It is obvious, the way of the future for most SAP customers will be a cloud hosting model. It’s proven to be a more cost-effective way to maintain a company’s growing SAP landscape long-term, and today more than ever before SAP customers are looking to the large hyperscale public cloud vendors to migrate their SAP systems to. In this blog I will examine how to optimally manage SAP systems in the public cloud and the key considerations (infrastructure, security, DR, etc.) to be taken into account before, during and after you migrate.
Public Cloud Infrastructure
At a high-level cloud infrastructure and managing a cloud-based infrastructure has the same basic concepts of an on-premise system. In general managing systems in the cloud is very similar if not identical to managing systems on-premise, in regards to configuring the servers to ensure they have enough memory (with a correct amount of disk), implementing proper backups within the network, creating a disaster recovery plan, ensuring systems are patched, implementing security and so on. While the overall concepts are all very similar in nature, the way in which they are actually implemented for an SAP environment are very different, and that is very important to understand the uniqueness that the each public cloud has when building a cloud strategy.
Step 1 – Cloud Architecture
If we start from the very beginning architecting a system in the cloud, specifically an SAP system in a public cloud environment is very different. This is mainly because each public cloud vendor has their very own specific requirements regarding what instance types of SAP can be run. SAP also dictates which of those instance types they will support. When architecting an SAP system’s infrastructure in the public cloud, there is a lot of information that must be understood by your solution architecture team to not only review the public cloud notes regarding running SAP in the new environment, but your team must also have a firm understanding of the SAP notes regarding which systems, instances and product versions are supported. One example of this is that SAP does not support MDM 7.1 in a Cloud environment. You can check OSS note 2722210 for more specific detail, but if you’re running this version of MDM you will need to consider alternatives.
Building any type of systems in a public cloud environment is very different than on-premise, the configuration utilities (although there is some support from for VMware in the public cloud) are an example of this. Most SAP migrations start out using the public cloud’s own hypervisors (a hypervisors are the mechanism by which the virtual machines are managed). For example, when you set up a virtual machine in the Google Cloud Platform, Google has its own proprietary tool. Thus there is a learning curve to be able to use Google’s toolset that your SAP cloud team must understand, to then be able to get the new SAP cloud environment setup correctly regarding provisioning of memory, tuning the instance, choosing the operating system (loading the operating system) and much more. Its important to understand and delineate that the general concepts of public cloud architecture are the same, but the mechanics in which your team executes those tasks are very different and vary from each cloud vendor.
Migrating SAP to a Public Cloud Environment
When you start to perform the actual migration of the SAP environment, there are very specific requirements from both SAP and the public cloud vendors regarding how and what can be run in their environments. This goes well beyond just the initial architecture, as your cloud implementation team must know how to configure your SAP systems to properly and optimally run in the new public cloud environment once live.
As I like to say, running SAP in the public cloud is a little bit of an ‘unique animal’ and some might even go so far as to say its more of an ‘art’ form than a ‘science’ when considering all of the integrities that are involved to migrate SAP to the public cloud. It entails everything from knowing how to properly set up the SAP system to operate at optimal performance, knowing how to configure the disk, and many more details that must be taken into careful consideration. For example, each of the public cloud vendors have different types of disk some have a higher performing disk while others have a lower performing disk, the migration team has to have an understanding of these vitals concepts and how to properly implement them in a very unique way in order for your SAP environment to be successful in the new public cloud environment.
Lastly, there are many tools that can help migration SAP workloads to the Cloud. Google’s Anthos Migrate (previously Velostrata) is one such tool that can automate the migration of systems directly to the cloud. There are many benefits to using a tool such as Anthos Migrate including the minimizing of downtime, automation for moving dozen to thousands of systems, and improved network control to maximize throughput.
The method of data transfer and migration is dependent on several factors which will need to be evaluated based on your specific technical criteria.
Performing the Cloud Migration
Traditionally when migrating SAP systems from one data center to another, you would back up your systems by using tape or maybe a USB device, you could then take that device or tape to the other data center you are migrating to,to then recover it and start your systems up again. It’s a similar process when migrating to the public cloud, with the exception of course is that you can’t just walk into Google’s data center and plug in a USB drive. Each public cloud vendor has transfer appliances in which your cloud migration team can order and use to complete the migration. There are some limitations that need to be taken into account, the timeline for using these appliances and the speed at which you can use those devices can get a little complex. These appliances are also not a great method to migrate a large database over a weekend without a lot of extra planning and configuration. Cloud storage which is meant to store backups are also needed to be properly configured.
If you have a smaller SAP environment, you can just do it over the network. Once you have your network established from your current data center into the cloud you can just transfer those files over the network, provided that it’s a smaller database.
Migrating your SAP landscape to a public cloud solution can become a little more challenging when it’s larger terabytes of data needing to be transferred. In some instances, the transfer rates of large databases at different network speeds will simply take far to long ( it could even take days to transfer over the over the network). Consulting with a skilled SAP cloud migration team will help you understand your options and the best approach to take.
Disaster Recovery in the Cloud
Another key factor that I briefly discussed earlier was disaster recovery and understanding the various components that must be considered when designing a disaster recovery environment in the public cloud. Again the basic concepts for DR are the same, but the requirements in the cloud are very different. For example, where your DR system is located is a critical decision when hosting your systems in the cloud. The public cloud gives you options of zones and regions. Understanding the pros and cons of your DR solution in a different zone versus a different region is another vital component to hosting your SAP landscape in the public cloud. Simply put, zones are defined as separate data centers in the same area while regions are physically different regions of the country or continent where the data center is located. If you’re in a different zone typically you are in a completely different data center facility but the data centers could be physically located across the street from one another, whereas if you are in a different region, then the data center could be located on the east coast of the United States and the other on the west coast. Beyond location, you must also take into consideration that ongoing support of how to manage the DR environment including what kind of replication to you use, the type of replication mechanisms that are supported in each unique public cloud, etc. as all of these vary in each public cloud.
Security, Security, Security
One really important aspect to running SAP in a public cloud environment is security, and truly understanding the security components of the public cloud as it is very different from that of a standard on-premise security model. Not only from a network perspective (firewalls, different network paths, routing, etc.) but there are also different security types and how to managed security in steady state. Security in the cloud also differs from each public cloud provider, and your skilled SAP team must understand all of the variations, because the last thing you would want is to have a hole in your security policies that would allow someone to get access to any part of your application. SAP customers must be very cautious about the security models in the pubic cloud and have a clear understanding of how security works. Above all, you still must have your SAP system security, and administration properly managed by a skilled SAP team.
Ongoing Maintenance SAP in the Public Cloud
After the migration is successfully completed the next item you must think about is the ongoing maintenance of your SAP systems that are now hosted in the public cloud environment. The long and short of it is there is a whole layer of administration that will still very much require ongoing managing. Just like any application that is migrated to the cloud especially SAP, you still will need the ongoing architecture and operating system support in place to support the long-term vitality of your SAP system.
Skilled IT Managed Services for SAP in the Public Cloud
Although many public cloud vendors offer SaaS based products or commonly referred to by many public cloud vendors as a ‘services’, for example Google provides big query as a service, where users can access the database and not have to worry about managing the infrastructure or anything additional, Google manages everything behind the scenes on your behalf through this service. Migrating SAP to the cloud is not that simple. Unfortunately, there are no services available from public cloud providers where you can load SAP to the public cloud and have it all managed on your behalf. SAP systems still require you to have someone fully managing the infrastructure, network, security, etc. As discussed throughout this blog, there will always be a need to continue to fully manage your SAP systems regardless if they are hosted in the public cloud or not. You can think of it even like an on-premise scenario, where the operating system and the infrastructure there is generally a clear point where you could delineate where one team supporting it versus another and team is providing support. This is still achievable in the public cloud but at the end of the day again someone still needs to have the skill sets to manage properly manage the infrastructure and SAP environment.
At Managecore we work directly with our clients to give them options, if their internal infrastructure team wants to learn and continue to manage the infrastructure components in the public cloud we can help them do that. They might already have experience in doing so, and the Managecore team is happy to help them continue to be able to do so. Or if our client prefers a truly turnkey cloud solution Managecore can provide that as well, where we would completely manage all of the public cloud infrastructure as well as manage the SAP environment.
It is also important to note that each of the public cloud vendors have their own SAP certifications on the cloud platforms as well certified cloud engineers as support. They do that because there is a level of complexity is unique to their own cloud. Like any certifications in the IT industry you want to make sure the team that is providing your crucial SAP system support is properly trained and certified to do so. These certifications are just added confidence that the support team you have employed has attained the proper training and now holds the proper knowledge of the public cloud platform.
The Same, But Different
In conclusion, it’s safe to say that a public cloud-based SAP hosted system may not be more complex but it will have many differences that will need to be accounted for upon building, deploying and maintaining your SAP systems.