VMware Solutions Aid IT Giant SAP in Provisioning Virtual Machines to Support Training Courses
VMware Solutions Aid IT Giant SAP in Provisioning VirtualMachines to Support Training CoursesTranscript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on how SAP is using VMware products to implement aprivate cloud that smooths out educational requirements.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: VMwareDana Gardner: Hi. This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’relistening to BrieﬁngsDirect. Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on how worldwide enterprise applications leader SAP has designed and implemented a private cloud infrastructure to support an internal consulting and training program. By standardizing on a VMware cloud platform, SAP has been able to slash provisioning times for multiple instances of its ﬂagship application suite, as well as set the stage for wider adoption of cloud models. [Disclosure:VMware is a sponsor of Brieﬁngs Direct podcasts.]Here to tell us about the technical and productivity beneﬁts of private clouds, is Dr. WolfgangKrips, the Senior Vice President of Global Infrastructure at SAP in Walldorf, Germany. Welcometo BrieﬁngsDirect, Dr. Krips.Dr. Wolfgang Krips: Thank you, Dana.Gardner: Tell me about this particular use case. Youve needed to provision a lot of yourenterprise resource planning (ERP) applications and youve got people coming into learn aboutusing them and implementing them. What is it about private cloud that made the most sense foryou in this particular instance?Krips: Expanding a bit on the use case, there is a speciﬁc challenge there. In the trainingbusiness, people book their courses, and we know only on Friday evening who is attending on the course Monday. So we have only a very short amount of time over the weekend to set up the systems. That was one of the big challenges that we had to solve. The second challenge is that, at the same time, these systems become more and more mission critical. Customers are saying, "If the system isnt available during the course, Im not willing to pay." Maybe the customer will rebook the course. Sometimes he doesn’t. That means that if the systems arent available, we have an immediate revenue impact.
You can imagine that if we have to set up a couple of hundred, or potentially a couple ofthousand, systems over the weekend, we need a high degree of automation to do that. In the past,we had homegrown scripts, and there was a lot of copying and stuff like that going on. We werelooking into other technologies and opportunities to make life easier for us.A couple of challenges were that the scripts and the automation that we had before weredependent on the speciﬁc hardware that we used, and we cant use the same hardware for each ofthe courses. We have different hardware platforms and we had to adopt all the scripts to varioushardware platforms.When we virtualized and used virtualization technology, we could make use of linked cloningtechnology, which allowed us to set up the systems much faster than the original copying that wedid.The second thing was that by introducing the virtualization layer, we became almost hardwareindependent, and that cut the effort in constructing or doing the speciﬁc automation signiﬁcantly.Gardner: When you decided that virtualization and private cloud would be the right answer,what did you need to do? What did you need to put in place and how difﬁcult was it?The important pieceKrips: Luckily, we already had some experience. The big thing in setting up the cloud is not getting, say, vSphere in place and the basic virtualization technology. Its the administration and making it available in self-service or the automation of the provisioning. That is the important piece, as most would have guessed.We had some experience with the Lifecycle Manager and the Lab Manager before. So we said atthat time because we did this last year, we set up a Lab Manager installation and worked withthat to realize this kind of private cloud.Gardner: For our listeners’ beneﬁt, what sort of scale are we talking about here? How manyvirtual machines (VMs) did you have or do you have running?Krips: In that speciﬁc cloud, typically we have between a couple of hundred and a couple ofthousand VMs running. Overall, at SAP were running more than 20,000 VMs. And, in fact, Ihave about 25 private cloud installation.Gardner: What is it about this particular private-cloud installation that ended up being a proof ofconcept for you. Was this something that offered insights into other instances where clouds mademore sense as well?Krips: One of the reasons why that cloud is a bit speciﬁc is the kind of criticality that we havethere. As I mentioned before, this cloud has to work, and if this is down, it’s not like some kind
of irrelevant test system is down -- or test system pool -- and we can take another one.Potentially a lot of training courses are not happening. With respect to mission criticality, thiscloud was speciﬁc.The other thing that was very interesting is that, as I mentioned before, we have to replicate a lotof systems from a golden master image. The technology that one typically uses for that isnetwork fencing. So we started off with courses that used network fencing.One of the issues that we ran into is that there are a couple of courses where you can’t usenetwork fencing, because the systems need to connect to common back-end systems. This cloudalso gave us some hints on where we have to redesign the workloads so that they become morecloud usable. That’s why I think this cloud implementation was very speciﬁc and very importantfor us.Gardner: Are there speciﬁc payoffs? I suppose there are in just the reduced time forprovisioning and the ability to then automate and to use that common infrastructure. Any otherthoughts about what the payoffs are when you can do a cloud like this?Krips: The payoffs are that in the past we had only the weekend as a window to set this all up. Acouple of things had us scratching our heads. One thing was, the amount of time that we neededwith our traditional copying scripts was signiﬁcant. We used almost the full weekend to set upthe courses. There was really very little room if we needed to ﬁx something. Now, with linkedcloning, that time was cut signiﬁcantly.Pay for itselfThe other thing was that the effort of maintaining the automation script was cut, and I coulddeploy a signiﬁcant amount of the resources to work on more innovative parts like redesigningthe workloads and thinking about what could be next steps in automation. If you look at it, withall the tools we utilized, the “cloud implementation” will more or less pay for itself.Gardner: We often hear similar requirements being applied to a test and developmentenvironment. Again, bursting is essential, management and automation can be of great beneﬁt,and it’s mission critical. These are developers are making products. So does that make sense toyou, and are some of your other clouds involved with the test and dev side of the business aswell?Krips: As I mentioned before, we have 25 private-cloud installations, and in fact, most of themare with development. We also have cloud installations in the demo area. So if sales people areproviding demos, there are certain landscapes or resource pools where we are instantiating demosystems.Most of the VMs and the cloud resourcing pools are in the development area, and as youmentioned, there are a couple of things that are important to that. One is, as you said, that there is
a burst demand, when people are doing testing, quality assurance, and things like that. Almostmore important is that SAP wants to shorten the innovation cycles.Internally, weve moved internally to an HR development model, where every six weeksdevelopment provides potentially a shippable release. It doesn’t mean that the release getsshipped, but we’re running through the whole process of developing something, testing it, andvalidating it. There is a demonstrable release available every six weeks.In the past, with a traditional model, if we were provisioning physical hardware, it took us about30 days or so to provision a development system. Now, if you think about a development cycleof six weeks and you’re taking about nearly the same amount of time for provisioning thedevelopment system, you’ll see that there is a bit of a mismatch.Moving to the private cloud and doing this in self-service, today we can provision developmentsystems within hours.Gardner: That’s what I hear from a number of organizations, and its very impressive. When youhad a choice of different suppliers, vendors, and professional services organizations, was thereeverything that led you speciﬁcally to VMware, and how has that worked out?Krips: I can give you a fairly straightforward answer. At the time we started working withprivate cloud and private-cloud installations, VMware was the most advanced provider of thattechnology, and Id argue that it is still today.Gardner: How about security and management beneﬁts? It seems to me that security might notbe quite the same issue when it comes to the training instances, but it would be withdevelopment, having that source code in control, particularly if you’re doing distributeddevelopment. Are there aspects of the private-cloud beneﬁts for security management that areattractive for you?Very reluctantKrips: Certainly. The whole topic of cloud, in general, and the notion that workloads can runanywhere in the rut, as it would be in a public cloud, its certainly something where I personallywould be very reluctant when it comes to critical development systems and the intellectualproperty (IP) that’s on there.From our perspective, we wanted to have the advantages of cloud with respect to ﬂexibility,provisioning speed, but we didn’t want to have more security headaches than we already had.That’s why we said, "Lets get our arms ﬁrst around a private cloud."Even today, our cloud strategy is hybrid cloud strategy, where we’re implementing certainworkloads in the private clouds, and there would be certain other payloads that we willpotentially be willing to put into a public cloud. Still, development systems would be in 99percent off the cases on the list where we would be saying they go only in the private cloud.
Gardner: Is there something about a standardized approach to your cloud stack that makes thathybrid potential, when you’re ready to do it, when its the right payload, something that youll bepursuing? How does the infrastructure affect your decision about moving to hybrid?Krips: That’s one of our biggest problems that were having. Clearly, if one had a standard cloudinterface like a vCloud interface, and it was the industry norm, that would be extremely helpful.The issue is that, as you can imagine, there are a couple of workloads that we also want to test insome other well known cloud rents. Im having a bit of a headache over how to connect tomultiple clouds.That topic is still one of the things that we haven’t ﬁnally resolved. Because we have to choose.We basically have to unbolt one external cloud after the other, and everything is still anindividual integration effort. Now, if a couple of interesting providers had a standardized cloudinterface, it would be very nice for me.Gardner: This is the last subject for today -- and I appreciate your time and input. A lot of folksthat I speak to, when they’ve gained some experience with private cloud and hybrid cloud, startto think about other ways that they can exploit it, that will bring them productivity and technicalbeneﬁts.And moving more to the mobile tier, looking at the client, and thinking about delivering not onlyapplications as services, or as terminal services, but thinking about delivering the entire desktopexperience, more and more of it as a cloud service, seems to be appealing.Any thoughts about what your experience and beneﬁts with cloud might mean for your futurevision around clients?Krips: Dana, the thing is pretty clear. If you look at the strategy that SAP pursues, mobility is anintegral part. We also think that not only that business process mobility is more important, butwhat we’re also seeing, and I mentioned that before, with the agility and development. So forinstance, there are people who are working every couple of months in new teams. For us, itsvery important that we separate the user data and the desktop from the device. We’re deﬁnitelypushing very strongly into the topic of desktop virtualization (VDI).SaaS applicationThe big challenge that we’re currently having is that when you’re moving to VDI, you takeeverything that’s on the users desktop today, then you make out of that more or less a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application. As you can imagine, if you’re doing that to development, andthey are doing some complex development for the user interfaces or stuff like that, this putscertain challenges on the latency that you can have to the data center or the processing powerthat you need to have in the back end.
From our side, we’re interested in technologies similar to that view, and where you can check outmachines and still run on a VDI client, but leverage the administrative and provisioningadvantages that you have through the cloud provisioning for virtual desktops. So its a prettyinteresting challenge.We understand what kind of beneﬁts we’re getting from the cloud operations, as I said, the centerprovisioning, application patching, improved license management, there are a lot of things thatare very, very important to us and that we want to leverage.On the other hand, we have to solve the issue that we’re not blowing the business case, becausethe processing power and the storage that you have at the end point is relatively cheap. If youmove that one-to-one to the back end, we would have difﬁculties with the business case. That’swhy we were so interested in VDI technologies that allowed us checking out an ofﬂine mode.That would allow us also to take care of all of our mobile users.Gardner: If the past is any indication, the costs of computing go down. When there is morevolume involved, perhaps with moving to VDI, we should see some signiﬁcant priceimprovement there as well. So we’ll have to see on that?Krips: Yeah. But we’re conﬁdent that we can get the business case to work. Particularly for us,the VDI, the beneﬁts, are very much in the kind of centralized provisioning. Just to give you anexample, imagine how easy it would be if you’re doing desktop virtualization, to move fromWindows 7 to Windows 8. You could basically ﬂip a switch.Gardner: Wouldn’t that be nice?Krips: Yup.Gardner: Thank you so much. We’ve been talking about how worldwide enterprise applicationsleader SAP has designed and implemented a VMware private cloud infrastructure to support aninternal consulting and training program, and how that has led them to even bigger and betterconcepts around cloud and the business and technical beneﬁts therein.Id like to thank our guest. We’ve been here with Dr. Wolfgang Krips, the Senior Vice Presidentof Global Infrastructure at SAP.Thank you so much Dr. Krips.Krips: Thank you Dana.Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks to ouraudience, and come back next time.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: VMware
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