The 2025 support deadline for SAP Business Suite 7 is beginning to loom on organisational roadmaps – but is it the problem it seems? Mark Smith discusses this conundrum.
In 2014, SAP offered some respite to those customers who had heavily invested in its on-premise software. Mainstream support of its Business Suite 7 would be extended until 2025, a move to settle the worries of those organisations that used SAP but hadn’t yet embraced the cloud.
At the same time as as extending the deadline for support, SAP also reassured customers worried about being abandoned as the company focuses on its flagship ERP software, S/4HANA. SAP has pledged continued investment in its on-premise software: “We offer companies investment protection for their existing on-premise solutions … and to shift to the cloud at their own pace,” according to Bernd Leukert, head of Products & Innovation at SAP.
But the promise of a migration to the cloud isn’t quite true – SAP’s 2025 deadline is designed to nudge its customers away from rival databases and on to its own, as S/4HANA will run exclusively on SAP’s own database, HANA. For many, this will be a complex process of not only migrating to a new ERP suite and migrating to the cloud – but also migrating to an entirely new database.
For many organisations this is so complex that they need to start planning for the 2025 deadline now … or do they?
Meeting the 2025 deadline
To meet the deadline, organisations need to choose how they will approach it. If their current SAP set up is not excessively customised, then it may make sense to convert to S/4HANA. If not, then a full re-implementation might be necessary. Or it may even be an opportunity to move their set up from SAP to another provider, such as Oracle or Microsoft, if they feel that SAP is somehow lacking.
Remaining with SAP means new infrastructure, in the form of HANA. HANA is not a traditional database, but is an “in-memory” platform, with data stored in RAM at all times rather than on-disk, speeding up queries substantially. This does mean that the infrastructure required will be different, and that the right sizing of memory, CPU and disk is important for HANA to work. Once the infrastructure needed is decided upon, there is a need to decide whether this will remain on-premise or move to the cloud – and whether this will be private, public, or hybrid.
Migrating to HANA may come with speed advantages, but these will only become apparent if the data has been cleansed. Non-standard data, low quality data and duplicated data will all mean unnecessary cost and poor performance – to make migration worth it, data cleansing is a must.
There are many other steps before migration can go ahead. For example. a proof of concept must be created to map and prototype critical business processes that will be migrated to the new set up. The process of migration is not quick, nor easy, nor cheap. Time will need to be spent not only on the migration, but also on testing the migration, and training users on how to use the new software.
The migration may also remove what is currently one of the main advantages of SAP: its reliability. For all of HANA’s innovations, it is nowhere near as mature as other solutions. Organisations may prefer a mature, reliable database over the newer, if quicker, HANA database.
Ignoring the 2025 deadline
It is, however, very possible to ignore the 2025 deadline and continue as before – albeit with a few adjustments.
Organisations may feel that the 2025 deadline is pressuring them into moving from an ERP system they are comfortable with for advantages they don’t really care about. They have a point. It should, ultimately be the customer’s choice whether to move or not.
SAP’s deadline of December 31st 2025 means the end of support to its customers on legacy software. But what does this mean for its customers that don’t move? These customers will no longer receive any updates, security or otherwise. Customers will no longer be able to access official support to resolve technical queries. But everything else will remain exactly the same.
In effect, organisations have a choice whether to meet the deadline, or to solve the problems that the deadline will create: security and support.
SAP may no longer be prepared to support what it sees as legacy software, but there are third parties who can, providing both specialist support and virtual patching to protect SAP installations from attacks. Organisations should also consider how sincere SAP is in its promise to innovate – with SAP so focused on making S/4HANA a success, are they really likely to revolutionise software they want to consign to history?
2025 is a real deadline – but only for SAP to drop support for what it sees as legacy software, not for its customers to abandon the ERP solution it is comfortable with. The next step ahead of 2025 is not a panicked migration plan, but a careful consideration whether or not to meet the deadline at all.
Mark Smith is CEO at Support Revolution.