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SAP gives VMware the support nod

SAP's blessing signals to end users that it's safe to virtualize mission-critical apps, VMware says.

VMware Inc. has inked a global technology and partner agreement with SAP, the German business application behemoth, whereby SAP will certify and support all its applications running within VMware ESX Server virtual machines.

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SAP apps will run on 64-bit versions of Windows, Linux and Sun Solaris x64. In addition, the two firms have qualified specific server hardware platforms from Dell, Fujitsu-Siemens, HP and IBM.

A go-ahead for the skeptics
VMware said the agreement between the two firms settles the question of whether it's safe to virtualize mission-critical applications.

"A lot of customers are still cautious about virtualizing the most business-critical applications," said Bryan Byun, VMware vice president of global partners and solutions. In terms of the rigor of its testing and certification process, SAP is "Mount Everest," he said, thus SAP's blessing "is a green light for everybody that's been cautious so far."

Virtualization can be used as a customer acceleration kit and makes SAP more competitive.
Bryan Byun,
vice president of global partners and solutionsVMware Inc.

The deal has been in the making for several years, Byun said, as a result of demand from several joint customers. VMware is also trying to ink similar partnership deals with other independent software vendors (ISVs).

"We're engaged with just about every large ISV on a certification and support agreement," Byun said.

A notable exception is another well-known business application vendor: Oracle Corp., which last month announced support for its business applications running within its own proprietary Oracle VM, a Xen knock-off. While Oracle does not officially support its apps running in VMware virtual machines (VMs), it does in practice.

Meanwhile, some smaller ISVs already forgo qualifying their applications on specific physical systems and simply certify their apps on VMware, Byun said. Because virtualization presents ISVs with "a standard definition, they are testing once, and it saves them time and money." They also find "counterintuitively, that supporting their applications in a VM improves their uptime and predictability." Byun also hypothesized that providing applications as prepackaged virtual appliances could also help SAP in its efforts to appeal to a more down-market crowd.

"As SAP approaches smaller customers, the question they are asking is 'How do I save hundreds of thousands of dollars [in implementation costs]?" Byun said. "Virtualization can be used as a customer acceleration kit and makes SAP more competitive."

Opening the VMware floodgates?
But at least one analyst doubted whether SAP's support statement was the watershed event for end users that VMware has made it out to be.

"It's a significant announcement, but it's not a game-changer," said Gordon Haff, principal analyst with Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H. "These sorts of announcements never are."

Downplaying the SAP/VMware agreement does not belittle SAP's importance, of course. "SAP is an important ISV; they're not Joe's Garage Software," Haff said. But the comfort level in running mission-critical apps on VMware has more to do with a shop's individual needs and confidence derived from observing the experiences of others, he emphasized.

"They need to see enough people doing it and measure it against the risk and reward of doing it themselves," Haff said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Alex Barrett, News Director.

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