In the modern global economy, business leaders look to IT to create new competitive advantages by enabling innovation, increasing automation, reducing inefficiency, and improving agility. Cloud computing is disrupting the industry and has seen rapid adoption in recent years. Cloud technologies and services represent the fastest way for businesses to reach new customers, breathe new life into aging applications, increase efficiency, and cut costs.
While the cloud is often discussed as one technology, in practice, deployment models may vary considerably. Cloud offerings now expand upon traditional software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) options, with desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) and database-as-a-service (DBaaS) becoming prevalent. These services can be implemented using public, private, or hybrid models. This decision is largely dictated by the location of the computing infrastructure and the security and management required. Mix-and-match is more the norm than a fad in cloud adoption.
According to Technology Business Research, over 60% of firms with revenues over $250M deploy private clouds today, with close to 20% planning to do so within a year.1 Experts say most companies will ultimately be running workloads in some combination of public and private cloud environments for the foreseeable future.2 Private and hybrid clouds are prudent choices for mission-critical workloads such as those prevalent in SAP environments.
SAP Environments and Cloud Adoption Challenges
SAP-based business systems and networks are widely deployed today for various functional areas, from business intelligence to supply chain management to human resources, across various industries. Many SAP environments and landscapes are undergoing rapid transformation to incorporate cloud technology and realize benefits with advanced, real-time databases such as SAP HANA. However, the smooth migration of mission-critical business systems poses a challenge to many of the firms attempting this transformation.
In recent years, businesses have seen a sharp uptick in data about their customers, inventory, manufacturing and machine generated data, and logistics and transmission systems. All that data is no good if you can’t turn it into insights.
And this data goes beyond what resides in the enterprise — businesses need to be able to mine from increasing amounts of data that either reside in the cloud (such as social media) or are only reachable through the cloud (such as through the Internet of Things).
Selecting a cloud implementation model (private, public, or hybrid) for mission-critical applications and services is a complex decision. You must consider and evaluate numerous factors, such as:
- Whether the risk profile of the applications and services allow them to be run on shared infrastructure, depending on security, business disruption, and capacity and latency concerns.
- The customer preference for treating IT costs as a capital expenditure (CAPEX) versus an operational expenditure (OPEX). Depending on the size of the business, existing infrastructure base, and investments, cloud approaches can vary significantly.
- The proportion of applications, services, and related data available on premise versus in the cloud, and how they need to work together and synchronize in time and space to get useful work done.
- The availability of IT skills within a company and retraining costs involved in migrating to the cloud.
- The level of management of the cloud environment that a business is prepared to take on.
For all of these reasons, Dell usually recommends a hybrid approach with a hosted private cloud (such as Dell Cloud Dedicated Service) as a starting point to reduce risk, maximize performance, and maintain consistency with existing SAP operational processes.
A Strategic Approach
As your business considers an initiative around cloud adoption for SAP business transformation, Dell suggests initially formulating a hypothesis of the problem you are trying to solve and the expected outcomes stated in terms of the business advantages sought. This should be carefully conducted based on a thorough assessment of your existing processes and data and the transformations required to deliver the desired outcomes. Part of this analysis entails mapping out the existing data sources, flow, and processes and the expected final state of these items. This kind of analysis allows you to assess the efficiencies to be gained and the risk areas that need mitigation. For example, if you are a retailer and seek to better understand customer buying behavior, you might start by bringing together transactional information from your stores with customer sentiment information from social media data in the cloud, as well as with local demographic information and weather forecasts.
Heterogeneous systems housing different sources of data for integration creates complexity and risk that need to be managed. Historically, people would collect all that data into a data warehouse. However, as the world becomes more focused on real-time big data, the sheer volume and time-sensitive nature of this information usually means that just-in-time data integration needs to be supported. The challenges of big data management result from the expansion of all three Vs of big data (volume, variety, and velocity), rather than volume alone.
The structure of the data sources can vary — some highly structured data exists in in-memory databases such as SAP HANA, but other forms, such as social media data or feeds from supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, are only partially structured, and still other forms, such as video feeds, might be completely unstructured. And the velocity part of the equation only compounds the difficulties involved. Cloud-based tools excel in real-time integration to make a hybrid solution landscape work; a good example is the use of Dell Boomi for integration with the cloud-based human capital management solutions from SuccessFactors, an SAP company.3
Dell’s secure, efficient, and flexible cloud strategies enable customers to collaborate, optimize costs, and see business results faster (see Figure 1). Dell takes a comprehensive approach to helping our customers — building cloud environments, helping organizations deliver and use cloud services, and managing and integrating hybrid cloud environments. Unlike many providers who only offer a single approach, we realize that each customer’s cloud strategy is unique, and Dell is helping each customer select the best cloud for the job.
The cloud holds great promise, and every organization has its own pace and path to adoption. Dell has the solutions and capabilities to help you create a strategy and carry it through to a successful implementation. The business applications of tomorrow are likely to be those that bring together large amounts of data and processing from disparate sources and use predictive analytics to gain insights into the future. The cloud will play a key role in the processing, integration, transformation, and analysis of this data. Dell is deeply committed to supplying you with the infrastructure and tools you need and being your partner on your cloud journey. If you’re ready to put SAP big data to use in a cloud environment, get started by visiting dell.com/SAP.
1 Technology Business Research, “Converging Disruptors Reach the Tipping Point” (January 2015; www.slideshare.net/TBR_Market_Insight/tbr-2015-software-predictions-webinar). [back]
2 CRN, “10 Cloud Predictions for 2015” (January 2015; www.crn.com/slide-shows/cloud/300075449/10-cloud-predictions-for-2015.htm). [back]
3 See www.boomi.com/solutions/successfactors. [back]