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You can never evaluate anything too much before deploying SAP applications in the cloud, experts say. One of the biggest decisions is whether to use one of the SAP cloud computing services from the ERP vendor itself or go with a third-party provider like AWS or Microsoft Azure.
There are many SAP cloud computing choices, and some companies may find that using Microsoft Azure, AWS, Google, Oracle or another cloud hosting product may be the best choice for their situation. Either way, to successfully deploy any SAP product in the cloud, experts advise carefully evaluating your application environments, infrastructure and security before moving forward.
"SAP products are very structured and sometimes can contain a large repertoire of functionalities that need a very good processing and hosting platform," said Rodrigo Montagner, CEO of OM2 Tech Consulting Solutions. Depending on the existing infrastructure, it might be easier to host SAP products in your own corporate cloud instead of an SAP cloud, he added.
Other experts echoed that customers deploying SAP software on non-SAP clouds need to look at their larger strategy and roadmap. HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) may be a better SAP cloud computing option for some companies depending on their goals. "Key considerations include vendor lock-in, contractual setup, alignment with overall enterprise strategy, subscription … versus perpetual -- pay once, buy the license and pay monthly to maintain -- licenses," said Pavan Srivastava, principal at Deloitte.
What to deploy in a hyperscale cloud depends on the customer's industry and their goals for the software, according to Srivastava. Businesses in highly regulated industries, like financial institutions, require a lot of control and customization with their clouds, and using a public or hybrid cloud deployment can present compliance challenges. In those cases, Srivastava recommended choosing a more mature cloud provider that has the data privacy standards and security protocols in place and has received regulatory certifications.
Performance is also a key concern with SAP cloud computing deployments. Companies with a global footprint need to look at data center locations -- a physical data center presence in regions where they and their customers are located can offer stronger network performance, Srivastava said.
Open source may be a big advantage for SAP cloud computing
At Sapphire Now 2019, SAP announced its Embrace program to work with AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform to help support customers in these environments. SAP is committed to the public cloud as a deployment model for its applications and SAP is working to embrace openness in the form of open source container runtimes, according to an SAP spokesperson. For example, SAP is a member and active contributor of Cloud Foundry and Cloud Native Computing Foundation, and it has open sourced Gardener, a framework to provision and manage Kubernetes clusters on multi-cloud environment to the community.
SAP has partnered with other cloud vendors because it wants its customers to develop what they need, when they need it, according to Srivastava. "Non-SAP clouds allow for a broader infrastructure strategy. Additionally, clients looking at building innovative IoT [and] machine learning solutions can also leverage [the public cloud] around SAP," he said. SAP customers can run HEC architecture on the front end, but use Google, AWS or Azure on the back end using SAP's open APIs, he added.
Using a non-SAP cloud won't hinder support
Customers that choose to host SAP systems on a non-SAP cloud platform don't need to worry about any sort of lag in support, according to Montagner. SAP tends to provide excellent support for its products as long as there aren't too many customizations, he said.
Additionally, deploying on SAP-certified cloud platforms is strongly recommended, according to Srivastava. That way, the customer will receive the proper support from SAP.
Non-SAP clouds do have their downsides
The SAP cloud computing strategy may not always fit with other cloud platforms right away. For example, SAP often releases products on its own platform before allowing others to use it, so there may be a delay for customers using non-SAP clouds, Srivastava said.
Additionally, complex cloud environments with multiple cloud strategies can defeat the purpose of using a non-SAP cloud. Companies need to carefully consider their strategies for implementation to avoid a patchwork cloud scenario, according to Srivastava.
Ultimately, the best methods for choosing and deploying SAP products on non-SAP cloud platforms come down to industry and strategy. Companies need to look at what's required, not just to run the applications, but what's required by the industry itself, as well as what the strategic plan is for the business and how the applications fit into it.