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What is SAP HANA (and why does it run on Linux)?

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SAP HANA is an in-memory database that helps organize and analyze big data for SAP’s enterprise resource planning (SAP ERP) applications. As an in-memory database, SAP HANA uses random-access memory (RAM) to provide real-time data.

SAP is requiring everyone using SAP ERP and business applications to migrate to the SAP S/4HANA ERP system by 2027. SAP S/4HANA runs exclusively on the SAP HANA database, which—in turn—runs exclusively on the Linux® operating system (OS).

HANA stands for high-performance analytical appliance, and it is SAP’s in-memory database. SAP HANA can be installed on a set of on-premise servers (like IBM Power Systems), in a private cloud, or as a cloud service (hosted by a cloud provider like AWS or Microsoft Azure). SAP HANA uses random access memory (RAM) to access, organize, and analyze data. Users interact with SAP HANA using Structured Query Language (SQL)—a common relational database programming language. As an in-memory database, SAP HANA can run petabytes of complex ERP computations in real-time.

Linux is an open source OS that manages app requests to hardware—facilitated by the Linux kernel. Linux has the largest OS user base in the world and is released under a license that allows anyone to run, study, share, and modify it. Linux systems have robust command line interfaces (CLIs) that grant direct access to the computer. Paired with the freedom to modify the source code (a staple of open source software), Linux CLIs give users unrestricted access to the hardware below the OS and apps running above it.

The relationship between SAP and Linux goes all the way back to 1999, when SAP claimed to be the first major ERP vendor to offer its customers business solutions on Linux. In 2005, SAP decided that every new SAP app would run natively on Linux. So when SAP began developing new enterprise data storage software that could execute ERP algorithms in (essentially) real-time, it chose to do so on Linux. A year later in 2010, SAP released that database as SAP HANA.

SAP HANA is SAP’s most advanced in-memory database, and many of its capabilities—like processing online transactions (OLTP) and immediately preparing those transactions for business intelligence apps and online analytical processing (OLAP)—are functionalities almost exclusive to in-memory data management systems. 

That kind of data processing requires the world’s most powerful, customizable, and stable OS. So SAP standardized the SAP HANA system on the same OS used on the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers: Linux. And since there’s no way to predict the next-generation of big data (Machine learning? Artificial intelligence? Neural networking?),  SAP HANA’s underlying OS needs to be both endlessly customizable (a hallmark of open source software) and stable (a hallmark of enterprise open source software).

For the same reasons SAP decided to standardize on Linux: Red Hat Enterprise Linux is powerful, customizable, and stable.

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux runs the world’s 3 fastest supercomputers (and 4 out of the top 10). Red Hat Enterprise Linux running on Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors also holds world records for SAP HANA Business Warehouse (SAP BW) in total data load and transformation runtime, total complex query phase runtime, and query executions per hour.
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux is built using an open development model that connects Red Hat engineers to open source communities. We protect the projects in these communities from patent attacks so everyone is free to innovate.
  • Red Hat Update Services provides up to 4 years of support and security patches for select minor releases of Red Hat Enterprise Linux—keeping your OS stable and critical applications running smoothly when upgrading your OS or rolling out a new SAP support package stack (SPS).

We partner with hardware providers like IBM, Dell, HPE, Lenovo, and Intel to establish SAP databases on-premises. And for those using SAP HANA Cloud, Red Hat Enterprise Linux is the #1 commercial Linux distribution on public cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.

If you’re among the 33,000 direct SAP HANA customers, check out this technical detail that describes how to migrate to Red Hat Enterprise Linux from another provider’s Linux distribution.

If you’re among the millions of SAP users who haven’t migrated to SAP S/4HANA or standardized on SAP HANA—you’re not alone. This 2020 SAP S/4HANA migration benchmark report found that enterprises are all at different stages of SAP adoption. Here are some common steps to guide your migration:

  1. Evaluate your Linux and cloud platforms. SAP has only certified 3 Linux providers, so we’ve created this checklist to help guide your decision.
  2. Perform a readiness check. Consider an automated migration assessment that provides SAP users with analytics and advice about introducing advanced technologies or major lifecycle changes—like upgrading to SAP S/4HANA.
  3. Experiment with your underlying OS. Check out this free Red Hat Enterprise Linux developer subscription that includes various SAP Solutions.
  4. Automate the migration process.&nbspAs we detail in this brief, Red Hat Ansible® Automation Platform can help you create and configure infrastructure; replicate data; test and validate; and redirect workloads to new environments.
  5. Train your system administrators.To help facilitate the migration, Red Hat has a portfolio of training and certification options that will prepare your team for the transition.

Because Red Hat and SAP share a vision of the future. A future where big data and analytics are supported by emerging open source technologies that reach across clouds to the edge.

We can be your full-stack infrastructure and platform vendor, with products that hold world records for powering SAP applications. And we work with SAP to deliver integrated support across traditional infrastructure software—like Linux, virtualization, and OpenStack®—to transformative automation and Kubernetes platforms.

Tools to help you adopt Linux for SAP HANA

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