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Deciphering the World of SAP S/4HANA


SAP doesn’t make it easy to stay up to date with what they call their products, the version numbers they give them and how long they will be supported for. New products are introduced fairly often these days, which would be hard enough to keep track of, but they also tend to rename existing ones on a regular basis. Sometimes what looks new isn’t at all, so I thought I’d summarize some of the interesting things I have deciphered recently.

SAP, HANA & Cloud

The group of products whose names contain the words ‘SAP’, ‘HANA’ and ‘Cloud’ is definitely the most confusing for me: there is a big difference between HANA Enterprise Cloud, HANA Cloud Platform, HANA Cloud Services and S/4 HANA Cloud, for example. Here’s a summary of the main product categories:

But what do all those ‘as a Service’ labels mean? XaaS is a commonly-used catch-all for ‘as a Service’ products – a category that includes the kind of SaaS (Software), PaaS (Platform), DBaaS (Database) and IaaS (Infrastructure) products listed above. Here’s a handy summary from Gartner:

IaaS vs SaaS vs PaaS table
IaaS vs SaaS vs PaaS: What’s the Difference |

Which Edition of S/4HANA?

S/4HANA has been a pretty dynamic product since it was introduced and the product names have reflected that fact. Sometimes it feels like they change every couple of months or so. At the time of writing we’ve just had another refresh, so here’s how the high-level S/4HANA product names stand in June 2020:

  • SAP S/4HANA On Premise – The “traditional” version of SAP S/4HANA software. Customize to your hearts content and run wherever you want. It could be hosted “On Premise” in your own data center, you might for your own Virtual Private Cloud (probably provided to you by your SI) or you could run it on one of the IaaS offerings designed for S/4 HANA by ‘hyperscalers’ like AWS, Microsoft and Google;
  • SAP S/4HANA Private Cloud – A specific combination of the on-premise edition of S/4HANA and SAP’s IaaS offering, the HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC);
  • SAP S/4HANA Cloud extended edition (previously called Single Tenant Edition) – A SaaS offering delivered by SAP. Fewer required upgrades than Essentials Edition but more extensibility options. Restricted IMG and no modifications of SAP code;
  • SAP S/4HANA Cloud essentials edition (previously called Multi Tenant Edition) – The S/4HANA SaaS offering which has the least amount of flexibility. More suited to small businesses or those that can be run with totally ‘out of the box’ processes.

S/4HANA versions are changing from YYMM to YYYY

Since S/4HANA was first introduced, the name of each version has been the combination of the Year and Month in which it was released. This is true for both the On-premise and SaaS editions.

  • S/4HANA 1511 was released in November (month 11) 2015
  • S/4HANA 1610 was released in October (month 10) 2016
  • S/4HANA 1709 was released in September (month 9) 2017
  • S/4HANA 1809 was released in September (month 9) 2018
  • S/4HANA 1909 was released in September (month 9) 2019

From this year SAP will change to naming only by year, so when the next S/4 on-premise release comes out in around September 2020 it will simply be known as S/4HANA 2020.

Now here’s where naming conventions could get confusing. If the naming convention for S/4HANA Cloud products (those are the SaaS versions, remember) doesn’t change – as indicated in the chart below from SAP – we might end up with S/4HANA on-premise 2020 (annual 2020) being released before S/4HANA Cloud 2011 (meaning November 2020).

SAP Road Map: SAP S/4HANA |

As you can see, the on-premise edition typically receives 2 FPS (Feature Package stacks) and then an annual SPS (Support Package Stack) until it goes out of mainstream maintenance.

Speaking of which…

S/4HANA 1511 will go out of maintenance before ECC 6.0 EHP8

Did you know that every annual version of the S/4HANA (On-premise) software released has a 5 year lifespan? That means S/4HANA 1511 (the one from November 2015) will go out of mainstream maintenance in November 2020.

Let’s talk SAP S/4HANA AnyPremise Upgrade |

So while the 2040 deadline date for S/4HANA support appears to compare well with the latest ECC support deadline of 2027, and is technically still true, you will likely have to be running S/4HANA version 2036 in order to reach 2040 in maintenance.

  • The minimum number of upgrades that you will have had to perform (starting on 1511) to stay in mainstream maintenance would be 6;
  • If you upgrade annually to stay completely current, that will mean 21 upgrades between versions 1511 and 2036;
  • If you REALLY wanted to be bleeding edge and also took on every FPS, you would have to manage over 60 of these “upgrades” in the next 20 years!

Obviously the initial transition is a bigger project – perhaps significantly so – than implementing an annual upgrade but the key point to bear in mind is that there will still be plenty of work to do, perhaps every year, if you’re going to get the most out of your S/4HANA On-premise or Private Cloud systems.


I hope this quick summary was a useful update on where we stand today with SAP’s product line-up, and S/4HANA in particular. It will be interesting to see just how long it remains completely current. I’m guessing it won’t be a matter of years…

Some more articles I’ve written on the S/4HANA topic can be found below:

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