Supporting a Transformative Future

Finding the right infrastructure to support digital transformation and future ERP needs is crucial for success

Reading time: 8 mins

Key Takeaways

⇨ Ensure that the landscape that is selected for the business transfromation is one that will provide flexibility around infrastructure, implementation, and services.

⇨ Most organizations underestimate the space and memory capacity of their transformation projects. Ensuring that any infrastructure chosen has the capacity to expand is key.

⇨ While many organizations have transformation projects underway, these may not yet include a move off existing ERP environments. Organizations must ensure that choices made today will support any future ERP projects.

Digital transformation projects continue to accelerate in response to requirements for sustainability, compliance, and AI. Addressing these challenges requires finding the best mix of environments to support those needs. This should involve a combination of public cloud, private cloud, on-premise, and hybrid infrastructure based on the specific needs of the organization in question. Some organizations favor flexible environments for development and testing because they provide agility and business value as they can be easily spun up and shut down as required. But when it comes to quality assurance and production, it is vital that systems are robust and ensure control of data. Choosing the right landscape is vital to the long-term success of any transformation project.

Choosing a Flexible Landscape

To better understand these challenges, SAPinsider sat down with HPE’s Rupert Holzbauer, Director of the SAP Competence Center, and Olivier Frank, General Manager Data Solutions for EMEA. Both Rupert Holzbauer and Olivier Frank have many years of experience working with technology and infrastructure in the SAP space, and advising organizations about the best approaches they can take to planning for transformation.

“Customers ask us what we would recommend as the right strategy for SAP, and I would say that it starts with migration and integration,” states Holzbauer. “Most customers are coming from a very heterogeneous legacy landscape with many parts and need to decide which is the right path forward. Is it a greenfield, brownfield, or selective deployment? Most strategies end up being a mix of approaches in practice, and organizations may not want to be bound to a very strict cloud model. That’s why we work with the customer to ensure that the migration path can be flexible.”

Organizations may also want to consider a managed service offering as part of their transformation as they look to offload administration of the new infrastructure. This can be quite complex, as organizations may want to keep some of their IT or SAP teams. There are also partners and system integrators (SI) with managed service knowledge. Partners like HPE can also offer these services as well, and we are happy to work with customers to determine what services they should provide, and which might be performed by another partner or SI.

Frank concurs, “We know that migration and modernization of SAP environments are very complex projects. Customers often want to rely on partners that they are already engaged with as part of larger digital transformation initiatives. Selecting the model that is most appropriate for the customer’s unique requirements, is crucial. So is the ability of being able to provide the right level of managed services, or not using managed services, if that isn’t appropriate for the particular organization.”

“No customer is exactly the same as another, especially in the SAP world,” Holzbauer states. “They all have different specialties, come from different industries, and have different software components. While everyone needs to standardize and save costs, customers also need to keep a portion of what makes them unique. For many, it is also critical they can also run non-SAP workloads, regardless of the infrastructure they choose. Most of the customers we work with have an SAP core, but very often they also have non-SAP applications that are part of their business processes.”

HPE itself consolidated 11 SAP ECC instances into a single SAP S/4HANA instance. While their initial deployment used 18 terabytes of memory, they are already planning on moving to 24 terabytes. This is why flexibility is crucial in supporting future ERP needs. However, by consolidating multiple existing ERP instances into one SAP S/4HANA instance, HPE was also able to reduce the number of data centers they were using from eight to two, which resulted in cost savings of over 80% in just data center operations.

Offerings like HPE GreenLake for SAP can help address these challenges by offering the flexibility of cloud-based infrastructure in a local data center. They provide the opportunity for organizations to choose what services are provided and the capability to keep a separate space for non-SAP workloads. There is also a capacity to monitor energy consumption through a sustainability dashboard so that organizations can keep track of their usage.

Capacity to Expand

One of the biggest benefits of cloud-based infrastructure is the ability to add and reduce capacity as needed. This is very important to those starting digital transformation projects because they frequently aren’t certain how much capacity they will need at the start of the project. This can be particularly true if the organization is merging multiple existing systems into one central instance of SAP S/4HANA.

“Around 80% or 90% of our customers initially underestimate the amount of memory that they will need for their move to SAP S/4HANA,” states Holzbauer. This is why it’s important to have a partner, like HPE, that has the flexibility to adapt. It’s very difficult to know everything at the beginning and why flexibility is crucial.”

A large component of this flexibility comes from the sizing of the SAP HANA database on which SAP S/4HANA is deployed. Holzbauer says that while it is possible to plan for about 80% of requirements, there has to be flexibility for that last 20%. A solution like HPE GreenLake for SAP may even provide more flexibility than a hyperscaler as it allows an organization to choose the partners that are supporting their operations. It is also much faster than having to source new hardware for typical on-premise infrastructure.

In addition, any capacity for expansion must also include security. This involves both security that is part of the infrastructure to protect systems from attack, as well as the overall resiliency of the environment which is provided by components like servers, storage, and software. Being highly available and having reliability features are a key part of this overall security and resilience, and organizations should seek out the features like those offered by HPE GreenLake for SAP to meet these needs.

Supporting Future ERP Needs

“Customers need to have infrastructure choice,” says Frank. “There is a lot of customization in SAP environments and each organization is different. Some may not yet have a business case for SAP S/4HANA, but they need to modernize their SAP environments because they are outdated. They need consulting, deployment, managed services, and support for the whole lifecycle.”

Any transformation project must address these challenges. Even if an organization is not comfortable with an immediate move to SAP S/4HANA, partners like HPE can offer alternatives that provide an intermediate step before the move to RISE with SAP or SAP S/4HANA. This can allow organizations to modernize their landscape and be better prepared for the future. An offering like HPE GreenLake for SAP can help achieve goals around data sovereignty and compliance while providing low-latency connections. This could be pay-as-you-go infrastructure or a virtual-machine-as-a-service for SAP.

Infrastructure partners must have the capacity to support today’s requirements and the flexibility to adapt to future needs. For many SAP customers undergoing digital transformation this will often be around future ERP needs. The move to SAP S/4HANA or RISE with SAP nearly always requires new infrastructure and organizations need an infrastructure provider that can meet their specific needs. An organization like HPE offers the infrastructure and partnerships to make that possible.

What Does This Mean for SAPinsiders?

Over the next five years, many organizations will need to embark on transformation projects. For some this may only involve moving existing their existing environments to new infrastructure. For others, the transformation may be larger as they need to move to SAP S/4HANA or RISE with SAP as part of a more complete digital transformation project. Given these upcoming challenges, what do SAPinsiders need to do to ensure that they are ready for digital transformation projects?

  • Ensure that infrastructure choices provide sufficient flexibility. It does not matter whether an organization is planning to remain on-premise or is moving all their workloads to the cloud, the environment that they move to must be flexible. This could be as simple as allowing choice for different managed services, but could also involve a choice of implementation partners, a choice of deployment options, or the ability to move different workloads to the cloud over time. Flexibility is about more than just capacity, and infrastructure like that provided by HPE GreenLake for SAP can provide flexibility in multiple ways.
  • Select infrastructure that has the capacity for expansion. Few organizations are able to accurately estimate the space required for their transformation project during the planning phase. Most end up underestimating their space and memory requirements and need to adjust as the project progresses. However, if an organization has allocated capital to acquire on-premise hardware or has signed a contract with a provider there may be less flexibility than is imagined as sourcing new hardware or renegotiating or extending a contract may incur delays. This is why it is vital to ensure that there is sufficient capacity to expand to meet updated requirements when making an infrastructure choice.
  • Plan for both current and future ERP needs. ERP systems are the core of the SAP landscape and organizations need to ensure that digital transformation plans encompass both short-term and long-term requirements. Although not every organization is ready to move to SAP S/4HANA or RISE with SAP yet, many will need to decide what they will do over the next few years. However, infrastructure and process transformation projects may already be underway, and it can be costly and time consuming to make one decision now and another in a few years. Any organization that is in the process of planning transformation projects needs to ensure that they can update and replace legacy infrastructure now as well as having the ability to support future ERP needs.
  • Ensure that future infrastructure investments provide sustainable environments. SAPinsider research in 2022 showed that most organizations (57%) regarded sustainable infrastructure as being important to their future infrastructure plans, with 22% stating that it was very important. While requirements like reducing infrastructure costs, providing more flexibility and scalability, and improving resilience were the factors driving overall infrastructure investment, ensuring that new infrastructure is sustainable is equally relevant. With a growing focus on ensuring infrastructure is sustainable, organizations should prioritize sustainability as they make future infrastructure plans.

About HPE

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More than 25,000 customers run SAP applications on HPE infrastructure, and we’ve deployed more than 40,000 servers for SAP HANA. We offer SAP-certified solutions for SAP environments of all sizes, with leading scalability and performance. We understand SAP and what SAP HANA requires from your server and storage environment, keeping mission-critical applications protected, available, and ultimately modernizing your digital core.


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