While I am pained, the world is pained with the virus spreading like anything, World sitting at home. I would say let’s relax; we will be alright soon. This may be a unique problem we’re facing, for the first time in living memory, but I believe we will only emerge stronger and better prepared to face the future. Let’s use this time to experience a new normal way of working, a new normal style of living. Let’s stay home and stay positive!
Don’t forget, once everything is back to normal, a lot of decisions need to be expedited to make up with potential time lost– for example the ever-evolving topic of the furtherance of transformation strategies under the roof of a rock solid, live, and this time, intelligent enough to adapt the next possible technology disruptions.
We all know how enterprises are shaping up their transformation strategies with a huge repository of publicly available information these days. And why not? Cloud gives them an ocean of opportunities to do so. It’s really fascinating to see how enterprises are starting to look for ways to avoid dependency or lock-in and exploring opportunities to envisage the best Architecture. They are evaluating different parameters such as viz. regional hosting, cost of usage per/hr. for a service, storage types and the charges they are billed per gigabyte, virtualization, level of security, high-availability, scalability, authentication and federation mechanisms, disaster recovery capabilities, API calls allowed in a day in the new API economy, how flexibly secure are the API policies, how soon my failover backup instance will respond if one region goes down and many more to count on. I won’t list them all here.
This is a decision that organizations must have understood by now and has always been evolving resulting in some degree of experiments. However, they also need to evolve around set guidelines of the corporate strategy and standards for use of preferred platforms for certain business streams, preferred UX, preferred integration platforms, and preferred mode of external/internal communications. For SAP-based enterprises, this is very tricky due to the existing complex heterogeneous landscapes, complex and multi-thread process integration and orchestration – linking one business stream to another with a volley of other internal and external API touch points. And this is clear with what I see happening in Capgemini in some key digital transformation engagements. Most of the big-ticket deals I have seen so far have run into multi-millions. It’s never easy when there are multiple advocates of platforms within the business streams. Decision making becomes difficult for the CXOs, I am sure.
This might give the impression that I am advocating something, but that’s not exactly the case. I always think a multi-cloud architecture where your core enterprise systems integrate seamlessly into this new-normal paradigm is an ideal choice. I will explain it briefly here, but would keep this blog to a minimum technically.
We will consider a few of the parameters I mentioned earlier to gauge an approach which, of course, can be challenged. I have selected a few of the more interesting ones. Think of them as pointers to help you build your journey to the Renewable Enterprise wisely.
Regional hosting capabilities should be key. It makes a huge difference when you want to fetch a record from a server hosted in Germany and you are in the same region instead hitting a server hosted in the United States. You need hosting capabilities with maximum geo-presence with your choice of services commonly available across those if your system landscape presence is of multiple geo-locations.
Storage is money in the cloud – we know this. In my opinion Microsoft Azure and AWS standout with competitive and very sensible pricing models, but Google is not far behind. The only thing you will need to take care of is to identify the storage types and prioritize. They are mostly based on latency and, of course, size. You could have some of your storage data accessible at lightning-fast speed and some that can wait for few more seconds. That’s where you have to be choosy in defining your storage types.
I believe this is cause for concern with most clients. Major cloud-service providers have made huge investments to secure your data with a huge list of security certifications, strong data privacy and governance policies, secured infra in the Pacific Ocean, etc. We can split security as a topic itself into multiple subsections to compare. But what matters the most here is a central authentication mechanism so that your end-users are seamlessly navigated in a cloud application that technically collects information from sources lying in multiple clouds and on-premises systems. You can achieve this in many ways, but having an active directory-based authentication mechanism based on corporate business functions, roles and responsibilities would make most sense for any business along with strong and secure network infra to ensure encryptions and decryptions when needed.
It is commonly known that load testing is important which we manage during critical transactional activities of any industry type, meaning you need things to happen at scale. In cloud, this game changes. You need data, speed, and runtime – all On-Demand. Scalability is different in terms of industry type. For example, a CPRD and retail corporate client will look for scalability in peak times when exciting offers are rolled out in multiple media platforms, while a manufacturing client will look to optimize production at scale (when machines take instructions from the edge) to meet a spike in demand. In my view, you will have to carve a landscape where scalability is distributed with known risks across platforms.
High availability & Fail Over:
Most cloud service providers have made huge investments to build state-of-the-art data centers across geographies taking possible natural calamities into consideration. To ensure undisrupted, continuous availability of your SAP Landscapes you need to thoroughly compare the capabilities and pricings of VM, networking, storage, failover-clustering and many more. You get a guaranteed SLA of 99.9% for SAP instances, that’s not bad.
I have seen, Data Privacy and Governance as a very sensitive topic and customers request for special handling processes in the RFPs. For example, customer information captured in a region cannot be duplicated without consent. This is where we need to be flexible to see what information cannot go out of the region as per the GDPR and what is that business-critical information that can be stored and fetched from a virtual server hosted in some other part of the world. It is one of the inputs you will have while deciding on the storage types.
Yes, this is where I have a lot to say probably. I want to share what I have learned over the past few years entwining a Renewable Enterprise for our SAP Customers.
It has made my life easier when contemplating integrating SAP-based (SaaS/on-premises) applications with the world of things, microservices, transacting with a blockchain node, Reuters APIs or live commodity pricing APIs from Bloomberg, predictive algorithms lying in a container. While I am fetching the things from Azure IoT platform, calling an external blockchain network as a participant, executing a Microservice deployed in Cloud Foundry, serializing an intelligent queue in Kafka, a database stored in Azure and calling a machine learning model in AWS and all this while I am referencing to my master and transactional data lying in my ERP system/s – here I would centrally collate all this in an application running in SAP Cloud Platform. It is fairly evident that SCP is native to backend SAP environments with multiple integration capabilities. Converting complex old ABAP-based customizations into smart cloud applications would be easier done in SCP than any other PaaS. We of course would not want a digital transformation program to become a complex integration program.
Quite obviously, SCP wins here, which has the capabilities of giving you an opportunity to design a central UX strategy with cloud-based application developments and integrating your on-premises SAP S/4HANA Fiori applications OR your classical business suite applications (HTML GUIs/Web Dynpros/BSPs, which are yet to die) with ease; seamlessly and securely with Single Sign-On. However, here you also have a chance to get rid of some of those classical applications and plan their phase out.
I always like to draw what I think. This is an example landscape architecture with a list of possible services/features but they are divided into sections, which I will elaborate on in my next blog. This is my vision of an Intelligent Enterprise, a Renewable Enterprise.
With these few cents of mine, I would say think over. I have kept it to minimal by not weighing item-wise Technical capabilities of platforms. They would vary as per deal sizes, we know this.
But I would be more than happy to discuss, if you are contemplating on defining the right architecture for your Intelligent Enterprise. Please connect with me or David Lowson – we can explore further possibilities together to build a breathing enterprise that suits you.
Also check out our SAP S/4HANA® Cloud for Automotive Suppliers offering which we have co-developed with SAP.