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Author's profile photo Gerard Clarence Christopher Aloysius

Reference architectures : The starting point to understand your Cloud

Are you the one who wants to know the right questions to ask you potential cloud vendor?

Are you a techie who wants to understand modern  Cloud architecture  and don’t know where to start ?

If you are looking out for a cloud service provider for your SAP implementation or planning on a new SAP installation on Cloud , one of the best place to start is to look at their reference architectures(RA) . That applies even for technical people who want to understand the cloud best practices of a particular vendor .

Reference architectures represent the aggregate experience from several implementations and Best practices acquired over several implementations.

Every vendor whether its IBM,Oracle, HP, Vmware have published there own Reference architectures and they are in public domain.

IBM first published their Cloud computing reference architecture CCRA Version 2.0 on March 2010. It is a open group submission , SAP is a part of open group as well. In fact IBM Smart Cloud for SAP was built on the CCRA.

The US National institute of standards and technology( NIST ) followed up and came up with their standard which is an excellent resource to understand what to expect and thing to watch out for.. It architecturally complements the IBM CCRA in many ways though there are some additional actors and players in the NIST one .

NIST also lays more emphasis on a independent Security and privacy impact audit, not a surprise considering its a government entity 🙂

The idea behind these  reference architectures was to make a level playing field and to enable standards to help the consumers choose their vendors . The standards were also to provide confidence to the consumers that their applications would work in any cloud.

Moving your SAP landscape into cloud is a long term investment and its highly important to understand what the vendor stands for and the best practices with respect to Security , resilience and governance. It will be of help to read and comprehend the vendors Reference architecture as it contains all the fundamental components that make up their Cloud computing environment.

If you look at NIST’s RA it  follows the actor/role based model of defining the architecture . The NIST reference architecture is more focused on the “ What is needed “ aspect rather than a specific cloud implementation .

On the other hand  the IBM Cloud computing reference architecture (CCRA) is kinda dynamic in that sense since it evolves dynamically with inputs from IBM research and the delivery teams and contains a lot of artifacts and work products to describe the “how”.

Both these RA’s are a good source to understand about cloud architectures overall .

Comprehensive details of their Reference architecture can be found in the NIST website ( and The IBM CCRA open group submission can be found (

Most of SAP Cloud partners have published their  reference architectures as well and its all in the public domain.

Insights that you can gain from the Reference architectures..

  • Elaboration on the various roles and elements within the role.
  • Important considerations for Service Providers,Consumers and Creator /Cloud Brokers
  • Importance of a Vendor neutral approach in Cloud
  • Importance of Support for open standards in Cloud
  • How comprehensive is their Security , resilience and consumability features
  • What are their standards for data portability and service interoperability
  • Design philosophy for cloud scale efficiency
  • How is consumer self service and integration into the Cloud handled.
  • Ecosystem support
  • The Cloud computing management platform and the tools involved
  • lean and automated service management and how important are they to achieve the cloud scale efficiency

These reference architectures lays a good foundation for further discussion with your cloud Service providers and to ask the right questions.

Compare and contrast these Reference architectures so when you meet your service provider you know the right questions to ask both interms of Services provided as well as their Architectural philosophy.

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