by memory dimm type. And, there is PowerVM vs VMware on x86, which provides better virtual I/O support, as well as dynamic changes in capacity for virtual machines. Because of the PowerVM efficiencies on Power Systems, up to 8 SAP HANA production systems can be supported on one server. These flexible management capabilities lead to a performance comparison of 1,149,020 SAPs on 192 cores on a Power System 980 compared to 542,370 SAPs on a 224-core x86 system.


With the aforementioned capacities, the ability to have a server meet the single server scale-up requirements of SAP HANA is very possible. SAP recommends a scale-up infrastructure. If, however, a scale-out solution is a desired infrastructure design, Power can support up to 16 nodes for BW and 4 nodes for S/4. And, for performance and management reasons, you can also scale-out in a single server with PowerVM, which has basically no overhead on performance, as compared to network connected server nodes. Another aspect of scaling for SAP HANA on Power Systems in a single scale-up node is the dynamic scaling of virtual machines. Using PowerVM and Power Systems technology called Capacity on Demand (COD), you can have memory and cores on the system and have them not active. They are there, but you have not paid to use them. Then, as demand spikes occur, you can enable them to meet the demand, and then disable them as the demand drops. There is also a new technology in Power Systems called Enterprise Pools 2.0. It is a resource utility usage model where if more resources are needed for SAP HANA, they are automatically applied and charged for on a minute of usage-basis. The capabilities of Power Systems for SAP HANA save cost and usage of this facility, is very easy, and it can be provided instantly, unlike cloud implementations and x86 solutions. Also, via automated load balancing provided by PowerVM, resources can be shifted to the production SAP HANA workloads automatically, by taking cores and memory from less import utilized VMs.


Resilience is the ability to keep the system and application running. Power Systems for SAP HANA have delivered up to 99.999% availability. This is due to the POWER chip architecture, as well as the redundancy and auto recovery of the Power Systems architecture. As your SAP HANA work will be mission critical, the level of resilience is key to the business. Add to this that the National Vulernability Database has listed zero vulnerabilities for PowerVM, while VMware on Intel x86 has 1009 vulnerabilities listed.

Hybrid Cloud

While some customers are looking at a complete cloud solution for SAP HANA, that usually implies x86 infrastructure, with VMware and cloud costs, that are sometimes overlooked or incorrectly estimated, especially data egress. But, have you considered Power Systems on-premise for production and cloud support of other non-prod, lower data egress environment, such as dev/test and staging?

The differences and distinct choices make the infrastructure decision critical, and the right choice can not only save you money but also prevent re-architecting, poor performance, and a negative effect on business.

To learn more about SAP HANA on Power Systems, please contact your Mainline Account Executive directly, or click here to contact us with any questions..

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