SAP on IBM i to S/4 HANA Migration: ‘No Need to Rush’
March 17, 2021 Alex Woodie
Organizations that run SAP applications on IBM i servers have about nine more years of maintenance and support available from SAP, and should be in no rush to move to SAP’s preferred application environment, S/4 HANA, IBM SAP on IBM i expert Christian Bartels told the community last month. “There is still a lot of time to go, so there is no need to migrate right now,” he said in a webinar.
The SAP on IBM i community, which numbers around 1,500 or so organizations around the world, has expressed concern about SAP’s plan for the IBM i environment, particularly in light of the German software giant’s strategy around S/4 HANA. SAP is actively trying to move its Business Suite installed base, which numbers around 45,000, to S/4 HANA.
When we last visited this issue in January 2020, IBM i shops were worried what would happen beyond the end of 2025, which was as far as it had committed to supporting Business Suite running on non-HANA databases, including Db2 for IBM i.
Then in February 2020, SAP announced that it would be supporting Business Suite running atop Db2 for i and other databases at least until the end of 2027 under mainstream support, and until the end of 2030 if the customer purchases an extended maintenance and support agreement.
That should give SAP on IBM i customers plenty of time to figure out what to do next, says Bartels, who has been working in the SAP on IBM i space for many years. Bartels addressed the issue recently in a webinar.
“Many of you are approached by consultants and salespeople and so on to say you should now go to S/4 HANA, your Business Suite is outdated, or whatever,” he said. “As far as I see, there’s no need to rush to anything.”
Bartels advised SAP on IBM i customers to be careful with their decisions. He said there is no need to abandon their SAP on IBM i environments and rush to S/4 HANA, and that they should consider continuing to invest in the setup. He hinted that SAP may decide to revisit its current commitment to support the Business Suite running on non-HANA databases through the end of 2030, and could extend it even further.
“We have heard from some customers that, due to the uncertainty with COVID, they’re not sure how business is going to develop and what their possible budgets are over the next years,” Bartels says. “And some of them decided to stay on the platform longer and use the features of IBM i rather than start a long and expensive migration project at this point in time.”
SAP has a history of changing its support timelines for the Business Suite ERP system and the technology components that underly it, including NetWeaver.
“This maintenance outlook information is not static,” he said. “SAP can and may change at any time. We saw that in history. Originally SAP only had outlook for Business Suite maintenance until 2020. In 2011, they enhanced that until 2025. Now in February of last year, they extended that to 2027, or with extended maintenance to 2030. So with the same thinking that it’s not absolutely sure that this is the final word, is maybe even more extended.”
SAP on IBM i has been a bright spot in the midrange ERP world. According to the 2021 IBM i Marketplace study conducted by HelpSystems, 11 percent of the survey-takers reported running SAP ERP software, placing it in a tie with Oracle and its JD Edwards suites (EnterpriseOne and World), and one percentage point ahead of Infor, which continues to support and enhance BPCS (ERP LX), MAPICS (ERP XA), System21, and M3, among others.
Organizations that run SAP on IBM i have enjoyed the stability and continuity that has not been afforded from Oracle and Infor, which makes it unique on the platform. Unfortunately, that quarter of a century history of excellence currently has a expiration date on it. The idea that these SAP on IBM i customers will be forced to migrate to a Linux-based system if they want to continue running SAP software is not going over very well.
The good news is there is still plenty of time to plan a next move. The status quo of IBM and SAP working closely to keep 1,500 joint customers running happily and healthily on the IBM i platform will not change any time soon.
“As far as I see, there’s no need to rush to anything,” Bartels advises. “Be careful with your decision and maybe make sure you use your current system in the best possible way. ”