SAP solutions in Azure environment: opportunities and advantages to be seized

Microsoft and SAP can boast a partnership of over 25 years dedicated to ensuring customer success in adopting their solutions. In light of the latest announcements made, the synergy between these IT giants is now mainly focused on helping customers to use SAP in a Microsoft Azure environment, so you can grow and innovate even faster. This article describes the main opportunities and benefits that can be obtained by running SAP workloads in Azure.

The reasons for running SAP workloads on Azure

There are several reasons that can push a customer to use Azure, rather than any other public cloud, for the execution of SAP workloads:

Figure 1 - Top reasons for running SAP workloads on Azure

In the following paragraphs we will explore the four main reasons that make Azure emerge as an ideal platform for hosting SAP workloads.

Azure is a proven and certified cloud platform for SAP

With Azure you can easily get agility and efficiency thanks to a SAP tested and certified cloud platform. Indeed, Azure allows you to run mission-critical SAP applications with performance, the scalability and reliability required by the most demanding companies.

Azure is available in addition 65 geographic areas around the world, more than any other cloud service provider, and Microsoft owns one of the largest global networks, with over 175.000 miles of fiber (on land and underwater). Furthermore, are present beyond 160 edge sites and pairing points that allow customers to easily extend their networking in hybrid mode.

The following map outlines the Azure deployment globally:

Figure 2 - Azure on a global scale

The list of Azure regions and edge sites is constantly expanding.

Microsoft, having worked closely with SAP and its customers, is now able to provide awide range of options to activate SAP certified virtual machines. Indeed, no matter how big or small your SAP workload is and if you are running SAP on SQL, Oracle or SAP HANA, in Azure you always have the option to choose the option that best suits your needs. Azure was also the first cloud to introduce bare metal solutions using SAP HANA Large instances in the distant past 2016 and now boasts the ability to activate Optane Large instances.

Figure 3 - Scalable options for SAP workloads

In addition to scalability, it is also important to take into account the availability of SAP workloads. With Azure you can evaluate options like a true leader in the sector, ranging from 99,9% of SLA for a non-mission-critical system on a single virtual machine, up to the 99,99% SLA for a pair of virtual machines distributed on different Azure availability zones. Furthermore, it is possible to contemplate disaster recovery plans using different regions of Azure.

Figure 4 - Industry-leading options for SLA and high availability

SAP workloads, as well as requiring high performance from a computational point of view, also need high performance storage for persistence and, in the case of AnyDB, also for transaction processing. Also in the storage area, Azure is able to offer different options to meet your important SAP performance needs, up to the adoption of Azure Ultra Disks, also certified for SAP HANA. Those who use NetApp in an on-premises environment for SAP workloads, in order to guarantee the same set of features, can evaluate the adoption of Azure NetApp Files, the bare metal storage offering created by Microsoft and NetApp, which is certified for scale-out of the SAP HANA VM with a standby node.

Figure 5 - Storage options for demanding SAP performance

The management of the IT environment, both in the cloud and in an on-premises environment, is complex and demanding. Azure offers a complete set of services and tools to organize, manage and govern physical machines and virtual systems present in different environments.

Figure 6 - Bult-in options in Azure for SAP resource management

In particular, Azure offers the following possibilities for SAP workloads:

  • Monitoring: throught Azure Monitor Log Analytics, Application Insights, Network Watcher and other monitoring tools. With Azure Monitor for SAP HANA it is possible to combine data from SAP HANA systems with data from the rest of the infrastructure.
  • Automation: ability to create automations and standardize deployment processes and techniques.
  • High availability: possibility to use Azure Backup and Azure Site Recovery solutions for SAP workloads. In particular, Azure Backup makes it easy to back up and restore SAP HANA databases running on Azure virtual machines and isBackInt certificate from SAP. For more information about SAP HANA backups on Azure VMs you can consult the Microsoft's official documentation.
  • Governance: as part of the governance of SAP workloads in Azure, it is possible to address the following disciplines:
    • Cost management
    • Security and compliance baseline
    • Identity management
    • Acceleration of deployment processes and consistency of the resources created

All of these solutions are integrated into the Azure platform and no third party solutions are required.

Azure offers world-class security and compliance solutions

Microsoft provides Azure to customers as a cloud platform, but at the same time, being also a security provider, can guarantee first-rate security and compliance features. Microsoft's approach to security in Azure has the following characteristics:

  • Integrated: the security features are perfectly integrated into the Azure platform, in all cloud resources and on all levels of architecture. Activation is simple and offers centralized management, with the ability to manage automations to respond effectively to security attacks.
  • Modern: the security features are also based on artificial intelligence, analyzing trillions of signals collected across Microsoft's entire security portfolio, and take full advantage of the scalability of the cloud.
  • Holistic: It's not limited to Azure security alone, but it extends to the entire organization. It works by adapting to the environment to be protected, also for hybrid environments and distributed on multiple clouds and on different platforms, providing advanced controls and global visibility.

Microsoft offers security levels that act on different fronts:

Figure 7 - Areas and related security solutions

In addition to the security of the infrastructure, it is known that identity is at the heart of security and therefore must be properly managed. With Azure Active Directory, you have the ability to federate the Active Directory environment on-premises and to offer Single Sign-On functionality for all applications.

Figure 8 - Azure Active Directory to manage identity security

This means that you can offer users a’unique and secure login experience to all business applications, both locally and in the cloud. In particular, for an in-depth analysis of possible scenarios and how to manage utilities when you have Microsoft and SAP in the company, I refer you to this interesting article "SAP and Microsoft user management".

In addition to Security, there are other strengths of Azure that pertain to the privacy and the transparency on how Microsoft manages the cloud environment. Indeed, Microsoft has a large portfolio of compliance and, with over 90 international and industry-specific certifications, is a leader in this sector.

Figure 9 - Example of some Azure compliance certifications

For further information you can consult theAzure Trust Center.

Azure enables application innovation

Once customers run SAP workloads in Azure environment in a secure and compliant manner, can better manage the integration of SAP data and applications with non-SAP data, so you can get more information and drive digital transformation. Data is a strategic resource for the company and, as the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report, companies that embrace a data-driven culture experience a four-fold improvement in revenue performance and better customer satisfaction.

Here is a typical path that a customer who uses SAP in an Azure environment can take:

Figure 10 - Path to increase business value with SAP on Azure

In the first stage a greater value to the data. Indeed, in Azure, customers can use advanced technologies to do data analysis and machine learning solutions to take advantage of traditional data silos in their organization.

At a later stage you can start the’application innovation. Indeed, digital transformation can also be achieved by integrating SAP applications with other environments, like Teams or Azure IoT, going to create new user experiences.

One of the reasons customers choose to run SAP solutions on Azure is the ability to integrate this environment with other solutions in the Microsoft product ecosystem, which allows you to accelerate the adoption of cloud technology and the time for innovation.

Figure 11 - Integration of SAP solutions into the Microsoft ecosystem

Established and trusted partnership capable of delivering enterprise-class SAP cloud solutions

The cloud partnership between SAP and Microsoft is able to offer a solid basis for developing a structured ERP system migration project in Microsoft Azure environment. The two companies work closely together following a joint path of innovation and integration.

Figure 12 - Elements of value given by the partnership

Furthermore, the fact that SAP chose Microsoft Azure to migrate their core business processes to the public cloud and alike, Microsoft running the main business processes on SAP in the Azure environment is an important signal of collaboration and mutual trust. Finally, a collaborative support model has been developed and the 25 years of customer support ensure that there is also all the necessary experience to support SAP in the Microsoft Azure environment.

Benefits

Many customers migrating their workloads to Azure report significant cost savings:

Figure 13 - SAP cost optimization thanks to Azure

These savings are mainly given by:

  • Absence of over-provisioning: moving SAP workloads to Azure, customers realize savings by switching from a CapEx model and over-provisioning, to a flexible OpEx model, where they pay only for what they really use and need.
  • Automated activities: eliminating the need to manage common data centers and maintain hardware, customers are able to dedicate their IT staff to the most value-added activities.

In addition to making costs more efficient, IT can respond faster to the business and help achieve better business results. Among the immediate benefits is a general performance improvement and one more flexibility to scale dynamically. Finally, moving data to the cloud, it's possible simplify the analysis processes and have greater ability to innovation.

Some successful cases

There are numerous customers, from every sector and from every part of the world, who run their SAP solutions in a Microsoft Azure environment to manage their core business activities.

Figure 14 - Customers running SAP solutions on Azure

Analyzing these customers, we see the presence of a large number of companies that fall into Fortune 500, the annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine that ranks the 500 largest US corporate firms measured by their turnover.

Finally, to explore the business results and cost savings that companies achieve with SAP in Azure you can consult this study, commissioned and conducted by Forrester Consulting. The study shows how an organization was able to obtain an expected return on investment of the 112% in three years.

Conclusion

Those who manage on-premises SAP workloads may have perplexities and concerns when wondering if the cloud can truly meet the needs of these mission-critical environments. Microsoft Azure, thanks to the possibilities offered in terms of scalability, availability and performance is certainly the ideal choice to ensure an exceptional experience in running SAP workloads. Furthermore, the ability to manage these infrastructures with simple tools, to ensure a secure and robust ecosystem for SAP data, coupled with potential cost savings, are all elements that proclaim Azure as the ideal platform for hosting SAP workloads, more than any other public cloud.

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