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This is Part Four of a four part (currently) series. The full setup is in the first post, Web sites.

First the outline:

  • Web sites
  • Books
  • Classes
    • Authorized classes
      • Normal classes
      • Academy track
      • eAcademy
      • University Alliance
    • NonAuthorized Classes
      • Unauthorized training centers
  • System Access

Now the detail

Why get access to a practice system? Is it useful?

This is the key question. When you sign up for a class with SAP or an authorized training provider you are generally given access to a system and a set of exercises to perform. This is useful because you have a specific framework (situation –> problem –> resolution). You are given a pretty narrow/specific set of conditions and all the information you need to solve that specific problem. If you get stuck you have an experienced teacher you can ask for clarification. This can be true for in person or on-line training if the class is set up correctly. Once you complete the class, though, you generally lose access to the system. The best case scenario is that the person asking this question (access to a test system) has finished a class and wants to run through the exercises again on their own. This can be successful in some cases but at times if the data/configuration in the non-class system is not the same as what was present in the classroom system, you may end up frustrated and unable to complete the exercises. Also, at this point, you won’t have access to anyone who can help you if you get stuck, which may also result in more frustration and confusion.

I’ll only cover one more use case because all other situations are worse than the one I just described. A more typical scenario is that the person asking cannot afford to attend training and thinks that all s/he needs is access to a system and s/he will be able to figure things out from there. I’ll talk about this in a moment, but first, a story.

I once had a friend who, for some reason of his own, announced to all of us at work one day that he was going to quit IT and become a golf pro and go on the PGA tour. This came as a bit of a shock to all of us, since no one knew that he even played golf. Turns out, he didn’t. His plan was to spend 8 hours a day at the driving range until he perfected all of his strokes (and putting at the putting range) and only then would he play his first round of golf. He fully expected to be able to join the PGA tour at that point after playing a few rounds. When asked why he had decided to take this approach, he told us that playing 18 holes of golf was too expensive and that he’d never get good enough, fast enough that way, so his plan was to focus on practicing on the practice range until he was perfect, thereby saving money. He also planned to not take any formal lessons, because how hard could it be anyway. You just hit a ball with a club. Simple physics, right?

I don’t think it will come as much of a surprise to many of you that after about 6 months of practice, he reported that his plan was a failure. Not only was his swing inconsistent (and he didn’t know why), he played a few rounds of golf and found out that golfing 18 holes was significantly more difficult that hitting drives and putts on the practice range. To the best of my knowledge he still works in IT.

For all those who fall into this category with SAP. I admire your desire to succeed and work for a better career. I would rather you spend the same amount of effort and money on a path that leads to eventual success than spend 6 months on the driving range and find out that you’ve really not learned a thing at all. I’m not affiliated with any training program. I don’t have a hidden agenda. I think there is plenty of room for folks in the SAP world, especially folks who are willing to work hard and learn something new every day. As I discussed in  Advice for Recent College Graduates, if you didn’t attend a prestigious MBA program and get picked up straight out of your program, then your best bet is probably to follow a more tried and true path of gathering domain experience first, then slowly migrating into the SAP world.

Yeah, yeah, whatever, but I still want access to a system.

Ok. You’ve waited long enough. Best advice aside, here are your options for getting access to demo/trial systems. SAP has an Internet Demo and Evaluation System that is useful for these sorts of things (more information here and here). If you work at a company that already has SAP installed and you are part of the Basis team, you will be able to download SAP’s IDES system. Then you’ll need to acquire sufficient hardware and install it. I recommend that every company install one as a sandbox training system for employees if they don’t already have a copy of their production system (with data sanitized) already available. The advantage of IDES is that most of the SAP training classes use IDES for their exercises, so if you are repeating exercises you took in class, you have a pretty good chance that they’ll work. (This was true as of a few years ago. If SAP training classes have changed from using IDES, someone please let me know in the comments!)

Another option which may work well for folks wanting to be functional SAP consultants is the ERP Simulation Game. I don’t know too much information other than what’s in the link I’ve provided, so if anyone has experience with this, please leave a comment! It looks like Baton Simulations is selling the ERP Simulation Game now, but there’s no information on pricing on their web site. You can sign up for a webinar to get more information at Baton Simulations.

Another option is to install a “vanilla” SAP NetWeaver Application Server ABAP. This is a generic system like you would have at the beginning of an implementation with no configuration and no data. Again, you need a server and the technical ability to install the software (which is not as easy as most think). The vanilla systems are great for practicing ABAP or JAVA. You have your own system to play with and you’re not going to mess anyone else up. You can even install one of these on a laptop if you have the right OS/HW. The down side for functional folks is that the system is completely devoid of configuration and data. You will not be able to repeat exercises from a class. You can try to configure your section from scratch, but unless you have a whole team working on configuration of all the various parts of the system, you’ll never end up with a functional system. Also, you’ll have to hand key in all the relevant master data and transactional data. In short, for functionals, it’s a nice place to visit, but not much use for learning solo.

I’ve heard rumors that SAP is working with Amazon to set up SAP servers at will. Amazon has a plan that provides free access to one server for individual users. You can use the software above (IDES and or vanilla) and install it on a free linux server if you like. Martin English outlined the process in a series of blog posts (Install SAP on Amazon Web Services #1 – the Environment and Install SAP on Amazon Web Services #2 – the Installation) which you might want to try to use if this appeals to you.

This all sounds like a lot of work. I want it NOW!

If you don’t have your own hardware and/or the ability to install the software correctly, you have a few options. SAP provides a list of authorized hosting and/or cloud service providers. You can search by region and type of service offered. These offerings appear to be targeted primarily at large enterprises so for folks looking for individual systems, these may be cost prohibitive. If anyone goes through the list and finds a company they would recommend, please leave a comment!


Fair warning: The next paragraph is not an endorsement of any web site. I have not tried any of them and for all I know they’re traps to get your personal information and steal your identity. Personally, I would not use any of them because I am a Basis guy and have no problem using the above approaches. All I did for the next paragraph was a google search. Use the services at your own risk.

There are several companies (here, here and here but there are more) that host IDES and/or vanilla App Servers and target individuals rather than large enterprises. There are at least two companies (here and here) that appear to be giving free access to an IDES (for functional configuration) or miniSAP system (for programming). This is not an endorsement. I have not tried any of these services. I have it an decent authority (see comments on the thread http://scn.sap.com/community/netweaver-portal/blog/2012/03/09/why-makes-sap-this-so-complicated#)  that http://www.sapcloudcomputing.com/ is legit. They’re kind of pricey, but at least you won’t be breaking any laws.

I honestly don’t know what SAP’s stance is on these IDES hosting companies, free or paid. I think that charging money for access to the IDES system is against the terms of service, but I don’t know for sure. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard some stories about SAP going after some of these companies to get them to shut down, but I can’t remember any specifics. If anyone from SAP training has official comments, please do so!

Once you have access to a system, if you’re not going over old exercises, your best bet is to probably buy a book and explore the system as you read. Both SAP Press and Amazon have books that might be suitable. (Again, I’m not an affiliate or anything, this is just for the benefit of the general SAP population.) I would be very interested in specific book reviews if anyone has one they think would be particularly helpful in this regard.

I hope this is helpful!

Best regards,

  –Tom

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11 Comments

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  1. Martin English

    A practice system is useful for those people who want to get their skills up to date (i.e. still working on 4.6c systems), or just want to check out the differences between the release they have at work and the latest releases. It also provides a seperate playpen / sandbox that you can use for any bright ideas that strike you…

    When you are discussing practice systems, don’t forget the various Developer and Trial versions available from  http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/scn/nw-downloads. These are suitable for installation on your laptop / desktop, either as part of your host operating system or as a virtual operating system using free tools such as VirtualBox.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve also installed some of these on the Amazon cloud (apparently there are licencing issues with sharing my AWS images as public images, so I haven’t done so yet).

    hth

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    1. Thomas Dulaney Post author

      Thanks Martin! I’ve updated the blog with links to your excellent blogs which describe setting up the vanilla SAP versions on Amazon. I really hope SAP will work with Amazon to make a “pushbutton” version so it will be much easier for folks to get access to a system! If I may speak for the community, I would like to thank you for your efforts to make systems more easily accessible!!

      Best regards,

        –Tom

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      1. Pravesh Deshbhratar

        Hi Tom,

        Excellent blog to help many learner who want to explore the SAP world.

        I have question if I want to explore SAP NW 730 feautures for my own learning and enhancement how do install and from where should i try it for free.

        Your hepl and guidance is well appreciated in advance.

        Regards

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        1. Thomas Dulaney Post author

          I checked http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/scn/nw-downloads and didn’t see anything newer than 7.02. In another conversation on SCN, one of the Trial developers (Thanks Manfred!) pointed me to http://www.sapcloudcomputing.com/. I did find a Portal 7.3 option there. I assume this is one of the few legitimate (authorized) companies providing this service. They had a good variety of components available (including IDES!) but once you add up all the charges it seemed a bit on the pricey side as compared to building an image yourself on Amazon. Still, it’s fantastic that we have a legitimate option for folks who don’t want to download and install a system on their own hardware!

          Hope this helps!

          Best regards,

            –Tom

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  2. NAVEEN KUMAR REDDY Kalikiri

    Hi,

    An year ago, I searched in google to find ways for getting access to SAP and found the link here and connected to SAP frontend in my laptop to practice SAP BI. But, the system doesn’t allow changes.

    For few months I have subscribed to paid sites but it is very expensive 2500INR/month approx

    The best way to get access is buying an external harddisk with SAP IDES images created using VMware or Virtualbox for plug ang play purpose. It is very useful when you don’t have a computer with specified hardware requirements or knowledge in installation from http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/scn/nw-downloads. The harddisks costs around 100 to 150USD in online stores. I am not sure whether it is against the SAP terms of service. Experts may please comment on this.

    Regards,

    Naveen

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    1. Thomas Dulaney Post author

      Hi Naveen,

      Based on my recollection of how things worked when I was setting these up for customers and the statements you can find at https://websmp207.sap-ag.de/ides, I’m about 95% certain that you need to be a customer or partner to legally use IDES. SAP doesn’t charge for it, but they do restrict it to paying customers/partners. The trial versions (from nw-downloads), however, are free to non-customers but have the problems you mentioned (need for hardware, etc).

      I’ve been meaning to update this blog a bit. ASUG has some demo systems that I haven’t tried, but which are free for ASUG members. That helps folks who work for a company that already runs SAP, but not folks learning who are on their own. I think I ran across some new options from SAP itself, but I need to go back and look at those more closely. SAP has definitely opened up some free online options for developers who want to use SAP as a code base. See Get 90 days of trial access to SAP NetWeaver Cloud in 5 minutes in the area. I need to do some analysis of the options there to see if there’s anything available which will be of use for configurators and basis folks.

      Thank you for your input!

      Best regards,

      –Tom

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  3. Navaneetha Krishnan

    Hi Tom,

    Such a beautiful ocean of information bestowed to the group of SAP learners. You have done great job of letting others benefit from your knowledge.

    For people who learned processes from their domain but handicapped with lack of system to practice the configurations, this has been the granary of information.

    Having said that , it is still unfortunate that there are no free systems available for functional consultants to start their learning and it is not always possible to pay for every module. A reprieve from this will really help functional consultants to scale up their learning.

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  4. Patrick Garde

    Thank you, Tom, for sharing those companies that host IDES servers and target individuals rather than big companies. I stumbled upon another company, Ivobe, that offers the same service. They offer a free trial if you want to try out their white-hat (100% legal) service.


    May I know how pricey was SAP Cloud Computing before? It seems the website is now down.


    Thanks again and best regards.

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