Maintenance costs of traditional ECM platforms can reach hundreds of thousands or millions of an annual budget. This doesn’t include hardware, administration, backups, etc. Plus, if you have SAP data, the storage size can be immense. In this month’s Tuesday Perspectives, we will explore the benefits and practical limits of storing large quantities of information in an in-memory database, discuss content management strategies that can be used to maximize the strategic value of available HANA capacity while maintaining accessibility to unstructured content (documents) and aging content (data), and finally, discuss Microexcel’s partnership with Gimmal to enable customers to leverage Workplace for SAP to decommission their legacy ECM, reducing operating costs and shrinking the size of their databases.
Unveiled in February 2015, S/4HANA is SAP’s next generation business suite and the company’s biggest innovation since SAP R/3. Unlike other SAP products, which support Oracle and Microsoft databases, this new suite is built on SAP’s proprietary advanced in-memory platform, SAP HANA. The simplicity of the S/4HANA database layout allows for higher data entry speed, unbelievable improvements in reporting and most importantly a complete flexibility in reporting using external hierarchies. These hierarchies can be changed any time (restructuring, acquisitions, etc.) without changes to the database.
SAP HANA is built on an in-memory columnar store that optimizes the benefits of multicore processing and the single-instruction, multiple data instruction set. As an in-memory database, SAP HANA allows for a radically different application architecture and a new philosophy that enables a simpler data model. HANA is a huge step forward for databases, particularly for application development, analytics, and reporting.
When it comes to SAP’s ERP solutions, S/4HANA is the fastest selling SAP product ever. Since the SAP S/4HANA launch 15 months ago, more than 3,200 customers have already decided to move to S/4HANA . There is little room for doubt that HANA will play a role in most SAP customers’ future. While SAP ERP Central Components (ECC) and existing technologies still work with traditional databases like Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server, it is clear that SAP plans to build all ERP solutions on the HANA database moving forward.
The cost of “Running Simple” and “Running Live”
It is easy to see the benefit that SAP promotes around their “Running Live” and “Running Simple” for Business campaigns. It allows data to be easily analyzed in real time, enables dynamic business applications, and provides for continuous, agile delivery. But what are the costs associated with running on HANA?
While there are many factors that play into cost per year associated with running HANA beyond storage, there is no question that every GB of unstructured content or aging data you move off the HANA device makes room for high value content to better leverage the advantages of the platform. When compared with storage costs in Azure (at $0.288/GB/Y), it is easy to see that HANA is not the right place to store documents.
SAP also recognizes that managing the content in the HANA database is important. The SAP Business Suite Powered by SAP HANA Cookbook states:
- “You can reduce capital and operating hardware costs as well as other operating costs by shrinking the size of your database since you are storing and moving less data both during the project and during routine operations after go-live. This also equates to less risk with less downtime during the project and afterwards. You also have less business risks by adhering to your data retention policy and your users can gain efficiencies with less data that have to be interpreted and managed. ”
- “Therefore, it is strongly recommended to perform housekeeping of your system and remove any unnecessary data from the SAP Business Suite application as part of preparation for your deployment of SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA.”
The SAP Business Suite Powered by SAP HANA Cookbook goes on to layout a HANA project plan into Plan, Build, and Run phases. The necessity of an archiving strategy becomes clear as the initial task for technical preparation and production deployment are focused on archiving.
This is quite a change since historically, SAP customers could go years without an archiving strategy. However, technical preparation and planning for archive are now more important than they have ever been for SAP customers. One major reason for planning is that HANA doesn’t scale like traditional systems. For transactional systems based on HANA like ECC and S/4HANA. “Once you buy a certain size [device], that’s all you get. To offload terabytes, you have to move data to another database or migrate to a bigger system, ” as ASUG members like CenterPoint Energy have found.
Enterprise Content Management vs. Archiving
Archiving solutions serve only one constituency: IT. They help keep line of business applications from getting too bloated and suffering from reduced performance. They also help control storage costs, through compression, storage management, and rudimentary retention. Archiving too frequently, however, also reduces the accessibility to information and provides no business value to the organization. It locks away value.
Enterprise Content Management (ECM) offers a number of advantages over archiving. ECM strategies achieve all of the goals of archiving while providing better information management, wider access and adoption, expanded application possibilities, and better integration to other enterprise applications.
Traditional or legacy ECM platforms are costly. The cost of selection, consensus building, licensing, maintenance, implementation, ongoing operation, administration, and hardware for a typical 1,000 user system can run in the millions in the first year, before any value is returned (See Table 1 below). When adding ongoing maintenance and administration, the cost over 5 years can balloon to over $6 million. Averaging the cost for traditional ECM over 5 years contact comes to $1.2 million per year.
The table below , which assumes 1 TB of data, indicates that with traditional ECM platforms, the cost per GB/Y is only barely less than of keeping it in HANA. One might be tempted to just keep the information in HANA, but remember that transactional HANA systems (ECC or S/4HANA) don’t scale like traditional systems, so the organization will still need the capacity in HANA for high value data.
SharePoint and Office 365
Many don’t realize the most obvious solution to this problem: a leading content management platform that is already widely deployed in most organizations – SharePoint and Office 365. An ECM strategy for SAP built on Microsoft SharePoint or Office 365 has inherent advantages. It:
- Supports native cloud and hybrid deployments
- Leverages existing Microsoft licenses
- Leverages existing Microsoft infrastructure
- Leverages existing Microsoft administrative resources and abundance of Microsoft expertise in the market, as opposed to limited proprietary ECM resource availability
- Is extensible with vast, best-of-breed Microsoft ecosystem partners and products
- Governs content in SharePoint/Office 365, as opposed to requiring an additional repository
- Shorter time to value via simplified implementation on existing platforms
Leveraging an off-the-shelf SAP Certified HTTP Content Server for SharePoint or Office 365 greatly reduces the incremental cost of enterprise content management to support SAP projects.
With a SharePoint- or Office 365-based approach, an ECM strategy for SAP content can be deployed for 1/26th of the cost of traditional ECMs in year 1, or an average of $80k per year over 5 years. Using the same cost comparisons in the table below, we see that the total cost of managing SAP content in SharePoint or Office 365 can save companies millions over a 5-year period, and over $1M per year thereafter.
Time to Value
Given the high initial and on-going cost associated with an SAP-specific ECM platform, along with the effort and duration associated with implementation, it is easy to see how leveraging existing Microsoft platforms greatly reduces risk and cost while increasing the deployment speed and time to value.
A traditional ECM project for SAP content can take 9 to 12 months to deploy the initial business process. This means most organizations are out of pocket close to $4 Million before a single user accesses the production solution. This creates a tremendous risk to the organization if the initial business users don’t see the return value for the financial investment and opportunity costs of the project.
Because the majority of the investment has already been made in a SharePoint or Microsoft-based SAP ECM solution, this approach is driving incremental value on the Microsoft strategic investment. As all of the infrastructure is in place before the project kicks off, the initial business units can be on-boarded in weeks driving immediate value as opposed to risk. The graph below illustrates the value gap between traditional ECM platforms and SharePoint.
Customers deploying SAP Business Suite products on HANA or S/4HANA now need an ECM strategy in the blue printing phase of their project. There are several ECM options on the market, but companies should always work with a Certified HTTP Content Server solution to handle all of their document management needs. If a traditional ECM vendor is selected, the total cost of
ownership to manage SAP content could rival that of keeping it in the HANA database and take years to fully deploy, so alternative ECM strategies should be considered, such as SharePoint and Office 365.
Jumpstart Your SAP Integration with Microexcel and Gimmal
Now what if Microexcel could show you how easy and cost-effective it would be to offload your SAP data into a unified document management system like SharePoint, to direct budget to more strategic initiatives? Microexcel has partnered with Gimmal to show customers how to leverage Gimmal’s Workplace for SAP to decommission their legacy ECM, reducing operating costs and shrinking the size of their databases.