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private cloud vs. public cloud

Where should you host SAP HANA®? When you’re considering private cloud vs. public cloud, virtual private cloud (VPC) or a hybrid cloud, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by it all. At a time when many enterprises continue to run SAP® on-premises, advances in the private and public cloud give IT leaders more options and control over where their SAP landscape is hosted.

Understanding private cloud vs. public cloud

Before diving into the pros and cons of hosting SAP on private or public clouds, it’s worth reviewing the definitions. The term “public cloud” refers to an ever-expanding array of services offered by hyperscale cloud providers. Topping the list are the familiar players including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. These are all infrastructure providers with layers of infrastructure products and services.

In the last couple of years, the public cloud value proposition has evolved from a month to month service built on consumption based OPEX billing model for cost savings, to a value proposition focused on delivering agility, performance and innovation.

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A private cloud has similar virtualized architecture as public cloud, except private cloud is deployed for a single tenant in your datacenter or ours. The value proposition for private cloud was built on dedicated infrastructure with static and predictable costs. Private cloud also provides isolation which some equate with reduced risk and greater security.

But the private cloud value proposition has also evolved. And as public cloud addressed concerns over securing and isolating workloads, we see that some still prefer private cloud for the access to the underlying infrastructure. This may have less to do with governance and more with control; control over the infrastructure, control over the hardware and control over change management.

Pros & Cons of Private Cloud vs. Public Cloud Hosting of SAP

Private cloud remains a safe option for legacy programs including SAP. It allows for custom hardware and custom configuration, and provides a level of certainty on where the application and more importantly, the data resides. But safe does not translate to better.

The private cloud hosting model requires hardware acquisition and platform management. Upgrades need to be planned & budgeted for in advance. In contrast public cloud scales without the need for capacity planning, procurement and implementation. In private cloud, agility may be constrained by the infrastructure on hand, and innovation is typically limited to available resources.

But all private clouds are not the same. For instance, Symmetry can quickly spin up additional SAP certified infrastructure in a managed private cloud or virtual private cloud(s) under an OPEX billing model. This is perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to consider moving your private cloud SAP landscape from an on-premise datacenter to a hosted model.

SAP in the Public Cloud

In the last few years, public cloud providers have invested heavily in SAP, and public cloud is a great option to host many SAP applications. The public cloud offers unparalleled agility and virtually unlimited scaling potential. Public cloud providers have created, what is arguably, a safer environment than you can afford to create on prem. With larger SAP certified instances, performance in public cloud can run circles over some of the hardware that you likely still run in your own datacenter.

Private Cloud vs. Public Cloud Security

Conscientious SAP system owners are concerned about security in the cloud. But securing SAP HANA is essentially the same when looking at private cloud vs. public cloud. In both cases, you are entirely responsible for your data security. In the public cloud, the cloud provider secures the infrastructure and networks. That being said, you or your managed service provider is responsible for architecting a secure SAP environment. You ultimately are responsible to architect in a way that isolates your SAP, to authenticate your users, to protect your data from malicious access and so forth.

The private cloud presents an identical security challenge for SAP HANA. The only difference is that if in an on-premise deployment you also have to defend the underlying infrastructure and network yourself. If you are using a third-party to host your private cloud deployment, your provider is now responsible for defending the underlying infrastructure and network on their end.

Changes Afoot in SAP in Private Cloud vs. Public Cloud

Many of the major differentiators when considering private cloud vs. public cloud are starting to become less pronounced. For one thing, the big public cloud providers all have SAP certified instances capable of running large Production systems. Public cloud also offers a wide range of options for storage, operating systems and other products and services that make public cloud a great fit for SAP workloads if you have the right expertise alongside you while architecting your landscape.

Virtual Private Cloud vs. Public Cloud

Private cloud has also developed in recent years. For instance, virtual private cloud (VPC) bridges public and private cloud with flexibility and scalability available in public cloud with the isolation you expect in a private cloud. In a VPC, each tenant gets the same reliable performance and customization that is available in a traditional private cloud, but at lower cost and without the limits associated with purchasing more physical hardware.

Hybrid Clouds

For years there has been a lot of discussion about hybrid cloud, and the use of them for SAP is no exception. We are seeing substantial growth in the deployment of hybrid cloud by landscape, by SAP product, with combinations of private and public cloud and more.

Enterprise IT leaders increasingly see the value of the public cloud and for many workloads are already there with multiple hosting providers. But SAP is special, and some enterprises are still waiting to see how things shake out with SAP and the end of support in 2025 for SAP ECC databases before making the ultimate decision on private cloud vs public cloud. The bottom line is that not everybody is ready to move 100% of their SAP estate to public cloud just yet. And, for those who are, such an undertaking could take a long time and risk significant business disruption. For others, an incremental, partial migration makes sense and can mitigate much of the risks associated with a move.

Making the Right Choice For You

As cloud hosting options continue to evolve, it can be difficult to lock in on the best path forward for your organization. We have been migrating and managing SAP workloads for decades and we can help you with your Cloud and SAP strategies. When considering private cloud vs. public cloud, together we’ll explore how your specific business, with its unique IT skills and needs, will fit with each cloud hosting scenario. For example, if your company is already working with a public cloud provider in one area of IT (e.g. the Azure Internet of Things platform), then it might be wise to run your SAP landscape on the same cloud.

One practical consideration is the actual size of your database when you’re determining whether a private cloud vs. public cloud is the best fit. We can advise you on sizing your data requirements and future growth needs in advance of selecting a cloud hosting solution.

Jay Graboff, Cloud Product Manager

Jay Graboff is a Senior Cloud Product Manager that has been evangelizing innovation and digital transformation before there was either. With over 8 years delivering Public, Private and Proprietary Cloud, his passion and love affair with technology is rooted in what the Cloud can enable.