VPLEX Metro for SAP with Oracle RAC in a Active-Active configuration between 2 data centers is much more than a Business Continuance & Disaster Recovery discussion



This week, I am coming to you again from Las Vegas where back in July at EMC World, I first blogged about EMC’s game changing VPLEX for SAP and Oracle RAC solution.  My return trip to Sin City is to attend SAP TechEd’12 where SAP HANA is all the rage, but interestingly enough, I had some fantastic conversations with several long time EMC customers as well as prospect on VPLEX for SAP!


Yes, it seems like our customers are becoming increasingly aware of the amazing possibilities offered by VPLEX Metro and Oracle RAC as it was really helpful that Joe Tucci mentioned it during his keynote at Oracle OpenWorld 2012 in San Francisco (it was also extensively discussed in several technical breakout sessions).  More and more visionary enterprise architects clearly have VPLEX in their thinking, and many of them asked me tough but interesting questions which are purely application-centric, as in SAP and Oracle and nothing about how the technology itself.


VPLEX for SAP and Oracle RAC is really a transformative solution, and in fact, the transformational effort that a customer needs to undertake to fully take advantage of the solution is considerable.  For starter, unless you are already using Oracle RAC, you will need to conduct serious negotiations with Oracle to acquire the rather expensive software license to even begin the planning process.  Then you will need to find a secondary data center within 100 km or so of your primary data center (or as our VPLEX techies will tell you, with a round trip ping of 5 milliseconds or less) along with the requisite WAN pipe for VPLEX Metro to work.   Then you need to fully understand the key business drivers at your enterprise that would justify such an IT transformation, as I truly believe that if you approach implementing VPLEX for SAP and Oracle RAC from a technical point of view, you will probably not get past the funding stage.


Ah, but once you get past all those speed bumps, the possibilities are indeed tantalizing, such as the always-on SAP on Oracle RAC environment as well as “capacity on demand” by repurposing non-Production assets between say Washington DC and Chantilly, VA, or Chicago and Lake Forest, IL – these sites are far enough from each other for “comfort” but yet close enough for VPLEX Metro to do its magic!


But then, EMC believes strongly in our tag line Transform IT + Business + Yourself and the key transformative message that I want to share with you all is that VPLEX for SAP and Oracle RAC is not a classical disaster recovery & business continuity solution because there is NO recovery involved, since neither SAP nor Oracle RAC is down should one of the 2 data centers completely shuts down.  VPLEX offers a paradigm shift which has to do more with the aforementioned always-on SAP on Oracle RAC environment as well as “capacity on demand” by repurposing non-Production assets than a BC/DR solution, so the rationalization and quantifying of the benefits of the solution will need to go far beyond the classic BC/DR considerations.


While our excellent white paper went into great depth about the solution, there are subtle key points that could easily be lost in such a complex discussion.  For instance, we need to understand the difference between what VMware HA and the application HA (in this case SuSe Linux HA, or IBM PowerHA for AIX, or Symantec VCS, Red Hat Linux HA, Microsoft MSCS, etc.).   This is a rather complex technical topic which deserve its own blog post (please stay tuned), but let me just simply say that the application HA such as SuSe HA or IBM PowerHA protects the SAP application, in this case the ASCS (ABAP SAP Central Services) which is sometime referred to as the Enqueue, whereas VMware HA protects the VM itself, more specifically it preserves the VM state to allow for the recovery of the entire VM and not just the application.  From the SAP perspective, it is far more important to insure the protection of the application, e.g. allow the ASCS to gracefully “float” from one data center in case of a problem, regardless of whether VMWare is involved – remember that the VPLEX for SAP and Oracle RAC solution does NOT need VMware in the mix to function and provide value.


That said, we will need to also fully understand the role that VMware SRM could play, depending on the use case, and the value added aspect that VMware SRM brings to the table, such as the ability to move the VM where the SAP enqueue is running on from one data center to another while SAP is running!  Like I said, this is a weighty topic which deserve its own blog post, so please come back to visit us again soon for more.


In the meantime, our customers who have already bought VPLEX Metro for SAP and Oracle RAC are busy implementing the solution, and I am hopeful to be able to share with you all best practices and TCO metrics about this great solution in the very near future.




Tim K. Nguyen

SAP Global Technical Evangelist & EMC Cloud Architect

EMC Solutions Group