Delivering transformation by overcoming the challenges of SAP modernisation

Red Hat
Red Hat

The requirement for SAP migration to SAP HANA and SAP S/4 HANA can be an intimidating step in the transformation journey. However, with the right tools, pathway and operating system, the transition can be more straightforward than many realise, and the outcomes back to the business substantial.

The challenge with modernisation at the application

The factors that can cause an enterprise to be hesitant in undertaking SAP modernisation tend to follow five particular themes:

  • Cost vs benefit – as with many other transformation challenges, articulating the benefits of SAP modernisation to all business stakeholders is the first challenge.
  • Lack of proper maintenance of legacy systems - Untangling technical debt can be a major hurdle when aiming for modernisation on legacy systems and OSes.
  • Poor implementations – When working with systems integrators, many customers get caught out by poor quality implementations, let by custom solutions when the modernisation initiative isn’t straightforward.
  • Evolving SAP roadmaps – Many businesses are unaware that, for example, to support S/4HANA in future versions, businesses will need to be running it on an enterprise Linux operating system.
  • Skills shortages – SAP specialists are moving to other jobs currently, meaning that finding people to manage transformation can be difficult.

These are not uncommon challenges, and enterprises do not take them lightly. However, what many fail to realise is that, rather than looking at the SAP modernisation as an application is isolation, considering modernisation at the OS level first can be the solution to many of these challenges.

For example, as an enterprise adopts Red Hat, it gains access to a series of features that can assist in smoothing over those SAP modernisation challenges. These features include:

  • Providing standardisation via the Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform to allow IT to manage their systems proactively, with both performance and reliability. 
  • The automation of SAP workloads to enable quick deployment, day two operations, and ensure ‘near-zero downtime’ maintenance of SAP systems – Tomago Aluminium, for example, was up and running on its new environment in six days.
  • Integration to help manage the complexities of bringing APIs to SAP and allowing developers to focus on innovation and user experience.
  • The provision of unified administration and management so customers do not need different toolsets from different vendors to manage virtual infrastructure and the operating system.
  • Finally, enable an open, hybrid cloud environment that is stable, flexible, accessible, cost-conscious, and scalable, while also unlocking innovation.

Tomago Aluminium, Australia’s largest aluminium smelter, is an example of the strategic and commercial benefit for being able to successfully undertake the migration.

The company was able to recently migrate its critical SAP HANA environment to Red Hat Enterprise Linux for SAP Solutions, supported by Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, and in doing so, modernise the entire business to become more agile, responsive, and innovative.

"Previously, Tomago's SAP HANA workloads solution lacked visibility into performance or effective notification when systems approached capacity, the vendor’s service contract also limited development to business hours, hindering innovation and rapid response to changing business needs." Dennis Moncrieff, IT Superintendent at Tomago Aluminium said.

“Without visibility of how things were running, we couldn’t even identify opportunities for improvement. We finally realised how restricted we were.”

By shifting to a private, on-premises solution and a new OS - Red Hat software running IBM server and storage hardware - Tomago Aluminium was able to achieve superior uptime, life-cycle management, proactive issue identification and remediation, and in-place upgrades and live patching for critical and important security issues. (Read more about this case study here).

For this reason, enterprises are best served by looking at the transformation as a more holistic, all-of-environment opportunity. Rather than just modernise the environment at the application level, this is a pathway to a new operating environment that will act as a platform for the kind of ongoing and iterative innovation that characterises a successful transformation.

Finding the solution

SAP is inevitable. Around 77 per cent of business transactions are, in some way, involved with an SAP system. As the company continues to innovate itself, and ways of doing business continue to evolve to become more flexible, mobile, and driven by the user experience, this percentage is likely to increase further. For example, SAP has adopted Kubernetes technology to make its tools and services interoperable and therefore more easily adopted and scalable across public, private, and hybrid cloud settings. SAP is actively reengineering many of its major applications to be containerised, and this is going to result in an even greater adoption of SAP solutions for managing and working with data.

As SAP continues to evolve and become central to the business operations of more enterprises, the divide between those that are leveraging SAP in a strategic and innovative way, and those that are struggling with legacy and a lack of transformation will grow ever wider.

What is interesting is that the way enterprises are looking to transform and embrace SAP S/4HANA is almost universal – and the Tomago Aluminium example highlights why. Gartner estimates that 95 per cent of SAP S/4HANA customers have adopted it on-premises rather than other cloud options. The appeal of doing so is the flexibility and control that is possible this way.

This is why a solution like Red Hat OpenShift is so compelling for SAP – it avoids vendor lock-in, gives control of the hybrid architecture to the customer, and allows for SAP customers to further extend their environment and engage in innovation by bringing additional third-party applications and software into the environment to run unique uses of the company data.

For more information on Red Hat for SAP modernisation click here or check out this IDC guide to selecting the right OS for your transformation journey.

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