Interesting Feedback from SAP Customers About Hybrid Cloud in Recent Webinar

Cross posted from my blog at SAP Community Network

Yesterday I had the pleasure to speak at an SAP webinar covering IT strategy for cloud computing and how customers are evolving a hybrid approach. This is a topic I’ve been working on since SAPPHIRE NOW Orlando this May, and I am gratified to find there is still a lot of interest in the subject. Since you can watch the recording of the webinar yourself I won’t repeat too much here.  However, the attendees were very generous with their participation by asking several good questions and sharing their opinions in two interesting polls.

Adoption of Cloud Computing

In the first poll we asked attendees a multiple answer question about which ways their company has adopted cloud computing. As a result, some responders answered in more than one category, so each answer is a % of total respondents clicking that category, and percentages to the question will add up to more than 100%. To my surprise almost 30% of respondents said their company is not leveraging cloud computing. That seems very high for me, even for the most conservative SAP customers. I suspect if the IT department did an audit of the different systems their lines of business used, they’d find at least a few software services – and this doesn’t include services brought in virally by employees on their own. Also interesting is that 15% of attendees reported that they are already supporting their developers through a platform as a service. This isn’t far off from a recent IBM survey that finds 16% of their respondents use PaaS and see strategic potential, while an additional 33% use PaaS incidentally. Not included in either poll is any indication as to what each respondent considers to be the definition of “platform as a service.”

Biggest Challenges in Adopting Cloud Computing

The second poll question we asked attendees was a multiple answer question about what their company’s biggest challenges related to adopting cloud computing. Not surprisingly security and compliance came up overwhelmingly. We didn’t dig in deep into this topic, but we did bring up more nuanced sub issues before the poll, such as how do you ensure control of administrator accounts and ensure SOX compliance. Likely this lit up the IT admins radars, as the topic really should. Security and compliance in the cloud is much more than just “how good is the cloud providers’ firewall or data backup process?” I’m also not surprised to see concerns about migrating mission critical systems to the cloud given that the attendee population is probably high in SAP Business Suite architects and administrators. Up-time and quality of service are of utmost importance to these professionals concerns, and modernizing legacy systems with cloud technology and cloud services will be planned and tested carefully by them.

Questions

Here are some of the questions posed by attendees. I’ve reordered these by subject, so they won’t correspond to what you may hear in the recorded webinar.

1.       Co-innovation: what role do you do see that IT can play in co-innovating cloud-based solutions with vendors. I think faster development, deployment, and easier collaboration potential for cloud computing makes it easier than ever for vendors to co-innovate with customers in developing new kinds of solutions. The role IT at the customer can play is key in a few ways:

A)     Helping determine that requirements can only be met with a new solution that doesn’t exist on the market;

B)      Helping determine that it’s not in the company’s best interest to custom develop the new intellectual property themselves, but instead co-create it with a software vendor;

C)      Help with rapid realization and feedback cycles conducted jointly with the vendor.

A key ingredient for effective co-innovation is the application of design thinking to develop engaging and innovative solutions for users.

2.       Value proposition: What would be a rich value proposition to the business so that they would support adoption of cloud computing by IT?

In general, I find that business managers see a lot of good reasons to switching to cloud computing. They appreciate capabilities such as faster deployment, and their ability to select and deploy a cloud service on their own without needing traditional IT.

Instead of looking at cloud computing as a way to neuter centralized IT, line of business managers need to understand the value that IT can provide in helping select and set standards for cloud services. This includes mitigating business issues caused by uncoordinated cloud purchases, and maximizing benefits the overall company receives from its subscribed cloud services.

3.       Business problems: On slide 6 you mention loss of operational visibility as a problem. Can you elaborate? Is an issue from an administrator perspective or an issue with runaway costs?

This is from a business operations point of view, pertaining to the fact that you have can silos of data in cloud point solutions unless IT makes a concerted effort to integrate data and ensure that data flows and dependencies are accounted for so that business intelligence reporting is not impacted. In the case of SAP offerings, we are developing integration content and solutions to simplify integration of our cloud solutions.

4.       Public cloud: What does SAP support in terms of migrating on premise applications to a public cloud?

SAP has established Amazon Web Services as our primary public cloud partner for running on premise software in the cloud. We support non production use of any SAP software in AWS. We also support productive use of Afaria, SAP BusinessObjects, and any SAP solutions delivered as Rapid Delivery Solutions (RDS). We expect the supported production list to continue to grow as Amazon’s offerings become stronger for enterprise class mission critical applications.  

5.       SAP Store: We have on premise ECC. Can we buy apps from SAP or SAP partners from the SAP Store in the cloud?

The SAP Store is an excellent way to purchase apps from partners and SAP to extend your existing systems. These would include mobile apps, and will eventually include cloud applications running in SAP NetWeaver Cloud. These solutions can take advantage of the SAP Cloud Connecter service that is part of the SAP NetWeaver Cloud platform to facilitate integration with your on premise SAP systems.

6.      SAP NetWeaver Landscape Virtualization Manager:  Please explain the capabilities of the SAP NetWeaver Landscape Virtualization Manager product you displayed on one of the slides.

This is a tool for SAP basis administrators to take manage virtualized on premise SAP applications to do mass start or stop operations, facilitate moving of SAP systems between virtual machines to optimize system capacity. It can also assist with cloning and copying for testing or other pre-production systems. It’s for customers that have made an investment to virtualize their SAP landscape to automate a lot of manual technical tasks.

7.       Utilities: What would be the steps for moving a utilities company to the cloud that’s already running on-premise SAP?

First we need to determine what is the ultimate goal. Are we adopting Software as a Service, or are we retaining on premise applications but take advantage of cloud technology to virtualize or move to a private or public cloud provider. If I’ts moving to SaaS, then it’s a matter of mapping requirements to offerings  available in Software as a Service. If the question is regarding modernizing on premise applications, SAP’s ITTS team can help you determine use cases, and whether a database and/or operating system migration is required before taking advantage of cloud technology, and then helping you plan the migration.

8.       Subsidiaries: Is there a case for using SAP Business ByDesign as the central system of record, and running subsidiaries on SAP Business One.

At this time, there are no cases of customers using SAP Business ByDesign in connection with SAP Business One.  The cases I know about are leveraging SAP Business Suite as the global headquarters system and either SAP Business ByDesign or SAP Business One to manage subsidiaries, or SAP Business ByDesign instances for the global HQ system as well as subsidiaries.

If you find the above topic interesting, I invite you to listen to the recording of the webinar. Or, please  post your questions in the comments to this blog!

^GC, October 25, 2012

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