Companies considering SAP virtualization will find most of the skills they need for the project in their Basis teams, according to interviews with analysts and SAP customers.
Standard SAP Basis administration skills are sufficient for running SAP on virtualized servers, according to Jon Reed, an SAP careers expert with JonERP.com. Most companies rely on their senior Basis administrators for the projects.
"There's mostly a consensus that virtualization is going to land in that Basis skill set for SAP," Reed said. "It's a network engineer, system admin function. The average Basis person is going to have these skills."
That said, some organizations are finding that they need additional skills to get more benefits from SAP virtualization.
"Installing an SAP system on a virtual server is no different from installing on a physical server," said Steve Rumsby, an SAP technical manager at the University of Warwick in the U.K., in an email interview. "You don't get all of the benefits of virtualization that way, though."
The University of Warwick has SAP development and QA systems running completely virtualized, Rumsby said, and its project has benefited from skills that aren't necessarily in a "standard Basis guy's" toolbox.
Basis administrators are expected to have a good understanding of the technical aspects inside the SAP system -- for instance, everything that can be accessed from inside SAPgui.
With SAP virtualization, he said, creating template servers for quick deployment and using virtualization for high-availability and disaster-recovery scenarios require a better understanding of the workings of the lower levels of the Basis layer.
"The use of virtual storage in combination with virtual servers makes a big difference to the ease with which you can do this stuff," Rumsby said. "But you need a good understanding of how an SAP system and its database use its storage, to decide which parts can be shared between servers and which can't, and so how to divide up a system's storage into virtualized units."
For that reason, having someone with virtualization experience would be an asset in a project, according to Chris Carter, CTO and CEO of CCI, a Milwaukee-based ERP consulting firm that specializes in SAP virtualization. The company itself has virtualized mission-critical SAP applications -- including ERP and BI -- that were formerly run on 48 physical servers.
"SAP Basis administrators need to know that you've got to up the power on a virtualized server, you have to deal with more RAM, you have to be able to understand what the virtualized environment does," Carter said, so that virtualized environments aren't handed out "willy-nilly."
In turn, virtualization security may vary, he said. For example, companies can't use the same McAfee or Symantec virus-scanning addresses.
"You have to be cognizant of all those different things," Carter said.
But with a little help, it may not take long for SAP Basis administrators to catch on. For instance, FutureFuel senior engineer, systems, Lance Wehrung said he spent an hour or two with the person who set up the first box at his company and learned everything he needed to know in order to run it.
FutureFuel hasn't needed much more than general computer knowledge to run its virtualized SAP applications, Wehrung said. The manufacturer of biofuels and organic chemicals runs its mission-critical SAP ERP applications on VMware.
"As far as managing VMware and the servers," he said, "a typical, classic server administrator really wouldn't have a problem at all."