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Taking the risk out of migration

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(Image credit: Shutterstock / issaro prakalung)

Enterprises increasingly seek the cost savings and agility that the cloud offers, but if your business depends upon on-premise SAP systems, you may well view migration with trepidation. Since SAP is likely to control your mission-critical processes, any disruption could have a direct impact on your bottom line. The question, then, is whether it is really worth the risk.

The answer is a definite yes. The Cloud is a playground for business innovation. Selecting the right Cloud is a critical step. Selecting a Cloud, like AWS for example, that is at the forefront of that innovation and is cost-effective, secure, compliant, fully certified and supported for SAP workloads, which will put many naysayers at ease. 

It must also be recognized that every enterprise looking to undertake this transformation is different. This doesn’t just mean multiple industries and geographies, but every permutation of SAP solution you can imagine – large, small, simple, standard, complex, bespoke and old. But if you want to avoid delays and disappointment, it is important to take on board the lessons learned by others that have made the journey. 

Here, I offer ten insights into the process that can help you on your way.

Start with proof of concept

Enterprises new to cloud migration typically have a number of concerns about things like security, performance and disruption to the business during migration. For example, one Lemongrass client was most worried about the impact on business-critical processes. That’s why it’s good to start with a proof of concept. This only takes about four weeks and tests all your concerns. It’s a great way to see how SAP performs in the cloud.

Migrate SAP first

It might seem counterintuitive to choose SAP for your first migration to the cloud. It’s big, complex, expensive, business-critical and involves lots of servers, so you might think it would be better to pick a smaller application to migrate first. But most of Lemongrass’s clients make SAP their first cloud migration – for two good reasons. First, the financial case is crystal clear and significant. SAP is usually an expensive item within the data center and most of our clients at least halve the cost once it is in the Cloud. Two years ago, one of our clients migrated 300 servers in just three months. That migration paid for itself within the first year. 

The other reason is that SAP is the hardest part of a Cloud migration. Once you’ve done it, you know you can migrate everything else with relative ease.

It’s not as simple as lift-and-shift

You won’t gain the benefits by simply lifting and shifting your SAP workloads into the cloud. You have to do a certain amount of re-architecting if you want to see significantly lower costs and higher agility. Otherwise, you won’t be able to take advantage of cloud tooling and cloud ways of thinking.  For example, most SAP systems are sized for three years of usage, but in the Cloud, you can rightsize from day one, and grow your systems as you need to.

Downtime needs to be managed

For most SAP clients, downtime is a serious issue. Nowhere is that truer than in the food and food processing industries, many of which rely on SAP for their mission-critical (and time-critical) processes. It’s certainly something our clients worry about. With one of our clients, for example, if the system goes down, food processing stops. But there are a number of tools and techniques we can use to mitigate against that, including replication and using the AWS Cloud on demand to up the processing power. There is no reason why downtime for these massive projects shouldn’t be as little as four hours, all of it at night.

Operate not migrate

Migration is the easy part of the transformation. Realizing the benefits is all down to operation. You need new skills and ways of working, which you need to start building as you’re going through the migration process. For example, you will need new technical skills in Cloud architecture and systems, as well as new financial management skills to make sure you’re using Cloud cost-effectively. By the time you go live, you'll need all these in place, so if you don’t have them in-house, you may need to look at outsourcing.

Automate

Automation is key to realizing the benefits of SAP on AWS. To reduce costs, manage spend, deliver DevOps and gain agility, you needy specific automation for SAP on the Cloud. The Lemongrass Cloud Platform (LCP) is a governance, monitoring and automation solution that leverages proven methods for Onboarding to AWS Cloud services and enables optimized operations for SAP and its related workloads. What could take years to automate in-house can be done at the click of a button with LCP. For example, we built out 88 SAP systems in six weeks for one SAP S/4HANA client. That was only possible because of the automation in our toolsets.  Furthermore, the real cost savings you achieve are in the operate phase. Any automation brought to bear in this phase, such as system optimization, operational automation, self-service, anomaly detection and self-healing solutions, are realized year-on-year and release funds for investment in innovation rather than maintaining the status quo. 

New ways of working – SAP DevOps

A significant amount of the cost and the complexity of SAP is not in the business-as-usual operation but in the cost of change and projects. AWS offers a different, more agile way of working with SAP in the cloud – SAP DevOps. Historically, the time and cost of commissioning infrastructure has been a key constraint when it comes to delivering change. When enterprises have a number of changes to do, they tend to put them together in a single copy of the development system – which makes the changes big, complex, expensive and time consuming. When you work with the SAP DevOps model you create a new full copy of the production system every time there is a change which dramatically shortens the amount of time it takes to release developments into production.

Migrate and re-platform – but not always the obvious database

Most enterprises moving SAP to AWS take the opportunity to re-platform, since it’s more convenient and low-risk to do so during the migration itself.  Many enterprises with old databases such as Oracle or DB2 select a more strategic and future-proof database. Most customers think they should be moving to HANA, but that might not be the best choice for them. One client, for example, originally wanted to migrate everything to HANA, but we saved them about £1 million in licensing and support costs by using HANA for some systems and ASE for others.

Enabling AWS-native innovation

For most enterprises, a key driver for migrating SAP to the Cloud is to increase rates of innovation and change.  Doing that means going through several waves. The first wave is the migration itself. The second wave is about doing DevOps and automating the management and operation of SAP to take out as much manual effort and inconsistency as possible. The third wave is often to move to SAP S/4HANA and the fourth is about taking advantage of a cloud-native data lake. A lot of our clients that are taking advantage of an AWS-native data lake and analytical tools are now starting to embrace innovative technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) and AI.

Application Archiving – a great opportunity

Most large enterprises have a huge SAP legacy estate, including systems inherited in acquisitions and systems that have been superseded. These languish in datacenters consuming power and incurring management and licensing costs. Even though they’re rarely referenced, they often need to be retained for compliance reasons. “Application Archiving takes these systems, simplifies them and copies them to AWS so you can turn them off.  When you need to look at them you can turn them on and then turn them straight back off.  There’s clearly a compelling business case and clients have seen big cost savings as a result of this method.

Mark Hirst, VP EMEA, Lemongrass Consulting

Mark has over 25 years of SAP experience and is responsible for the daily operations of Lemongrass’s EMEA business. Mark began his SAP consulting career as a Senior Consultant for Accenture. Before joining Lemongrass, Mark held several roles at Axon and HCL Technologies, a next-generation global technology company, that acquired Axon in 2008. While with Axon, he founded and led their Basis, Managed Service and Public Sector businesses. He also led HCL AXON’s SAP EMEA business. Notable clients Mark has worked with include Transport for London, Birmingham City Council, Vodafone and BP.