The Business Value of SAP in the Cloud
As cloud computing pervades the IT market, moving applications to a virtual environment is becoming a familiar journey for most companies. But the degree of difficulty in transitioning to an “as a service” model can vary widely depending on what applications you want to move.
For SAP users, the process of upgrading the release or customizing their environment is often time-consuming and complex. Just setting up new environments for testing, development or upgrades can take a significant effort and can cause project delays and cost overruns.
If you’re facing a tight upgrade window, it may be time to consider migrating your SAP landscape to the cloud, says Sunil Bhargava, director of cloud offering management and development for CSC. He recently discussed the challenges of managing an SAP infrastructure and the value of moving to the cloud.
The value of cloud computing is well documented. But from an SAP perspective, what are customers primarily interested in?
Our customers are interested in gaining business agility. For SAP, it’s the ability to reduce cycle time, do what you’ve always done but quicker, change gears when necessary and possibly gain a first-mover advantage. These benefits are impossible unless you have unused resources available to be tapped and leveraged when they’re needed.
Historically, businesses mitigate this risk by over-provisioning the infrastructure – an expensive way to achieve the objective.But over-provisioning does not address the need to rapidly repurpose or eliminate the infrastructure when it is not needed to reduce waste.
With cloud, you gain the agility of having a flexible, scalable environment on-demand with guaranteed availability. You mitigate the risk of not having the capacity required when you need it; without the waste and expense associated with over provisioning. The end goal is being able to rapidly react to new requirements the business brings. That’s the true risk we are attempting to mitigate. The value of cloud is to deliver this agility cost effectively.
Secondly, with cloud, you can move from a CAPEX to OPEX model. CAPEX generally requires an extensive approval process, and then you’re stuck with that equipment for its usable life. Cloud’s value proposition is to, first, skip that process and save time. Second, once you are no longer using the equipment, you can return it or repurpose it, which saves money by lowering waste.
With that as the background, what exactly do these cloud benefits mean when we’re talking about an SAP landscape?
First and foremost is rapid deployment for testing and staging. That’s certainly true for SAP given the effort involved in installation of a new landscape. That allows for not just new releases and modules but also for testing of customizations. That’s enabled at two levels in the CSC cloud environment.
The first is at the infrastructure level — being able to get multiple instances of an SAP landscape on demand. The second moves further up the value chain — being able to get an infrastructure utility where the SAP landscape is pre-installed and sized to your requirements, and optionally, the entire software stack is also managed.
This gives IT the ability to react at the speed of the business. The business does not need to be governed by the CAPEX process, and can now scale up on demand, get new landscapes created on demand, and return them when they’re not being used.
Obtaining a service that delivers both the infrastructure and the run-and-maintain support for your SAP landscapes allows you to focus on the SAP processes. In a cloud environment, infrastructure, software installation and application management can be managed by CSC. We’ve industrialized these processes to deliver cost-effectively and reliably.
Cloud also adds a right-sizing dimension. It’s able to right-size any workload, including the resource-intensive SAP workloads.It offers an ability to adjust scale depending on the customers’ needs and accommodates seasonal transaction volume changes. Lastly, cloud offers an ability to balance the resource requirement for the OLTP (On Line Transaction Processing) workloads of SAP with the OLAP (On Line Analytic Processing) workloads.
What does a typical customer scenario look like, and are certain application environments a better fit for cloud than others?
If you are looking at refreshing technology, doing an SAP upgrade or adding a new SAP module, it is a great opportunity to migrate to a cloud-based SAP landscape. When faced with a merger, divestiture or an acquisition is another chance to benefit from the faster provisioning and on-demand access of a cloud environment. If you’re implementing pay-as-you-go services to penetrate new market segments or access new geographies, an SAP cloud utility service is also an ideal solution.
Another great opportunity is when consolidation is needed. One of our clients has six different regions with their own ERP instances. They were looking to centralize to a single environment, and change-management efficiency demanded that the upgrade to the latest release be simultaneous.
The client was faced with three key challenges. First, the time duration to get to a basic system for the initial installation needed to be scoped for size and hardware specs; followed by budgetary approval, procurement bid process, purchase order, delivery, hardware install, OS install and finally turnover to the SAP administrators for installation.
Overall, this could be a three-to-six month process. Second, sizing was complicated because the resource requirement of the consolidated solution could only be estimated as each region’s workload was added sequentially over two years.
A further complication was the need for additional capacity for each region’s user acceptance testing and system staging. Third, whichever region went last was not agreeable to be charged their share of the infrastructure upfront when it was first being purchased. With CSC’s Cloud IU for SAP service, we provided the customer with a virtualized on-premise private cloud-based infrastructure right-sized to their needs based only on the roughest sizing estimated through a two-day workshop. The private cloud delivered and installed in just 10 weeks, provided on-demand capacity for volume fluctuations and right-sizing of the production environment as well as capacity on-demand for user acceptance testing and staging for each region.
The orchestration automation provided rapid replication of approved SAP landscape for the testers and developers maintaining their productivity without any waiting-for-system or waiting-for- install time. Each region was charged for their allocation of the cloud for the user acceptance testing and staging instances allowing for costing transparency of the OPEX charges.
This customer also chose us to provide the SAP Basis run-and-maintain support including backup and DR. With our Cloud IU for SAP service, they were able to accelerate their project timeline for deployment while increasing the social acceptance of a centralized ERP. Most importantly, they now have the ability to be more responsive and flexible in meeting business requirements.
Chris Sapardanis is a senior editor on CSC's digital marketing team.