Friday, March 21, 2008

Of Terabytes, March Madness, and Network Performance

Terabytes, March Madness, and Network Performance
Friday, March 21, 2008
Bruce Richardson

If you haven’t had a chance yet, read Derek Prior’s recently published piece on “The ERP Terabyte Club.” The only requirement for membership is to have an ERP production database with at least a trillion bytes.

For his research, Derek surveyed 67 SAP customers in conjunction with the American SAP User Group (ASUG). Their average databases were 3.7TB and growing by 10 to 100 gigabytes per month. The largest ERP production database uncovered was 18TB.

Many of the survey respondents are running large, single global instances of SAP and supporting up to 11,120 logged-on ERP users. The dependence on the global instance puts increasing pressure on IT to reduce the planned downtime windows needed for emergency fixes, problem resolution, upgrades, and enhancements.

Reading his research gave me a great sense of déjà vu. In the early days of ERP, clients would often call us for help on sizing up the computing power and storage needed to run their brand new applications. Sadly, this usually happened after they had already purchased the hardware. This issue went away as vendors and integrators gained more experience with the new software.

The issue surfaced again when SAP introduced SAP BW, its business information warehouse, in 1998. Early adopters called again, asking for assistance in sizing the processing power and database needed to effectively run BW.

Databases growing like kudzu

Until I read Derek’s piece, I had assumed there were no additional issues. Not true. It turns out Lora Cecere has been talking about this with our consumer goods clients over the past few years. She had been warning them that they needed to rethink their database strategies as they began pulling global order line-item data into their SAP systems.

Her concern was verified by a quick discussion with IBM executives that described a current customer project where the company is testing SAP NetWeaver and SAP BW sitting on top of a very large DB2 implementation. We will provide the details as soon as IBM obtains its customer’s permission.

The IBM team also warned that database sizing concerns are not limited to consumer goods companies, with consumer electronics and telecommunications companies facing similar issues. If you look at several of the large cell phone companies offering games, music, ring tones, television programs, movies, sports, and other content and services, these transactions are also being stored in SAP. It doesn’t take long before the production database exceeds 30TB to 35TB.

Affecting the network too?

When talking to one CIO about Derek’s research, he asked if other companies were having network problems too. He was concerned about running out of capacity. Ironically, his question came on the same day that The Boston Globe ran the story “Analysts Predict Internet Congestion.” One professor said that digital traffic is growing 50% a year, which is no doubt aided by YouTube and other multimedia applications. As a result, firms are predicting that demand will exceed network capacity by 2011.

But we may not have to wait three years. According to, the annual March Madness college basketball tournament may drive network performance down to dial-up levels as employees watch video clips or entire games on their PCs. While I don’t plan to watch any streaming video (my alma mater didn’t even make the NIT), I did find it curious that automatically linked my picks to my Facebook account.

Join us April 2nd for our first SAP Terabyte Club webcast

I have asked Derek Prior to join me in Boston on Wednesday, April 2, at 11:00 a.m. EDT, for our first webcast focused exclusively on managing large production ERP databases. During the call, Derek will share findings from the study, provide insights on what it means for CIOs and SAP Basis administrators, and explain how SAP Solution Manager might help address part of your concerns. You can register here.

In the meantime, do you share my concerns? Is your database spreading like kudzu? Are you seeing a causal relationship between growing databases and network performance? Will more widespread adoption of business intelligence and performance management software have any affect on the size of your database or your attempts to manage it? Finally, who do you have winning the NCAA tournament?

As always, I welcome your ideas and comments—

© Copyright by AMR Research, Inc.

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