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SAP Taps IBM, Intel to Cut Datacenter, SMB Costs

Longtime collaborators SAP and IBM this week showed how enterprises running SAP software on IBM hardware can use virtualization technology to more efficiently distribute workloads across servers -- reducing operational costs and lowering carbon emissions.

The companies' technology enables IT administrators to create an in-house cloud, spreading SAP utilization across an enterprise's servers and datacenters as needed. This ideally minimizes cases where hardware lies underutilized during off-peak times while still providing for spikes in usage.

So far, their technology -- which IBM and SAP showed off at the CeBIT 2009 trade show this week -- isn't available in a productized form.

But it could one day help SAP create a more compelling case for buying its software: Improving server utilization has become a major thrust of enterprises looking to slash spending and squeeze more from current infrastructure investments.

The specific software deployed in the demonstration was not noted in the release, but the demonstration was designed to be a tough test for the technology. "This load balancing was done using a very heavy workload and showed a scenario where users were not affected by the migration," Chani Sacharen, a spokesperson with IBM's R&D Labs in Israel, told InternetNews.com in an e-mail.

SAP and IBM's technology is based on the year-old, EU-funded RESERVOIR cloud computing research project, which is led by IBM (NYSE: IBM) and features a consortium of 13 other members drawn from the ranks of Europe's top enterprises, research institutes and universities.

RESERVOIR aims to develop technologies that make it easier for enterprises and service providers to more easily scale datacenter services to meet demand.

For instance, RESERVOIR technologies could enable a company to dedicate fewer servers to an application like SAP. If a business typically requires two SAP servers under normal load but five at peak, it then has to dedicate five servers at each every datacenter to SAP.

But under the new technology, it could pare those requirements down, utilizing other servers in the datacenter during peak usage.

The magic is enabled in part by IBM's POWER6 systems, which enable users to run separate applications on different virtual machines, called logical partitions, on the same physical server. The IBM POWER6 system's Live Partition Mobility capability enables the movement of those virtual machines from one IBM POWER6 system to another within the datacenter.

The end result is a cloud-like service within the enterprise datacenter, available on-demand during times of peak usage.

"The new breakthrough here is not the virtualization itself, it's the extension of this virtualization to enable live application migration across the cloud where the clouds are on different servers or interconnected networks," Sacharen told InternetNews.com. "As far as we know, this is the first demonstration that shows the migration of enterprise-grade workloads across servers, which could even reside in different datacenters."

IBM and SAP have been working together on various projects for 35 years. This particular project began in 1999.

In addition to cloud computing, the companies said they are also exploring new developments in business process management, services science and engineering, model-driven software development and security and compliance.

Testing SAP Apps for Intel

Efficiency is the goal of another SAP partnership announced this week. The German software giant on Wednesday said it would work with Intel to ready apps created on its SAP Business One Enterprise Resource Planning platform for use on Intel's 64-bit Xeon architecture.

The plan aims to make it faster for SAP Business One's target customers -- small to midsized businesses (SMBs) -- to deploy software on Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) Xeon-based systems, which support virtualization for greater efficiency.

"SAP Business One optimized to run on Intel Xeon processors with Intel Virtualization Technology delivers improved performance and manageability," said Richard Curran, Intel's director of enterprise marketing and software solutions for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

While SAP plans to provide pre-testing for a host of vertical apps for SAP Business One going forward.

The first app developed through this partnership and pre-tested on the Intel Xeon architecture has a very specific, limited audience, however. Maringo Computers and Wortmann have built a business management application for providers of professional services in Germany based on the SAP Business One platform.

Getting green

Both the efforts with IBM and Intel are aimed at ensuring SAP's customers find using its software more efficient and cost-effective.

But the partners also position the moves as part of a larger effort to encourage lower carbon emissions in customers' datacenters -- the thinking being that fewer servers require less cooling, cutting down on waste generation.

[cob:Special_Report]This week, SAP also released apps to help customers better realize their green goals. For instance, the company released its SAP Environment, Health, and Safety Management Application to enable businesses to track their footprint and make wise decisions with regard to the environment.

SAP also announced plans to cut its own carbon emissions.

"After analyzing its global environmental footprint, SAP announced its commitment to a 51-percent reduction of its total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its year-2007 published baseline levels of 513,000 tons CO2 by year 2020," the company said in a statement.

Reducing emissions won't be easy for SAP, however. To achieve these cuts, the company said it would have to enhance its own R&D by using the resources of partners, such as IBM and Intel that also have significant research operations.

Update adds comments from Sacharen.