As the end of support for SAP ECC looms, the option of migrating to SAP…
The SAP HANA cloud is a reliable, cost-effective and strategically sound place to host ERP. But ultimately, all it is is a destination. There are definitely benefits to different clouds — you can use templates to speed up your deployment with SAP HANA on Azure or AWS. You can take advantage of greater configurability to tune your landscape in the private cloud.
At the end of the day, any SAP-certified cloud will get the job done in most cases. What’s more important is the team designing, building and running your cloud.
HANA Cloud Vendors Offer Meaningful Distinctions
The cloud is no longer the most crucial factor in your SAP landscape, but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer a factor. There are still important differences between the public and private cloud, and between various individual vendors.
Symmetry’s next-generation cloud has substantial benefits for SAP HANA users. As a customized, purpose-build enterprise cloud, we can offer greater customization, tailoring your hosting environment to meet your exact needs for demanding SAP workloads, as well as traditional cloud workloads.
As a virtual private cloud provider, we can maintain the extremely consistent performance of a private cloud, with the scalability and affordability of public cloud hosting. And by hosting and managing SAP in our own cloud, you can have a single team manage your whole stack, something you can’t get in a public cloud.
In the public cloud, you’re just renting a chunk of compute in a huge data center network, so there’s no one overseeing your landscape in particular. That means if something goes wrong, your MSP has to solve it without being able to consult directly with your host. By running our own enterprise cloud, we can offer improved transparency, a smaller vendor portfolio and unmatched customer service.
SAP HANA on Azure has its own advantages. If you’re a Microsoft user, the Azure stack lets you run your whole hybrid cloud as an Azure cloud, giving you a lot of flexibility. Azure also has extremely large servers of up to 20 TB, making it a good choice for the largest workloads.
AWS also has advantages. It offers strong hybrid support through VMware, and has the largest public cloud virtual instances, at 4.19 TB. They have a strong virtualization roadmap, and plan on getting up to 32TB, although they’re not there yet.
No SAP HANA Cloud Host is Head and Shoulders Above the Rest
SAP has rigorous requirements for certification. That means any cloud certified to run SAP production is up to the task. There are enterprise leaders with good things to say about Azure, AWS, Symmetry and lots of other public and private clouds. These days, SAP hosting partners tend to have certain things in common, such as:
- High Performance InstancesSAP HANA requires a very different balance of resources compared to most other workloads. HANA keeps everything in memory, to enable high performance. Because the database doesn’t have to read or write to disk (except as a backup), it can read, write and analyze data much faster. To achieve this performance, all certified HANA hosts offer servers and/or virtual machines built around the high memory and performance needs of HANA. with high throughput, performance and RAM.
- ReliabilityHardware fails and data centers have outages every now and then, but the cloud has grown by leaps and bounds. All reputable hosting providers have built-in redundancy to ensure that a single hardware failure won’t bring your system down. Whether you’re hosting SAP HANA on Azure, AWS or Symmetry, you can expect high uptime.
However, there’s still always a balance of risk vs. cost. Everyone needs some sort of backup landscape, whether disaster recovery, high availability, or both.
- Hybrid Cloud IntegrationFor a long time, the private cloud was way ahead in integration. Public cloud vendors like AWS and Azure were a little slow to adopt this technology, as they were hoping to entice clients to go all in on the public cloud. However, now you can get good hybrid support in both the private and public cloud.
- Flexible SupportPrivate and public cloud vendors have different ways of providing support. Partnering with a private cloud vendor like Symmetry gives you the option of working with our in-house SAP team to configure and run your landscape, or provide lighter support to complement your own in-house team. Public cloud vendors don’t have their own dedicated SAP support, but they do offer vendor ecosystems, where you can choose from a range of third-party partners.
The Most Important Thing is an Effective SAP HANA Team
With more options for hosting and configuring SAP than ever before, having the right partner has never been more important. The success of SAP HANA on Azure, AWS or in the private cloud hinges on your team from the planning stage, through migration and post go-live tuning, to steady-state operation.
What makes finding the right team difficult is the sheer amount of knowledge required to put together a successful SAP landscape. Your SAP partner needs to possess deep hosting and SAP expertise, along with business know-how and long-term IT strategy.
They’ll have to coordinate technical and functional teams to bring your goals to realization and ensure the professionals responsible for running your landscape are prepared for a seamless go-live. And they need to be able to address a broad range of cybersecurity, SAP security, and regulatory compliance needs. There may also be extremely specialized requirements for your industry, niche or technology stack — and that doesn’t even get into specialized requirements, such as IBM AS/400 support.
SAP HANA in Production: What You Need
An Experienced Partner to Build and Install SAP
SAP certification training can teach you the basic skills you need to build a HANA landscape, but to actually perform a successful migration takes experience. SAP has extremely complex dependencies, and a small oversight early in the process can lead to long delays later on. You need a partner that has experience leading migrations, and provides continuous training and mentorship to their own employees.
Making sure your partner can work together smoothly with other stakeholders is equally important — particularly if you have a complex project that requires engagement with multiple teams. If you’re planning a divestiture or merger, make sure your partner has experience with similar situations. SAP skills without the necessary project management ability is a sure recipe for disaster.
Finally, consider the unique needs of your industry. Regulations like HIPAA and 21 CFR Part 11 require consideration in how your landscape is designed, run and documented. If you’re running SAP HANA on Azure. AWS or another public cloud provider, you’ll have a lot of choices, which can make it hard to narrow down your providers.
Use your hardest requirements to rule out partners, until you have a manageable group, then take the time to meet with them and ask some tough questions.
Regular Updates and Upgrades
Moving to SAP HANA is a great time to pick up some better habits, and one of the best habits you can pick up is applying regular upgrades, updates and patches. A lot of companies are used to holding onto their software and hardware as long as they can. Upgrades are rare, costly and disruptive.
So why would you want to upgrade more? In part, to make upgrades less costly and disruptive. If you keep your software current, upgrades become far less onerous. The different pieces of your SAP landscape interact in complex way. It’s much easier (and less costly) to update from the previous version than it is to bring legacy software up to date.
Additionally, frequent updates let you take advantage of new technology as it comes out. SAP S/4HANA has a strong developer ecosystem that’s quick to harness new HANA features. Keeping everything up to date ensures you can take advantage of innovative new tools and applications before your competitors.
Additionally, your system will be more secure and stable. As soon as a vulnerability is patched, the bad guys start trying to figure out how to exploit that vulnerability. Staying up to date is one of the best investments you can make in the security of your landscape.
Daily SAP Basis Maintenance
SAP is designed to be ultra-reliable, with consistent performance and next to no unplanned downtime. But achieving that reliability requires proactive SAP Basis maintenance. It’s not enough for your team to check SAP regularly, investigate and resolve errors — they need to keep an eye on system health trends, so that they can get ahead of maintenance problems.
If an application is running low on resources, they need to provision more before it becomes a problem. If you’re getting demand surges at certain times of day, they need to reschedule background tasks before those surges lead to performance degradation. Basically, if you have to worry about SAP or call your team for updates on resolving a problem, someone isn’t doing their job.
A Dedicated Basis Team
In theory, your IT team may be able to perform daily maintenance, and regular updates and upgrades effectively as a side duty. In practice, it rarely works out that way. SAP doesn’t necessarily take that many hours out of the day, but it doesn’t work well as a side gig. It requires specialized knowledge, a flexible schedule and the ability to drop everything when something goes wrong — even if it’s in the middle of the night.
When you assign SAP Basis to someone like a developer or user support professional as a side job, it usually impinges on both jobs. SAP updates wait until they have time. Performance and reliability suffer, since they don’t have a deep understanding of Basis, and don’t really have the time to do it right. And your company suffers opportunity cost, since they can’t dedicate themselves to the job your hired them for.
At the same time, hiring a full-time Basis support person is usually impractical. Basis pros don’t come cheap, and there’s usually not enough work to justify the expense.
The best solution is typically to partner with an MSP. They can provide around-the-clock monitoring and access to a dedicated Basis team, at a lower cost. Symmetry can even provide you with multiple dedicated Basis technicians, so that there’s always at least one Basis tech available who understands your team, day or night.
Disaster Recovery and High Availability
As we mentioned earlier, some sort of DR or HA plan is a necessity for a modern SAP landscape. In the past, cold DR was sort of a symbolic gesture — companies would store backup tapes in a remote facility in case of emergency, but those tapes weren’t worth all that much.
It could take weeks to get a secondary site setup, and companies could easily lose a week or more of data, depending on the frequency of backups, time since last backup and other factors. And although there were other options, like hot DR and HA, they were prohibitively expensive for most companies.
Fortunately, the cloud has changed the game. Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) can shrink failover time to around 10 minutes, while preserving the benefits of an offsite backup — and at a lower cost than traditional hot DR.
DRaaS is also flexible, allowing companies to set more modest DR goals to control costs, while still allowing relatively fast recovery compared to traditional cold DR. High availability has gotten more affordable as well, and companies can combine both to protect against a greater range of risks, ensuring business continuity.
Your DR options will vary somewhat, depending on your hosting provider. SAP HANA on Azure and AWS both offer a range of third party tools and providers, and Azure also has its own native tools that are certified for HANA use. Your managed services provider can help you investigate the options and choose the best tools for your needs.
Ongoing Communication Between Your SAP Team and Management
Communication with different stakeholders isn’t just important during major transitions — it’s a key part of running a successful SAP landscape. In some cases, user behavior can affect SAP performance — for example, if a user wastes system resources with poorly formulated queries.
In other cases, your SAP team will need to talk to executives to schedule upgrades in a way that minimizes disruption, or check in to plan more major digital transformations. There are also internal security concerns and other issues that may require attention from time to time.
Unfortunately, this collaboration is rarely done effectively. SAP professionals are just there to do their work behind the scenes, and they don’t interface with the rest of the team. Often, there isn’t even a direct line of communication between the Basis team and executives, to say nothing of departmental management. And even if there were, many SAP teams simply aren’t trained in how to collaborate effectively with management.
One of the advantages of choosing an SAP HANA partner to run your landscape who also has experience with SAP upgrades and migrations is that they’re more likely to understand how to work across different levels of your organization.
That doesn’t mean they’ll apply that understanding to Basis administration, however. You should ask a lot of questions about their approach to customer service and communication, and even interview a few of their clients to make sure they’re able to effectively coordinate with organizational leadership.
We’ll Take the Worry Out of SAP HANA Production
You don’t worry about whether the lights will turn on in your office tomorrow, or if your workers will show up, or your buildings will crumble — you assume your infrastructure is just going to work.
But when it comes to SAP, too many organizations are plagued with concerns over inconsistent health and performance in their landscapes. The cloud won’t solve that problem, but the right cloud managed services partner can. Whether you’re running SAP HANA on Azure, in a dedicated private cloud or a hybrid environment, we can ensure SAP supports your strategic goals and daily needs, year after year.
Contact us to learn how we can help.