IBM SoftLayer was verified to run SAP applications, June 2014, joining other Public cloud IaaS providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure (Although interestingly they do not appear on the SAP note 1380654, even though the note has been updated in July 2014). This blog details some of the basics of the SoftLayer architecture and how to deploy an instance for installing SAP – as I am using a free account, the initial server does not have enough resources for a full ERP system but it will be enough to demonstrate the key architectural features.
SoftLayer is an IaaS provider much like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure, you pay for what you provision and use – although the differences in the granularity and services at first glance seem to make it tricky to do an Golden Delicious apple to Golden Delicious apple comparison, instead it may be more like a Golden Delicious apple to Granny Smith apple comparison.
I signed up for the month free trial here - http://www.softlayer.com/info/free-cloud, this provides you with a small server, too small for much useful in SAP terms. Once you have signed up and the server has been provisioned for you, this is different to other providers where you sign up and then you have to log in and create the server- I suspect it has something to do with the fact I have signed up for the month free trial.
The console (shown below) looks pretty clean and functional once you log in, it appears to be focussed on support and high level monitoring of instances and cost. Other consoles I have worked with prefer to provide a clearer view of the account assets and their status.
I can clearly see that my instance is running and I have no open tickets with SoftLayer. Now that the account is set up, the next stage is to understand the architecture of SoftLayer.
At first glance it has all the normal options for an IaaS provider
- Server choice - lots of options here as shown in the screenshot below of the order process
- OS choice - Windows or RedHat are the only SAP Supported options here
- Networking configuration - Vast array of networking options, although critical point over other providers is that once a public IP has been assigned to an instance it is only returned to the pool once the instance has been terminated.
- Storage configuration - several options available
- Security and Firewall options
Although the number of options available does seem to outstrip other providers, especially self-service providers. This begs the question if everything is automated or if certain items require human intervention – especially when looking at bare metal instance provisioning. I know this can be automated using tools like Razor (PuppetLabs) or BareMetal from OpenStack, but some of the options available pose that question for me.
Lets have a quick look at how to order a new instance and see how quick and easy it is to perform.
From the console screen, you can select Devices from the Order box
This leads to a screen with a myriad of options which looks very impressive and provides excellent choice and flexibility at scaling costs.
The screen above allows you to select what you want to order, for this I selected the hourly Public Cloud Instances, which took me to the screen below.
As you can see SoftLayer have opted for a single form rather than multiple screens of options, this allows for a view of the whole server which makes life easier in case you make a mistake or forget what you need to enter.
The form above shows an example of the system I selected for a standard Vanilla NW 7.4 system on RedHat Linux. I found the ability to select the number of CPUs and amount of RAM very refreshing as most providers do not have a good CPU to RAM ratio for SAP applications and you often end up very CPU heavy compared to your RAM.
The other item I have noticed is that there is always a cost calculator on each screen, which shows me how much my instance is estimated to cost. This is in direct contrast to other vendors who have calculators at the start of the process or just provide a lump sum bill for all provisioned infrastructure. This level of transparency is good, although I do not know if there are any 3rd party tools to provide good cost analysis of how SoftLayer’s customers are spending their money. I know Azure and Amazon have 3rd Party services which can do this – for example here - http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240174396/Free-tool-that-tracks-costs-of-AWS-Azure-and-Rackspace-public-clouds-launched
Once you have completed your configuration of the infrastructure, there are details like any OS scripts that need executing, definition of SSH keys and Hostname/Domain names to be confirmed as shown below.
After I had completed the order process my instance was created for me and I could log into it successfully.
Overall I am impressed with the SoftLayer processes in my first experience with them, they have sought to strike their own path in terms of the tools and options available.