Securely Run SAP Systems in the Cloud with Amazon’s EC2 Platform and Simple Storage Service

  • by Saad Y Hassan, President, Hassan Associates, Inc.
  • October 4, 2010
Running SAP systems on a cloud platform offers significant benefits — rapid scalability, minimal incremental hardware cost, and the reduction of internal resource needs. The case for running SAP systems on a cloud platform is compelling for non-productive systems. However, there are inherent risks in allowing your data to reside with a hosted service provider and accessing it over the Internet. You can address these risks via due diligence and robust security and administration practices.
Key Concept
Amazon Web Services provides a comprehensive solution for cloud computing, including the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) platform. This platform allows users to select an operating system and hosted database solution, if desired. The choices for the operating system include 32-bit and 64-bit platforms such as Microsoft Windows and various flavors of UNIX (e.g., Solaris, Red Hat Linux, or SUSE Linux). The hosted database solution allows you to use standard tools and utilities to manage an MS SQL Server installation, for example, with a Windows Server installation. Users can install database server software of their choice as well (with their own licensing).

Cloud computing allows companies to launch hardware and application capacity at will, at low incremental expense, and virtually zero capital cost. The major benefits of using such a platform are the ability to scale infrastructure rapidly at a low cost. Most companies run their systems on dedicated hardware that’s deployed within their data centers. They incur significant cost running and maintaining such systems. In addition, planning, budgeting, and procurement are required to scale up existing infrastructure capacity.

With a cloud computing model, there is little lead time and zero capital cost for adding more capacity. The ongoing cost involved is usually similar to or less than the cost of maintaining similar capacity in a private data center. The cost of ownership is also reduced because of a reduction in data-center capacity needs, power and cooling requirements, and more. Moreover, your systems can be hosted locally to various regions of the world, improving network response times for globally dispersed users.

There are certain risks associated with running your enterprise applications on a cloud platform. Your company’s data is stored outside your private network. You are dependent on the security architecture of your service provider. Even if the data’s storage is sufficiently secure, it is accessed over public networks, which raises further concerns around the security of data transmission. These concerns and others are addressed later in this article.

Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3) offer a reliable and cost-effective platform for hosting applications such as SAP ERP Central Component (SAP ECC) and SAP NetWeaver. The ease of access, support, and international availability of the platform make it a suitable cloud-based solution for most organizations. The Amazon EC2/S3 platforms are fitting for small or mid-size businesses that are cost conscious as well as for larger businesses that need to scale their SAP environment rapidly (e.g., for a new product launch or seasonal spikes in business-volume).

Saad Y Hassan

Saad Y. Hassan is an experienced SAP consulting manager and an entrepreneur. His area of expertise is the architecture, implementation, and management of SAP application components.

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