C4 Instance Family certified for SAP Applications

by Vanessa Alvarez | on |

The new compute-optimized EC2 instances of the C4 family are now certified for general SAP usage. The availability of the entire C4 instance family is documented in the SAP platform note 1656099 (requires SAP customer authentication)
This new family of instances allows SAP customers to improve their performance and the price/performance for compute intensive SAP workloads loads compared to the older C3 instance family.
A quick look at the SAP AWS platform note 1656099 shows as well that the flagship instance type c4.8xlarge is the AWS EC2 instance type with the highest certified total SAP throughput measured in SAPS. SAPS are a SAP throughput metric used to size SAP system.
What’s so exciting about the C4-Family?
C4 is a successor of the SAP certified C3 instance family. The new C4 instances are based on the Intel Xeon E5-2666 v3 (code name Haswell) processor. C4 instances leverage a custom version of this processor, designed specifically for EC2, which runs at a base speed of 2.9 GHz, and can achieve clock speeds as high as 3.5 GHz with Turbo boost. These instances are designed to deliver the highest level of processor performance on EC2.
The C4 instances do well with SAP applications since they allow you to achieve significantly higher packet per second (PPS) performance, lower network jitter, and lower network latency using Enhanced Networking.
I use SAP. What’s in for me?
The C4 instance family provides immediate value and savings for every one who already uses C3 instances for compute intensive SAP workloads.
The table below is a recompilation of the facts in the SAP platform note with an addition of price/performance information as used in the North Virgina region as a reference:
Instance Name RAM C3 vCPU Count C4vCPU Count C3 SAPS C4 SAPS Through-put C4 over C3 Cost per SAPS, C4 over C3*
c4.large 3.75GiB 2 2 1989 2379 +20% -16,4%
c4.xlarge 7.5GbiB 4 4 3978 4758 +20% -12,0%
c4.2xlarge 15GiB 8 8 7957 9515 +20% -10,8%
c4.4xlarge 30GiB 16 16 15915 19030 +20% -11,4%
c4.8xlarge 60GiB 32 36 31830 37950 +19% -11,4%
* Price/Performance: Costs of the North Virginia region for Windows per hour per SAPS as of April 2015
The table above shows that the SAP throughput of the C4 family is 19-20% above the one of the predecessor generation. This means to a SAP user:
• Lower risk of resource exhaustion due to 19-20% more CPU head room
• Potentially ~20% less application servers needed in client-server configuration
• Better scalability inside the box. Features like enhanced networking lower the efforts to achieve the maximum throughput.
The table shows as well that the price performance improves in between 11 and 16% depending of the instance type.
How to use the C4 Family in my SAP Fleet?
C4 instances are the perfect choice for CPU hungry SAP applications without needing too much memory.
They’re as well a great choice for CPU hungry single user test and development systems.
They’re a great starting point for standalone systems, which may not need a lot of memory. Note, if more memory is needed you can easily switch to an instance in the R3 family with a few API calls.
SAP HANA One, available on the AWS marketplace is currently supported on the c4.8xlarge instance type. For HANA deployments needing more than 60GB of RAM please continue to use the r3.8xlarge instance type.
How do I use C4 instances to optimize my SAP Instance Fleet?
First and foremost: Use HVM virtualization for all your SAP instances. This is mandatory for Windows instances. It’s optional (and strongly recommended) for Linux instances.
The HVM virtualization will allow you to switch your instance type through a simple reboot. This will work as well for future instance types!
SAP administrators will want to fine-tune their EC2 instances whenever they have a maintenance window. This allows them to stop, migrate and restart the instance. The time needed for this exercise varies depending on the individual configuration. The time needed is typically within the range it takes to have a cup of coffee…
There are two reasons to migrate an instance:
Preemptive maintenance: using a new instance type will lower the risk of forced shutdowns which may be required for security updates.
Newer instance types are likely to have a longer total product lifetime combined with a better price/performance. This leads to a recommended migration path as follows:
Rightsizing through stop/starts with instance migration: The C4 instances are financially more attractive than the R3 instances since they offer the same amount of CPUs with less memory. This makes the C4 instances very attractive for use as SAP application servers.
SAP system performance requirements may change over time. The AWS platform allows SAP users to pick a larger or smaller system in the family whenever they are needed. Now you don’t have to invest upfront for hardare you may ore may not need in the next 5 years.. Adjust your compute needs and therefore costs by the hour.
Scale up and down in the C4 instance family as you need!
The R3 instance family offers similar amount of vCPUs with more memory compared to the C4 family. The R3 instance family allows to operate SAP systems with up to 244GiB RAM.
This gives SAP users a fine grained migration path:
• Scale up and down in a family if more CPU is needed
• Migrate from the C4 family to the R3 family by reboot if you need more or less memory
The diagram below shows the choices AWS customers have to find the best fit for the needs of the day below:

The entire C4 family is certified for SAP use. SAP customers will want to use this instance type instead of the previous generation C3 family since the C4 family offers better performance and overall price/performance.
Plan your migration to C4 instances today during your next maintenance window.