Negative user feedback regarding poor performance of applications in remote locations has always been an essential concern. SAP offers a smart solution to overcome this issue and additionally save money by implementing it. Looking at the new SAP NetWeaver Complementary Offering "Accelerated Application Delivery" (AccAD), we see a mature technology that boosts the response times of your applications in remote offices over the WAN (wide area network). SAP itself successful uses it for the performance optimization of its intranet services. This blog points out cost saving benefits your organization can gain through an implementation.
In the current economic climate, where cost saving is more important than ever, the majority of IT projects strictly focuses on cost reduction and fast Return of Investment (ROI). The questions that need to be answered prior to the budget approval are: Which amount of investment is needed, how much can be economized and how quickly can the break-even point (BEP) be reached? Projects are not implemented just because of a great technology or because it is fashionable. Projects will only be started if they have a measureable benefit for the business.
Based on that alignment with business, an extended perspective on IT projects is necessary. This blog focuses on cost savings that can be realized with the implementation of a performance optimizing technology. It is separated in three parts: The first part will give you an idea about the performance increase that can be expected. Afterwards some details are given on the setup of an implementation project. Finally, major aspects of the business value that can be generated are pointed out.
Please note that the blog does not cover technical details about the product. A short overview of the software is given in the article "Accelerated Application Delivery 2.1 for SAP NetWeaver In a Nutshell". However, for a better understanding of this blog, the following should be known: AccAD increases the performance of web applications through the usage of generic and application aware network optimizations. That means: Less data will be transported and so the response time gets shorter. The big advantage of AccAD is the detailed knowledge about the specific application characteristics.
At last, there are many very good documents and blogs available on SDN. This link will directly lead you to the entry page of AccAD.
AccAD expectations on performance increase
Before taking a closer look at the details of an implementation project it is necessary to point out realistic expectations on the performance increase that can be achieved through the use of AccAD.
Unfortunately, there is no such "guaranteed performance increase" figure available. Nevertheless, projects that were accompanied by SAP during the Ramp-Up phase and also several installations for test and demo purposes gave some hints on what to expect. In the official presentations, you find information on the data that has been collected from the SAP Corporate Portal. This gives a good overview. However, the presented peak figures will most likely not help you to decide about a new project. In real life it is more important to test your specific scenarios. Each setup of the applications differs from others; also network technologies and configurations vary. A specific customer measurement that covers your individual most used scenarios is needed.
Even if a guaranteed figure cannot be pointed out, projects have sharpened the following picture: Across most scenarios a decrease in response time of around 50% is a realistic scenario. This means for the end users: if for example it took 2 minutes to open the portal, log on and approve a leave request before the usage of AccAD, you can expect the time to be cut to 1 minute after the implementation. As mentioned, these figures heavily depend on the environment. In some installation scenarios it will take the users only 30 seconds to work through the scenario with AccAD from a remote location. Or it might decrease to 1 minute and 20 seconds. In any case, best-practice is to start with a proof on concept (PoC). Pick one important remote connection, prepare an AccAD installation and measure your individual performance increase. This will lower the risk of your invest.
There is one general rule to be mentioned. All figures that have been measured so far indicate: The slower the actual response time is the more relative improvement can be expected from AccAD.
This part will cover aspects you need to consider in order to get started with an AccAD implementation project. It can be used as a checklist prior to the project.
First of all the integration architecture needs to be planned. For this task it is important to take all relevant areas like basis and application support, network setup, security assessments, delivery configurations and other application specific topics into consideration. To finalize this planning, the budget for internal and if needed external project resources needs to be calculated. All the architectural questions need to be answered prior to the start of the implementation.
Speaking of hard- and software prerequisites, the best message regarding AccAD is that there are currently no extra license fees for SAP customers. If you already have a SAP NetWeaver license, you can download and use AccAD for free.
However, one requirement that needs to be fulfilled is the hardware. AccAD will be delivered as a so called "soft-appliance". That means you need to set up some hardware in the remote office and the so called data center, which is the location of the central application that will be optimized. Furthermore the Operating System installation needs to be prepared. The software (including the Linux Operating System) will be installed automatically on that hardware during the implementation. The hardware requirements are moderate thus are the expenditures. For a test measurement in a PoC you can even use some lean hardware that is not needed any more. Later, for productive use, you should contact your hardware vendor and size the infrastructure together.
Because of the central managed soft-appliance technology that is used, you have the chance to speed up the implementation project and benefit from the performance increase immediately. Experience shows that an implementation project can be realized in less than one month's time. It also depends on the skills of the team members of the project, of course. Nevertheless, a well-planned architecture is mandatory and the solid foundation of success.
The following illustration gives a brief that need to be considered.
The last topic that needs to be covered is the support and maintenance for the implemented system. Because of the centralized setup you do not need any additional resources in the remote locations. All necessary tasks like configuration, upgrades, further roll outs, etc. can be executed from the local data center. This significantly lowers you total cost of ownership (TCO).
Another benefit is the possibility of a step by step rollout instead of a ‘Big-Bang' approach. You can start with a small amount of remote offices. Afterwards you can extend the landscape and increase the performance for all end users step by step. All the configurations you already performed during the PoC are reusable. That way a quick switch to the productive usage is possible.
Subsequent to the overview on performance increase expectations and the implementation aspects let's have a closer look at the benefits. Doing so, the following part will display examples of what the technology can do for your company in measurable business figures. In addition it lists some arguments that will support you in the discussion whether a solution like AccAD can reduce your costs in the future or not.
Increase of end user acceptance and productivity
Because of the performance increase, the end user will be faster in doing their daily work. Depending on the application usage, this will lead to the following two facts. First, the motivation is higher because waiting for example 40 seconds for an application is perceived as useless und annoying. Especially if it is an application that the user has to use regularly like time reporting for example. If you can lower the response time to 20 seconds, the motivation of the end-users will definitely increase. Secondly, saving this time day by day for most of the used applications, the performance increase will lead to an increase of productivity. This becomes even more significant, if this aspect is combined with the increased of motivation. While looking at your scenarios, the usage statistics and the expected performance increase, you can easily calculate the monetary value for your company (ROI).
Network traffic reduction
By optimizing the traffic sent to the remote locations, you will reduce the network traffic itself. That means, the end user can not only work faster with their web application, also the traffic that is transported over the WAN will be less in total. Bandwidth consumption will decrease. Because of that you can reuse the allocated bandwidth for other applications or you might be able to avoid an upgrade in the future. Depending on the network setup and sizing you can save money either way. This is often an enourmous benefit in cost intensive WAN scenarios.
Through the usage of the AccAD components, you can optimize the setup of your landscape. The components can take over additional functions that would normally be provided by dedicated hard- or software (i.e. HTTP Proxy functionality, communication security enablement like SSL termination and tunneling, DNS redirection and others). This can be achieved through the flexible and smooth integration architecture of the soft appliances. Additional hardware components become obsolete. This will lead to cost savings for your landscape. It also lowers administration cost due to less involved components.
Platform program enhancements
From a project perspective you can benefit from better feedback of your internal customers regarding the quality of service in general. If you run a program organization with several projects that are integrated in the web distribution architecture, the improved performance will sooner or later lead to better internal reputation. The fast presentation of web applications is a key selling and success factor for new projects that in the future can be set up and delivered with high performance using the AccAD setup.
Just like mentioned before, it depends on the characteristic of your company which aspects will lead to cost savings and which might not. This blog points out main factors that will hopefully lead to a customer-internal discussion about the usage of the SAP NetWeaver complementary offering.
At the end...
The goal of this blog is to provide directions in the process of looking at technology from a cost saving perspective. In times, where cost saving and economical efficiency is getting more and more important, a project with the goals of improving user satisfaction and saving money within a short period of time is definitely something worth looking at in detail.