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Can SharePoint be scaled to be used as an SAP Document Management Platform?

Even though Microsoft SharePoint has been recognized as a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Content Services platforms for multiple years in a row, when it comes to using SharePoint as an enterprise content management (ECM) platform many users coming from the world of traditional legacy ECM hold the opinion that SharePoint is just great for collaboration and not a great platform to manage content and the information essential to business operations. That's not quite right.

Many of these arguments originate from either the fact that users consider SharePoint an application and not an extensible platform, or because there are many myths (wonder how they got spread?) about SharePoint due to lack of appropriate knowledge of the platform’s capabilities.

One such myth is that “SharePoint is not scalable platform, and thus not a good platform to be used for SAP Document Management requirements.”

Before I go into busting this myth, let me introduce you to some key terms:

  • Boundaries are static limits that, by design, cannot be exceeded.
  • Thresholds are configurable limits placed for specific purposes that can be exceeded to accommodate specific requirements.
  • Supported Limits are configurable limits that have been set by default to a tested value.

Platform Optimization/Scale-Up Solutions

When using SharePoint for SAP content storage, some of these relevant characteristics come into play around scalability:

 

 

Type
SharePoint 2013 (Microsoft Documentation)
SharePoint 2016 (Microsoft Documentation)
SharePoint Online On O365 (Microsoft Documentation)
Storage per Site Collection

Supported Limit (Tested Value)

200 GB (general usage)

4 TB (requiring optimized hardware)

Unlimited (in
a document archiving scenario)

200 GB (general usage)

4 TB (requiring optimized hardware)

Unlimited (in
a document archiving scenario)

Up to 25 TB per site collection or group

Site Collections per Farm

Supported Limit (Tested Value)

750,000

750,000

750,000

Documents per library

Supported Limit (Tested Value)

30,000,000

30,000,000

30,000,000

File Size

Boundary

2 GB

10 GB

15       GB

 

The above mentioned numbers translate into ability to store 200 GB per site collection, which can be scaled-up to 4 TB using some specialized hardware. If specialized hardware or IT costs are prohibitive, SharePoint Online provides a very affordable solution with storage limits of 25TB per site collection. Futhermore, for archiving purposes, SharePoint supports unlimited size expansion on content databases as long as certain criteria around content archiving are met.

SharePoint provides the ability to create up to 750,000 Site Collections, allowing for up to a petabyte storage on your SharePoint 2013/2016 farm, or an exabyte on a single tenancy of SharePoint Online.

If your organization has more than petabyte of data, call me! I would love to work in your organization.

This capacity means you can store 30 million documents per library, with support for multiple libraries within a site collection. SharePoint also has support for large file sizes – up to 15 GB. While storing or opening single file of more than 15GB via the SAP interface may not be impossible, it would certainly be impractical in most situations.

Microsoft has provided much more in-depth strategic recommendations for planning and scaling SharePoint for typical large-scale content management scenarios and enterprise content storage planning to estimate performance and capacity requirements for large scale document repositories.

The above-mentioned numbers translate into the ability to store 200 GB per site collection, which can be scaled-up to 4 TB using some specialized hardware. If specialized hardware or IT costs are prohibitive, SharePoint Online provides a very affordable solution with storage limits of 25TB per site collection. Furthermore, for archiving purposes, SharePoint supports unlimited size expansion on content databases as long as certain criteria around content archiving are met.

SharePoint provides the ability to create up to 750,000 Site Collections, allowing for up to a petabyte storage on your SharePoint 2013/2016 farm, or an exabyte on a single tenancy of SharePoint Online.

If your organization has more than petabyte of data, call me! I would love to work in your organization.

This capacity means you can store 30 million documents per library, with support for multiple libraries within a site collection. SharePoint also has support for large file sizes – up to 15 GB. While storing or opening single file of more than 15GB via the SAP interface may not be impossible, it would certainly be impractical in most situations.

Microsoft has provided much more in-depth strategic recommendations for planning and scaling SharePoint for typical large-scale content management scenarios and enterprise content storage planning to estimate performance and capacity requirements for large scale document repositories.

Distributed Content Storage/Scale-Out Solutions

Talking more practically, unless an organization has invested in specialized hardware, a 200 GB limit on the SharePoint content database is generally considered to be a threshold at which a database administrator starts getting worried for various different reasons (mostly related to database maintenance/backup duration). Since a single Site Collection can only have a single database, it generally leads to the myth that SharePoint is only good for storing content up to 200 GB.

Even though an organization can always opt to use SharePoint Online, which provides a very highly scalable platform, some organization have business mandates/requirements to store content locally on SharePoint in their own datacenter or domain cloud tenancy. Proper architecture planning, along with use of 3rd party software, can help with scaling out SharePoint platform for SAP Content Storage solutions.

SAP NetWeaver based application platforms store content (unstructured documents and data archives) using SAP content repositories as logical storage destinations. An SAP-Certified HTTP Content Server Interface can intercept SAP-issued, content-relevant CRUD (Create, Read, Update & Delete) commands, translate and execute relevant actions on SharePoint as physical storage provider. Ideally, this solution should not only store content on SharePoint, but also extract SAP metadata around unstructured documents and store them on SharePoint as document properties, making the documents on SharePoint much more business relevant and findable.

Gimmal Document Management for SAP has helped SAP customers in just this way, using SharePoint as SAP document repository without limiting them to 200 GB. Features and functionality provided by Document Management for SAP can not only be used to scale SharePoint platform for storing content, but can also be used to provide more secure and audience-targeted workspaces.

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By Sanjeev Gupta

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