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My Thoughts on SAP Embrace (Part 1)

SAP Embrace – What’s it all about

“Driving Innovation Together: The Intelligent Enterprise and the Intelligent Cloud”

This is the mission statement of SAP and Microsoft. It is difficult to put such a complex undertaking into one sentence and consequently it is a bit fluffy.

Digging deeper SAP Embrace per se wants to pick up the momentum of customers shifting to SAP S/4HANA from different angles:

  • Lift & Shift of SAP workloads towards Microsoft Azure as IaaS provider.
  • Adding value and enabling innovations via enhancements using the rich ecosystem of Microsoft in conjunction with SAP’s offerings including SAP Cloud Platform. This starts from services of Microsoft Azure as a PaaS ending up at the SaaS spectrum by leveraging the capabilities of Microsoft356.

In addition, one major point that I appreciate very much is that the undertaking of SAP and Microsoft does not focus on selling technology but on adding value to the customer based on business scenarios.

Looking at the investment report of DSAG for 2020 this collaboration of SAP and Microsoft has potential to heavily resonate with the customers as the shift towards SAP S/4HANA is getting more (finally)

and the preferred cloud provider for PaaS according to the report is Microsoft Azure:

However, from my perspective the overall situation is not that straightforward as one might think at a first glance. Experience shows that reality has some more cards up the sleeve that customers and partners need to consider.

In this blog I like to share my point of view on these points. As this will be a bit lengthy, I decided to split the blog into two parts. In part one I share my thoughts on the points that I see as open-ish. I will then walk through the first topic namely the rehosting story. In the second part I will go on and put the spotlight on refactoring, rearchitecting and rebuilding solutions as well as on innovations in this story.

Not only Unicorns and Rainbows?

Unfortunately, reality at customer sites is not only black and white but shows quite some shades of grey that need to be addressed. From my perspective basically the following aspects in the story line around SAP and Microsoft need to be answered (spoiler: and I think they can):

  • Lifting and shifting the SAP workloads into the cloud especially with the necessity of SAP HANA as database is something that is of interest for customers. However, when it comes for the pure cost perspective hosting providers have optimized their offering for SAP workloads to an extent that they will basically always win on that ground against an IaaS offering. There are for sure some edge scenarios with respect to the pure size of the machines, but this is not relevant for most of the cases. In addition, the argument of the elasticity that comes along with “cloud” falls a bit short as classical SAP workloads are not cloud-native, so re-sizing your system still comes at the cost of downtime. So, what else is in for customers leveraging Microsoft Azure as IaaS?
  • Although the DSAG investment report shows an uptake on the move to SAP S/4HANA, there is still investment in the Business Suite over the upcoming years. More custom code will be developed on the Business Suite that needs to be moved to SAP S/4HANA, so the backlog of a conversion will increase. The question arises if SAP Embrace can also help here?
  • I expect quite some customers will stay on premise with their core systems, so the future are hybrid landscapes. Are those customers out of scope for SAP Embrace?

In the next section I will address these points and explain where I see the benefits of the concept behind SAP Embrace for them.

Bringing back the Rainbows …

As mentioned above I clearly see the benefit of combining SAP and Microsoft Azure. I am also convinced that all the points from above can be answered. Let us take a walk through them and travel along the journey path of SAP Embrace.

Step 1 – Rehost

As mentioned above the starting point is lift & shift or rehosting. When taking an application like S/4HANA and moving it to the cloud IaaS provider will probably struggle against highly specialized hosting providers when it comes to the pure costs of hosting.

However, this comparison falls short at some points and we must look at the bigger picture. First and foremost, the rehosting of an application is only the very first step on a journey in adopting the options that come along with Microsoft Azure. This comprises an optimization of the usage leading to an optimization in cost. But there are also additional points that need to be taken into account in the context of Microsoft Azure:

  • Complementing the IaaS with additional services of Microsoft PaaS and SaaS offering must be part of the full picture. To give just one example from the SaaS side is Azure Sentinel that gets you covered on the security side. There are more examples depending on your needs. The value of these additional offerings must be part of the calculation.
  • Microsoft Azure also comes along with additional options when it comes e. g. for high availability, disaster recovery and so on. When doing the business case for rehosting these (maybe new) options also come into play and must not be forgotten.
  • When rehosting workload to the cloud we must also rethink the way we utilize the infrastructure. From my experience most SAP systems basically run 24/7 no matter if it is a development system, a test system or a productive environment. Why? Because the “bare metal” is anyway there, and nobody cares if it is used or not. This makes no sense anyway but, in the cloud, leads to costs. You should start at the other extreme and define the default system state as off and only spin up the system if needed (production not included of course). This will need some fine tuning, but at the end you will only use what you really need and consequently only pay for that. This is a very important point and must be considered when calculating costs.

Maybe moving all SAP systems to the cloud is not or not yet an option, so production should stay on premise. That is not an issue from my perspective: a valid option is to first move the non-productive environments to Microsoft Azure and get some experience and more important trust into the environment. All the points mentioned above still apply for those system and can add value. It is also worth to mention that Microsoft understood that hybrid scenarios are for real and therefore have offerings (like the Azure Sentinel or Azure Arc) that take hybrid landscapes into account. In addition, reference architectures are available. Staying on premise with production is not an impediment to neglect the new options.

From the perspective of an SAP and/or Microsoft partners this also opens the space for additional services around the lift & shift of SAP workloads when we think about SAP S/4HANA. The lift & shift towards SAP S/4HANA will be accompanied by a conversion of the Business Suite system. Consequently, a conversion (i.e. custom code conversion) must be made. So, wouldn’t it be nice for customers to get the rehosting plus the SAP S/4HANA conversion as one complete bundle?

As mentioned above the shift to the cloud is a journey and the rehosting only the very first step. What comes next? The answer to this is given in part 2 of this blog series.

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