In a few posts I will try to describe my journey building my own SAP HANA server for training needs. I am an ex accountant with no technical degree, but I have the passion to get it run. Over the internet, there are a plenty of evidences that such thing is possible. My goal is to have a running SAP BPC 10.1 classic and embedded versions powered by SAP HANA as well as Business Suite on HANA.
Let’s be clear, this guide is not for production use. This is only for personal training and experimentations with no additional benefits. The building itself is one big experiment which I am not sure will finish successful, but at least I will try.
So let’s choose our hardware. The most demanding resource for SAP HANA, as you can imagine, in memory DB is of course the memory. From what I read over the internet, it is advisable to have 64GB of RAM or more. Probably it will run with 32GB utilizing the SSD RAM feature of VMware. Keep in mind that SSD RAM is probably an easy escape in some cases, but even the old DDR2 will be more than 10 times faster than the fastest SSD.
So, if you think that 32GB is enough, you could try with laptop. Probably one of the best cost-effective options will be Thinkpad W510 with quad core processor. It is relatively old laptop with 4 Memory slots which will give you an opportunity to easily buy and build compact and energy efficient server with 32gb of ram. You get such laptop on ebay at about 200-250$ and update it to 32gb for another 200-300$.
I am sure whatever option anyone chooses, the performance will be far from any capable production system. I even expect that when using this hardware the Applications would run slower on HANA than any other db. Anyway, my goal is to experiment with the new functionalities for which I am willing to sacrifice the performance. I decided to go for Xeon machine with 64GB of RAM and opportunity to expand it even more. My intention was to spend not more than 600-700$ for the hardware. So I started looking for server with 128gb of ram and came to IBM X3850 on ebay. My idea was to have as most energy efficient system as possible. Unfortunately the X3850 did not fit to my requirements. Then I googled workstation with 64GB of RAM and I found several choices. Two of them became my favorites. They were Dell Precision T7400 and Lenovo D20. You can get nice deals on ebay on both. On paper, the Lenovo is better option with newer processors, newer ddr3 ram and more maximum memory 192gb compared to dell’s processors, ddr2 and 128gb of memory!
The thing is, to get 64GB of ram you should at least 4X8GB AND 8X4GB expensive DDR3 ECC sticks. At current prices it will cost around 350-400 $. On the other hand, the 64GB of RAM on Dell Precision T7400 with 16 memory slots (with memory riser cards) will cost you around 190$. These kits contain 16 sticks with 4GB DDR2 ECC 5300f Fully Buffered memory.
My suggestion if you enter this journey, first buy the memory kit and then buy the particular machine. That’s what I did. The reason is that in most cases the memory will cost you much more than the rest of the hardware combined.
Few days ago I found a nice bargain on ebay. 64GB Memory Kit of DDr2 5300F Fully buffered which should fit well into Dell Precision T7400 for the amount of 120 $!!! As you can imagine, I did not think a lot, before I ordered it. While I was waiting for it to arrive, I started looking for a Precision with 16 slots. Those usually have 2 x Quad Core Xeon processors.
I asked several dealers and quickly found the desired model. The price was 390$ for 2xXeon X5450, WD 300GB 10k rpm, 8x1GB RAM, Video Nvidia Quadro FX-5600, 1000w Power Supply, etc. Back in 2008, each of those processors costed 912$ while the Nvidia Quadro FX-5600 costed 2999$ !!! Wow! Probably the machine I bought was one of the top Dell T7400 configurations at that time.
Because SAP training server will not require any substantial GPU with CAM/CAD abilities, my intention is to sell the card and refill the budget at least a little bit. The FX-5600 is still selling for not less than 80$ on ebay. I will replace it with basic PCI-E GPU for $5. Not only I will get some money, but also I will eliminate the most energy consuming device on my machine. This will reflect on my electricity bill.
So, right now I am waiting for the 64GB kit to arrive. I will try to get some pictures in the next post. I will also need an additional storage as the delivered 300GB will not be enough. I am also looking for different options regarding SAP Software Installation. We will see… Till then, have fun and stay tuned 🙂