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Wawa picks new provider as SAP turns some managed hosting over to partners

Wawa recently had to look for a new managed hosting provider when SAP announced that it would transition its services to partners.

When SAP recently announced that it would rely on partners to provide managed hosting services in North America, Wawa decided it would be a good chance to look for a new deal.

SAP itself had hosted the applications that run the chain of mid-Atlantic convenience stores since Wawa became an SAP customer. A total of 32 servers were used for SAP ERP, which includes NetWeaver XI/PI and Enterprise Portal, and SAP BW and SAP SCM.

In choosing its new SAP managed hosting provider, Wawa went through a six-month RFP process that included AT&T, EDS, IBM, Freudenberg IT, T-Mobile and T-Systems, which provided some lessons for choosing an SAP managed hosting partner.

"Be patient, be thorough and make sure the details are worked out," said Julius Colina, Wawa's IT manager charged with hosting strategy. "It's a complicated task."

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SAP is no longer providing managed hosting services in North America, the vendor said. Most of the existing 20 customers who used SAP hosting services were transitioned to AT&T Hosting and Application Services at the beginning of April, and their service was not interrupted, according to SAP. Going forward, hosting services in North America will be provided by partners.

This doesn't affect Business ByDesign or SAP CRM on-demand, SAP said.

"SAP Hosting partners are the best option to deliver external hosting services for SAP Business Suite implementations in North America," SAP said in a statement. "We made this decision so we could focus on our core competencies related to SAP Managed Services."

In choosing its new managed hosting provider, Wawa asked each vendor to spend a day at its headquarters. It invited its own Basis and architecture people to participate in the site visit, as well as people from the business end. This allowed the company to get feedback from the business side and observe the staff's "synergy" with the hosting providers, Colina said.

"We let each vendor interact with the business to hear what some of the concerns were and what some of the requirements were, and it gave us insight into the particular vendors," he said. "We got so much good information out of that."

In the end, Wawa decided to go with AT&T.

AT&T provided the best value at the best price, Colina said. One of the things that swayed Wawa was the ancillary services AT&T could provide -- including mobile, network connectivity and long distance.

"If we partner with AT&T, it may be more strategic, more value in bringing those things to the table," he said.

With AT&T, Wawa will also see a decrease in overall projected hosting fees, Colina said -- it's cheaper than SAP, and more aggressive on storage. As part of its RFP, Wawa told the vendors to make an estimate as if they were going to move their environment exactly the way it was now, and then to give cost-saving alternatives.

As part of the cost savings, AT&T will host some SAP applications on virtualized servers, Colina said -- but not its mission-critical applications.

"The thing that was killing us was the amount of storage consumed and the cost of the storage," he said. "[We'll realize] significant savings moving over to AT&T as to what was projected staying at SAP."

Virtualizing applications is something that AT&T sees greater interest in from its SAP customers -- a segment of its business that has seen triple-digit growth in the past year.

"We've seen many companies embrace virtualization, but their appetite for that is more on the development, QA sandbox side," said Eric Schmidt, executive director of AT&T Hosting and Application Services.

While it has a few worries, Wawa is looking forward to the transition to AT&T, which should be completed in June. The migration is slated to take less than 18 hours, according to AT&T.

"I'd be lying if I told you we weren't anxious," Colina said. "It's risky. There's associated downtime and there's the anxiety: 'Is this all going to work?' Overall, though, this far in the process, it's been a very positive experience. We have a good working relationship with AT&T."

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