We’ve all heard by now that customers can “run simple” on SAP. We also know that since Bill McDermott took over as sole CEO in 2014, SAP has pursued a strategy of cloud-first developments and acquisitions to champion cloud-native technologies and cloud platforms as a key to digital transformation.

So, if it’s all supposed to be simple and cloud-centric, then why is cloud still so complicated?

Cloud Complexity

There are many reasons for the inherent complexity that exists in the cloud model of service-based computing. But we can pinpoint a handful of the usual suspects:

  • The term “cloud” means more than one thing. Some clouds are private on-premise server installations, some clouds are delivered by public cloud platform service providers, and others are a hybrid combination of the two. Connection protocols differ across this spectrum of cloud varieties and cause points of incongruous disconnection.
  • Many different cloud platforms exist. Even among the big players, this inherent diversity leads to inevitable incompatibilities when one application (or database service, or analytics engine configuration, or storage system format) is built and structured with a different set of protocols than the one it’s attempting to connect to.
  • Each cloud has its own instance and volume. This flexibility means that different clouds can be optimized for different workloads or performance types. Characteristics of a particular cloud include compute processing optimized clouds, data input/output optimized clouds, memory and storage optimized clouds, mobile connectivity optimized clouds…the list goes on. Fitting these together is nothing like building with Legos.
  • It’s not always clear what data should live in the cloud. As the Internet of Things (IoT) gets over its initial lack of security and enjoys widespread consumer and enterprise adoption, we’re experiencing a new dichotomy between whether IoT device data needs to reside in a cloud data center or stay on the device (out on the edge) for more immediate access. Architecting this fabric, at least at a relatively early stage, is not a seamless or easy process.
  • How will the cloud take us to the next generation? Even if we manage to overcome many or most of these cloud challenges, we can look carefully into the next decade when we start to see quantum computing delivered as a service. The previously unimaginably massive power of quantum via cloud promises to help us drive compute processes faster than ever, but most of us realize that it’s unlikely to be plug-and-play easy.

Other Cloudy Factors

The above is by no means an exhaustive list. Many ASUG members who have been planning their moves to the cloud will have already been considering the challenges related to the compliance and regulatory differences that exist when data resides in the cloud.

It might be a case of “run simple” when you’re up and running in the cloud, but getting to simple is perhaps not as easy as it may initially seem.

The Importance of a Cloud Strategy

In a joint survey with Syntax, ASUG research found that while inconsistent standards and integration issues continue to pose problems, a third challenge is also revealing itself: cloud strategy. The lack of a detailed cloud strategy has a direct affect on a customer’s satisfaction with the cloud. The survey results echoed our point about connections across different cloud types, stating that multiple clouds bring multiple advantages and multiple challenges.

According to the survey, “Despite its advantages, a multicloud approach adds complexity to cloud management. To maximize their cloud investments, multicloud users need to understand the requirements associated with different environments and service providers.”

More than half of respondents (58%) are extremely or very satisfied with their cloud service providers. That’s not a bad story, but it does mean that just under half of customers (42%) aren’t very satisfied. “Inconsistent standards and data migrations are the biggest challenges companies have with their current cloud providers. Not surprisingly, companies that use multiple providers are most likely to see this as a pain point. Those with multiple providers also struggle a bit more with lack of training.”

SAP Routes to Cloud Simplicity

SAP knows how much complexity is out there and has been working to deliver a selection of tools and software-based solutions that can help customers make sure their cloud installations are operationally effective and efficient.

With the spiraling amount of data involved in modern cloud environments, many businesses will be concerned about not just data velocity, but also data veracity (i.e., whether the data streams they are ingesting are validated and accurate). This is one of the points that SAP has sought to address with SAP HANA Cloud Services and SAP Cloud Platform, which aim to provide customers access to all SAP and third-party application data, reduce data duplication, and offer a single point for security and governance.

SAP has clearly tried to think about the real-world challenges of drinking from the fire hose of data generated by a contemporary digitally driven business. Part of the SAP HANA Cloud Services and SAP Cloud Platform core offering is a data lake storage tier. This repository of typically unstructured data can act as an invaluable breathing space or buffer on the road to conquering cloud complexity. As SAP notes, “A data lake storage tier allows businesses to grow their data managed by SAP HANA without any limits.”

Always Adopt Automation

We can also look to SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation (IRPA) technology services. These software tools automate business processes with the aim of increasing productivity through digital bots.

According to SAP, “These software robots replace manual tasks, interpret text-heavy communications, or assist end users with definable and repeatable business processes. SAP IRPA is tightly integrated into SAP Cloud Platform and digital core solutions from SAP such as SAP S/4HANA.” Also in this space, SAP has noted its collaboration between the SAP Leonardo IoT solution and Amazon Web Services (AWS) IoT. This is an example of the kind of industry-wide collaboration we need to see to make the activities around the cloud easier to manage.

In related news, SAP took an opportunity at SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference to unveil 15 SAP Guided Outcomes. These packages bring together multiple SAP products that are frequently used together to deliver business value—many of which customers will use in cloud-native deployment formats.

What ASUG Members Should Do Next

If this discussion has aired some of your own concerns about the cloud—and highlighted what kinds of best practices other ASUG members should adopt, then we invite you to share your story with us at asugnews@asug.com.

Sage advice in the move to the cloud includes the need to:

  • Pursue automation at all levels
  • Look for playbooks, accelerators, and guided outcomes
  • Adopt single configuration standards
  • Standardize using open APIs to help with interconnectivity

It might sound foolish to say that it is still early days in the cloud, but it is. We can all learn from not just SAP, but the major moves in this space coming from other vendors and from other customers. So, let’s be collaboratively cloudy to make the experience much better.

To learn more insights we've discovered about SAP customers in the cloud, read our research recap, 10 Things to Know About the Cloud.