Over at SearchSAP.com, we just published a series of articles dealing with the role that hardware plays in the SAP application infrastructure. These articles covered trends in hardware design and how more powerful hardware will affect software development and software performance; server virtualization to increase application performance through hardware strategies; how hardware can be mission-critical; and the role of hardware personnel in the SAP team.
One trend the series did not cover was the change in hardware buying patterns. More specifically, it didn’t address the trend toward running hardware in the cloud as an alternative to buying hardware — or hardware as a service.
The dynamics of purchasing hardware are changing by the day. Bruce Richardson, chief research officer of AMR Research, is just one analyst asking whether it makes sense for companies to continue to own their servers and desktop computers.
The question is also being posed by Chris Carter, CEO of HiLn, an SAP cloud and services provider. Carter in August hosted a webinar called “SAP in the Cloud and How Soon is the Reality?” during which he demonstrated how to move a SAP landscape to the cloud. His message is that companies can attain significant cost savings by moving their non-mission-critical SAP infrastructure to the cloud. For many firms, he said that amounts to 75% of their SAP infrastructure, encompassing development, testing, training, demos and trial evaluations — in short, pretty much everything except the production environment.
During the webinar, Carter demonstrated fully functioning SAP Business One and SAP ECC 6.0 environments running in the cloud (HiLn uses the cloud services of Amazon, Rackspace, Terremark and GoGrid.) He was upfront about recommending that SAP users not yet put their production environments into the cloud, but he did say that Amazon and GoGrid are working on hosting a company’s full SAP ERP environment.
Carter is confident that security and performance are (or will soon be) non-issues. SAP licensing is another matter. He advised interested users to talk to their SAP reps to make sure they have the proper licensing on their production environments before moving anything to the cloud and to make sure they’re SAP-compliant.
According to Carter, SAP is currently supporting private clouds, but cloud providers like Amazon will start negotiating support options with SAP directly, just as it has with IBM. SAP, he said, has an internal cloud running on Citrix servers. He said he hopes that SAP will be supported public clouds in the next six to 12 months.
Carter said that one of the biggest benefits to working in the cloud will be with upgrades. For example, a company still running R/3 would be able to do migration testing to see how its data would work in ECC 6.0 or 7.0.
However, Vijay Vijayasankar, a senior managing consultant with IBM Global Business Services, has some qualms about what happens if a company’s development and QA environments are on the cloud but not production. He wonders about issues like refreshing QA from production, or moving transports between these two systems, as well as backup and recovery. He writes:
I also don’t know if Solution Manager can handle such a landscape with one foot in cloud and one foot outside
Carter expects there will lots of conversations at TechEd about the cloud from not just SAP but IBM, HP and Sun. I’ll be in Phoenix to hear what they have to say. If you have thoughts you’d like to share, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org .