SAPonPower

An ongoing discussion about SAP infrastructure

Is your company ready to put S/4HANA into the Cloud? – part 4

This is the 4th and final installment on this topic.  Sorry for the length of each part, but the issues surrounding placement of corporate application environments cannot be boiled down into simple statements like “always think cloud first” or “cloud is no place for a corporate application”.

  • How will you get from your current on-premise SAP landscape to the cloud? As mentioned in a recent blog post[i], database conversions from a conventional database or Suite on HANA to S/4HANA are not trivial to start with.  Now add the complexity of doing that across a WAN with system characteristics and technologies which you may not be able to control and you have just made a difficult task even more so.
    • Can a migration be completed within the outage window that your business allows? Fundamentally, the business will only allow outages which result in little to know lost business or financial penalties.  Where you may be able to use dedicated, 1Gb or 10Gb Ethernet or even faster internal networks (in the case of Power Systems), unless you are able to purchase temporary, massive WAN bandwidth, you may be faced with an outage that is longer than the business will allow.
    • At what cost, complexity and risk? If such a migration would take longer than allowable, there are strategies and solutions to deal with this, e.g. SAP MDS (Minimized Downtime Service), IBM CDC (InfoSphere Change Data Capture), SNP Transformation Backbone, Dell Shareplex, but these add cost, require much more planning and testing and might impose some additional risk especially across WAN communications, see the discussion on security across the WAN above.

Lest you feel that this post is overly focused on issues which might prevent you from moving to the cloud, there are good reasons as well.  As I am not an expert on that part of the story, I will refer you to some pretty good articles on the subject.[ii]  The common theme across these sites is that cloud can a) result in cost savings, b) improve agility, c) provide more elasticity and scaling, d) move from a CapEx model to OpEx.  Lets take these one at a time.

a) cost savings – For customers that are growing rapidly, are startups, have never implemented a complex ERP system, Cloud certainly can offer major cost avoidance.  For customers with existing data centers, Linux or Unix trained support staffs, UPS and diesel generator power units, storage, security and operations standards, investments and teams, backup and recovery solutions, unless the move of SAP to the cloud along with other potential moves will allow for a large portion of those staffs to be laid off and data centers sold to another company, it may be more challenging to figure out exactly what sort of savings result from a move to the cloud.  Once you address all of your corporate requirements, discussed in detail in parts 2 and 3 of this blog, a new price for the cloud services to support your SAP S/4HANA environment may emerge and then you can start the process of determining what sort of cost savings are likely to be forthcoming.  From my personal experience with customers, it often turns out that little to no cost savings actually result.

b) improve agility – This one is more clear cut.  When on-premise systems are purchased and your requirements change, often you may find out that you under or overbought and that adjusting capacity, starting up or shutting down systems or simply running power, planning for cooling, running network and storage cables, to name just a few tasks can take weeks or months.  Cloud data centers often pre-provision technology to be ready for growth and changes in demands plus this is the business they are in, so they tend to be very good at keeping ahead of the demands for their services.  Admittedly, some customers are also excellent at this and those that have chosen IBM Power Systems with PowerVM find that making adjustments to systems is so easy that agility is not a major issue.  I know of some customers that purchase larger systems than initially required with large amounts of Capacity on Demand CPUs and memory so that growth can be accommodated without any need for physical changes, simply logical activations to deal with this very issue.

c) elasticity and scaling – Elasticity is usually considered in a cost context, i.e. pay for what you use, which cloud models do very well with utility models and use of shared infrastructure plus ability to charge per unit regardless of what size systems are required, meaning nothing is lost if you start on one size system and have to move to another.  Scaling usually refers to the ability to add almost an unlimited number of additional servers very quickly and easily, once against because cloud providers focus on this and are very good at rapid provisioning.  Is this required for S/4HANA is a more important question.  After going through a proper sizing, just about all customers get something wrong.  A study by Solitaire Interglobal [iii] a few years ago revealed that customer using x86 systems for SAP, on average, were quoted a starting price that was no more than 40% of the eventual cost.  I have seen this personally with undersized offerings or ones that “answered the mail” but did not address necessary project requirements.  Customers that have experienced this sort of cost overrun will find a cloud option especially attractive because of the ability to seamlessly move between systems or scale-out as necessary.  By comparison, that same Solitaire study showed that customers that purchased IBM Power Systems for SAP were quoted a starting price of 85% to 90% of the eventual cost.  Once again, that is because we ask the right questions up front so sizes of systems are much more accurate, most project requirements have been accounted for and overruns are less common.  These sorts of customers may not find cloud quite as much of a boon for scaling.  On the elasticity front, Power Systems offer a pay as you go model with capacity on demand or flexible financing, so this issue can also be addressed for on-premise implementations.

d) CapEx vs. OpEx – Cloud is all OpEx.  Some customers’ CFOs have decided that this is necessary even though the rationale is not always clear to those of us without a finance or business degree.  Leases for on-premise systems can be structured to be mostly or all OpEx.  Of course, that only accounts for the systems, so data center infrastructure would likely fall more under CapEx.  If those are sunk assets, however, then unless they are to be sold, depreciation under CapEx will continue whether SAP systems are moved to the cloud or not.

I am sure there are plenty of other reasons to move to the cloud.  I would simply encourage customers to get informed about the challenges of migration; the costs once real corporate requirements are included; the security and control or lack thereof you will have of your mission critical systems; the options you can utilize to resolve some of the issues driving you to cloud today.  For any customer that would like to have a discussion with me about these issues, costs and solutions, please respond to this blog or send me an email: afreude@us.ibm.com

[i] https://wordpress.com/post/saponpower.wordpress.com/524
[ii] https://doublehorn.com/why-move-to-the-cloud/
http://www.belden.com/blog/datacenters/6-reasons-why-enterprises-are-moving-to-the-cloud.cfm
https://www.salesforce.com/uk/blog/2015/11/why-move-to-the-cloud-10-benefits-of-cloud-computing.html
https://www.cardinalsolutions.com/blog/2016/08/top-reasons-for-moving-to-the-cloud
https://www.l-tron.com/top-10-reasons-to-move-your-enterprise-to-the-cloud/
 [iii]http://sil-usa.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=54
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May 8, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

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