SAP's Kagermann on Dell pact

Dell Inc. and SAP AG Wednesday said they are expanding their relationship and working together to help customers move from Unix-based systems to Linux and Windows systems running on two- and four-way clusters.

In an interview with Computerworld after the announcement, Henning Kagermann, CEO of SAP, discussed the impact of clusters on his business applications, current trends and the impact on Unix systems.

Excerpts from that interview follow:

Are you recommending to your customers that they move to Dell two- and four-way clusters? No, we can't. We have (SAP) benchmarks and these benchmarks are standard benchmarks for all of the key hardware suppliers. If Dell can achieve very, very good figures, as we have seen in the standard environment, then it's something that is known to all customers in the world and it's up to them to make their choice. But SAP never makes recommendations. A customer makes a choice. That's very important, because the client wants us to be, to some extent, neutral.

Based on what you are seeing in the benchmarks, do you expect to see a lot of your SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) users moving to two- and four-way clusters? There is a momentum, yes. How much? We will see. But if you look to the installations in the last quarters, we can see some trend, that's true.

A lot of your customers run their systems on the big Sun and IBM boxes. Are you concerned that you might alienate some of those customers with this Dell agreement? No. You have to understand, all these clients, when they invested in hardware, also looked at the benchmarks at that time. Making benchmarks is not new for SAP. We started in the 1990s, because when Unix took off there was always the question of which Unix flavor is the best one. Now I think we have new players, and Michael Dell is changing the game. Now, for new clients there is a new benchmark and they will make up their mind. But that's up to the customer.

For SAP, where is the value in the Dell relationship? Is it in migrations, or is it in new customers? No, I think it is in the overall cost-of-ownership story that fits quite nicely. I think both companies really have the same vision. We want to lower the overall cost of ownership for our clients.

Is there growth in the SMP market, the large-scale systems? Are you getting a lot of new installations? Our installations go up every year. Every year we add 4,000 to 5,000 new SAP installations. Still, Unix is a large, large platform, but there is tendency (to move) more to other platforms, which is Windows and Linux.

Where does a two- to four-way cluster not work? It works in principle everywhere. The question mark will be, and what I can't answer now, (involves) very, very high-end database servers. In an SAP implementation, the most critical piece is normally the database server. And if there is a large client, a very high-end (client), and if the database server goes down, you need very good fail-over. These are the most critical resources and that is something where I think clients are most conservative -- I would put it this way. But on the other side, in an SAP implementation, there are also a lot of application servers. And these, from an architectural point of view, are designed as low-cost servers. If you need more throughput in your environment, just add two or three application servers and they run in parallel.

What's your outlook for 64-bit? Intel will be shipping its Xeon chip with 64-bit extension this summer, and the Advanced Micro Devices Opteron is already available. Mixed. There is demand, but not all clients are looking for it. It's still, I would say, a mixed picture.

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