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Video Blog: SAP Virtualization - Does it Matter?

Lately I’ve been pushing the technical envelope with multi-party video recordings to see what is possible.  Here we have the latest fruits of these experiments - a Google Plus Hangout chat taping on the under-reported topic of SAP virtualization. I was fortunate to have three opinionated SAP virtualization die hards, Chris Kernaghan, Martin English, and Tom Cenens subject themselves to my first official Hangout taping (note that Tom’s correct Twitter handle is @tomcenens).

During the 40 minute video, we dug into some potent SAP virtualization topics, including:

- Does SAP virtualization matter?
- Why is SAP virtualization always an afterthought when SAP presents on its cloud strategies?
- Should the LVM tool be free? Is the pricing fair for smaller companies?
- How Tom got in some controversy with his LVM pricing blog and how SAP responded
- What are the key skills SAP Basis people need to be relevant in a virtualized SAP environment?
- Has SCN become more balanced towards Basis topics since the #sapadmin movement?
- What conferences are the guys going to? (SAP virtualization week, etc.)
- Why is SAP’s "Project Titanium" eagerly anticipated and why the slow rollout?
- Also relevant: fellow SAP Mentor Tammy Powlas‘ blog post on ASUG LVM webinar

(Note that you can also download an optimized audio file of our SAP virtualization discussion if you prefer to listen to the audio version instead. The audio version will also be added ot the JonERP iTunes podcast feed)

A few quick video notes: I am finding Google Hangouts to have the best overall sound and video quality of the options I have tried of late, which include Skype video (not as reliable for more than 2 parties on video), and Adobe Connect, which I used for the SCN SAP culture change videocast. Adobe Connect worked well for video but the audio quality was not as good. Hangouts have the most audio and video potential but it does require manual adjustment during the recording to make sure the right speaker is featured, something which I failed to do on this first video but will get right in the future. :) That’s why Chris is the feature speaker the whole time, because I screwed that part up while obsessing over other aspects of the taping. At least the Boobboo fanboys and fangirls will be happy.

Video Highlights

:45 Why is SAP virtualization so often an afterthought?

2:00 Can you virtualize productive SAP instances yet? Martin: Linux in the cloud supported by SAP. I do know of a couple of cases where people are doing this. We don’t have that much in the way of public cloud computing in the Australia, due to data jurisdiction issues. Graham Robinson has a workflow management system that runs on ABAP in the cloud, so cloud-based SAP can be done, but there are a number of issues, including data jurisdiction.

5:00 Tom: I agree with what Chris was saying, cloud is overshadowing SAP virtualization. Virtualization has been around for a long time, whereas "cloud" is more of the sexy topic now.

6:15 Should SAP make Landscape Virtualization Management free? Chris: I have a small difference of opinion with Tom on this point. I believe that LVM is reasonable to charge for, though I think customization dashboards should all be free. There’s two ways to look at it: if LVM is just an evolution of ACC, it should be free, but when you get into more robust system management functionality that LVM has, I believe that’s fair to charge for. VMware or Cisco, charge for more advanced functionality.

Martin: Some companies are already using Redwood or VMWare for a lot of these functions, and they would rather use those than an SAP tool, because those responsible for the infrastructure are already familiar with an existing set of tools. Chris: The ability to turn around and say, "I want to bring down nine application servers, scheduling that coordinated shut down," that in itself is worth an awful lot to a Basis administrator.

9:30 Tom: I’m not saying LVM should be free, but you should be able to make the case for reducing TCO. SAP is looking at how they can make that case, the key for LVM is to listen to customers and improve the tool, and make sure small customers can use it also.

10:30 Will customers who paid for ACC be frustrated to pay for LVM?  Chris: the functions that came with ACC are free in LVM as well, but for other features, such as customizable dashboards, there is a charge.

12:30 Martin: my view is that for a large organization, like Australia Post, with 90 or so SAP instances, SAP virtualization is a no-brainer. But if you have only 3 SAP instances, you don’t need it. Tom: I think it’s really up to the customer to get the most value out of the tool, and be careful what you’re buying. There are a lot of features in a lot of these tools. If you’re only going to use 25 percent, of the functions,  you might not get the same benefit - be careful and look into it.

14:45 Tom: there are some big company names in LVM rampup (LVM went into rampup late last year). Chris: for me, this year, it’s finally time to for SAP to do something with Project Titanium. They keep dangling it in front of us. I actually want to see it, it’s been around d for 18 months now, and I haven’t seen a new version of it is 6 months, and I want to check it out. For medium to long term management of Amazon instances, this is a no-brainer. The fact that SAP hasn’t had much to show with Titanium beyond slideware is disappointing.

18:00 Virtualization trade offs. Once you get to the point of scaling out to 20 Amazon servers, you’re almost better off running a small server yourself and having a Ruby or Perl script to managerit yourself, create a small Unix box and do it that way.

22:45 Tom’s controversial LVM blog post: did it lead to a good dialogue? Tom: it came out of something that was miscommunicated towards me. SAP is making an effort to make it better, to make a case for small customers as well for LVM, which was a major point of the blog post.  It .wasn’t about the functionality, price was the issue I was trying to address. Chris: SAP is actually listening - before, they would have sat and seethed, now you get a phone call from someone like Jonathan Becher. That’s the new SAP. Tom: I actually met some key players from SAP at TechEd, and we did we have a good talk on SAP LVM there.

26:30 Tom: I can see how LVM can work for the large enterprise, but how will the pricing work for the small enterprise customer? SAP LVM has a lot of functionality, but if you’re a small customer, if you’re not going to scale out to the same degree, your investment doesn’t make as much sense. You may get a reduction in TCO if you use everything, but if you use a small part of LVM, not so much. Chris: one option for smaller companies could be a shared services model, where you would actually get HP or IBM or CAP to implement the LVM for you. Martin: it goes back full circle, the SMEs will find it easier to work with Microsoft, that knows a bit about VM and can do this. .

29:30 Is SAP LVM a big skills transition for the Basis person? Martin: I started with R/3 last century, it was R/3 2.1 in those days, and you were either a Windows or Unix person. Now you have to know business management, virtualization to the guts of the hardware. You have to become deeper and broader. It’s your job to be able to analyze the response time down to a bad running program, bad network time, etc. There’s a new set of tools to learn. Jon: basically what you are saying is that if someone on your team asks you, "How is my system’s elasticity?" You don’t want to have a blank look on your face.

35:15 Is SCN becoming more balanced towards Basis conversations rather than mostly developer talk? Tom: with the #SAPadmin movement, we have developed some traction and interest around SAP admins on SCN. I think we have a better balance now.

37:30 The guys discsuss their spring conference plans relating to SAP virtualization, including SAP virtualization week. 

41:00 Chatty wrap-up.

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