SAP gets boost from IBM

Organisations running large-scale SAP applications can expect some much-needed relief this week. The change will follow that company's endorsement of an IBM architecture that tightly couples PC servers and mainframe technology to dramatically boost application performance.

In demonstrations at this week's Sapphire show in Nice, France, both companies will show how IT managers can directly attach Netfinity servers using IBM's Escon adapters to an IBM mainframe running DB2 and SAP's R/3 applications - using the Netfinity servers as a high-performance SAP application coprocessor with their mainframes.

By hosting SAP and other enterprise-level applications on IBM's servers, corporate IT shops can download data from multiple hosts to one PC-based server as much as 70 times faster than they can via Ethernet. Using IBM's multiprocessing channel technology built into the adapter, administrators can also simultaneously make TCP/IP and Systems Network Architecture-based connections to host systems.

"This is a big deal because developers like SAP are doing two- or three-tier apps where they want the database up on the mainframe, but are writing all their application models on Wintel servers and want to share info back and forth. And, users want to 'Web-ify' applications to customers and business partners without having to rewrite them," said Sandy Carter, alliance director for IBM's Netfinity servers group.

The Netfinity Escon adapter is a high-performance PCI-based adapter intended to minimise delays and dramatically reduce server processing cycles. This allows Netfinity servers and mainframes to spend processing cycles on executing applications. Two Escon adapters can be combined for full duplex communication.

Escon-attached Netfinity Servers for SAP R/3 applications give larger IT shops high-capacity, bidirectional connections with speeds as fast as 200Mbps, thereby sidestepping bottlenecks caused by LANs or controllers. Escon serves as a way to connect controllers, disk drives, tape drives, and printers into IBM's S/390 mainframes.

Some see the move by IBM as an important piece of its overall effort to legitimise the Wintel duopoly at the data-centre level and to preserve a role for itself as part of that strategy. The move also indicates that the company is no longer fearful of cannibalising its Unix-based servers with Wintel servers.

"Everyone here is saying, 'What can we do besides help Microsoft and Intel get rich?' Well, I think this is a good niche that we have figured out for ourselves that no one else has right now," an IBM insider said.

In addition to SAP, Baan and PeopleSoft are now testing IBM's Escon adapter with hopes of certifying it for the Netfinity servers later this year. Microsoft is doing the same for its SQL Server database, sources close to the company said.

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