Migrating to SAP S/4HANA is a blessing, not a curse, and even were the incumbent solutions not being phased out, organisations looking to leverage technology to achieve competitive advantage should be looking to make the shift. SAP S/4HANA is a platform designed around processing high volumes of transactional and operational data in real time; it’s the database for the modern world of big data and the Internet of Things (IoT), and as such can form the core of a business transformation exercise.
In addition to being compliant with the ISO standard-ACID (which stands for Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation and Durability), SAP HANA also has a programming component that allows an organisation to create custom applications that leverage the HANA database; this means that the data is not only ideal for the data scientists in an organisation – who need high quality, standards-based data to maximise the value of the data to the organisation, but it allows the organisation to be agile in how it works with the data.
How SAP S/4HANA changes the technology demands on organisations
Because SAP S/4HANA runs on in-memory processing, the technology has different requirements for running optimally than previous database management systems.
In other words, in return for the benefits of real-time data processing and analytics, organisations need a server environment that offers much greater levels of main memory. This is offset somewhat by SAP S/4HANA databases being smaller in raw size than is traditional, but even with the higher levels of data compression, preparing for a future under SAP S/4HANA is going to require a new look at the server environment.
SAP S/4HANA solutions also have the potential to be higher in cost. The long term benefits from a SAP S/4HANA deployment provide a sound ROI argument, offering a blend of TCO reductions, improved productivity in business intelligence and application development, and improvement in business processes2, but as with any business transformation exercise, there is a substantial up-front investment.
Thankfully, one of the areas where SAP S/4HANA is future proof is in its ability to shift much of those costs from OpEx to CapEx with an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) deployment. The flexibility that organisations have with how they spread the costs of a SAP S/4HANA deployment allows for their investment in the technology to be strategic and practical; a critical concern with any organisation looking to develop a future-proof IT environment.
Making the migration to HANA painless
Despite the future-proofing that SAP S/4HANA offers by giving the organisation all the tools that they need to approach ERP from a perspective of pure innovation, moving to the platform nonetheless remains a challenge. As is the case with all business transformation, it is a major IT project, with all the challenges and pitfalls that such a project entails.
For many organisations, a move to SAP S/4HANA will require the implementation of new hardware, and deep support from their vendors and partners. Scalability is one of the core benefits to S/4HANA. Previously, if an organisation needed to scale its SAP environment, it would require complex new technology purchases and integration processes, and over time the overall environment would become cumbersome, overly complex, and time consuming to manage.
The Lenovo Scalable Solution for SAP HANA, for example, allows users to scale the SAP S/4HANA environment in an incremental fashion; all they need to do is add server nodes that quadruple in-memory database capacity.
Why support is so critical
Because SAP S/4HANA is a solution designed around ongoing scalability and agile application development, organisations that are looking to truly future proof their environments through SAP S/4HANA need to find a partner able to offer ongoing services and support. SAP has been active in certifying a wider rage of vendors to SAP S/4HANA – the number able to support on-premises environments jumped from seven to nine over just a couple of months, for example3. However, not all vendors are equal with SAP S/4HANA, and the less experienced ones might not be able to offer an adequate level of service for projects of this substance.
In its What You Need To Know When Selecting A SAP HANA Server Vendor from May 2018, Gartner noted that the market was heavily skewed towards three vendors, of which Lenovo is one of the leaders. In that report, Gartner made three key recommendations:
- Strengthen confidence in your platform choice by including at least one of the top three market share leaders for SAP HANA hardware on your shortlist for benchmarking.
- Maximize the use cases for your SAP HANA platform by assessing the vendor fit for both database migration into SAP HANA as well as application migration from ECC6 or ERP to S/4HANA.
- Minimise new spending when capital expenditure (capex) is limited by using Tailored Datacenter Integration (TDI) for SAP HANA with existing infrastructure, but plan for the higher level of HANA skills required for TDI versus HANA appliances.
Making the most of this opportunity requires leading technology, and, even more critically, the expertise and heritage of a partner with a long history in successfully deploying SAP S/4HANA environments.
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