Microsoft and SAP share a long history of working together on a variety of interoperability solutions, including, for example, SAP Fiori and Office 365. They have been technology partners for over 20 years, with development teams co-located in their respective corporate headquarters in Redmond and Waldorf, Germany. In recent years, this trend has been exemplified by advancements in support for SAP-based solutions on Microsoft Azure. The purpose of our article is to provide their overview, focusing in particular on support for SAP HANA on Azure.
Microsoft Azure is a certified cloud platform for a number of SAP applications. Some of the most prominent ones include SAP Business Suite, Business All-in-One, and NetWeaver Application Server. These products are supported by both Microsoft and SAP in combination with a number of database management systems, including Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle DB, IBM DB2, SAP MaxDB and liveCache, as well as SAP Adaptive Server Enterprise (for comprehensive and up-to-date information regarding supportability of SAP products on Azure, refer to the SAP on Microsoft Azure article on the SAP Community Wiki site).
In addition to these database management systems, you can take advantage of the ability to deploy SAP HANA on Azure, either as part of your existing SAP Business Suite environment or through deployment SAP S/4HANA next generation business suite, which benefits in a much more meaningful way from the in-memory characteristics of SAP HANA. Some of the other HANA-based solutions certified on Azure at the time of writing of this article include SAP HANA Developer Edition, HANA One, SAP HANA Enterprise for BW and SAP BW/4HANA.
Due to its in-memory operational nature, Online Transaction Processing production workloads running on HANA require a significant amount of memory. As a result, currently the only Azure virtual machine size that supports such workloads is GS5, the largest one in any of the public clouds, with 32 CPU cores, 448 GB of memory, and up to 64 1TB data disks, yielding up to 80,000 IOPS.
However, if the performance delivered by GS5 virtual machines does not suffice, you have another option, which is actually a precedence in regard to Azure-based offerings. Rather than using a virtual machine, you have the ability to request a bare-metal, purpose-built hardware, in the form of a so called large instance of SAP HANA on Azure. SAP HANA large instances run on SAP HANA Tailored Datacenter Integration certified hardware in Azure. In such configurations, SAP HANA, which constitutes the database tier, is connected to the SAP application tier running on Azure virtual machines via ExpressRoute.
Large instances of SAP HANA on Azure is a unique offering considering that it provides direct connectivity to Azure virtual machines but it runs on bare metal, without the virtualization layer. However, its support model still resembles the one applicable to a traditional IaaS-based service. The datacenter facility, hardware, storage, and networking are still supported by Microsoft. Microsoft also handles the installation of the operating system, but any SAP HANA specific customizations are performed by a customer. That customer is also responsible for installation of the SAP Kernel and HANA DB.
SAP HANA on Azure large instance offering gives you six choices representing different performance attributes, including compute, memory, storage, and networking, although you have the option of adding extra storage if needed. The configurations are grouped into two categories. The first one, intended for Online Analytical Processing workloads, is based on v3 and v4 of Intel Xeon E7-8890 CPU, includes between 768 GB and 2 TB of RAM, and provides by default between 3 TB and 8 TB of storage. The second one, intended for Online Transaction Processing workloads, is based on v3 and v4 of Intel Xeon E7-8890 CPU, offers between 1.5 TB and 4 TB of RAM, and provides by default between 6 TB and 16 TB of storage (you have the option to request additional storage if needed).
These individual virtual machine and hardware choices translate into several different, workload specific configuration options. In particular, for SAP Business Warehouse deployments, you can use either the single-node approach, with large instances ranging between 768 GB and 2 TB of memory or the multi-node approach with up to 16 nodes yielding the total of 32TB of memory. Alternatively, if applicable, you can also use in this case an Azure virtual machine of GS5 size. When deploying SAP Business Suite or S/4HANA, your options, beside a GS5 virtual machine also include large instances, ranging from 1.5 TB up to 4 TB of RAM. For HANA One, you can use smaller virtual machines of DS14_v2 size with around 100 GB of RAM (for details, refer to SAP HANA on Azure).
From the supportability perspective, Microsoft and SAP maintains joint teams in their respective headquarters locations, in Redmond and Waldorf. Note that according to SAP note 2015553, customers must have a Premier support contract with Microsoft in order to qualify for SAP support for their production workloads on Azure.