ERP and the Cloud: Enterprise Migration Quietly Begins | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

Posted On May 22, 2012

Given how much of the typical large enterprise IT budget is consumed by ERP, we’re not surprised to find a growing curiosity among many CIOs to understand how cloud delivery models could reduce costs. On the surface, you wouldn’t think that production ERP applications would be at the top of the list for cloud migration. ERP apps are mission critical, complex and highly customized, often with significant data security and compliance requirements.

That’s why we think one of the more interesting, underreported stories in cloud are the examples of large enterprises that have migrated existing ERP environments to  private, hybrid and community cloud models. We’re actually finding quite a number of quite interesting, global scale ERP cloud deployments particularly among SAP customers. Why SAP? While Oracle is obviously the other large enterprise ERP heavyweight, as we’ve discussed here before, Oracle’s licensing policies are creating roadblocks for customers to migrate to even virtualized models, let alone private or public clouds.

The market for SAP cloud services is surprisingly robust with at least 10 major service providers that deliver SAP ERP capabilities via managed or host private or hybrid cloud models, including IBM, T-Systems, Fujitsu, Accenture CSC, CapGemini and others. T-Systems alone already supports 500 customers and 1.9 million SAP users via cloud-based models. Not surprisingly, most of these service providers started by originally providing SAP hosting services and have since extended their offerings. What’s the customer value proposition for SAP in the cloud?

  • Cost variablization – given the significant capex investments associated with SAP deployments and upgrades, cost variability is central to cloud-based SAP offerings. Nearly all providers offer consumption-based pricing models for SAP cloud services.
  • TCO reduction – many service providers are claiming the ability the reduce TCO for customer SAP environments by 30+% through the typical cloud levers. Several providers have customer references that have achieved these efficiencies and more in live production.
  • Flexibility – service providers are touting the ability of cloud-enabled deployments to more rapidly and easily provide new capabilities to users.
  • Standardization – in conjunction with cloud migration, many enterprises desire to consolidate data centers, rationalize SAP instances and standardize global processes to drive efficiency and flexibility.

Unlike other enterprise cloud use cases focused more on business agility and flexibility, in most cases cost appears to be the major driver of SAP cloud migration. Some of the more interesting examples include:

  • British American Tobacco (BAT) – just last month BAT announced a seven-year, US$160 million deal with T-Systems to consolidate its current SAP deployments into a single, cloud-based instance by 2016. The deal will enable BAT to variabilize its SAP costs through a usage-based pricing model.
  • Domino Sugar – leveraging Virtustream’s virtual private cloud platforms, Domino Sugar has been able to reduce SAP costs by over 30%, while actually improving availability and performance for several thousand users. As with BAT, SAP costs are variabilized and based on actual resource consumption.
  • Shell – to drive standardization, increase flexibility and shift to consumption-based pricing, Shell migrated its SAP environment to private cloud models (delivered by T-Systems) in support of 102,000 global employees across 100 countries.

Other notable enterprise examples include Audi, Freeport McMoran, Siemens,  and Suntory.

Why haven’t we heard more about these and other examples?  With the exception of IBM, most leading SAP cloud service providers and many of the early enterprise adopters of SAP in the cloud aren’t U.S.-based and are outside of the cloud hype and “echo chamber.” Also, details on many of these deployments tend to be tightly held both by both service providers and customers.

While many segments of enterprise cloud appear to be stuck in pilots and proofs of concept, ERP is surprisingly providing some early examples of large scale enterprise cloud migration.

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