How to Simplify Your SAP to Azure Transformation: Discovery to Migration
September 2, 2020 | Best practices
Sean Roberts General Manager, Public Cloud
SAP is the lifeblood of many businesses and represents the centre of gravity within the IT estate. As organisations mature in their cloud journey, many are facing a fundamental question; to continue to invest and renew their SAP hardware and software assets where they are – or make a strategic shift to the public cloud. IDC estimates that by 2021, 54 per cent of SAP customers will adopt SAP S4/4HANA and 73 per cent will be running it in the cloud.
For some organisations this is a far-off decision. However, some are having their hand forced due to a desire to migrate to HANA or impending lifecycle events such as data centre closures, hardware renewals, or underlying operating system and databases coming to their end of life. The vast majority of these organisations are choosing Azure as the strategic venue for SAP.
Microsoft and SAP have been working in partnership since 2017. Late last year they announced a long-term strategic partnership: the Embrace Initiative. The acceleration of S/4HANA on Azure adoption is one of its key aims. As businesses turn their attention to moving SAP to the public cloud, Azure is the predominant choice.
The question is no longer “should we” but “when”. There are many soft and hard benefits to be attained – lower CAPEX, increased agility, higher availability and access to modern services such as IoT.
Where to start?
Define Your Objectives
To successfully migrate your SAP estates to Azure, there are several things you need to do and understand. You need to be very clear on what you are aiming to achieve from the migration. Is it cost savings? Efficiencies? A reduction of legacy technology? It’s important to be clear on your objectives, how you will meet them with SAP on Azure and how you will document and report success to stakeholders?
Our clients are looking for agility both within their SAP estate and the applications that are coupled with SAP. As the core system of record, SAP is at the centre of gravity within the estate, meaning a migration of SAP is rarely done in isolation.
Choose Your Path
At a high level, there are two paths – greenfield or brownfield. Greenfield allows you to build afresh. Many clients have built custom workflows into SAP that are now standard. SAP now has a lot of off-the-shelf process models you can use. If you choose these over customisations, over time this may present a simpler solution and better ROI. However, it’s a big undertaking to start from scratch with SAP and many organisations do not have the luxury of the time and investment to pursue this path. As such, the vast majority of customers choose a brownfield migration.
Within brownfield migrations there are two further options – homogenous or heterogenous migrations. A homogenous “lift-and-shift” migration is the least risky and most rapid migration path and keeps your underlying operating systems and databases the same. However, you may be running legacy software in your cloud environment – for instance we’ve seen clients running SAP with Microsoft SQL Server 2005 on Windows Server 2008, two end of life products. Therefore, there’s an opportunity to remove legacy debt in the migration by upgrading the underlying database and operating systems – this is a heterogenous migration.
Designing a cloud-based SAP system brings additional complexities – although it’s worth remembering these complexities are outweighed by the opportunities and flexibility that cloud gives you versus an on-premise solution.
There are lots of different environments with SAP – production, staging, UAT, and development. With Azure Blueprints and Azure Policy, you can ensure consistency across environments, and governance across the estate.
Compute is a core tenant of performance for Azure. Microsoft offers full SAP HANA certified Virtual Machines with varying combinations of disk options. For those that require additional performance, Microsoft released the SAP HANA on Azure (Large Instances)1 service which provides dedicated bare metal servers for SAP. Units can have 36 Intel CPU cores and 768 GB of memory and go up to units that have 480 Intel CPU cores and 24 TB of memory.
Networks are a very important aspect of SAP performance and availability. You need to consider the design of your cloud network topology. Azure enables you to build a near zero-trust network where traffic is inspected and authenticated north, south, east and west. However, it’s important to also consider trusted zones and to consider using private endpoints for some traffic. This traffic will traverse the backbone rather than going over the IP subnet range – resulting in less firewall load and transaction cost.
Disaster recovery is an area where the cloud really comes into its own and an area where many people make mistakes. Azure Site Recovery2 is a fantastic solution that enables fully isolated DR testing and automated recovery plans with full dependable recovery. Microsoft also provides a native backup tool in the form of Azure Backup, which now supports HANA.
Microsoft has recently announced Azure Monitor for SAP3, which is currently in preview. The solution works on SAP on Virtual Machines as well as SAP on Azure Large Instances. The solution monitors high availability pacemaker clusters, SAP HANA and SQL Server telemetry. When combined with advanced network monitoring, Azure monitor provides engineers with all the insight and data to monitor and troubleshoot performance problems.
Managing the Transition
There are four stages to the migration – planning, pilot, migration, and post-migration. Communication is important as you progress. Have a roll-back plan, not only for problems encountered during the process but also afterwards if business-impacting issues such as data inconsistency are discovered.
To minimise risk, consider using automation where possible. Automating the configuration management and policy components of the release will help to ensure that no errors were introduced into the runbook.
Finally, consider your post-migration early life support. Most migrations occur over the weekend, so have extra eyes on screen and extra monitoring in place when the business comes online so you can quickly react and get issues resolved.
Planning is the most important part of successful migrations. You need a good understanding of the application today, what changes you’re going to make, and you need to make a detailed assessment of how you’re going to make the change.
This, combined with business stakeholder alignment and constant communication throughout the process, means you will ensure a successful migration and enable you to start taking advantage of the benefits of SAP on Azure.