S/4HANA public cloud is a SaaS alternative to S/4HANA, run by SAP. Tenants can plug into a standardized set of HANA-like features without the cost, complexity, or time commitment of setting up and running their own ERP system. However, these benefits come with tradeoffs: little customizability and limited functionality, and no brownfield migration options. This makes it a good fit for many smaller companies, but a poor match for large or complex enterprises, and those who prefer a HANA migration to a new implementation.
Expert Insight: Matt Lonstine, Director of Delivery
The name “S/4HANA public cloud” has caused some confusion. Many SAP veterans assume that it’s just a standard version of S/4HANA in the public cloud. In reality, it’s a radical departure from SAP’s usual offerings: an out-of-the-box, cloud native solution.
SAP handles routine maintenance like upgrades, cyber security and governance behind the scenes, and provides guided process configuration, eliminating the overhead of a traditional ERP solution. Customers plug in data, flip some switches, and turn off the processes they’re not using and they’re ready to go. This makes it much closer to a solution like Netsuite ERP than it is to a traditional SAP competitor, like Oracle.
What Functionality Does SAP S/4HANA Public Cloud Offer?
As of 2017, the S/4HANA public cloud has support for professional services and manufacturing, but it’s pretty new. Users can expect SAP to gradually roll out new functionality, like they did for the transition from Business Suite to S/4HANA. However, while HANA users could use SAP ERP applications on Suite in the meantime, SAP public cloud users are limited to the applications included. If you’re not in one of the supported industries, it’s not currently a viable solution.
SAP S/4HANA Cloud Configuration
The SaaS model is simple and cost effective because providers can deliver it in a standardized package. Unlike other SAP ERP offerings, the public SAP S/4HANA Cloud always has the same architecture. That means SAP can just spin up new copies or scale up compute to meet demand in a way that’s not possible with traditional ERP.
The problem is that larger businesses require customization. They have complex business processes, which need to be supported by particular software configurations. Many have ERP solutions that have evolved over decades, with third-party software, custom code, hybrid cloud architecture, and other unique elements.
They may need high speed data lines, or data centers in countries the S/4HANA Public Cloud doesn’t currently support (customers are currently limited to Australia, Germany or North America). To join S/4HANA Cloud SaaS, they would have to leave their customized ERP systems behind entirely, and adapt to a service with very little customization. It’s just not a realistic option for those companies.
Should I Use SAP Public Cloud?
Like everything else, it depends on your company. If you’re an SME in a supported industry, you have relatively straightforward business needs and you’re open to starting over with a greenfield implementation, the S/4HANA Public Cloud can be a great, cost-effective choice. However, if you’re a larger enterprise, depend on a customized landscape, or have other needs that can’t be supported by a standardized service, you’re better off in your own dedicated cloud.