Now more than ever, businesses depend on IT architecture that does not get in the way. With every operational shift, pivot, and response to change, data must become intelligent assets as soon as it is captured.

Meanwhile, new digital capabilities should be adopted, mapped, and scaled across the entire distributed landscape. One approach to addressing these architecture requirements is leveraging the services of hyperscale computing providers, or hyperscalers.

Though hyperscalers are ready to deliver a simplified, seamless, and secure IT landscape, companies are often apprehensive about making such an investment.

A recent engagement with Siemens was no different. As one of Europe’s largest industrial manufacturers, the company decided to undergo a significant implementation of SAP S/4HANA at its headquarters and chose SAP Advisory Services for holistic support of landscape strategy and architecture services.

When a fast setup of sandbox and testing systems was needed to mitigate multiple risk factors, there was only one option: combining the existing landscape of SAP solutions with a hyperscaler’s platform.

As this was one of Siemens’ first experiences running SAP solutions on a hyperscaler platform, I spoke with Heiko Jonuscheit, cloud solution architect at Siemens, about how this implementation experience changed the business’ perception of hyperscalers.

Q: How did your business know that it needed a hyperscaler-supported architecture? 

A: The time and effort needed to set up and manage an intelligent ERP like SAP S/4HANA are substantial. New systems and applications are sometimes required temporarily or at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, our existing IT services could not provide the flexibility to support business cases for performance scalability, a pay-per-use approach, or fast provisioning – all with low overhead costs.

As a result, we developed solutions, with the assistance of our internal cloud expert groupto address the need for consulting services to navigate our transition to cloud and hyperscaler services. We created a proof of concept for setting up SAP S/4HANA within one of our suppliers’ Amazon Web Services (AWS) environment.

During this assessment, we were impressed by the hyperscaler’s fast system provisioning and pay-per-use model, especially when combined with the SAP Cloud Appliance Library tool. It increased our flexibility so we could rapidly respond to project demands and decrease the total cost of ownership for specific scenarios. And during the implementation of SAP S/4HANA, we were prepared to get the system up and running and decommissioned within an hour or two, which allows us to reset the IT landscape to its previous state in a matter of minutes.

Which business scenarios does — and will — your hyperscaler support for your company? 

Right now, our hyperscaler partner provides multiple services. But at the moment, we use primarily the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), while we use SAP Cloud Appliance Library to predefine the starting point for the SAP solution environment. Momentarily, we focus on nonproductive scenarios.

We are also exploring more options to improve our maintenance and operation of business systems. Once our adoption rate increases, we will require a service provider, even for our on-premise solutions. For this reason, we are exploring our hyperscaler’s integration capabilities.

Are you finding that your total cost of ownership is minimized by using a hyperscaler?

Great question! Total cost of ownership is a crucial advantage. But so are provisioning time, reliability, and security. Due to our hyperscaler’s pay-per-use business model, the cost of operating our IT landscape and related use cases are lower compared to our internal on-premise infrastructure. We achieved significant benefits due to decommissioning of applications that are temporarily not required or stopping applications that are only used during regular business hours.

For 24/7 services, hyperscalers do not make a significant difference, but they do bring considerable flexibility for specific use cases. Such results may change with economies of scale. However, the main challenge is leveraging the application managed services model to adapt to new infrastructure options.

Did the introduction of the hyperscaler increase the complexity of your hybrid deployments? 

From my point of view, they are more complex. We must integrate the cloud environment with internal systems while addressing sensitive concerns such as data privacy and data security. We are coming from an internal data center, which manages the IT infrastructure very well, to an additional provider without an appropriate application support model. This situation raises many questions and concerns that will be addressed over time.

Did the hyperscaler’s architecture accelerate the delivery of SAP S/4HANA? 

With standardization and test data, deployment and adoption of SAP S/4HANA were rapid after the cloud environment was established and connected to our business network. Meanwhile, we are in the process of defining requirements for trusted system connections, user provisioning services, and integration so we can make the necessary adjustments needed to support new options for our IT landscape.

Based on the current results of your first hyperscaler experience, what are your next steps?

First, we should find a service provider that can maintain our cloud solutions based on an IaaS model. Then we can secure integrations across our on-premise landscape and improve the provisioning of trusted system connections and internal interfaces.

Challenges always exist when a business goes down a different path with their IT landscape. But once they are addressed, I do not doubt that hyperscaler managed services will provide the service levels we need and integrate with our existing infrastructure and applications into a unified, tightly connected, intelligent system.

Special thanks to Heiko Jonuscheit for sharing his team’s first impression of a hyperscaler environment. I hope this first experience helps you decide whether a hyperscaler is right for your business.

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Read the entire “Enterprise Architecture and Landscape Strategy” series to learn how to future-proof your enterprise architecture and landscape strategy. Discover whether it’s time for your business to make the leap to a hyperscale environment and how to chart your path to one.

Tobias Futterer is an enterprise architect at SAP.