Time for a Spring Clean? The Benefits of Modernising Your SAP Platform
Posted 24 August 2011 by Jonathan Wilson | 2 Comments
But are you ready to take advantage of these new innovations, or could your SAP infrastructure benefit from a spring clean?
Innovation, Innovation, Innovation!
If you’ve attended any of the SAP events this year, be it Sapphire Now, any of the Mastering SAP conferences, or the recent World Tour, there is one word that SAP keeps repeating over and over – and that is innovation. Sometimes it is “innovation without disruption”, and sometimes it’s “game-changing innovation”, but one thing is being made very clear – SAP is consistently making new business and technical capabilities available for their customers.
So why is now the right time for organisations to modernise their SAP landscape? Because, in the last few months, there has been a slew of new releases that affect almost every area of the SAP portfolio. This includes Business Suite Innovations 2010, NetWeaver 7.3, Solution Manager 7.1, Sybase Unwired Platform 2.0, HANA 1.0 and shortly BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 and Gateway 2.0.
For the customers we talk to, many business process owners have already identified a long list of process improvements that could be realised using one or more of these new releases.
However, taking advantage of these releases can be a time-consuming and expensive process, particularly if organisations don’t have the right platform in place before they start.
Selecting the “best” SAP platform
SAP software generally supports a very wide range of different platforms (i.e. the hardware, operating systems and databases that support SAP systems). So, how does an organisation determine the ‘best’ platform for its SAP landscape? In a nutshell, the right platform should provide the required availability, flexibility and scalability, while at the same time reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the SAP investment.
For many SAP customers the choice of platform on which to run SAP was made a long time ago, when SAP was first introduced to their organisation. Once made, the choice of platform is rarely revisited. However, this may be a lost opportunity.
When looking at making significant changes to an SAP landscape, it is worth asking: is this still the best platform?
Infrastructure / Virtualisation
Recent advances in processing power and improved support for virtualisation mean SAP landscapes can now be delivered using less physical infrastructure, with corresponding savings in hardware, data centre costs and power consumption.
Virtualisation offers a great deal of flexibility, allowing resources to be shared and prioritised to enable more efficient use of what is available to the organisation.
A virtualised infrastructure also simplifies the process of creating temporary systems (e.g. a sandpit system to test a support package / enhancement package) meaning these systems no longer need to be a permanent part of the SAP landscape, and can simply be created and deleted as required.
A good infrastructure / virtualisation approach can also deliver server high-availability for all your SAP systems, without the complexity of installing and managing this at the SAP application layer.
Licensing costs for software that SAP depends on, such as operating systems and database systems, can also contribute significantly to TCO for an SAP landscape.
It is worth reviewing how this software is licensed and whether there are other more cost effective alternatives.
Understanding the licensing model for this software can also assist in determining the most appropriate strategy for infrastructure / virtualisation.
In addition to ongoing cost-savings, moving to a more cost-effective platform may also allow for improved alignment with organisational IT strategy and consolidation of required skills.
The latest releases of database systems offer compression to significantly reduce the disk storage for SAP solutions. Database size reductions of between 50 – 75% are typically observed when compression is applied. This translates into immediate cost savings and can provide new perspectives on other activities such as archiving, or production copies.
While the advanced forms of database compression do result in increases to CPU usage, it has been observed that system performance typically improves overall, as these increases are more than offset by the dramatic reduction in Disk I/O.
Another platform area, often overlooked for SAP landscapes, is that of storage solutions. Working in conjunction with virtualisation technologies, the latest storage solutions can allow standby Disaster Recovery (DR) systems to simultaneously be used as active test systems, without impairing their ability to be used for DR, if required.
This can further simplify the SAP landscape, and remove the need for dedicated pre-production test environments, which are regularly copied from Production.
Disk storage requirements can also be significantly reduced through de-duplication, which allows duplicate data that is stored by multiple systems to be physically only stored once.
This significantly reduces the overhead of repeatedly storing the same files, such as operating system or SAP binaries.
For many SAP customers, particularly larger organisations, the platform for their SAP landscape can be shared with other enterprise applications to achieve further economies of scale. For these customers an on-premise deployment or a dedicated outsourcing arrangement often delivers the best value.
However, for some SAP customers, the cost of delivering the best platform, just for their SAP landscape, can outweigh the benefits. For these customers it is worth considering an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model, where the required infrastructure is leased as required.
This approach delivers enterprise class infrastructure, but without large up-front capital costs and ongoing management issues. It also provides the flexibility to add (or remove) additional capacity based on requirements, and organisations only pay for what they use.
Alternatively, organisations can go a step further and lease not only infrastructure, but also SAP software maintenance and updates in a Software as a Service (SaaS) model.
SaaS offerings are available for traditional SAP Business Suite applications, as well as for SAP Business ByDesign, which has been recently released in Australia.
No single deployment strategy is appropriate for all situations, and it is likely that a hybrid approach consisting of on-premise, outsourced, IaaS and SaaS software are integrated to deliver the best value and flexibility for SAP customer.
Finally, exploring ways to better manage SAP support resources should also be considered. Outsourcing or co-sourcing a portion of an organisation’s SAP support may be a more cost efficient dynamic, particularly for customers using a broad range of SAP modules.
Keeping permanent in-house support across a wide spectrum of functionality is expensive to maintain, whereas using a partner to provide expert support resources, which only have to be paid for when they are used is a more cost effective approach.
Many organisations will find that by modernising their SAP infrastructure they will not only be able to able to innovate, but will be able to take cost out of their day-to-day operations.
The rapid advance of computing power and sophistication, combined with the availability of commodity hardware and standardised software provides an opportunity for a technology refresh that may save significant amounts of money.
For further information on modernising your SAP landscape please do not hesitate to contact me
Related Tags: solution manager 7.1, jonathan wilson, hana 1.0, sybase unwired platform 2.0, business suite innovations 2010, saas, gateway 2.0, businessobjects business intelligence 4.0, netweaver 7.3,