by Vishal Awasthi
You can deliver performance and hold the line on costs
Can you win the war against data volume growth? Data is being created faster than we’re willing—or able—to destroy it. And that rising data volume requires management. What’s more, our appetite for real time information demands that it be accessible whenever and wherever it is needed.
What this means in practical terms is that IT departments must be strategic in how they manage data. You analyze and project volume growth, and develop data archiving blueprints and information lifecycle management strategies that set pragmatic retention and access requirements. You do your best to hold the line on expenses—to balance the demands of the business for high system performance for SAP ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and Business Warehouse systems. But keeping data and documents in any format comes at a price—and that price is continuously rising. These challenges are what makes the idea of “cloud storage” so intriguing.What is the Cloud?
The ‘cloud’ is the Internet. Or, more precisely, it’s a networked set of servers on the Internet that will host your applications and data and make them available securely to you when and where you need them. They manage the infrastructure and service levels; you pay for what you use.
Cloud computing is a natural evolution of the widespread adoption of virtualization, service-oriented architecture and utility computing. Details are abstracted from consumers who no longer have need for expertise in, or control over, the technology infrastructure “in the cloud” that supports them.
The SAP world is abuzz about cloud computing, and is moving quickly toward enabling its applications for hosting by companies such as IBM, Dell and HP, and accessed by individual customers over the Web. Users of SAP applications are looking closely at the opportunity for faster implementation, lower costs and reduced administration as these capabilities are realized and proven. But while cloud computing is still in its infancy in the SAP world, using the cloud for archived SAP data and documents is here today.
Storage as a Service
Cloud storage is also called “Storage as a Service”, which is actually a more accurate description. What makes cloud storage different from an outsourced, offsite IT system is that the cloud is a “multi-tenant” of shared service—a storage utility from which you purchase the portion you need, much like you would with electricity or gas. Like the power company, the storage utility is responsible for ensuring that there is enough storage to scale for all of its customers, and to ensure access as well as security.
Users have witnessed dramatic improvements in tools, stability, performance and bandwidth in cloud computing.
Benefits of the Cloud for SAP Archived Data
Benefits to this approach fall into three areas:
- Total Cost
of Ownership (TCO) - eliminating expenditures for software
licenses, hardware and maintenance.
- Performance – reduced overhead for content management and less need
for optimization for SAP read access and high load throughput.
- Availability – complex applications, ongoing backup and high availability systems are all covered in the service level agreement with the cloud service provider.
The main selling point for IT departments is that cloud service providers such as AT&T, IBM, Google, Amazon and others maintain the infrastructure. They take on the cost of adding, maintaining, monitoring and managing servers, disks and drives while you share the cost with the rest of the providers’ customer base.
For users of SAP applications, this is critical. Applications such as ERP and BI not only generate data that needs storage but they are also critical in running your business or delivering a competitive advantage. This makes performance of these systems critical—business users need fast “speed-to-screen” for critical information and business intelligence queries.
Data archiving addresses this issue by getting business-complete and less frequently accessed information off of production databases and onto lower cost storage tiers. When done properly, the result is seamless access through the SAP system, and lower storage, infrastructure and administrative costs.
The advent of cloud storage creates an entirely new equation for SAP data and document archiving. Adding a cloud-based Storage as a Service option can reshape data and document management strategies. The cloud storage tier lets you align the cost of storage with the value of the data. It frees you to invest in high-performance access for current, frequently used data, while shifting seldom used data and documents to a lower cost and practically infinitely elastic cloud storage service.
The ability to store terabytes (TBs) of must-retain but business-complete data can yield dramatic cost savings. For example, an enterprise user in the food and beverage industry is archiving about 4TB of business-complete accounts payable documents and data. Analysis shows that over five years—during which time the database will rise to about 6TB—the new cloud-based archive strategy will save the customer about $750,000 and free their database and network for more current, mission-critical data. If the data is required to meet a customer request, fiduciary need or regulatory investigation, access will be slightly slower than for online data, but delivered at an appropriate speed.
Cloud-based Storage as a Service Work for SAP Archiving
For SAP users, the practical concern with any data archiving strategy lies with ensuring seamless access through the SAP application to data and documents, regardless of where the data is stored—online, nearline, offline—and now, in the cloud. To facilitate cloud-based data archiving for users of SAP applications, there are services that allow a direct connection from the SAP archiving layer to major public cloud providers such as AT&T Synaptic Storage as a Service, Amazon S3 and Google Cloud.
Typically, ArchiveLink servers are connectors that link enterprise content management (ECM), document management or local storage devices to SAP applications for long-term storage of documents and archived data. These connectors require a server infrastructure outside of the SAP application.
Content archiving services for the cloud that leverage SAP NetWeaver server’s built-in secure communication capabilities to connect to the cloud allow very lean ArchiveLink server architecture that requires no additional infrastructure component and fits right in to the SAP landscape as an ABAPTM add-on.
This direct connection to cloud storage offers a better implementation than the classic file system-based cloud connection options, where content is streamed to and from cloud through an intermediate file system. Additionally, a direct connection solution results in faster performance and byte/offset based access to the archived content, a critical factor for efficient retrieval of archived SAP data and print lists.
Furthermore, because content archiving in the cloud implements the SAP ArchiveLink protocol, all existing applications in the SAP solution that use ArchiveLink can seamlessly use cloud storage for those operations. Common operations include:
- Outbound document archiving (e.g.
SAP billing output)
- Inbound document archiving (e.g. inbound AP invoices)
- SAP print list archiving
- SAP data archiving
- DART file archiving
- KPro-based content storage (e.g. SAP DMS, SAPOffice)
The point is not to shift all SAP data archiving to the cloud, but to add a cloud-based tier to your data management architecture. The result is the ability to lower total costs by spending less to manage infrequently accessed data—while ensuring seamless access.
Maybe you can’t win the battle against data volume growth, but you can lower the cost of managing it. Cloud-based Storage as a Service offerings present an effective alternative to expanding in-house infrastructure, at a reduced spend. Effective, secure, well-managed Storage as a Service makes it further possible to align the value of your data with the cost of storage. In other words, you can deliver the performance your business demands and hold the line on costs—and maybe even push back a little. And in our book, that means you win.
Vishal Awasthi is the Chief Technology Officer at Dolphin Corporation (Morgan Hill, CA). www.dolphin-corp.com