A primary goal among CEOs today is to run a real-time business — and this goal is quickly becoming a requirement for organizations that wish to drive runaway innovation and challenge the status quo. Most C-level executives recognize that standing pat is not an option. In the latest IBM CEO report, more than 40% of CEOs said that they expect their next competitive threat to come from an organization outside of their own industry.1 New and unexpected competition is upending entire industries; by running a real-time business, a company can redefine how it creates value for its customers, thus staying one step — or many steps — ahead of new threats.
For SAP customers, driving innovation with a focus on running a real-time enterprise often means exploring how SAP HANA can help move the needle. And, with SAP Simple Finance as the first module in the new SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA (SAP S/4HANA), finance organizations now have a new solution to assess when devising strategies for using technology to innovate.
Over time, SAP S/4HANA will pull in the common features of the line-of-business on-premise applications such as supplier relationship management, product lifecycle management, and supply chain management, and provide hybrid cloud extensions to SAP and other software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, all in line with the overall SAP message touting simplification, innovation, and transformation. SAP S/4HANA is available on premise, in a private cloud, and on SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud.
SAP Simple Finance functions and capabilities are clearly in line with SAP’s intent to deliver a product that offers the ability to run a real-time finance organization. By providing a read-only view of data stored in an SAP HANA database, a user will be able to instantly create aggregates to discover trends and changes, and all pre-final close tasks will collapse into a series of rapid pre-close tasks allowing the finance team to instantly jump to make corrections in the SAP ERP system. SAP Simple Finance can allow CFOs and finance teams to close books in a day, centralize finance functions, plan dynamically, and take the steps toward transforming finance as a strategic partner to the business.
While on-premise is an SAP Simple Finance deployment option, many customers have turned to SAP HANA in the cloud because it offers additional flexibility and efficiency as well as the potential for real-time analytics that can turn ideas into action.
Going to the Cloud with SAP HANA
IBM cloud offerings for SAP HANA deployments adhere to the SAP message of simplify, innovate, and transform. For both new and existing SAP customers, IBM has offerings that can help organizations in any industry reach the objective of having a real-time, innovative platform (see Figure 1).
Before looking at specific IBM offerings, it’s worthwhile to develop an understanding of how and where SAP HANA adds value, because the answer to that question often depends on the type of organization, its industry, what it is looking to accomplish, and where it stands in its overall SAP footprint. A net-new SAP customer, for example, is more likely to look at SAP HANA from the platform perspective, as the foundational database from which everything else is built.
Existing SAP accounts, specifically global multinationals, are more likely to isolate SAP HANA to attack innovation in a single area. Starting on the edges in this manner to accelerate or explore improvements for a single business process is in line with leveraging SAP HANA as a sidecar accelerator. Moving line-of-business applications to the SAP HANA environment, however, entails much more of a transition. And with the release of SAP S/4HANA as the successor to SAP ERP, organizations now have to more carefully weigh when it’s the right time to make this next transformation for running the business suite. From an analytics perspective, most customers by now know that SAP HANA provides quantifiable advantages. For many organizations, then, the question isn’t if SAP HANA can help simplify, innovate, and transform, it’s when is the best time, and what is the proper deployment option?
For many organizations, the question isn’t if SAP HANA can help simplify, innovate, and transform, it’s when is the best time, and what is the proper deployment option?
Running SAP HANA in the cloud combines real-time analytics that drive business decisions with the flexibility and efficiency of the cloud. As a cloud and hosting partner, IBM stands out for the depth and breadth of its offerings, the level of management, performance levels, and delivery of service level agreements (SLAs) of IBM Cloud Services. IBM Cloud Managed Services for SAP applications provides full-stack ITIL-compliant managed services with SLAs at the operating system (OS) level. Additionally, IBM offers unmanaged SAP HANA One, SAP HANA, and SAP applications available on the cloud platform from SoftLayer, which is part of IBM Cloud Services.
IBM Cloud Managed Services is unique in its delivery model as the only hardware and cloud vendor to guarantee sub-second SLAs in performance and availability through the application layer of their enterprise applications, including SAP ERP, SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM), SAP Business Warehouse (SAP BW), and SAP HANA.
IBM Cloud Managed Services has transitioned from the infrastructure and support model of a traditional hosting model into a cloud model, mirroring in many ways how a client would run its existing SAP landscape in its own data center, only in the IBM Cloud. This allows for clients to maintain choice and control while providing both security and availability across a multitude of data centers.
For both new and existing SAP HANA customers, SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud offers a low-cost entry into an enterprise-class platform in the cloud. Last fall, IBM and SAP announced IBM’s new status as a premier strategic partner for cloud infrastructure services to optimize opportunities for customers. This certification gives customers the assurance that their SAP HANA cloud solutions can run production workloads through a specialized deployment supporting all SAP HANA use cases. One option for running applications using IBM Cloud Managed Services is a PaaS deployment of SAP HANA, where IBM provides the dedicated appliance, hosting, and administrative services.
Another option is for the customer to send its existing SAP HANA appliance to an IBM Cloud data center where it will be managed and hosted. The benefit here is that the supporting architecture is the same at every IBM Cloud data center, meaning running SAP S/4HANA in the US, for example, would be the same as running it anywhere in the world because it would be managed by the same hardware, software, and global service delivery organization. Figure 2 provides a map of IBM data centers around the world.
Organizations that wish to run SAP HANA without purchasing a license can run SAP HANA One in the IBM Cloud as a PaaS option through SoftLayer with SLAs available at the infrastructure level. With this option, companies can conduct a proof of concept for SAP HANA, build and deploy SAP HANA applications for production, or even get started with in-memory applications.
SAP S/4HANA’s Place in the Cloud
SAP S/4HANA has arrived at a time when resistance to the cloud has significantly waned. Hybrid deployments are ubiquitous; most companies have dozens of SaaS products they’re utilizing already, so they’re familiar with working across multiple data centers. This is the new reality, and moving a company’s SAP landscape to a cloud environment is just a part of this larger picture.
What we’re learning about the SAP S/4HANA roadmap as the product matures will influence how IBM helps to take its customers to that next generation of SAP products. The technology is certainly ready; the initial hesitance to embrace the cloud has instead been replaced by questions about what it means for an IT department as organizations start to work with multiple cloud service providers and multiple data centers, and whether those providers can work independently or need to work together to keep an organization’s applications running.
SAP S/4HANA as a consolidated platform in the cloud will certainly evolve as SAP fine-tunes its migration path. One possibility is that existing SAP customers that implemented SAP systems a decade ago or longer will use SAP S/4HANA as a consolidation platform to make that leap to the cloud and rid themselves of the complexity that stems from a mix of on-premise systems. New accounts that are now exploring SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA in the cloud can migrate to SAP S/4HANA to achieve the same reduced complexity.
IBM is currently working on delivering SAP S/4HANA through SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, and discussions are under way with SAP over how to provide additional options for customers in the cloud, which will be ironed out over time as the roadmap develops.
Regardless of the roadmap, though, companies will have to take the necessary steps, whether the migration is within or outside their data center. IBM’s experienced, time-tested methodology and tools help to do the heavy lifting, so there’s no question that IBM will be ready from an integration standpoint.
From deployments in cloud solutions such as Ariba, SuccessFactors, and SAP Cloud for Customer, the experience of the IBM migration teams is directly transferable into SAP S/4HANA migration questions. Additionally, SAP S/4HANA may be a step toward lowering the barrier for migrating to the cloud because it will be easily integrated with SAP Landscape Transformation, which will likely eliminate many technical migration problems because of the replication cycle.
With the sheer number of technology changes and integration challenges involved in a hybrid model of this size, an integrator and cloud provider with IBM’s experience is a key component to ensure reduced complexity.
A Guiding Hand
When the transition to SAP S/4HANA really begins, one path toward adoption may mirror what IBM is doing with one multinational client, a large professional services company that is currently deploying SAP Cloud for Customer and on-premise SAP CRM, SAP Supplier Relationship Management (SAP SRM), and mobility solutions with an SAP Fiori-based UI. This hybrid model will likely be very similar in the SAP S/4HANA deployment model as organizations wrestle with architectural changes and deal with issues such as network security, identity management, and segregation of duties (SoD).
With the sheer number of technology changes and integration challenges involved in a hybrid model of this size, an integrator and cloud provider with IBM’s experience is a key component to ensure reduced complexity. The question companies must answer is whether they want to change the way they’ve conducted business over the past few decades to capitalize on the transformational opportunities and to meet the threats that are upending entire industries.
If the answer to that question is yes, they are going to need a partner with the breadth and depth of IBM’s expertise and offerings to steer them through the technology, business, and organizational challenges and deliver the unique experience that will get them to where they need to be.
For more information, visit www.ibm.com/solutions/sap/us/en.
1 IBM, “Leading Through Connections” (2012; www-935.ibm.com/services/us/en/c-suite/ceostudy2012). [back]