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Cloud extensibility – stepping-stone to the cloud

Koen Van De Vondel
Nov 27, 2023

The cloud is on everyone’s lips nowadays. By taking advantage of its vast scalability and global connectivity, new startups and small businesses are already harnessing the power of the cloud for all their business needs. Without having to invest in their own IT infrastructure, these businesses have access to advanced technology and only pay for the computing power and resources they need.

But the reality for many established businesses is that they are dependent on a complex, on-premise system that has been heavily customised over the years.

Customisations are a way of ensuring that a business can align its IT solution to its own processes and also maintain its competitive advantage. By extending a core ERP solution, such as SAP, companies can add processes and features that enable them to operate efficiently and differentiate their products or services from the competition. However, these customisations can come at a cost in terms of upgrade and maintenance complexity.

Faced with this challenge, how can a business of this kind contemplate moving to the cloud?

Well, SAP has a methodology to help get you there, and this involves embracing the concept of cloud extensibility.

What is extensibility?

Extensibility within SAP is a way for businesses to add customised functionality to their SAP solution. Some of the more generic customisations requested by customers might eventually become features of the core solution, whereas others will remain highly specific to certain customers to align more seamlessly with their business processes.

Extending on-premise solutions is well established within the SAP world, and represents a reality for many businesses running SAP solutions.

Cloud extensibility comes in three main flavours:

Key user extensibility

This type of extensibility is a way of providing key users with the ability to configure the solution in a controlled and fairly limited way by making changes to user interfaces and reports.

Side-by-side extensibility

In side-by-side extensibility, customisations are created by developers as applications operating in a separate space and communicating with the core via provided APIs and services. This is a “build-it-yourself” approach, where new APIs can be created if they don’t already exist.

Developer extensibility – the “new kid on the block”

Now that SAP is enthusiastically encouraging customers to adopt its cloud solution, the concept of cloud extensibility has come into focus. SAP is providing a framework, guidelines and a whole new way of programming known in SAP circles as Embedded Steampunk, so that businesses can extend their cloud offering in a more efficient, future-proof way.

Under cloud extensibility, SAP offers a number of “hooks” into the core, to enable custom components to interact with it in a highly controlled way, while remaining within the same solution space. This is in contrast to the side-by-side approach, where the custom components exist in a separate “block”.

The clean core paradigm

While customisation can be a key vehicle for businesses to align functionality with their business-specific processes, the problem comes when this extended functionality affects the core, on-premise solution. This can cause potential issues and additional maintenance costs, as the extensions might not work when ongoing routine upgrades are applied or might even cause the upgrade to fail.

The new extensibility approach championed by SAP is designed to “keep the core clean”. If the SAP-approved approach is followed, custom components won’t affect the underlying solution and therefore won’t interfere with upgrades, keeping costs down and reducing complexity.

By starting to adopt the cloud extensibility way of working on an on-premise system, businesses can start paving the way for a move to the cloud, even if their move is planned well into the future.

Cloud readiness checks

As part of their cloud extensibility framework, SAP have devised a system audit process consisting of a number of checks for cloud readiness. This is a good first indicator for customers of the distance between their as-is solution and their potential to-be (cloud) environment.

With the known level of complexity and customisation among SAP users, however, this could generate a long and daunting list of issues to resolve before the move to the cloud can begin.

But this tool can be used as a starting point for cloud preparations if it’s approached with an open mind. For example, it could help customers decide whether to opt for a greenfield or brownfield approach to their transition.

How can Capgemini help businesses prepare for the cloud?

Acting as a wise partner

Capgemini wants to be the partner who walks alongside its customers on their cloud readiness journey, helping them to identify a step-by-step approach to the new way of working. By combining in-depth SAP expertise with their extensive knowledge of the businesses they support and the challenges they face, Capgemini can come up with a solution that balances the promises of cloud benefits with technical feasibility and a healthy dose of perspective.

Interpreting the SAP cloud readiness audit

Capgemini can help customers interpret the results of the audit and devise measured, pragmatic actions that make sense within the customer’s constraints. While the move to the cloud might seem attractive, there is limited benefit to businesses while on-premise installations are still being supported, so a pragmatic approach is recommended.

Embedding cloud transition into the IT strategy

By encouraging customers to embed their cloud transition roadmap into their IT strategy, Capgemini can help customers identify the impact of future plans on the actions they take now to prepare for the cloud. For example, the business might be planning to retire a particular process, so refactoring the associated system now wouldn’t make sense.


Cloud extensibility is a new way of working that SAP customers can apply now to their on-premise solutions to pave their way to the cloud while also taking advantage of reduced maintenance and upgrade costs in the short term.

By assessing their existing systems in a structured way, with Capgemini’s help, businesses can start to embed the new way of working when making changes to their on-premise installation, applying the methodology now that will ease their transition when they’re ready to take that all-important step to the cloud.

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Koen Van De Vondel

SAP Application Architect & Engagement Manager
Koen plays a crucial role in guiding businesses implementing future-proof architectures. With our deep expertise, focus on best practices, and commitment to future-proof implementations, we are here to guide our clients on their journey to cloud-enabled success.