Digital Transformation Journey: How Red Hat Can Help
Meet the Experts
Meet the Authors
⇨ The 2027 deadline for businesses to migrate to SAP S/4HANA is rapidly approaching.
⇨ There are proactive steps companies can take to be prepared for a digital transformation and make the journey smooth, effective and pain-free.
⇨ Businesses need to have a companion with experience in digital transformation who can help determine the best way forward.
Digital transformation is becoming a top priority for businesses. Many enterprise companies approach this undertaking as a box to be checked. In reality, digital transformation is a complex journey that may take months or even years, but can completely change the way an enterprise functions.
The 2027 deadline for businesses to migrate to SAP S/4HANA may seem a long way off, but the closer it gets, the more pressing the need is to innovate. There is a litany of potential pitfalls, issues, and concerns giving pause to businesses that are embarking on their digital transformation journey.
- Downtime: Digital transformation can lead to friction between IT and Line of Business since upgrades and updates historically have required extensive downtime, hampering business operations.
- Solution Fatigue: With all the cloud options, businesses may struggle to identify what solution best suits their needs and how best to implement it. This solution fatigue can cause companies to delay a decision.
- Security Concerns: Moving to a new SAP ecosystem means a whole new list of security concerns. This is especially true for those migrating from on-premise infrastructure to a cloud offering.
- Compliance: Companies need to make sure they comply with recommendations from SAP, as well as the operating system vendor.
- Complexity: On their transformation journey, enterprises must contend with the complexity of the migration both in terms of the functional migration dealing with code and the actual migration as it relates to infrastructure.
Making the Journey
This transformation journey may appear intimidating, but businesses do not have to make it alone. There are proactive steps they can take to be prepared for a digital transformation, as well as many options to ensure the journey is as smooth, effective, and pain-free as possible.
Ricardo Garcia Cavero, Principal Portfolio Architect at Red Hat, said that before companies even plan for their digital transformation, they need to ensure that they have a clean core in order to cut down on the time required for migration. “SAP customers have been developing their own programs, Z programs (custom programs), for years. It’s a big change if now, in order to migrate to SAP S/4HANA, they need to take all that code out and put it somewhere else,” Garcia Cavero said.
SAP’s customizability is a big part of its appeal. Over time, users can change the standard code as needed to get the most out of their systems. However, when it comes time to upgrade, these users will need to review the modifications to learn if they can integrate with the new version or if they will need to make alterations. This review process can add months to their upgrade cycle, which costs them time and requires dedicated resources that could be used elsewhere to drive the business.
“Typically, an SAP version upgrade can last for a year or which is a very, very, long cycle compared to other software updates. If they stop developing inside and keep their core clean, the upgrades would be much shorter,” Garcia Cavero said.
A Partner on the Journey
Before starting your business transformation, it is important to consider what obstacles might lie in your path. Businesses need to have a companion with experience in digital transformation who can help determine the best way forward.
Red Hat goes beyond standard support of the operating system by working with companies from the very beginning of their transformation journey to ensure a smoother process. No two business transformations are identical. To help each client navigate a pathway, Red Hat begins every process by ascertaining the problems it might face.
“We start with what we call a discovery session. The discovery session is held between a solution architect, an account manager, people from the customer side, people from their operating system team, the storage team and maybe the IT director,” Garcia Cavero said. “We hear the customer normally explain to us their use cases and their pain points. We try to understand, and based on that, we suggest some solutions.” With a partner guiding your business, your company can be assured that it is on the right path and will have someone there with it every step of the way.
Automation is one of the key tools companies can use to cut down on the length of their transformation journey. Users can automate roughly 90 percent of their migration tasks using Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, which provides a framework for building and operating IT automation on scale. This process can be easily replicated and reused. “Once you have defined the automation process for the migration, it’s been tested, and you can reproduce it whenever you want. It will work exactly the same for all the systems, so you will avoid configuration drifts,” said Garcia Cavero.
The platform doesn’t just speed up the journey by automating tasks that can be taken off IT to-do lists. It saves system administrators hours or even days in the event of an error, which can be difficult to locate without the help of automation. “Imagine doing it manually for a system in the development environment; they have used some parameters, but then in production, they have messed up and they changed the parameter. That can lead to problems that are quite difficult to pinpoint. Automation is good for saving time but also to avoid possible errors in configuration,” said Garcia Cavero.
Beyond saving time and avoiding errors, Garcia Cavero said automation can help make this transition to the cloud more secure by allowing companies to “define their security baseline and create all their policies and make sure that after, the migration of the systems will be compliant.”
The business transformation journey is rife with complexities, but Red Hat offers some user-friendliness via the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform. “The good thing about Ansible is that it’s very easy to code with because it’s very similar to human language. Anyone can learn Ansible very quickly without having previous coding experience,” Garcia Cavero said.
Collaboration is at the core of Red Hat’s philosophy. It allows companies, users, and SAP to all learn and grow together. The company touts the benefits of open-source technology since it allows continuous integration, development, and feedback. “We believe open source is the best way to work because, when someone finds a problem with a product, instead of 100 people working on it, we have a community of users. They will come up with better solutions and more solutions,” Garcia Cavero said.
Red Hat sells two versions of its product — Downstream, and Upstream. Downstream is the commercially available suite of products. Upstream is the open-source version that allows users to have a deeper level of access. “Anyone can have access to this code and create features for it, so it’s all a community effort. The features that are deemed to be good will be accepted and will make it to the Downstream so that they would be delivered in the commercial version,” Garcia Cavero said.
Though it may seem obvious, collaboration within the company is important as well. Businesses are not always doing a good job connecting disparate parts of the enterprise among different teams or even within the IT landscape. Red Hat can help with that as well. “We have many companies that are not using Ansible, or they are using it just in silos, and they might use other automation capabilities. We find many times that teams are using their own scripts but not communicating with others. With Ansible, we break these silos,” said Garcia Cavero.
Co-Innovators with SAP
Red Hat lives its ethos of collaboration through its two-plus-decade partnership with SAP. In fact, SAP runs on Red Hat in-house, just as Red Hat runs SAP. The two companies work closely together to co-innovate solutions. Garcia Cavero stated, “Red Hat has some laboratories in Walldorf, so wall-to-wall with SAP, and they run the certifications there. Every time a new version of RHEL, for example, comes out, SAP asks us to certify them, and we run the test together.”
Near Zero Downtime
Downtime — both planned and unplanned — is a major problem that needs to be addressed in nearly every transformation journey. Businesses cannot afford to have their systems down for too long, and unexpected outages are often difficult to fix. Red Hat offers its High Availability Add-On to its Red Hat Enterprise Linux solutions in combination with Red Hat Smart Management to achieve near-zero downtime.
“You have an SAP system application running on SAP HANA and, for example, you’re going to patch your database, you will have two nodes: one is the primary node, and for the other node, the data is being replicated in real-time. Ansible will trigger the patching (through Red Hat Smart Management if the patching is at OS level) of whatever maintenance is on the secondary node so that the users will still connect to the primary database. They won’t see any interruption,” said Garcia Cavero. “Once the patching is finished in the secondary node, Ansible will trigger the fail-over of the cluster to the primary node, and then they will patch the primary node and go back to the initial situation.”
The speed of the fail-over is so fast that users do not experience any disconnection, whether the system is on-premise or in the cloud.
This business transformation journey does not have to be an obligation — it can be an opportunity. With any major change, businesses have the chance to rethink the way they operate and reshape the way their enterprise functions.
One major opportunity is centered on standardization. Businesses often piecemeal solutions together as needed to keep up with their shifting needs over the years. Business transformation offers the chance to standardize all business functions under one operating system. That not only simplifies the IT landscape but makes all functions more adaptable in the future.
“Customers that are still using other operating systems that are not Linux say ‘now we need to move to Linux because we are going on SAP S/4HANA, and HANA only runs on Linux and that’s a problem. Our system administrators will need to be trained to administer Linux.’ That’s an opportunity to standardize,” Garcia Cavero said. “It’s much better to have all your systems on one operating system, namely on Linux, because that way it would be much easier to do maintenance of your IT landscape and keep everything up to the same level of patches and of security fixes.”
Though the journey to digital transformation may seem daunting at the outset, companies can ensure success by planning the pathway through digital transformation and picking the right companion to fit their needs along the way.