Getting Started With SAP HANA in Azure

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For over 25 years, Microsoft and SAP have partnered to support and enable vital business processes. Over 90% of Fortune 500 companies use Azure, and 80% have SAP systems. It should come as no surprise then, that Azure and SAP have partnered together to offer cloud-hosted SAP HANA services.

In this article, you’ll learn what SAP HANA is and how it is supported by Azure. You’ll discover options for deploying SAP HANA in Azure, as well as some key integrations you can use to get more from your deployment.

What Is SAP HANA?

SAP HANA is a proprietary, relational database engine that uses in-memory technology for real-time analytics and processing. Data in SAP HANA is stored in Random Access Memory (RAM). Storage in RAM enables faster retrieval than is possible with traditional databases that use disk-based storage.

SAP HANA includes a suite of spatial, predictive, and text analysis libraries that you can use for Business Intelligence (BI), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and Machine Learning (ML). You can run SAP HANA on-premise, in a hybrid environment, or solely in the cloud.

SAP HANA in Azure

Azure provides support for SAP HANA through a direct partnership with SAP. Both Microsoft and SAP use SAP HANA hosted in Azure for their teams, promoting reliable support and proven functionality. 

For SAP deployments, Azure offers 85 compliance offerings, enabling you to meet most compliance standards, including GDPR. It provides availability in over 50 regions, enabling you to use your deployments globally.

Azure offers pre-configured, SAP-certified Virtual Machine (VM) images for fast deployments. It also offers a SAP HANA Express Edition image, which includes configuration for your server and applications.

Benefits of using SAP HANA in Azure include:

  • Increased scalability—you can scale your deployment up or down according to demand and take advantage of expandable block storage volumes. 
  • Reduced cost—you can save on capital investment in infrastructure by only provisioning the resources you need.
  • Access to upgrades—you have access to infrastructure improvements without concern for technical debt.

Deployment Options in Azure

There are three ways to deploy SAP HANA in Azure. 

1. SAP HANA on Large Instances

SAP HANA on Large Instances is a service that is unique to Azure. It enables you to deploy and run SAP HANA on dedicated VMs or bare-metal servers. These resources are different from standard VMs since you don’t share resources with other tenants

Instead, Large Instances are isolated using secure virtual networks, dedicated storage, and single-tenant servers. These servers provide true isolation, not hardware or software partitioning like regular resources. 

For your deployment, you can choose between different server sizes. Servers start from 36 Central Processing Unit (CPU) cores with 768 GB of memory, and go up to 480 cores with 24 TB of memory.

A caveat of deploying to a bare-metal server is that you must still run SAP application and workload middle-ware layers on VMs. Only the SAP HANA database runs on the bare-metal.

2. SAP HANA on Azure VMs

If you are less concerned about isolating your resources or need a lower cost implementation, you can deploy SAP HANA to standard SAP-certified VMs. The CPU and memory resources of these VMs are reserved, unlike regular Azure VMs in which resources represent an upper limit of performance. Reserved resources guarantee the throughput or memory that you provision is available to you at all times.

Using this method, it is your responsibility to customize your Azure configuration to meet SAP needs. This includes VMs, storage, and networking. Although your CPU and memory are reserved, other resources are shared with other tenants. This includes networking and storage. To prevent bottlenecks or reduced performance, you need to make sure that you provision sufficient resources to meet the demands of your workloads.

3. SAP Cloud Platform (CP) on Azure

SAP CP is a fully managed Platform as a Service (PaaS) offered by SAP and hosted in Azure. It is based on Cloud Foundry, an open-source cloud application platform. SAP CP enables you to operate SAP HANA without having to directly provision or deploy resources.

With SAP CP, you can deploy applications via the SAP CP Cockpit or the Cloud Foundry CLI.

SAP CP Cockpit enables you to monitor your deployed applications and provides a marketplace containing components and apps.

Azure Service Integrations

Once you have deployed SAP HANA, you can integrate it with a variety of Azure services. Some common integrations are introduced below.

Storage integrations include:

  • Data Lake—a scalable, secure data lake based on Blob Storage. Data Lake is optimized for analytics workloads and includes a Hadoop-compatible file system.
  • Azure NetApp Files—a fully managed storage service that you can use as a Network File System. It enables you to migrate and run hybrid workloads in Azure.

Security and Monitoring integrations include:

  • Azure Security Center—a centralized security management system you can use to secure your hybrid and cloud workloads and services. This service can alert you to vulnerabilities in your configurations and provide recommendations for improvement. 
  • Azure Active Directory—provides centralized identity management and authentication services. With Active Directory, you can enable single sign-on for easy and secure access to all your services.

Analytics integrations include:

  • Azure Data Factory—enables you to manage, schedule, and orchestrate data flows for analytics. It enables you to access both on-premise and cloud data. You can use this service in combination with your current analytics tooling, including Hadoop, Spark, and HDInsight. 
  • Cognitive Services—a set of APIs that you can use to integrate AI services in your applications and workloads. It includes features for decision making, language processing, text analysis, and image recognition.
  • Power BI—an interactive visualization tool you can use to incorporate data from a range of sources, including SAP HANA. It includes pre-built reports and real-time dashboards.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article helped you understand the basics of SAP HANA deployments in Azure. Understanding the services available to you is the first step to determining whether SAP HANA in Azure is the right choice for you. 
If you’re ready to take the next step and start planning your migration, you should evaluate your architecture options. Azure has provided this best practices guide you’re likely to find helpful.

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