SAP Sending Mixed Messages On ERP Platform Support
January 13, 2020 Alex Woodie
Thousands of SAP Business Suite customers around the world are awaiting clarification from the German software giant about whether their chosen ERP software will continue to run on their chosen platform in five years. SAP is strongly hinting that it may move forward just with S/4 HANA, which at the moment is a Linux-only affair. But its actions suggest a more diverse array of databases and operating systems may be accommodated in the future.
Questions about SAP’s intentions originated with a statement it made in 2014. At that time, SAP announced that it would fully support its current flagship enterprise software offering, called SAP Business Suite, through 2025. On October 14, 2014, SAP stated:
“SAP is complementing its innovation commitment by prolonging mainstream maintenance until end of 2025 for SAP Business Suite 7 core application releases including the SAP ERP 6.0, SAP Customer Relationship Management 7.0, SAP Supply Chain Management 7.0 and SAP Supplier Relationship Management 7.0 applications, and SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA 2013.” The full announcement can be seen here: news.sap.com/2014/10/sap-committed-innovation-choice-sap-business-suite/.
In February 2015, SAP launched S/4 HANA, which is the eventual replacement for Business Suite that runs only on the HANA database (the name used to refer to only the database but has since been adopted to refer to the entire enterprise suite). Many SAP customers mistook these statements to mean that SAP intended to kill support for Business Suite in 2025 and that they will have to move to S/4 HANA, which is not what SAP has said.
Do As I Say….
Ron Schmerbauch, the technical leader of the SAP on IBM i team, has watched the saga unfold over the past five years. According to the Rochester, Minnesota-based IBM employee, SAP has sent mixed messages about its intentions to continue supporting SAP software on all platforms, including IBM i.
“They really want everyone to move to S/4 HANA, and that would include using HANA as the database on Linux,” Schmerbauch tells IT Jungle. “But that doesn’t mean they’re giving up on Business Suite. The statement they made was Business Suite on all the databases will be supported through 2025, but they haven’t made any end-of-support statements.”
Normally, a software vendor would be commended for providing 11 years of advanced warning about possibly killing off an enterprise software product. But in this case, it has inadvertently sowed confusion in the marketplace, with some believing that 2025 marks a hard end-of-support date for current Business Suite (it doesn’t).
“They’ve given that impression. But that’s not what they’ve actually said,” Schmerbauch said. “What they’ve said is [support will be available] to 2025 and there’s no decision yet on availability, timelines, or conditions for extending that…And unfortunately, people keep saying ‘That’s the end, that’s definitely a hard stop.’ But that’s not what’s in the literature and their statements.”
Not As I Do….
To make matters worse (or better, depending on your point of view), SAP has continued to enhance Business Suite and to bring to it features that were previously only available in S/4 HANA. That includes supporting the new Fiori user interface technology in Business Suite and establishing Business Suite connections to add-on tools, such as Success Factors, Qualtrix, or Concur, which are cloud-based offerings that SAP has acquired over the years.
An even more important adoption, however, is supporting ABAP Core Data Services (CDS) in Business Suite. CDS is a new data modeling tool that SAP introduced for HANA. The software allows developers to define semantically rich data models for tracking items in the database, like orders, business partners, or orders, using Data Definition Language (or DDL), which is based on SQL. CDS is fully integrated with NetWeaver and is intended to simplify development for both analytical and transactional applications.
The fact that SAP took the time to make CDS available in Business Suite, including the version that runs on IBM i, is significant, and shows that the company has not yet put Business Suite in maintenance mode, Schmerbauch said.
“That was a big add that allows them to take some of these newer applications they’re building and have them work on BizSuite,” Schmerbauch said. “And there are new applications that are CDS-based that work in both Business Suite and in S/4.”
No Feature Parity
SAP doesn’t appear ready to cut the cord with Business Suite and the tens of thousands of customers who still rely on it to run their businesses, including the 1,500 or so SAP customers running on IBM i. Doing so would not be good for SAP and its customers because S/4 HANA does not yet possess all of the features and capabilities that exist in Business Suite, Schmerbauch said.
“There are some customers that, even if they want to go to S/4 HANA, they can’t because there is no equivalent function there yet,” Schmerbauch said. “You can imagine SAP would like it to be functionally equivalent. But it’s not. It took them a long way to get where they are on Business Suite. It’s going to take them a long time to match that.”
To make matters worse, moving from Business Suite to S/4 HANA is not a simple upgrade, but essentially a brand new implementation. Considering how much time and money companies invested in their Business Suite implementations, the fact that there’s some push-back is not surprising.
“SAP implementations are large endeavors to begin with, so not too many people are excited about doing this over, because they’ve invested hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in their customizations and everything they’ve done over the last 20 year or so to get that running well,” Schmerbauch said. “A number of the customers are using a small sliver of what SAP Business Suite can do. And do you really want to re-implement that whole thing?”
The end of 2025 is essentially six years from now, which means there is still time to hash everything out. But ERP implementations are like ships, and changes of direction do not happen quickly. At the moment, SAP is leaving Business Suite customers in limbo in regards to its post-2025 plans, but do not expect the company to continue this path. It will almost certainly make an announcement before then. It has to.
In the meantime, it looks like business as usual for most Business Suite customers. “A number of customers are not really accepting the 2025 date as a hard stop, as they shouldn’t, because that’s not what SAP has said,” Schmerbauch said. “They said they’ll support it through 2025. Then didn’t say anything about what happens after that.”