SAP HANA

Moving SAP Solutions to the Cloud: 7 Questions You Should Ask

Moving SAP to the cloud can increase your agility. Here are seven questions that will help you reduce your risks when you migrate your mission-critical solutions to the cloud.

Today’s enterprises rely on SAP.

In fact, SAP’s customers include 87 percent of Forbes Global 2000 companies.

During the past 40 years, SAP has built a large portfolio of solutions that support essential business areas – from finance to production. SAP also gives enterprises flexibility in how they deploy these solutions. SAP’s delivery models currently include:

  1. On-premise, where you install and maintain the SAP solution by yourself or with the help of a service provider
  2. Appliance, where the software is pre-installed but you must maintain it
  3. Cloud, which allows you to use SAP software and development environments without the burden of installation or maintenance

With all three of the models mentioned above, you are responsible for customizing your SAP solutions to meet your business, IT, and security needs.

SAP Doubles Down on the Cloud

In recent years, SAP has invested heavily in the cloud.

The cornerstone of SAP’s cloud strategy is still S/4HANA, a radically simplified enterprise resource planning (ERP) system based on HANA in-memory technology. S/4HANA will become the next generation of SAP’s core solutions and serve as a replacement, not an evolution, of the traditional business suite. With S/4HANA, SAP is betting its future on the cloud.

SAP has also acquired cloud-only solutions, including Ariba, Hybris, Concur, Fieldglass, and SuccessFactors. Although these solutions don’t use traditional SAP architecture, you must integrate them with your existing on-premise and cloud systems.

7 Questions to Ask Before Moving SAP to the Cloud

To gain the benefits of increased agility and scalability, many enterprises are moving their SAP solutions to the cloud. However, since SAP touches every part of an enterprise, migrating to the cloud can be a complex undertaking.

Even experts struggle with the overwhelming number of components – each with different demands and restrictions – that they must consider during a cloud migration.

Here are seven questions that will help you smooth your transition to the cloud:

1. How will our cloud provider protect our data?

Ask how your cloud provider will isolate your data from their other customers’ data. For example, do they host each client in their own environment?
S/4HANA offers the following levels of data separation:

  1. Multi-VM: running multiple HANA instances that are fully isolated from each other on the same host
  2. Multi-tenant: running multiple tenants which share the same SystemDB, and therefore, share the same code and patch level

Ask your provider which of these options they support. Also, find out what will happen with your data at the end of your contact with your cloud provider. Will they, or a third party, retain access to it? You may need to shred your data to ensure that no one can restore it.

2. What disaster recovery support does the cloud provider offer?

You never know when the worst will happen. How will your cloud provider protect your data during emergencies, such as severe weather or a riot?

Look for a provider who replicates your data in real time and mirrors it in a secondary data center. Ideally, their data centers should be located in different regions – away from hurricane and flood zones.

Also, ask how often your provider will back up your data and how quickly they can restore it. Include your requirements in your contract, along with specifications on how often your provider should test their restores.

3. How will the provider guarantee our performance?

Your provider should offer two types of performance guarantees – throughput and latency. Think of these items as a river. The throughput is how much water flows through the river each second. Meanwhile, latency is how long it will take a stick to float from Point A to Point B in the river.

The latency will tell you the minimum amount of time employees must wait for a response from your SAP systems. Your bandwidth will determine how many people can use the service simultaneously.

When you choose a managed cloud provider, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • What are your performance service level agreements (SLAs)?
  • How will your internet connection impact our latency?
  • How will your internet connection affect our bandwidth?

4. What SLAs will ensure that we maintain a high level of availability?

SAP systems support mission-critical areas of your business and require strict availability SLAs. When you choose a provider, ask about their infrastructure and application SLAs. Some providers offer strong SLAs around infrastructure but fail to guarantee your applications. However, if your SAP goes down, so does your business.

5. Can the provider meet our legal and compliance requirements?

Depending on your location and industry, you may need to comply with legal requirements. For example, hospitals that run SAP Industry Solution Healthcare are prohibited from storing patient data outside of their premises. They must also keep all patient data for 10 years.

Before you move your data to the cloud, get clear on your industry, security, and regional regulations. Then, ask if your provider will keep you compliant.

6. What is our provider’s long-term plan?

SAP systems are a long-term investment. What will happen if your SAP technology outlives your cloud provider? For example, what will you do if your provider goes out of business or gets acquired by another company?

Your provider probably can’t guarantee that they will be around in 10 years. Put a backup plan in place so that you can move your data and SAP systems elsewhere, if needed.

7. Do we have a fallback strategy?

One of the cloud’s value propositions is that you are free to move your systems to different providers or on-premise. However, SAP’s complexity can make a cloud migration tricky. For example, you must consider your latency, bandwidth, and data consumption. In addition, you must account for downtime when you migrate your SAP databases.

Before you move your SAP systems to the cloud, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • How long will it take us to migrate between clouds?
  • How much downtime should we expect?
  • Are the clouds between which we are migrating compatible?
  • Which formats can we use to import and export virtual machines to? Will we need to convert our virtual machine formats? If so, how confident are we that we can do this without errors?
  • How will we transfer the network virtual local area networks (VLANs) and policies back to the cloud?

Next Steps

Moving your production systems to the cloud gives your enterprise greater flexibility. With the cloud, you don’t need to predict what technology you will need in three to five years. Instead, you can purchase the infrastructure that you need now and quickly scale as your business grows.

The cloud also makes it easy for you to innovate. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” The cloud allows you try, fail, learn from your mistakes, and then succeed.

Working with the right partner helps you succeed with SAP in the cloud. Your partner should have a deep understanding of both your environment and SAP best practices. They should give you the option to run your SAP systems in a private cloud while gaining almost the same level of flexibility as a public cloud.

They should also help you run, monitor, and maintain your SAP solutions on public clouds such as Microsoft Azure.

Would you like a deeper understanding of how to set up and operate SAP systems in the cloud?

Read SAP on the Cloud (Management for Professionals) for best practices that will smooth your transition to the cloud.

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