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Making the Most of the Cloud as an SAP Customer

Posted by Andrew Borresen on Jun 25, 2015

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Who defined and continues to define ‘The Cloud’?  Is it utility type billing for your usage? Is it a non-contractual month to month ‘switch on’, ‘switch off’ arrangement or is it a single simple pricing model for an application as a service (SaaS) with automatic application upgrades and regular innovation cycles?

In our personal capacity, The Cloud often defines itself as offsite storage for your family photos, Apple iCloud backups or Google documents. All of these are in some way a manifestation of The Cloud but it is still rather amusing to hear how many different definitions of The Cloud there are.
I prefer to simplify it with the most straightforward definition that I’m sure you’ve heard before: “Your applications... running on someone else’s computer!”

I understand this in its simplest form, but ultimately, it’s whether that concept can deliver value that counts. As an SAP customer, perhaps traditionally with all applications running on-premise, how do you navigate your way through marketing rhetoric to obtain business value in the cloud?
Given that SAP is now branded as the Cloud Company, where does that leave you and how does running your applications on someone else’s computer help your business?

The well documented benefits are only paying for what you need and focusing on your core business, what you do best. Here’s a quick refresher:

  • Only pay for what you need:
    Traditionally systems are always built to cater for peak load which means you pay for resources that sit idle for a large portion of the day or month. Being in the cloud means it can be shared with other companies, so you share the load and ultimately the cost.

  • Focus on what your business does best:
    Rely on people and companies that think cloud infrastructure and SAP applications all-day. That means thinking about performance and end-of-life hardware and license agreements with all the different vendors that make-up the service being delivered to you from the cloud (backup, virtualisation, operating systems and anti-virus, the list goes on.)
Apart from the above, the key benefit that I would like to draw out for SAP customers revolves around the area of rapid innovation adoption and how to keep up with an ever increasing competitive business landscape.Here are a few use cases:

The Cloud gives you the ability to adopt new innovation quickly and with lower risk
I’ll take a use case to explain. SAP Fiori is an example where adopting its use from the Cloud can speed up deployment.
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SAP Fiori is SAP’s new user interface and a quick way to go mobile, but it requires some additional software components such as the NetWeaver gateway, as well as the security architecture around it, if the applications are going to be made available outside of your corporate firewall. 

If you run SAP ERP on-premise, you can have a cloud provider for the Fiori architecture. They would deal with the security and Fiori front-end application components and provide the mobile window into your ERP on-premise application.

You can implement it separately from your ERP system, meaning you can upgrade it and test new apps without impacting on your core ERP processes, so it’s lower risk. I hear you say, “but I could do this myself on premise!” Yes you could, but if SAP and SAP Cloud Partners are already provisioning and testing many more Fiori applications ahead of your needs, then it’s far quicker and easier to plug you in to the applications that have been tried and tested.

SAP HANA Cloud platform – accelerated development in The Cloud

On SAP’s HANA Cloud platform, it is possible to develop Fiori applications with browser based visual development tools and test them directly on your SAP systems. They can then run from this platform, or be migrated into your own on-premise NetWeaver gateway system, or an SAP Partner Managed Cloud Platform. Again, this demonstrates the ability to develop and adopt innovations more quickly regardless of whether you have a strong in-house team or relying on partners.

SAP HANA Cloud platform – accelerated integration in The Cloud

SAP’s product portfolio has expanded significantly with recent acquisitions and many more areas of business cloud applications have emerged. Much of this needs to be integrated into your on-premise SAP applications, should you be investing in them. Many of the integration interfaces have been built by SAP, and its' partners, for these applications and can be adopted in the cloud to help you connect your applications more quickly for end-to-end business processes.

Accelerated HANA operational analytics in The Cloud

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Many SAP customers haven’t made the move to S/4HANA just yet and are either still working on the business case or, architecturally, it’s going to take a while to get there because of the nature of their environments. If you’re not sure about S/4HANA, then please see our blog on what is S/4HANA

However, this doesn’t necessarily stop you from benefiting from the power of HANA operational analytics in The Cloud. Here, predefined data models that support industry KPI’s can be built in a HANA database that act as a stepping stone to a complete S/4HANA migration somewhere in the future.  

This gives you more time to plan your inevitable move to HANA which could involve waiting for the end-of-life of your current infrastructure before investing further in on-premise, or before a complete move to a HANA ready cloud environment.

These are just some of the use cases that could be worth thinking through when evaluating whether running some or all of your SAP applications in The Cloud will bring benefit to your organisation. 

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