The “glue” between the Business side and the Technology side of SAP ERP deployments

18-24 months ago I had some ideas about figuring out how to be more relevant to the functional and business side in our SAP ERP customer deployments. I distinctly recall some feedback saying “don’t bother…they don’t care about the infrastructure side”. I went on with my passionate arguments on how we can make a difference in the overall time-to-value equation transformation our customer business and IT operations, but was told that most people will not listen since it’s coming from an “Infrastructure vendor”. I decided to Challenge the Status Quo
Today, 2 years later we have a great number of success stories showcasing how we have directly impacted overall SAP on-premise projects (Greenfield deployment, upgrade, re-platform, etc.) by taking processes that use to take weeks down to days, and processes that use to take days down to hours. We have achieved great proof points with demonstrated business value:
A customer being able to finish a major SAP project involving a ton of changes (application changes/upgrades, data center move, OS/DB, infrastructure refresh, cloud architecture deployment) which normally would have taken 12-14 months, only took 7 months;
Another large customer ($20B +) that now has the ability to rebuild their entire SAP production environment in 3 days, this is something that use to take 8-10 weeks at a minimum;
and a third example with a customer being able to react 10X faster than their business when it comes to support the roll-out of new functionality in their SAP environment;
another large SAP customer is able to provision new individual SAP systems in 30 minutes, something that use to take them days;
And lastly, a customer that re-platformed their SAP environment to a Private Cloud for SAP environment (compared to a UNIX environment) and achieved overall cost savings of 35% and performance improvement of nearly 60% enabling them to focus on other areas to provide better business value.

How do we accomplish this? What’s different now compared to 2-3 years ago in our customers’ SAP ERP environments? Welcome to the era of Private Cloud for SAP ERP deployments. We believe Cloud transforms IT and can have a large impact on the business in a positive way. We are enabling customers to lead their own transformation.
So, what do I believe the steps are to build out a Private Cloud for SAP environment? What is the strategy that we at EMC communicate to SAP customers around Private Cloud?…it’s very simple:
First, we believe that SAP ERP customers should standardize on an x86 platform for SAP (if they are not already there) to reduce costs and take advantage of virtualization. There are many proof points on why this makes sense including what I believe SAP’s overall vision is…look at for example, SAP HANA: there is a reason that SUSE Linux (x86) is the only platform option. Another great proof point is the important co-innovation SAP is having with Intel which Vishal speaks about in his keynotes. In my opinion the discussion of x86 scaling, performing and providing rock solid availability for SAP ended in 2011/2012. A SAP architects in a Fortune 50 SAP customers of ours recently told us “We would be going back 5-7 years in innovation if we refreshed our current Unix platforms with anything other than x86 platforms in our SAP environments”.
Second, we believe in order to drive the best TCO, utilization, agility, elasticity, and flexibility, customers should continue to embrace VMware virtualization for SAP. We use to have to explain to our customers, why this makes sense, but this is not the case anymore. The advantages and adoption rate (since VMware 5.0 performance and scalability capabilities) is incredible. The conversation is not about “if” it’s a good idea to virtualize (with VMWare) a SAP environment, it’s “when” and “how” do I virtualize my SAP environment without impacting risk to my business.
Third, we believe in order to deploy a true Private Cloud for SAP deployment, customers will need to “architect-in” Automation for SAP from the ground up. In order to achieve the benefits described earlier, of massively improving time-to-value (weeks to days and days to hours), SAP customers will need to take advantage of tools sets like SAP’s Landscape Virtualization Manager, VMware’s suite of tools sets such as vCloud Director, Cisco’s Intelligent Automation.

If you follow these three principles to build out your Private Cloud for SAP deployment, your next logical questions should be: what are my options in architecting my infrastructure (Server, Network, and Storage). We believe there are three ways to building out a Private Cloud for SAP deployment:
1. Deploy a “Build your own” architecture for SAP, picking your favorite x86 server vendor, your favorite storage network vendor and your favorite storage vendor (which hopefully is EMC).
2. Deploy a “reference architecture” for SAP. There are several options here such as what we call V+C+E architecture for SAP (VMware, Cisco and EMC) or our VSPEX offering. We recently announced our SAP Virtual Stack which fits great in this example. Some of our competitors such as NetApp’s FlexPod, HP’s Matrix also fit this category.
3. Deploy a true converged infrastructure for SAP such as the VCE Company’s Vblock. Meaning built as an appliance, single support, single management tools and so on.

There are pros and cons for each of these infrastructure architecture paths, and being an EMC employee I would of course suggest a V+C+E, VSPEX or Vblock for SAP path depending upon your current state and ability to embrace change and innovation to drive better time-to-value and overall cost models. Just to give a hint…some of the customer success described earlier in the post, built out the Private Cloud for SAP environments with Vblock for the best automation capabilities and most impressive metrics across the board.
It is also great to see that SAP themselves are validating this approach to transform SAP environments through virtualizations with the announcements made at Sapphire Madrid 2011: Preferred Three-Way Strategic Collaboration With EMC and VMware to Deliver Greater IT Efficiency and Business AgilityAnother great advantage of deploying a Private Cloud for SAP deployment on-premise, is that it will give you more flexibility to take advantage of off-premise Public Cloud for SAP models. Creating a true hybrid cloud for SAP environments enables you to move workloads from a private cloud for SAP deployment to a Public Cloud for SAP offering depending of changing business requirements. More to come on EMC’s off-premise offerings in this space through the Velocity Service Provider Program.
The most important item we have learned over the last few years is that it is completely different for an SAP customer to build out a Private Cloud for SAP environment depending upon if they are currently on Unix platforms, already on x86 platforms or are an SAP customer deploying a new project using SAP’s ASAP methodology (Greenfield deployment). Clearly risk has to be managed through a transformation and larger current Unix for SAP customer are not going to move to a 100% virtual x86 for SAP architecture over night. More to come on this topic in future blogs…

In a short period at the end of 2012 we got a chance to discuss these strategies as well as have some of our customers communicate their successes around their Private Cloud for SAP deployments at 3 events on the West coast.
At the Gartner AADI conference in Las Vegas at the end of November, we were fortunate to be able to co-present with SAP and one of our Private Cloud for SAP customers spoke about their SAP transformation, impressive agility and ability to react faster than their business thought was possible. Very large SAP customers walked up to our Private Cloud for SAP customer presenter and said “tell me more…we are trying to move fast down this same path as well”…which was very cool to see and hear!
At the SAP Road Show in San Jose at Cisco’s briefing center 1st week of December, we had Cisco, EMC, IDC, SAP and VMware, as well as SAP customers presenting their use cases and success stories on this topic. In the middle of the event I ran into EMC’s CEO Joe Tucci and Cisco’s CEO John Chambers who had a meeting next to us at the EBC. We couldn’t resist the temptation of asking Joe and John to walk in to our customer event to introduce themselves to the 40+ SAP customers in the room and briefly discuss their partnership and their commitment to the SAP marketplace. Guess the customers in the room were surprised to see EMC’s and Cisco’s CEO come into to say hello 
At the SAP Technology Innovation Forum at SAP Labs also during the 1st week of December, we got a chance to present our Private Cloud for SAP and SAP HANA strategy and success story to a large group of SAP customers. We got great feedback on our strategy from partners and customers who communicated that they were on a Private Cloud for SAP path as well.

The interesting piece is that a great number of SAP customers have taken advantage of these Private Cloud for SAP capabilities…then there are the ones that insist on staying with their legacy architectures which keeps them in slow provisioning and time-to-value equation, and who will continue to fall behind in their innovation cycle within their organizations. I believe that eventually the board members of those organizations that run their business on SAP, will realize that IT is NOT currently a competitive advantage, and they can’t keep up with the ever changing business requirements…will push for rapid transformation.
We still run into a few customers that have excuses of why they can’t move to an x86 and VMware architecture for SAP (some valid…but mostly not IMHO). The best advice I have heard for this category of SAP customers is from one of our existing Private Cloud for SAP customers who said “Just do it” (he must be a Nike fan)…”pick a path and apply some governance”…”What you will find out is all your vendors will step up to help you achieve your goals…since they want to keep selling you more stuff to run your SAP environment”. I love these comments and couldn’t agree more.

So have we really found the glue between the Business side and the Technology side around SAP ERP deployments…I certainly think so. One interesting validation on this that I have seen in the last few month is new SAP customers sending out Functional RFP requirements to System Integrators, which use to be scoped only to the functional requirements (non Infrastructure mentioned), are now sending out RFP’s for their functional SAP deployment requirements and also asking those System Integrators for a Point of View and infrastructure architecture recommendations to be aligned for an overall best SAP implementation. This to me is an example which shows that the Business and the SAP functional folks now understand the value of a Private Cloud for SAP deployment!
I believe this Private Cloud for SAP adoption will accelerate in 2013 which is going to make this year another exciting year for everyone in the SAP ecosystem. Customers will be able to focus more on business functionality that provides value to their businesses vs “tinkering” with technologies in their data centers.

I also just came back from Chicago with EMC’s Americas pre-sales technical leaders this week, discussing and reviewing our 2013 SAP Strategy…and I can tell you that we are in for a fun ride this year!!!

If you are interested in learning more on this topic from SAP, EMC and VMWare and hear from other customers that have embraced this approach to transform their organizations, please join us at SAP Week at EMC’s west coast EBC in Santa Clara Feb 26th, 27th and 28th.
We will also host a SAP Week event in Boston in March/April time frame. Stay tuned on this

6 thoughts on “The “glue” between the Business side and the Technology side of SAP ERP deployments

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