Curtis Gaska, Solution Architect, Symmetry CorporationBy Curtis Gaska, Solution Architect, Symmetry Corporation

SAP hosting in the public cloud isn’t new, but options for running production workloads using the cloud are few and far between. With the announcement of Azure SAP HANA production certification at Sapphire Now 2016, however, competition has heated up.

In an attempt to upstage Microsoft’s new hosting and SAP-Office 365 integration, Amazon released X1 — eight times larger than its previous maximum EC2 instance, and offerings from both providers have continued to raise the stakes. Yet, while these big numbers might seem impressive, the truth is that the production SAP HANA cloud still does not belong in the public cloud.

The SAP HANA Cloud Needs Better Infrastructure Control

Raw speed is key to SAP HANA cloud functionality, but it comes at a price. To perform real-time reporting and analytics requires precisely configured hardware and software, with high and consistent throughput.

To date, the public commodity cloud just can’t do it. The performance of AWS instances can vary dramatically based on issues that are opaque to admins – it could be failing hardware, noisy neighbors, issues with the memory routing path or dozens of other problems. Although Microsoft Azure seems to have overcome its downtime issues, its performance is no better.

These performance issues are reflected in the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) of both Microsoft and Amazon. Microsoft Azure promises, “For all Virtual Machines that have two or more instances deployed in the same Availability Set, we guarantee you will have Virtual Machine Connectivity to at least one instance at least 99.95% of the time.”

Amazon’s SLA is phrased differently, but has almost exactly the same guarantee: they promise 99.95% uptime, but define downtime as either “when all of your running instances have no external connectivity” (EC2) or “when all of your attached volumes perform zero read write IO, with pending IO in the queue.” In either case, your whole system could grind to a standstill without breaking SLAs.

The SAP HANA Cloud Needs Better Vendor Support

To reach KPIs, SAP HANA cloud demands careful provisioning, configuration and tuning. These needs don’t begin and end with go-live. Transitioning from SAP Business Suite on HANA and S/4HANA, incorporating new HANA modules and upgrading all require further Basis and infrastructure tweaking, as do new modules like SAP GRC automation. And that’s in addition to patching, security and other daily tasks.

The very largest companies can do it, but most organizations need more external expertise than the public cloud can offer – something that is prohibitively expensive.  AWS enterprise support starts at $15,000 per month, and it only climbs from there. Instead of a single point of contact you can call in case of an emergency, you have to deal with a spider web of technicians, from account managers, to infrastructure managers, and so on.

Azure Premier support costs aren’t specified, and performance guarantees are vague. An initial response time of 15 minutes is guaranteed for the most severe problems, but “moderate business impact” issues can take up to two hours for a reply and, as Microsoft itself says, there is “no direct SLA for support request resolution.” In the SAP HANA cloud, a moderate issue could become a system-wide emergency well before resolution.
Although both services have third-party managed services partners, they don’t have adequate insight into the system. They have little optics on the application level and far less into hardware, networking and other levels handled by the cloud partner. This leads to long resolution times, ongoing performance and stability problems and poor ROI.

For the SAP HANA Cloud, It Just Isn’t Worth It

Ultimately, the consequences of inadequate support far outweigh the benefits of cheap public cloud. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) offer a better option, bundling affordable hosting with complete security, basis and HANA support. The right MSP will be able to tailor and run a custom SAP HANA cloud solution, with deep insight into all levels of your systems. That means consistent performance, quick resolutions and a system that supports your business’s needs.

About the Author

Curtis Gaska is a solution architect on Symmetry’s expert SA team, delivering complete SAP® technical solutions from upgrades to complex landscape implementations. Curtis pairs his sound SAP technical expertise with sales skills to knowledgeably advise clients, and prospective clients of Symmetry’s services and product offerings throughout each stage of the sales cycle. Curtis has a unique ability to deliver technical knowledge to create customs solutions per the client requirements, by not only taking the technical specifications into consideration but also the business drivers particular to that organization in turn creating an optimal SAP environment. This skilled approached includes scoping, planning, and execution of various projects including migrations, upgrades and installs, hosting and ongoing managed services. He also stays abreast of the latest technologies such as road mapping solutions for clients to leverage SAP HANA® in their current environment to then be hosted in Symmetry’s state-of-the-art data center.