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Start preparing infrastructure now for SAP S/4HANA migration

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SAP has set 2025 as the date it will no longer support its Business Suite ERP system, and some infrastructure service providers believe customers should begin to plan now.


SAP said 2025 is the year it will pull the plug on support for Business Suite, effectively requiring users to move to the next-generation ERP platform, S/4HANA.

It may seem like 2025 is a long way away, but SAP customers who are pondering an S/4HANA migration should start making their infrastructure plans now. Why now? Given the enormity of the task of deploying Business Suite’s successor, S/4HANA, not preparing for an S/4HANA migration could leave many organizations far behind the ball.

Every SAP organization varies in complexity, but all should consider their S/4HANA migration strategy now, according to Wes Mauer, director of SAP operations for Rackspace, a San Antonio-based firm that offers infrastructure management and hosting services for a variety of platforms. Mauer’s SAP operations group handles SAP Basis administration tasks for customers and assesses projects like an S/4HANA migration. The group also carries out the technical task of moving an SAP infrastructure, whether it’s on premises, hosted on private or public cloud, or hybrid.

“Ultimately, we’re recommending to people to start the process, even though we’re eight years out and it seems like a long way away. But for some customers, even that might be cutting it kind of close at this point,” Mauer said. “It depends upon the complexity of the environment and the overall impact, so you can’t really have a cookie-cutter assessment; you really have to help them analyze what the overall level of effort is going to be.”

Some smaller organizations may be able to hold off and wait for a more compelling reason to move, Mauer explained. But for larger organizations, it’s better to start making plans now.

No easy task to switch infrastructure

It may seem like 2025 is a long way away, but SAP customers who are pondering an S/4HANA migration should start making their infrastructure plans now.

One of the main reasons large organizations need to take the S/4HANA migration deadline seriously is, in many cases, it involves switching to a different infrastructure, according to Dirk Oppenkowski, SAP global alliance director for Suse, a global infrastructure services provider. Suse makes and supports the Suse Linux Enterprise Server, one of the operating systems along with Red Hat Linux that can run SAP HANA.

“If you look at the overall task of moving every SAP NetWeaver deployment from R3 or NetWeaver 7.3 and lower to 7.4 and above over the next eight years, it’s a gargantuan task that no one is really expecting will get done. But right now, that’s what you have to look at and plan for,” Oppenkowski said.

Dealing with the infrastructure now is important because S/4HANA requires SAP HANA as a database, he continued.

“With R3, you had the choice between DB2, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Sybase and what have you,” Oppenkowski said. “With S/4HANA, that all goes away and it’s just SAP HANA. And that, in turn, requires Linux, because that’s the only operating system that runs HANA.”

Get proof before proceeding

The most important thing to do before starting to migrate your infrastructure is to set up a proof of concept (POC). This can help to begin analyzing changes that will be needed in the move to S/4HANA and how to adapt those changes for the organization’s specific needs, Mauer said. The cloud is an ideal environment for a POC, even if the organization still plans to run S/4HANA in an on-premises or hybrid system.

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“Even if they are running an on-premises environment, it’s definitely an option to run a POC in the cloud,” Mauer said. “The cloud just tends to be perfect for those kinds of POC environments where they can run it for however many months they need to and walk away from it if they need to; it gives them more options to do that.”

Now’s the time to decide on the cloud

SAP customers need to make a choice on how they want to deploy S/4HANA before taking any steps to migrate their infrastructure. The good thing is there are more choices than ever now — including on premises, private cloud, public cloud and hybrid environments — and Mauer said it’s a good time to make the move to the cloud, although every organization needs to evaluate its own needs.

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