Dell and SGI Partner on SAP Hana Appliances
Dell CEO Michael Dell speaking at a conference in 2013 (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Dell and SGI Partner on SAP Hana Appliances

Dell to resell SGI’s high-end servers certified for in-memory database apps

In alliance that could have broad ramifications, SGI announced that Dell will resell its high-end servers to customers adopting SAP Hana in-memory computing applications. What Dell will sell are essentially Hana appliances, aiming to make deployments of the German enterprise-software giant's in-memory database system quicker and easier.

While Dell has two- and four-socket servers capable of running Hana, at the higher end of the market it has not invested in eight-socket servers and above. SGI CEO Jorge Titinger said the alliance will enable Dell to counter rivals that provide servers that range from two to eight sockets now and eventually as many as 32 sockets down the road.

This is a second appliance-oriented partnership Dell announced this week. In a separate alliance, it partnered with Mirantis and Juniper to sell pre-integrated hardware-software systems that come with the Mirantis distribution of OpenStack.

The shift to in-memory computing appears to be coming in multiple phases. The first wave involved analytics applications that were primarily used to bolster data warehousing environments. Now that SAP is delivering its S/4Hana transaction processing applications based on its in-memory database tech, customers at the high end of the server market are beginning to make the shift to the core Hana platform, Titinger said.

SGI is best known for its high-performance computing systems, but in 2009 it merged with Rackable Systems, which developed a family of servers aimed at traditional enterprise IT applications.

“The systems that Dell is reselling are based on our scale-up architecture,” said Titinger. “Our other two server families are built around a scale-out architecture.”

As enterprise IT continues to evolve, Titinger said, many of the concepts initially created for HPC environments can now be applied to in-memory computing running in a private cloud.

For its part, SAP has made it clear that it prefers that customers run S/4 applications on a cloud managed by SAP. But because of a range of compliance and security issues, many IT organizations will prefer to run S/4 on-premise or in a hosted environment.

Given the cost of the IT infrastructure required to deploy those applications, competition for that business among server vendors is fierce. Titinger says the alliance with Dell gives SGI a way to cost-effectively expand the number of sales people selling its offerings.

In terms of competing with rivals, Titinger said that the SGI systems are based on an appliance architecture that over time makes it simpler to scale in smaller four-socket increments.

For example, SAP has certified SGI’s four- and eight-socket servers, as well as forthcoming 12- and 16-socket single-node systems configured with up to 12TB of memory. Eventually, Tinger said, SGI plans to extent that architecture out to 32 nodes.

Because those systems are essentially appliances, Tinger added that it only takes a few hours to get them running compared to traditional four-socket-and-above servers that can take days and weeks to configure.

The degree to which Dell will be able to leverage SGI to usurp HP, IBM and Lenovo remains to be seen. But the one thing that is for certain is that a lot more IT organizations are about to be at the very least be exposed to SGI servers.

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