SAP and Cloud computing: Two Strangers Meet

SAP and cloud computing has multiple perspectives. Let’s sort out the various options.

Cloud computing falls into two basic branches. Basically Cloud infrastructure and Software as a Service business applications in the public cloud.

See also the cloud taxonomy proposal.

SaaS applications and SAP

SAP is not addressing SaaS with any general available product. Unfortunately neither SAP Business By Design, which position as SaaS ERP application for the SMB market segment, nor the large enterprise SaaS SRM application, recently announced by John Wookey at SAP, is generally available as of today. Third-party vendors have SaaS ERP solutions out there, like Netsuite or Some are even addressing specifically collaboration with SAP systems. For example, a central SAP instance at a company’s headquarter can be connected to multiple business entities of small subsidiaries around it. These subsidiaries might run with Netsuite which is hosted in the cloud and connected to the master SAP system.

There are also multiple ways to integrate SAP systems to SaaS application like CRM in the public cloud environment. Forrester calls this “Cloud-Legacy integration”. Leading vendors to look at Integration as a Service are and Hubspan.

Bottom line: SAP indents to provide software as a service but does not delivery until now.

Cloud Infrastructure

The characteristic of cloud infrastructure is a highly scaled elastic infrastructure provisioning. We distinguish between public cloud offerings like Amazon’s EC2 and private cloud options. In the latter ones you embrace the scalability concepts of public clouds but keep the ITt resources in-house.

Many software vendors like IBM and Oracle offer special tools and license models for cloud environments like EC2. SAP does not offer any specific license or tool for cloud environments to my knowledge. However, you could leverage private cloud infrastructure to run smaller parts of the SAP Netweaver landscape. Cloud computing for SAP works best with server clouds and not really with fine granular scale-out clouds. In this flavor cloud computing in private environments is basically the continuous evolution of virtualization and dynamic provisioning methodologies that have been around before. For SAP, frameworks like flexframe are more relevant than ever. Unfortunately SAP’s scalability concept requires quite big servers per process (due to the table caching of ABAP) and does not scale well on a large farm of smaller servers which is a efficient model in cloud computing. Again, this statement depends on the specific Netweaver component and the general version of SAP that you use. The Netweaver portal for example has better scale-out capabilities in a cloud environment than the ABAP core which tends to scale up better on single large servers.

A immediate cost reduction is very likely if you look for the first approach to cloud computing at the development and test instances of your SAP landscape. Moving all test and dev machines into virtual environments is the first learning step for SAP in the cloud.

More Forrester reports explain background and defining the terms that are used in this text.

Please share your experience around cloud computing and SAP with us and leave a comment.