Why would you run SAP in the cloud?

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When I am working with clients, I am often asked the question “Why would you run SAP in the cloud?” Since this is so common, I decided to write a blog post answering this question and outlining the benefits cloud can provide.

To start with, it’s important to state that cloud is just another way of buying and consuming IT, regardless of if it is a private or public cloud. By the way, the topic regarding private versus public cloud is a topic worth its own blog post, which I will write in the future.

The administrators of SAP environments are commonly challenged with the tasks of adding more capacity to the systems and responding to requests for new systems to be deployed, along with any other associated requests. Such tasks tend to take a while as there are lead times for new equipment to be purchased and installed as well as a lot of manual tasks to be performed, which all tend to take time. Other challenges might include responding to cyclic variations in capacity need, like during the Christmas season.

What if these challenges could be met by cloud? Rest assured, this is happening right now. Several cloud service providers, including IBM, are addressing the task of running SAP in the cloud. Very few are able to address the full SAP lifecycle in a true cloud fashion. The IBM SmartCloud for SAP Applications offering is one that has a proven track record in addressing the full SAP lifecycle while improving time to market, which is a key parameter in all SAP projects.

Another important fact to consider with SAP in the cloud is that you will pay for what you use. There is no need for capital investments and you’ll have a predictable usage cost. 

So, when is it appropriate to evaluate running SAP in the cloud? If you already have a stable SAP environment with very limited change requests, it’s probably not worth the effort. For the following use cases, though, it’s definitively worth considering cloud:

·  New SAP environment or applications. This is the best case for cloud as a new application would start small from a sandbox environment, move on to development systems and finally reach the production stage. This is normally a long process with uncertain requirements on system resources during its progress. With cloud, it is much easier to provide systems when they are needed as well as grow or shrink them as required. At the same time, you only pay for what is being used.

·  Modernization of SAP applications. Many SAP applications have been around for a long time and new functionality has been added frequently. At some point you will reach a stage where it will be required to take a larger stab at modernizing your SAP applications. This would probably require provisioning a new development environment while the modernization effort takes place. Here, cloud is a perfect solution that will allow you to use and pay for resources only as long as you need them. Though you have used cloud for development, it’s still very easy to continue using it for production.

·  Upgrading the SAP infrastructure platform. Over time, the infrastructure will become dated and may no longer be supported by the suppliers. This means there will be a time when it’s required to upgrade the SAP infrastructure. Here you’ll have the option to continue with a traditional upgrade or select a cloud path. The latter will have similar benefits to the previous use case, where you only pay for resources as you use them, and will take away the burden of setting up and maintain a new infrastructure.

With all this taken into account, I see a case for running SAP in the cloud, as long as it is with the correct use case. It will not only provide faster time to market, but most likely have a reduced cost. Do you see cloud running SAP having any application to your situation? Comment below, or continue the discussion with me on Twitter @Hans_Zai.

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