IT infrastructure and SAP architecture
Many years ago, I spoke with the IT manager of the Austrian branch of Spar, a Dutch multinational food retail store. This was during the company’s data center overhaul at the Spar headquarters in Salzburg, Austria. In addition to new servers and storage for SAP ERP/ECC 6.0, the manager had rented a back-up data center as part of the renovation. The two locations were connected by two fiber optic cables under the stipulation that at no point could the cables be buried closer than 200 meters to each other in an open field. The stipulation is a logical one: excavators are not an uncommon sight. However, an excavator running rampant and destroying cables for 200 meters would be highly unusual.
Theoretically, there should be no single point of failure in any IT system. However, due to the complexity of hybrid ERP landscapes, this requirement seems to be unfeasible. SAP customers must keep in mind that cloud computing is much more than just lifting and shifting. The redundancy of hyperscalers’ data centers is largely limited to their internal, global connectivity. The data path to the user is already a new IT capital. With cloud first, many challenges are shifted, but not resolved. The danger is that with cloud computing, many problems will slip out of the company’s own sphere of influence. What was once a daily task in a company’s own data center operation seems to become invisible when in the cloud.
High availability is an expensive commodity and must be deployed thoughtfully. The head of IT at the Spar retail group knows full well that a failure in the SAP system would swiftly lead to empty shelves in the stores and long lines forming at the scanner checkouts. This means that two data centers with fiber optic connections generously distanced from one another are not a luxury, but rather a business necessity. The on-prem CIO can see the high availability for himself every day. As a cloud administrator, the CIO must rely on others and hope for the best.
If worst comes to worst, companies must have a back-up plan. With all resources in a company’s own data center, having a quick emergency plan is much more feasable. With cloud computing, the CIO first has to look for cause, effect, and responsible parties in the cloud. While it seems some things run better with cloud computing, the administrative effort itself is much higher.
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