Well, maybe not completely DEAD, but certainly not the mainstay that it was once perceived to be. Why? Because the public clouds have evolved to the point they are simply a better solution.
Public cloud vendors are pouring billions into their datacenters which is a scale that no private cloud vendor can match. This provides customers with several key benefits, specifically for SAP workloads that should not be overlooked. Here are a few.
- Unlimited scalability. Every SAP customer I've ever supported at one point or another had a need for more infrastructure. Whether it be to support a growing workload or just for temporary projects, the need was real and generally urgent. In the public cloud, provisioning is instantaneous. You need a new server, more disk, more memory, its just a few clicks away. Now some private cloud vendors tout self-provisioning is an option to their customers, but in practice, it not as flexible as it sounds. Most private cloud self-provisioning has boundaries on it related to the volume, timeframe or type of resources available at any given time. In the public cloud, no such boundaries exist. If you need 20 servers for just 1 month, or 100TB of storage for 3 years, it's there.
- Global datacenters. For many multinational companies spreading workloads around the globe is a requirement. And many private cloud vendors do offer datacenters outside the US. The question is how many do they have, and where are they? The answer generally comes back a few, and not really where you need them. In contrast, the public cloud vendors have dozens of data centers with most having several on each continent. Getting a workload close to the user base is much more likely and easier than ever.
- Constant innovation around new technology at a lightning pace. Just review the Blog/News sites from the big 3 cloud providers and you'll get the point. Private cloud vendors can't keep pace.
- Massive network bandwidth interconnectivity. Datacenter connectivity is very important, especially for distributed SAP applications. For those of us who've been around SAP for a while, we've witnessed how SAP is very finicky about latency and network anomalies. It is usually the first application to develop symptoms of an underlying network issue. But anyone can provision large network pipes from anywhere to anywhere, right? True, but from who and at what cost? Google, for example, laid their own fiber around the globe. This eliminates the multi-vendor approach to troubleshooting, reduces cost, allows them to seamlessly integrate the network into their other service offerings, and have pricing models that are favorable to their customers.
- No process and management constraints. Most private cloud vendors also provide (or require) a managed service as part of their solution. That generally means those providers have created specific rules and procedures around managing their infrastructure which many times does not completely align with your own needs. For example, a private cloud vendor may have a two week lead time to provision extra disk to accommodate their internal controls. Or maybe they've selected to take an outage window the third Sunday of every month for maintenance. Ironically, there are even some vendors that have chosen to provide a "private cloud" services on top of the public cloud architecture. I can't think of a worse solution than taking all the features and benefits of the public cloud and strapping it with the constraints of the private cloud management process.
Now don't get me wrong, there are still a few instances where a private cloud may make sense, but they are few. For example, if you still need to run on legacy hardware such as an AS/400 or old Unix platform, those would not be supported in the public cloud. Likewise, if you are running on very old versions of applications or operating systems. For instance, you're not going to find support for SAP 4.6C in the public cloud. So the private cloud is still there to support the static and the old.
With growing pressure on IT leadership to drive innovation, offer flexibility, scalability yet maintain reliability, the public cloud is truly your best choice. If you are planning to upgrade to HANA, implement a new application or just looking to consolidate your compute resources into a single provider, one of the public cloud providers most certainly will meet your requirements.
In addition, there are now numerous tools on the market that make migrating to the public cloud easier than ever. Legitimate point and click migration tools that can move SAP workloads across the internet with almost no interruption to service. The process of backing up to tape on a Friday, shipping it overnight to a new data center, then restoring it Saturday night or Sunday are largely gone.
So as you look to make your next decision on infrastructure and haven't considered the public cloud, I strongly urge you to reconsider. And if you've been in private cloud contract for some time, you need to evaluate your options. It will be worth your time to see what your options are.
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Frank is an experienced Information Technology executive that excels in high-level strategic and operational guidance to help manage and grow businesses. With 25 years experience in IT and over 19 of those years specifically in SAP, his thought leadership on industry trends, process improvement and best practices at SAP events, conferences and educational webinars are invaluable assets for companies. Frank provides his past experience in developing new technology initiatives with ever-evolving innovations to grow businesses and achieve high-performing solutions at a lower cost of ownership for your company.