Enterprise and software giant SAP has set a 2025 deadline after which its systems will be built to run on just one single database – SAP’s HANA.
If you use SAP’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, and you’re not using SAP S/4HANA, you’re on a deadline. A deadline that was recently extended to 2025, but still, the clock is ticking.
SAP will continue to offer support for its ERP software until this clock runs out. But then support stops, and those businesses that want support from SAP will need to migrate to SAP’s flagship ERP software, S/4HANA.
Described by SAP as its “biggest launch in 23 years, possibly ever”, this new ERP suite will run exclusively on SAP’s own database, HANA. Previously, SAP’s software worked with a number of databases, including Oracle, but businesses migrating to the new system will also need to migrate their entire database.
SAP is keen to nudge its customers down this route, and to incentivise them it has set at 2025 deadline. Earlier this year, it announced that it had almost doubled the number of customers using S/4HANA from 5,400 to 7,900, but as the company serves over a quarter of a million businesses, it’s understandably keen to have a bigger chunk of them using their database rather than others.
What Businesses Need to Do Now… According to SAP
Is this a real deadline that businesses need to adhere to? Let’s, for a moment, assume that it is and that the only option open is to move to S/4HANA by 2025.
Even though 2025 seems quite some time away, much of the advice is to start preparing now. Smaller businesses may be able to wait a couple of years, but larger enterprises need to act now.
There are a few choices available to businesses. If the 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 from SAP to another provider, such as Oracle or Microsoft.
If the business decides to stick with SAP, then there will be a need for new infrastructure. S/4HANA requires HANA as a database, which in return requires Linux, the only operating system that runs HANA. The business needs to set up a proof of concept to map and prototype critical business processes that will be migrated to the new set up. They need to decide whether the infrastructure they will use will remain on-premise or move to the cloud—and whether this will be private, public, or hybrid.
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 one of the main advantages of SAP: its flexibility, working with the hardware and software combinations that businesses are comfortable using. HANA is an innovative “in-memory” database, making it faster—but it is nowhere near as mature as other solutions. Businesses may feel, quite rightly, that they would prefer the mature, reliable database options over the newer, if quicker, HANA database.
So, Must Businesses Really Act Now?
The other alternative is… to do nothing.
It’s not quite that simple, but businesses that feel that they are being pressured into giving up their existing ERP system and moving on to another, just because the vendor can use this to grow its business. They’re right—S/4HANA may offer advantages to its users, but it should be the customer’s choice whether to move, after balancing those advantages against the disruption.
SAP has said that until December 31, 2025, it will continue to offer support to its customers on legacy software. After that, it will no longer support it. But what does this really mean?
At the end of support, customers will no longer receive any updates, security or otherwise. Customers will no longer be able to access official support to resolve technical queries. Everything else will remain the same. So, all a business has to do is replace this, and it can carry on just as before.
Third party support vendors can help here, by providing both specialist support and virtual patching to protect SAP installations from attacks. Businesses should also think about what their plans are between now and 2025—with SAP so focused on S/4HANA, they’re unlikely to get much from their investment in legacy software.
2025 is a real deadline—but only for SAP, not its customers. Any business that’s unsure of their next steps shouldn’t panic, but they should consider what they need to do to remain supported after the deadline.