SAP on Azure – Cloud infrastructure and production management: The best practicesPublish Date: September 15, 2022
When companies are looking for an enterprise cloud infrastructure, they are not just concerned about the ‘guts’ of the cloud such as storage and memory, but rather about how these would fit in their existing business processes. To succeed in the cloud, you need to ensure two things: first, that your data will be secure and second, that you can scale your application horizontally across multiple instances.
In order to fully realize the benefits of the cloud like resource sharing, real-time communication, workforce planning, etc., one needs to evaluate different types of Cloud infrastructures, selecting the best one that fits their needs.
But which Cloud infrastructure is the best one? And for companies using SAP as their principle ERP infrastructure, which Cloud service provider would be apt?
Who fits the bill? Let’s find out.
Choosing from the crowd of cloud
SAP is a popular and flexible ERP infrastructure provider for various industries and applications. From service-oriented functionality to production-based management, SAP has a reputation for providing dependable ERP solutions covering topics as diverse as management accounting to retain returning customers. But when an SAP-based company wants to upgrade to an integrated Cloud infrastructure, which one to choose?
SAP has a wide range of Cloud integration planning and modeling techniques. SAP’s native Cloud integration infrastructures have more space and input opportunities for business intelligence (BI). For instance, SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) brings social media analysis (SMA), Web analytics, Big Data, etc. c under one roof. Furthermore, the SAP HANA Cloud is oriented toward database management and is designed to handle complex storage and retrieval operations. Nevertheless, the SAP on Azure paradigm stands out since it has emerged as a way of successfully bringing together the client-side infrastructures of two major technology giants, SAP and Microsoft.
Why Azure is inevitable?
According to an IDC survey, 86 percent of customers are satisfied that Azure isn’t a source of competitive threat. A 2021 Total Economic Impact Study for Forrester cements the case for SAP on Azure. It found that “customers running SAP solution on Azure can achieve up to 112% ROI, a 30% reduction in time-to-market for new operations, and a less than six-month payback period. Companies can free up time for IT maintenance and use it to drive business growth and innovation”.
SAP applications support several enterprise operations, most highly complex, and provide the necessary analytics and scalability. Since enterprises are now moving to the cloud, they must take their different ERP applications powered by SAP. Since most organizations are already dependent on Microsoft technologies (ranging from office automation to project management), a partnership between SAP and Microsoft on Microsoft’s Cloud infrastructure, i.e., Azure, is a win-win for businesses.
Azure on SAP calls for different best practices at the level of deployment. The most attractive aspect of SAP on Azure is that it does not have hard and fast rules, and both SAP and Microsoft provide many customization alternatives. Moreover, Microsoft includes office applications, automation, project management, and Windows operating system-related utilities. Therefore, the selection of SAP on Azure may itself prove to be a business-oriented best practice. However, there is an acute need to enumerate and explain the different practical aspects. In this context, installation, deployment, implementation, sharing, and distribution are the essential functions that can be refined further with the facilities provided by Microsoft’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) model.
Technical aspects relevant to the business strategy
In a production-oriented environment, operational downtime may prove to be too costly to handle. Integration and interoperation between two different technologies may not only prove to be time-consuming but also risky. Therefore, issues related to integration and interoperation must be sorted out in an organized and time-effective manner.
Consequently, in the case of SAP on Azure, a methodological migration model (from SAP applications to Microsoft technologies and vice versa) is perhaps the most critical best practice. But how can this migration model be effectively put to work?
The answer lies in another best practice- embarking on a step-by-step technique for practically installing and using SAP on Azure.
Although SAP on Azure is not a ready-made solution on the software market front, it can be customized mainly for the same reason. In other words, integration models for putting together SAP on Azure can be adjusted from one organization to another per the client’s varying needs. For example, a service-oriented company would emphasize having maximum priority regarding the migration of ERP applications. But a business-critical production model would benefit from speeding up the migrations involving SCM, CAPM (computer-aided production management), SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) management, etc. Production management is more concerned with the company’s hardware, while the services sector calls for soft skills.
Although a combination of the two is always welcome for winning results, production management requirements may prove far more complex and different. From a factory-based or industrial point of view, SAP ERP applications that are more specific to floor management, SCM, management of electric grids, etc., need to be prioritized while sharing resources over an IaaS infrastructure by Microsoft’s Azure.
The other imperative best practices, which are more focussed on a technicality, include:
- Secure access and control design SAP on Azure is a deliverable of an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) Cloud framework. Hence, security protections like access control lists, routing regimes, switching restrictions, etc., need to be designed as a service component by Microsoft. At this level, however, organization-specific adaptations are a must. Safekeeping the physical networks, physical data-center, and the different physical host levels is also a key security imperative, along with protected control of the higher-level workstations, mainly on the server side.
- Scalability and performance design The agility of Azure allows organizations to scale their SAP systems with ease. For example, increasing the computational capacity of a given database server can be adjusted when workloads rise. Horizontal scaling is also significant and can be achieved by adding third-party applications or servers. SAP on Azure scalability comes by momentarily beefing up the infrastructure for accelerating the organization’s SAP migration, performance throughput, and downtime reduction.
- Recoverability and availability designAt the database synchronization and management level, replications can be utilized to copy the organization’s production data from the primary region to the disaster recovery system. At the level of SAP applications, Azure-to-Azure Site Recovery can also be used as a component of the overall production business-critical disaster recovery solution. It is necessary to watchfully consider the availability, storage, retrieval, and recoverability options within the design of the SAP on Azure deployment regimen. This will protect the organization’s business from monetary losses as well as operational downtime or loss of data.
- Operational design Stability of operations and continuity of business-critical processes are essential for the tier-1 applications in SAP. Manual deployment of infrastructure for each SAP application can be tedious and error-prone, costing hours and days in the case of numerous SAP installations. Therefore, to improve efficiency, it makes sense to automate the organization’s SAP infrastructure deployment and the necessary software installation at best. Embracing the DevOps paradigm using infrastructure-as-code for building new SAP environments may be needed, often exemplified by different SAP project landscapes.
To Sum it up:
SAP on Azure has perhaps the greatest potential of becoming an industry-level software implementation and architecture as far as infrastructure needs are concerned. The SAP ERP applications and Microsoft’s system-specific utilities are already popular with various companies worldwide. Furthermore, integration with updating services, exploring online assistance and research (available from the vendors), and comprehensively training the staff to handle the IaaS architecture are some other essential business practices.
Vice President – Microsoft Practice