Flexibility is necessary in order to not be flushed away by the digital tsunami – to use the Gartner analysts‘ term for the digital transformation. One response to the transformation processes that are coming up is converged infrastructure and software-defined datacenters.
In an SAP environment, IT flexibility has an impact on the CCC manager and IT manager respectively, and sometimes perhaps also the CIO. Cost-reduction pleases the CFO. Is more flexibility, accompanied by reduced costs, a task for the team? Who drives this? Who executes this?
Juergen Renz, General Manager and Executive Director at Dell in Germany notes: ”As I see it, greater flexibility is a requirement that the business and the specialist departments have: they take this matter up with the Head of CCC and the CIO.
For me, these are the principal driving forces. In cooperation with the CFO, whose focus is on the costs, it is ultimately the Head of IT and the CIO that act upon these requirements“.
Jens Peter Gotter, Director Global SAP Center of Excellence at Dell, adds: ”Cost-cuts are not only the concerns of the board members responsible for finance. Nowadays, the CIOs are also given strict budget requirements, and they must reduce the TCO. Flexibility can also be considered in a differentiated way. Flexibility through a convergent infrastructure is also driven by the CIO organization, leading to cost-cuts. Flexibility with regard to the business side is converted into reality in the scaleability of the SAP system and is likewise driven by the CIO organization. Cost savings through activities in the Business Process Reengineering area are usually effected through the Line of Business – supported by the IT organization“.
In discussion with E-3 Magazine, Juergen Renz makes the following observation on this, ”At present, however, we’re also seeing the trend whereby IT management is very much aware of these connections and is also able to motivate itself very strongly in this regard.“
The transformation powered by Dell
However, flexibility cannot be the sole objective of a converged infrastructure. The nature of things is that it is also about a quality improvement for the organization of structures and activity sequences. The Business Process Redesign directed towards a Real-Time Enterprise – SAP’s name for the next stage of ERP evolution – is important; quality improvement also influences the TCO referred to above.
Change Management of a Converged Infrastructure needs to be delivering flexibility and savings. Is it possible to do both, or should one initially be flexible and then attain low-cost? ”No, it’s not a case of needing to do one and only then the other“, as Dell manager Renz puts it. ”On the contrary: it is through increased flexibility that – after an initial investment – substantial savings can usually also be achieved“.
His colleague Jens Peter Gotter notes: ”Increased flexibility, improved quality and a reduction in costs can be achieved at the same time. Examples of this are convergent Infrastructures and SLA-based support-models.”
”If we consider the SAP world of ten years ago, particularly in Germany, almost every SAP system ran on proprietary architectures“, Jens Peter Gotter explains. ”In addition, numerous solutions existed as ‚islands‘, so to speak, each of which respectively made possible a partial automation of SAP. Yet at that time there was not yet a concept that permeated everything.”
By now, a high degree of hardware-standardization has been reached, offering the basis for comprehensively rendering software more flexible. In future, this element will be significantly expanded, especially regarding flexibility and pace.
”It’s also foreseeable that, via templates and automation processes on applications, this process can be structured in a substantially more efficient way“, Gotter is convinced.
His Dell colleague Juergen Renz points out: ”Ten years ago, typical scenarios for provision of a solution in the SAP environment were characterized by a great many manual interventions on proprietary systems. Today, the trend towards a standardized IT entails a root-and-branch automation and thereby of course also deployment processes that used to demand weeks and days and are now dealt with in just a few minutes or seconds“.
Flexibility for established SAP customers spans the whole life cycle. ”Both when considering new workloads through our SAP consultancy and when financing through Dell Financial Services, where we make a pay-as-you-grow-model possible, this flexibility is there to be had“, Juergen Renz observes.
Naturally, Dell likewise offers flexible systems in the core of the infrastructure. ”Notably in the area of hyperconverged servers, software-defined storage and open networking, we also offer very innovative, flexible solutions to established customers“, Renz says, explaining Dell’s approach.
Jens Peter Gotter adds that more flexibility can be reached on two levels: firstly, through convergent infrastructure. An infrastructure can change over the course of time. Examples of this are temporary requirements for development environments and test environments used for short-term projects. Further examples are mergers and takeovers, including spin-offs. And ultimately the normal growth of the business.
”With the help of the convergent infrastructure it will be possible to dynamically adapt the size of the landscape to match the current requirements“, notes Dell manager Gotter.
A side-effect is that the costs for the infrastructure are adapted to the actual demand. A flexible adaptation of the landscape can be attained through hyperconverged servers, software-defined storage, open networks and corresponding Dell services. Secondly, through support services.
Here Gotter explains: ”Support can be made available both at the infrastructure-components level and at the applications level, for example enduser support or break-fix support. Instead of offering support on a fixed FTE basis, Dell‘s support-model is based on SLAs, making the costs flexible.”
”Hyperconverged systems are solutions that combine within themselves the classic IT stack consisting of storage, server and network, while providing a compact structure“ – this is how Juergen Renz describes a megatrend from the digital transformation processes.
Hyperconverged systems serves as reproducible and largely identical building blocks that enable customers to scale on an almost linear basis. For an SAP established customer, the opportunity is there to attain more homogeneous, stable operation. Simultaneously this mode of operation can consume its workload in portionable sizes, also having the security that everything is internally coordinated. ”This way, complex certification matrices are substantially simplified“, Renz knows from everyday practice.
His colleague Jens Peter Gotter adds that, depending on the customer size and the operating model, hyperconverged systems can constitute a better-optimized opportunity for using SAP. ”We take it as the basis that these modern solutions will make up a significant share of future SAP installations – particularly on migration projects with regard to Unix solutions and mainframe solutions. The reason is that these hyperconverged systems are very easy to administer.”
As an ‘interim summary‘, so to speak, Juergen Renz notes: ”In the early days of R/3, the subject of provision of SAP infrastructure had no role to play, due to our clear focus on Intel x86, because the systems were rolled out in Unix worlds. In the course of x86‘s evolution, the topic of ECC 6.0 – and of course S/4 with Hana – has advanced ever more prominently into focus. It’s notably the uniform platform at S/4 that helps our customers and us to concentrate on key issues“.
S/4 is coming
”S/4 is already relevant for Dell“, Juergen Renz explains, ”because with our Hana Value-Identification Services we inform the customer about the advantages of switching to S/4“.
However, to date only Simple Finance (S/4 Finance) is available and Simple Logistics (S/4 Logistics) is scheduled to follow by the end of the year.
”Our belief is that, as a result, the take-up of S/4 will be increased“, Renz emphasizes.
Dell manager Gotter stresses that S/4 is not only an ECC running on Hana, but that it is also the next generation of an ERP system of SAP: ”We believe that, taking the long-term view, the majority of the improvements render S/4 necessary“. As a result, Dell thinks that, over the next 10 to 15 years, a high percentage of the SAP systems will be brought onto S/4.
”We use an SAP RDS for the migration of BW onto Hana, and Dell is also familiar with SAP’s activate methodology for bringing customers from ECC to S/4“, Jens Peter Gotter adds. S/4 can be made available, either on the spot or in the cloud. Dell has computing-center capacity in-house (currently in the USA, the UK and Ireland) and can make S/4 available via the Dell Cloud.
Cloud – OK, but which one?
”Cloud Computing is one possible path to greater IT flexibility but certainly not the only one“, as Jens Peter Gotter sees it. ”Many customers today boost the flexibility of their IT with an on-premise cloud or private cloud, which they expand according to requirements. That’s why hybrid clouds are also the logical next step“.
Here, Juergen Renz directs attention to security: ”As part of this, the topic of data security is naturally one that always has to be assessed; this in turn must lead to use of hybrid models to an even greater degree. Accordingly, the non-critical topics are compared against market status and market offerings are used; by contrast, for sensitive topics the on-premise cloud can bring its great merits into play“.
Yet for Gotter as a manager, it is important that Dell leave the choice with the customer: ”We very thoroughly analyse with the customers which path provides their best option. To that extent, of course we bring our customers into the cloud if that’s where the greatest added-value is to be had. Yet whether this is to be an off-premise, on-premise or hybrid cloud, depends on the customer“.
Can there be a Hana Enterprise Cloud (HEC) from Dell? ”Yes, a Dell HEC is part of the plans for SAP Practice at Dell“, explains the Director Global Center of Excellence, Jens Peter Gotter. ”We are currently in the SAP certification process. This solution will use the advantages of Dell’s existing Dedicated Cloud offerings“.
In discussion with E-3 Chief Editor Faerbinger, Juergen Renz adds: ”Hana Enterprise Cloud at Dell will be a holistic cloud-capable managed-service offering, including all necessary components for the support of an Enterprise SAP landscape.“
But where will Dell place the Hana platform? In the computing center for established SAP customers or in the cloud used for cloud computing? ”In the past, certainly, customers have initially placed SAP in their own computing center, and thus in many instances Hana will initially be deployed there too“, Juergen Renz notes, based on his conversations with customers.
He added, ”Particularly for a step-by-step modernization, it is purposeful not to change all parameters simultanesously. Conversely, Hana has undergone a formidable development and by now it is deployable on a flexible basis. That’s why I also see the deployment of Hana as being increasingly in off-premise cloud solutions“.
Hana is ready
How are established SAP customers to evaluate their Hana platform? Sizing for SAP BW and ERP?
Dell has developed a road-map so as to accompany the customers from the start (evaluation) through to the end (conception, implementation, support) on their path into the world of Hana. There are workshops for customer ‚education‘ regarding what Hana is and what value categories Hana can fulfil. A Hana migration is possible with Dell‘s ZeroImpact methodology for minimized business downtime.
Among other elements added to this offering is support, with a broad-based offering of managed services for Hana, such as DBA, SAP base and security, involving a number of variable price-models. We wish to always offer our customers outstanding performance at a fair price“, was how Jens Peter Gotter summarized it in the E-3 discussion. ”Each time anew, this challenges us to develop the best possible Hana platform and optimize it sustainably for our customers‘ benefit. Over the past years we have also expanded substantially our offering of support and service in the Hana environment“.
Open source & software defined
Hana needs Linux, and for cloud computing SAP is strongly directing its efforts at OpenStack – Open Source has made its entrance into the SAP community.
”Our customers operate SAP at the heart of their IT operations, i.e. where the activity sequences critical to the company take place“, Juergen Renz notes. ”That is why for our customers the take-up of OpenStack in this area is traditionally a slower process than for other workloads. Yet OpenStack’s significance is growing all the time – scarcely any company today can afford not to engage with it. Dell was active in this area at a very early stage“.
Alongside the infrastructure and corresponding services, Dell‘s Red Hat Cloud Reference Architecture also includes further components, such as SDS (software-defined storage) and SDN (software-defined networking).
”In comparative terms, it’s primarily with regard to SDN technologies that we have advanced a long way; here, jointly with partners, we are offering a wide spectrum of various solutions with a complementary relationship to OpenStack “, Jens Peter Gotter explains.
”The software-defined datacenter is highly relevant for established SAP customers: within this, the promise made by a software-defined datacenter – greater flexibility while maintaining low costs – covers exactly those wishes that our customers have here“, says Juergen Renz. Dell covers all areas of software-defined.
”Alongside the classic software-defined server, one that many customers have already taken up in virtualized form, we are also highly active in the area of software-defined networking“, Dell manager Gotter points out, describing the current situation. According to Gartner, Dell is indeed even one of the firms that have gone furthest.
Jens Peter Gotter adds: ”Here we provide our customers with the freedom to deploy any network OS, to abstract the whole network via a control plane and also to deploy virtualized networks like NSX.“ Lately, software-defined storage has enormously grown in significance. Thus everything seems to be prepared for a converged infrastructure on the SAP scene.