SAP Migration To The Public Cloud
SAP transformations to hyper-scale cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) are gaining momentum for both non-production and production workloads. This is no surprise given the potential to reduce total cost of ownership, renew and transform core ERP by introducing SAP S/4HANA, and innovate faster from the cloud with analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms.
But there is no getting around the truth: migrating an SAP landscape to the public cloud takes significant investment and effort. If not done correctly, it can result in a major headache that reverberates across the company on both the business and IT sides. These tips can help make your SAP migration to the public cloud smoother, faster and more successful.
Tip #1 – Carefully plan for the migration and budget appropriately: SAP migrations are strategic decisions that require assessing the entire SAP landscape and deciding what to migrate to cloud, including a move onto the HANA database or a transformation to SAP S/4HANA. Once the plan is set, executives usually want to make quick progress and start reaping the expected savings.
However, many SAP solutions are running on legacy operating system and database combinations that are unavailable on public cloud. In other words, there’s no opportunity to “lift and shift.” Instead, enterprises must change the operating system and/or database of the SAP solution, which impacts how it runs and requires additional testing. This can contribute substantially to the migration timeline and costs of the overall effort.
As for securing enterprise applications on public cloud, companies are realizing that public can be more secure than private or even on-premise platforms. With this in mind, vetting a pre-existing set of cloud security reference models with your company’s legacy enterprise security policies should be a prerequisite to the planning and budgeting exercise.
Tip #2 – Consider mechanics of the migration: It is essential to create a separate ‘N+1’ project line of systems to control the level of effort and time required to deliver the migration. Without this, the process can get entangled with everyday system changes being promoted through the ‘N Line’ used for legacy support, which will paralyze progress.
It’s also important to establish production-like reference systems, making full copies of the SAP production environment(s) using production-sized legacy systems plus production-sized cloud systems. Completing a mock migration run using production-like source systems will make it possible to accurately predict the necessary outage window for the business and target actions to condense it.
Finally, migrating environments will invariably require greater processing power and throughput than running those same environments later in production. This makes environment sizing an important consideration and can mandate using the largest available virtual machines for migration. Afterwards, these machines can be downsized.
Tip #3 – Supplement internal IT team with proper acumen and experience: Even with strong skills in infrastructure and SAP, many enterprise IT departments will still need guidance or outside expertise to execute the SAP migration to the public cloud. Navigating and troubleshooting the requisite database migrations across multi-layered, parallel work streams is inherently difficult, so do not undervalue the experience of having ‘been there and solved for that.’
The ideal migration team will combine IT specialists with deep experience in SAP operating system/database upgrades, and cloud infrastructure specialists who can design the cloud landscape and build-up virtual machines to run SAP optimally in the cloud. Given the high-paced learning curve, consider doing things differently and augmenting your core IT team with experienced resources for the migration.
While skillset is one thing, operating mindset is another. Historically, infrastructure capacity was viewed in terms of ‘peak’ utilization over a three-year period. In the world of cloud computing, ‘average’ utilization is more important since companies can add capacity on demand. IT teams will need to look at utilization by the hour–turning on an SAP application to use it, turning it down when demand decreases and even shutting it off during the weekend.
Tip #4 – Automate as much of the work as possible: Most SAP landscapes will require provisioning numerous servers in the cloud, and often each server (or set of servers) will be nearly identical. The same holds for spinning up several core SAP systems as the migration landing points. Automating aspects of the process—such as creating and testing one server in the cloud as a model and then automating the build-out of the remainder to match—can significantly reduce the time and cost, while minimizing error rates. The objective is to measure twice, build once to a standard and then automate.
Once started down the automation path, begin looking for the next things to automate—either with the migration, ongoing operations or even the yearly workload changes. Ultimately, the goal is an elastic, self-healing SAP system that powers up and down automatically, and uses predictive analytics to identify and fix problems with minimal human intervention.
Tip #5 – Cleanse SAP data before starting the migration: Many enterprises have accrued massive amounts of SAP data, some of which they seldom use. Inconsistent source data, corrupted or missing data, and unreadable data formats can bog down the SAP migration to the public cloud. A better answer is to proactively cleanse, archive and purge to reduce data anomalies—and, more importantly, minimize the time and labor costs to move, maintain and support data that does not add value.
Start your journey now
As your company embarks on an SAP migration to public cloud, follow these tips—proper planning, sensible mechanics, requisite acumen, pervasive automation and data preparation—to help make the journey easier. This will pivot the conversation from “Can you make the SAP journey to public cloud?” to “How soon can you start?”
By Michael A. Simonis, Managing Director, SAP Cloud, Accenture