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SAP PartnerEdge initiative offers free S/4HANA Cloud resources

SAP now offers free access to S/4HANA and C/4HANA test and demonstration systems to qualified partners. The new partner program is being met with enthusiasm, as SAP tries to keep pace with other cloud providers.

SAP is taking a new tact to grow its public cloud offering and development resources: It's giving them away for free.

As of July 1, qualified SAP PartnerEdge members can now test and demonstrate systems built on SAP S/4HANA Cloud and SAP C/4HANA free of charge. Partners need to have a valid SAP PartnerEdge status and employ three consultants who are certified in "operations capabilities for SAP applications running on S/4HANA Cloud" to get free access to test and demo systems, according to the company. Partners who have at least three consultants certified for SAP C/4HANA applications also qualify for the initiative.

SAP PartnerEdge is designed to provide SAP partners the resources they can use to develop, sell, service and manage SAP systems and applications. The program currently has more than 19,800 partners worldwide, according to SAP.

The new SAP PartnerEdge initiative appears to have positive reviews from partners, but one analyst believes the effort is a long-overdue strategic move to build out SAP applications and keep pace with other cloud providers like AWS and Microsoft.

Seeding the cloud applications

The SAP PartnerEdge initiative is an attempt to open up SAP Cloud Platform and S/4HANA to a broader range of developers and seed the market with applications built on SAP technology, according to analyst Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting, based in Berkeley, Calif. This is similar to the approach long favored by the likes of Microsoft and AWS.

"They want the developers of future great products -- whether they're internal development teams, startups or professional teams -- to think about SAP as their development platform," Greenbaum said. "That's their fundamental strategy for growing the uptake of SAP Cloud Platform and S/4HANA."

It's being met with enthusiasm. Alain Dubois, chief marketing and business development officer at Beyond Technologies, called the program a "great initiative."

Beyond Technologies, a Montreal-based SAP partner that specializes in development and integration of a range of SAP products, including S/4HANA and C/4HANA. It plans to take advantage of the free cloud access the new SAP PartnerEdge program offers.

"We will use it for demos and [proofs of concept] as well as for enablement, which is crucial for us as a value-added reseller because it will help [keep down] customer acquisition costs," he said.

Shaun Syvertsen, CEO of ConvergentIS, is also looking forward to using the program's resources. ConvergentIS is an SAP partner based in Calgary, Alberta, that provides SAP technology development and consulting services.

The SAP PartnerEdge program will drive the long-term success of SAP technology with partners, Syvertsen said. It's particularly valuable for partners to get a deeper understanding of public cloud SAP versions.

"In particular, you have to understand that 20 years of on-premises experience is potentially dangerous in the cloud environment, as the setup and range of flexibility is quite different from on-premises," Syvertsen said. "So, a new cloud-centric mindset and cloud-specific experience is critical."

Better late than never

SAP partners have been beating the drum for an initiative like this for years to help them keep pace with competitors like AWS, Microsoft and Salesforce, Enterprise Applications Consulting's Greenbaum explained.

"The partners and would-be partners have been saying that SAP has to emulate the rest of the market for a while," he said. "There are lots of open source tools and there's a huge amount of love and support [for developers] from competitor platform providers, and the partners have always said that SAP has to do something similar or they'll go somewhere else."

SAP has to do some work to catch up to Salesforce or AWS, but it's still a relatively new game as cloud uptake numbers are just beginning to gain momentum in the enterprise applications market, according to Greenbaum.

What could be a differentiator for SAP also is the totality of what it can offer compared to the other cloud companies.

"Underneath the hood, SAP provides access to business services -- data and processes -- that are potentially very valuable," he said. "Salesforce can do that, but only within the domain of CRM, and AWS doesn't really do that at all. So, this is a good time for SAP. It would have been a better time two years ago, but the story is hardly over at this point."

Availability for the new SAP PartnerEdge program for qualified partners began July 1. Registration will remain open until Sept. 30, 2019, according to the company. Partners who have already bought the test and demonstration licenses will receive a migration offer from SAP Partner Licensing Services if they want to migrate their existing services to the free access, according to SAP.

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