Guest post by: Mark Paterson - VP Managed Services, at NTT Communications EMEA

I often talk to senior level business executives who have been pouring over their SAP environment and cloud adoption strategies, not knowing which way to turn. “What is holding you back from migrating to the cloud”, I inevitably ask. “It is such a vital landscape for us we are worried about what will break during the move – we just can’t afford downtime,” is the answer I usually get. So the decision gets put on hold. But SAP itself has now put the pressure on businesses to make them jump one way or the other.

In my experience, enterprises have spent years tweaking and stabilizing their SAP systems and they get anxious about moving them.  This is understandable. SAP’s enterprise software applications are core to many businesses and critical for their day to day running.

We all know that SAP HANA can be complex and resource intensive.  But SAP’s seven year plan might just might make you think about making a move to the cloud just that bit quicker.

What does SAP’s deadline mean?

Basically what SAP is doing between now and 2025 is preparing for a day when it will end mainstream maintenance on all Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) installations that were taken up before SAP S/4HANA. If you want support from SAP you will have to move across to SAP S/4HANA. S/4HANA is an intelligent suite of ERP software running on SAP’s proprietary database system and in-memory computing platform. These can be run on SAP’s managed private cloud platform, in the public cloud with Azure, for example, or in a customer’s own on-premises data center. Previously, users had the option to run SAP on various databases, including Oracle.  This is no longer the case.

SAP is confident that S/4 HANA is its answer to increasingly connected, digital world we now live in. It offers real-time data access, for example, for greater market agility and claims to simplify data structure, business functions and the increasingly key user experience.  Company side, you will need to look at your business objectives and work out how the new platform can add value to your business. You’ll need to work out for example how you plan to deploy S/4HANA. It can be run on premises or hosted in a private or public cloud as software-as-a-service (SaaS).

Transform your business with SAP on Azure

The pressure is undoubtedly on to move to S/4 HANA. It makes sense to move to the cloud at the same time as part of any digital transformation strategy. But, some users have been wary of making the move to cloud because they fear it will not be secure enough. Some schools of thought also think that  SAP HANA is simply  incompatible with the cloud and in some sense this is true. The scale-up sizes and features HANA requires just haven’t been available in general purpose clouds out there. 

On public cloud however, Microsoft Azure, has overcome these challenges, with the capabilities to support large enterprise-class SAP HANA workloads and with high performance, compliant services. Azure offers specialized cloud services that provide full cloud value, while providing the scale up and continuity that are paramount for mission critical production workloads. On the security front, Azure’s built-in threat prevention system has bolstered security and in many cases has made the cloud more secure than on-premises security. 

In addition, Azure is the only public cloud to offer continuous security-health monitoring with a unified view for your entire environment across the Azure cloud, on-premises systems, and other public clouds.

The advantages of Azure for SAP are numerous. They include increased agility and speed to value and innovation, which are essential ingredients for success in today’s digital economy. Azure for SAP also underlines a shift from CapEx to OpEx and support for hybrid models. When it comes to big data, the solution can link up transactional data with other, often unstructured data sources.  This is imperative for real-time insight and smart decision making.

Now is not the time to ignore cloud

By 2020, a ‘no cloud policy’ will be as rare as a ‘no internet policy’, according to analyst firm Gartner.  Cloud first and even ‘cloud only’ are fast replacing the defensive no cloud strategy we have seen in past years. Therefore it seems that the biggest risk for SAP users today is not moving to the cloud.

Moving across to SAP HANA without any cloud strategy is simply driving your business into a corner. It will eventually have to be done when you transform, so you are putting off the inevitable. Why wait and make the job bigger when Azure can help you multiply the benefits of SAP now.

If you aren’t convinced yet, it is worth remembering that Microsoft is speaking from its own experience. Among the major public cloud vendors, the software giant is the only one that runs its mission critical apps on SAP. This makes Microsoft one of the largest SAP customers and one that is leading by its own experiences.

No one is saying that the move to SAP HANA and cloud isn’t a challenging step, but Microsoft knows how to meet these concerns head-on, even if it means architecting new services, such as SAP HANA on large instances. 

It goes without saying that IT teams want the same level of control in the cloud as in their on-premises deployments when it comes to managing their business critical SAP applications. With Azure, IT teams get this level of manageability and more, including greater insight into application usage and better visibility of costs.

As I said previously, however, SAP migration isn’t an easy mission. You can take the stress out of the migration by using a team of experts, such as managed services from NTT Communications. They will guide you through the process from end-to-end using secure and reliable tools and solutions.  

There is no escaping the fact that cloud today is more than a simple deployment option, it is a business enabler. With 2025 looming, migrating to S/4 HANA and the cloud really has to be a no brainer!

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About the author 

Mark Paterson, as Vice President, Managed Services at NTT Communications EMEA, is responsible for NTT’s portfolio of Hybrid IT and managed application & infrastructure services. Drawing on nearly 20 years’ experience in the ICT sector, his remit includes the full Go-To-Market strategy, sales, solutions consulting, complex deals & product management. Mark has high touch engagement with a broad customer base that gives him the required insights to drive NTT’s Managed Services strategy and roadmap in EMEA.