Indirect Access: SAP's Licensing Trap
Blog Editor-in-Chief

Indirect Access: SAP’s Licensing Trap

Monopolies are never a good thing. In the case of the licensing model Indirect Access, SAP’s monopoly is not only irritating customers, but also dangerous for SAP itself.

Because of its ERP monopoly, SAP felt powerful enough to introduce a new radical licensing model, Indirect Access. The new model leaves no doubt about the inequality of third-party solutions (Digital or Indirect Access) and SAP’s own applications (SAP Application Access).

With this new licensing model, SAP makes it crystal clear that SAP applications like CRM, Logistics, Ariba, Leonardo, SuccessFactors, Hybris etc. interacting with SAP’s digital core do not need additional ERP licenses. However, the same interactions between Salesforce or other add-ons from SAP partners fall under Indirect Access and require additional licenses.

With Indirect Access, SAP drew an arbitrary line in the sand as to which software components can interact with its digital core (SAP ERP and S/4 Hana) without additional licenses.

Indirect Access: arbitrary and invalid?

Here’s two examples showing exactly why SAP’s definition of Indirect Access is random and invalid.

Let’s imagine a SAP customer operating a SoH architecture (SAP Business Suite on Hana) and a Salesforce CRM system. SoH and Salesforce communicate through a NetWeaver stack (Process Integration). In this example, SAP would charge high fees because of Indirect Access.

How would the customer escape these high licensing fees? The easiest way would be for SAP to buy Salesforce – because then, Indirect Access would not apply to Salesforce’s CRM systems anymore.

Let’s imagine a different scenario: SAP sells SuccessFactors and Hybris! All SAP customers with ERP/ECC 6.0 or S/4 and SuccessFactors and/or Hybris would suddenly have to pay higher licensing fees because of Indirect Access – even though the systems didn’t change one bit.

It’s all about perspective

What these examples show is that Indirect Access is not about the systems or the technology per se – it’s about perspective. If it’s a solution from or acquired by SAP, you can use it – if it’s not, you have to pay higher licensing fees as punishment.

Even in the EU software directive 2009/24 it says, “The function of a computer program is to communicate and work together with other components of a computer system and with users and, for this purpose, a logical and, where appropriate, physical interconnection and interaction is required to permit all elements of software and hardware to work with other software and hardware and with users in all the ways in which they are intended to function. The parts of the program which provide for such interconnection and interaction between elements of software and hardware are generally known as ‘interfaces’. This functional interconnection and interaction is generally known as ‘interoperability’; such interoperability can be defined as the ability to exchange information and mutually to use the information which has been exchanged.”

It’s high time customers realized that SAP’s Indirect Access isn’t real. It’s an arbitrary, confusing definition of access, and whoever accepts it is walking straight into SAP’s trap.

E-3 Magazine June 2018 (German)

About the author

Peter M. Färbinger, Editor-in-Chief

Peter M. Färbinger is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher at E-3 Magazine, AG, Munich, Germany. He can be reached at

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