Migrating SAP Applications to Cloud

Rajesh Balaji Ramachandran, SVP, Enterprise Application Services, Cognizant [NASDAQ: CTSH]

Cloud is an increasingly credible and powerful infrastructure alternative for critical business applications. It’s a great way to avoid capital expenses and maintenance costs while gaining scalability on demand. In particular, deploying SAP on the cloud can transform a SAP landscape into an agile, cost-efficient and scalable system, enabling an organization to run better and respond faster to changing market conditions and take advantage of new technologies and business models.

Yet for all of the cloud’s power and flexibility, cloud migrations are still challenging, especially for a mission-critical system like SAP. Having completed hundreds of cloud migrations, I have gained some wisdom about how IT organizations can achieve smoother migrations. Some of these tips are specific to SAP; others are important for any cloud migration. 

Moving SAP to the Cloud

Moving your SAP workload to the cloud can net great financial benefit in terms of reduced infrastructure and operating costs. However, achieving that ROI requires careful planning of the migration. Failure to prepare is one of the biggest reasons SAP (and other) cloud migrations go badly.

In my practical experience, here are the top five issues to anticipate and plan for when moving SAP workloads to the cloud:


The standardizing process is to use the SAP Quick Sizer tool that provides the infrastructure size required in terms of the SAP Application Performance Standard (SAPS). SAPS are used by certified hardware vendors to provide the infrastructure and estimate costs and are reviewed by the technical team to make adjustments based on their experience to arrive at the final Bill of Material (BOM).

In the case of sizing the infrastructure to migrate SAP to the cloud, input/output per second (IOPS) calculations are required. SAPs have to be converted into IOPS, and no 1:1 comparison benchmarks are available. So, to be safe, we size the systems at a somewhat higher configuration, which can be scaled down later, and add some bursting capabilities for high workloads during migrations and the cutover process. This “pay per drink” or usage-based metering, is an added advantage of cloud infrastructure as a service. However, it is also critical to watch the metering reports and build in the disciplines of sizing, tuning and right-sizing the environment on a regular basis for optimal performance and cost effectiveness.  

 Understand how your data is accessed, stored, encrypted, replicated and recovered at every layer of the architecture​ 

Infrastructure Design

Disk striping, volume groups, and architectural considerations are critical. You will experience significant performance degradation if this exercise is not performed correctly. You need to have experienced team members or else lose valuable time troubleshooting. Initially, in our experience, it took more than 40 minutes to move files across the file systems and, after troubleshooting, we ended up re-architecting volume groups and disk striping, segregating high IOPS across multiple disks to get to a sub-second response.

Business Continuity

When designing for high availability and disaster recovery on the cloud, it’s very important to take full advantage of public cloud capabilities. One is the use of availability groups so that service is always running even when maintenance activities are being performed. Another is using storage and automatic workload replication features across geographies for redundancy.


Though major public cloud providers offer a wide range of inbuilt infrastructure, data, and operation-level security, I recommend deploying additional third-party security appliances, including network and web firewalls, vulnerability scanning, and anti-malware to secure the environment at multiple layers. With cyber-security risks increasing, I also recommend implementing a proactive, real-time security monitoring solution, such as a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution.

Network Connectivity

Most SAP workloads deal with high volume data, so moving data to the cloud requires choosing an appropriate cloud data center location and specifying its network connectivity and bandwidth. Because SAP interfaces with many other systems for inbound and outbound data traffic and concurrently supports users of the application, it is best to have the connectivity of at least 1Gbps.

Scoping Your Cloud Service Provider

Before moving to the cloud, it is critical to ensure the selected cloud service provider can meet your organization’s requirements. Taking these steps will help ensure smooth service:

• Set Proper Systems Performance Expectations

Ask the cloud service provider tough questions. Focus on how the provider will comply with appropriate industry standards and regulations, such as ISO 2701, 900, HIPAA, DPA, and others. Cloud service providers should have essential data security and disaster recovery practices in place to cover your business. Understand how your data is accessed, stored, encrypted, replicated and recovered at every layer of the architecture. Define accountability for business owners who have contact with your data, especially how personnel and the cloud service provider will handle your data.

• Establish Clear Service Level Agreements

Detailed evaluation of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) is vital when migrating business applications to the cloud. Do you need a specific requirement of 24/7/365 uptime to maintain your business applications? Are Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in place to assess the level of service offered? What are your requirements for optimizations for a new cloud environment or for an application on an ongoing basis? What are the pricing structures for a one-time optimization vs. pay-per-use? Is disaster recovery included, or is it an additional fee? What are the definitions of contract breaches, vulnerability and security breaches? Are backups and recovery assistance included? Do not make any assumptions about these questions; ensure you have answers in writing.

• Enablement-Ready Cloud Infrastructures

The cloud is not necessarily enablement ready; therefore, it is critical to understand how an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) model works and if the provider offers tools for easy and faster deployment. 

• Commercial Model Details

Be clear about the length of the lock-in period and have a clear understanding of the bill of material.

• Project Manager

Cloud migration is complex. A skilled and experienced project manager can help ensure the right cloud services provider is chosen and help navigate migration challenges.

The business case for porting a SAP landscape to a public cloud platform will likely be based on savings and ROI figures. Achieving these objectives as a result of the cloud migration requires detailed planning on everything from infrastructure capacity requirements to security and compliance measures. Taking these steps will help ensure the migration results in world class operations. 

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