There now appears to be so many different ways in which it is possible to deploy an SAP S/4HANA solution, that I thought it would be useful to set out the key features of all of these in one place (if for no other reason than to get my own thoughts straight on the subject).
The plethora of options, combined with a somewhat fluid approach to nomenclature reminds me of the early days of SAP’s HANA based ERP solution – originally launched as ‘Smart Finance’ (remember that, anyone?). The solution was re-labelled Simple Finance, before moving into the S/4 branding that we know and love today. Although, even then, for quite some time with two parallel strands: S/4HANA Finance and S/4HANA Enterprise.
Cloud: Public vs. Single Tenant
Similarly, the multi-tenant public cloud offering, SAP S/4HANA Cloud, originally came in three different editions: SAP S/4HANA Marketing Cloud, SAP S/4HANA Professional Services Cloud and SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management Cloud. The former two were cut down variants of the core scope, but interestingly also included industry-specific developments only available in the public cloud product. These seem to have now converged into a common product – though with a selection of scope item ‘bundles’ which you can deploy to supposedly make the process of provisioning a Q system easier. So while the core product now seems to have settled down into a couple of code lines, there is still a wide range of deployment options, each suiting different circumstances.
The main difference between the public (the true multi-tenant version) and single tenant (a sort of ‘private cloud’) offerings of S/4HANA Cloud is that they are based on different code lines. Although these are converging over time, it is helpful to understand that a lot of innovations come to the public cloud product first, with its more frequent release cadence.
It was quite a shock for me to step back and work on the 1809 (on-premise) release to find that some of the useful analytics apps which have been available for some time in the public cloud (for example the ‘Overview Page’ reports) are only recent innovations or not yet available. Similarly, a lot of the new Machine Learning apps come first to the public cloud. Furthermore, owing to the heritage of the Professional Services edition, some of the more powerful Professional Services developments are only available there.
All in all, it seems to me as if the options for deploying S/4HANA can be just like buying a suit. The on-premise solution is a bit like going to Saville Row and getting something made to measure. It will be a perfect fit, and will undoubtedly be very durable – but this will come at a high price. In addition, although a good tailor may leave some allowance in the seams for alterations if you change shape, there is only limited flexibility to deal with radical change. Over time, it may end up looking a little dated or just not fitting.
To me, the distinction between having an on-premise solution hosted on HEC or by another provider is largely semantic. Either way, this can be thought of more as a question of which dry cleaners you use for maintaining your expensive suit – the decision will be largely driven by considerations of cost and convenience.
The S/4HANA Cloud offerings are perhaps best considered more like an off the peg suit. Obviously, this works very well for most people, so long as you are a fairly standard size, and has the advantage of being a lot less costly. The single tenant edition is perhaps like buying from an upmarket shop who will allow you to make some alterations. The multi-tenant offering is really where my analogy starts to fall apart – this is a whole new model (an off the peg suit), but one which gets constantly refreshed, allowing you to take advantage of all the latest developments in technology (Machine Learning and Predictive analytics to name but a few). A suit that never goes out of style – now that’s an interesting proposition?