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Project Embrace SAP hyperscaler options offer holistic cloud route

Analysts and SAP provide more details on the vendor's new program to ease cloud migrations through its partnerships with AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure.

At the SAP Sapphire Now conference in May, SAP announced Project Embrace, its program to speed up how customers migrate to the cloud. Instead of letting them wade through the myriad choices in SAP hyperscale options, SAP partnered with the big three public cloud providers -- AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure -- to reduce confusion and support customers as they move workloads into the public cloud.

While SAP taking a stand helps to reduce conflicting messages, experts still advise conducting due diligence before deciding between SAP hyperscalers.

Project Embrace consists of four capabilities: a joint reference architecture; market-approved journeys by industry; the products and services themselves; and an integrated support and operating model, which was previously called New Max Services, according to David Robinson, senior vice president and managing director of SAP's cloud business group. 

"We've come a long way since Sapphire to validate with each hyperscaler and tell the same story," Robinson said.

However, the idea is to optimize service around a joint set of assets, point of view and product line, and to ensure systems integrators that are also part of the customer ecosystem are fully on board with what SAP is doing with hyperscalers, he added.

A more holistic approach to the public cloud

As more businesses take a comprehensive approach to moving to the cloud, especially the public cloud, they're looking at their infrastructure alongside the software they're using, according to Len Riley, commercial advisory practice leader at UpperEdge, based in Boston. The old days where you bought the software, engaged a systems integrator, and the infrastructure, operations and hardware were an afterthought are gone, he added.

With Project Embrace -- and the hyperscaler market in general -- customers often are confused on the sourcing options available, Riley said. The positive side of what SAP has done is created agreements, structures and relationships with Google, AWS and Azure to give customers SAP hyperscale choices. There are still a lot of hyperscale options available, and customers are still struggling to figure out which one is right for them, but this narrows it down.

Providing a map to the cloud

The other thing Project Embrace does is it outlines what the migration phases of the conversion to the public cloud would look like, relative to SAP's methodology, Riley noted. SAP provides a reference for the options available, as well as the phases.

However, there is a catch, depending on who has control of the account: The entity with control is going to dictate how the options are presented. Theoretically, if one of the SAP hyperscale vendors has a great relationship with the systems integrator, the integrator may position that hyperscaler as the best option, he cautioned.

That's why it's so important for customers to do their due diligence before selecting a provider, Riley said. Getting the perspective of SAP and existing providers is helpful, but customers need to afford themselves the opportunity to check out other vendors, he said.

SAP hyperscale providers enough choice -- or survival of the fittest?

While SAP is only working with Google Cloud, AWS and Microsoft Azure, other hyperscalers have expressed interest in Project Embrace. SAP hasn't ruled out partnerships with other providers, Robinson said.

"Many customers ... don’t want to be locked in with any one hyperscaler," he said, noting that customers tend to choose different hyperscalers for different parts of the enterprise, based on what will work best. Customers will also use a second SAP hyperscale provider for redundancy.

However, experts wonder if more partnerships will confuse customers.

"When you start to have this many partners dancing in this space, all looking for market share, there's the potential for channel conflict. When this occurs, customers will suffer," Riley said. "'It's almost like a land grab."

Large enterprises, S/4HANA customers express interest

The customers who have expressed immediate interest in Project Embrace are large enterprise and strategic program customers, according to Robinson. The customers who are trying to stay ahead of the migration process and move their enterprise workloads to the cloud are SAP's largest customers, he noted.

SAP S/4HANA seems to be the most popular product that these organizations want to use Project Embrace to implement. Project Embrace is working with SAP's Movement program to help customers migrate to S/4HANA faster and use the elasticity of pricing and compute power inherent in cloud platforms, Robinson said. Project Embrace simplifies some of the things that were slowing down adoption of SAP cloud products, as cloud infrastructure becomes an asset, he added.

Project Embrace appears to still be in its early stages. However, it puts forth SAP's stance on different public cloud providers and narrows down the choice for customers who want to use an SAP-certified cloud infrastructure.

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