This blog was co-written with Dominik Herzig, VP of Delivery for US & Canada at oXya, and Melchior du Boullay, Managing Director, Americas, at oXya.
In previous blogs of this series we covered various aspects of outsourcing your SAP environment. We started by asking should we outsource our SAP environment, and suggested a few directions to think about. Then, in the 2nd blog, we dealt with choosing the right partner that would manage our SAP environment, and listed various criteria and tips for choosing that partner. In the 3rd blog, we discussed various infrastructure and headcount considerations that each and every customer has, when considering whether and how to outsource their SAP.
The next two blogs of this series focus on the entire process of moving your datacenter to oXya.
When providing managed services for our customers’ SAP landscape, oXya has two high-level types of offerings:
- Run Management only: oXya provides only the managed services portion, while customer chooses to maintain responsibility for their hardware and for hosting SAP. In this case, oXya requires a quick and reliable link between oXya and the customer’s datacenter, to provide the support services. We covered that option in previous blogs in this “Outsourcing SAP” series.
- Full Cloud Delivered service: oXya takes full ownership and responsibility for the customer’s infrastructure and hosting, and the infrastructure is installed at one of oXya’s datacenters.
The next two blogs focus on the second option, and specifically on the full process of moving your datacenter and infrastructure to the oXya private cloud. These blogs are based on past experience with multiple North American customers, where we’ve migrated these customers’ full SAP landscape, plus all of their servers (including non-SAP servers), to the oXya cloud.
The oXya migration process entails two main phases:
- Planning – covered in this blog
- Technical Operations – to be covered in next week’s blog
The project as a whole may seem a bit daunting, and like it’s going to take a lot of time, yet both impressions are untrue. Leveraging oXya’s processes and experience, our customers experience a well-defined and streamed process, which can be done relatively quickly.
For example, let’s take one of our customers, for which we’ve migrated their entire datacenter, consisting of ~100 servers (both SAP and non-SAP servers), to an oXya datacenter. The entire project, from the moment the contract was signed, and until the last server was moved and started running within the oXya datacenter, took 4 months (and BTW, there’s a difference in process between migrating SAP and non-SAP servers; we will cover these in next week’s blog).
While other vendors may try to sell you on a shorter cycle, or you may have business pressures which demand otherwise, remember that a timeframe of 4 months is considered extremely quick in the industry. Obviously, if the customer does not have extreme time constraints, then we can allow for more time and buffers within the process; still, if the customer requires that, oXya is able to make the entire transition very quickly.
Important First Steps
Timing is the first thing you think about, when starting such a project. Some things take a long time to order, so they need to be handled immediately upon signing the contract.
MPLS connection. Most customers prefer to have a fast and reliable internet connection (MPLS) between their location and the oXya datacenter; MPLS is a dedicated line, between these two locations. The challenge is that getting the MPLS connection in place takes (relatively) a lot of time, and so do other things that involve the ISP. When a customer asks an ISP for a date commitment, the ISP will usually commit to anything between 45 and 90 business days, meaning the minimum time to wait is more than 2 months, and it can sometimes also be more than 4 months (sometimes actual delivery is a bit sooner, but these are the timeframes that ISPs are willing to commit to). Hence, ordering an MPLS connection must be done as early as possible.
It’s important to understand that MPLS is not a must. oXya has customers who do not have MPLS; these customers access the data via VPN connection only. The difference between the two is that VPN goes over the public Internet, hence it is not as reliable as an MPLS connection.
Even if the customer ordered an MPLS connection and the ISP is slow in providing it, we can still perform the migration and provide the customer with a connection to their servers, using a VPN connection. It won’t be as reliable as an MPLS connection, but it will get the job done while waiting for the MPLS.
Hardware. For the hardware we have two options, with two different timeframes. Customers can either leverage oXya’s already-available Hitachi-based hardware (UCP) for shared / on-demand needs; or they can ask for other, specific hardware they would like their IT environment to run on:
- Hitachi UCP hardware: oXya had standardized on Hitachi hardware long before we were acquired by Hitachi, and we recommend customers to base their SAP on Hitachi UCP. Whether it is a dedicated infrastructure that you need, or share/on-demand infrastructure—and choosing between the two usually depends on size of landscape, needs, and additional criteria—oXya has a large pool of Hitachi UCP hardware, so we’re able to offer these options immediately.
- Other vendors hardware: oXya is open to accepting other types of hardware—per customer’s request—as we explained in detail in our previous blog. The challenge is it takes quite some time to get other vendors’ hardware. From our experience, and depending on the specific hardware vendor, we’re talking about a minimal timeframe of 4-6 weeks to get hardware from some vendors, and often significantly longer from others. Then, when we get the hardware, we need another couple of weeks to setup everything (to be explained later). Unfortunately, there is no working around the hardware. Until the other vendors’ hardware arrive, there is no technical action that can be performed; we do perform other preparation actions.
Two Approaches for a Datacenter Move
When you think about moving your infrastructure and your datacenter to a partner, there are two main options to perform this move:
The “Big Bang” move. You move all servers at once, from your datacenter to the oXya cloud (or to another datacenter). It is not easy to do, especially when you have many servers, because each server is unique. Using the “big bang” will likely result in lots of headaches, trying to troubleshoot various issues; furthermore, it will be challenging to pinpoint where the issues come from. For that reason, oXya typically do not recommend this approach. We prefer the phased approach.
The Phased Approach. We define groups of servers that work together, and build “migration groups”, where each migration group consists of servers to be migrated together. Each group is migrated separately, usually over a weekend, so the entire migration takes multiple weekends. In the case of the customer I mentioned earlier, for example, the 100 servers were divided into 5 migration groups. The phased approach requires some work from the customer on a functional level – we need to identify which servers work in conjunction with each other; at this early stage of the process, the customer still has a much better understanding than oXya on their servers. We work with the customer to help identify possible issues that may occur with respect to each group of server.
Timeline for the Planning Phase
The following steps are needed to prepare the hardware before we can begin moving servers from the customer to the oXya datacenter:
- Install all the hardware components (not relevant if you use our Hitachi UCP hardware, only for other vendors)
- Prepping the servers
- Installing vOS (typically in a VMware environment you need to thread the images that you’re going to use for the other servers)
- Network setup (typically VPN, unless MPLS has already been installed)
Above steps are the beginning of the Technical Operations phase, on which we’ll expand in our next blog. What’s important to understand regarding this stage is the following:
- Above steps are relevant when customer wishes to use a non-Hitachi hardware
- In such a case, the hardware preparation stage typically takes two weeks, from the time we get the hardware.
- When using our available Hitachi UCP hardware, some of these steps are not relevant, hence the prep work is very fast, and server transfer can begin almost immediately.
- At this stage, no data has yet been sent; these steps are just to get the hardware ready for actual transfer of data.
Knowledge Transfer & Planning
Another important part of the Planning Phase is around knowledge transfer and planning. This is where a joint team from the customer and oXya define the migration groups: find what each server does, how it works, what it communicates with, etc.
- Network & Security. Covers customer’s requirements, so we can implement in our datacenter. The Network & Security is sometimes split into two separate workshops, depending on the specific customer and their systems.
- Servers Migration. Discuss what servers do, with what they communicate, and define the migration groups mentioned earlier.
- Communications. Define how oXya team will work with the customer’s team. Covers how customer prefers to submit tickets: via email, or phone calls, or a ticketing tool (oXya’s or customer’s). We also address the escalation process, and everything around defining how we will work together.
- Monitoring. Define how monitoring is going to work for every specific customer. Includes what needs to be monitored, what actions to perform if one of the checks fails (do we call someone or send an email), etc.
- Global Governance. Overview of the project and follow-up every week, to make sure the project is on track.
The workshops are spread over the entire length of the project. Some workshops are more urgent than others; Servers Migration is one of the most urgent ones, and so is Security. On the other hand, the Communications and Monitoring workshops can be done later in the project, right before we move the servers.
All of these workshops are customized for each and every customer. We may create another workshop, should there be another subject that requires a deep dive with the customer and a thorough discussion. The overall goal of all these workshops, and of everything else that oXya does, is to make sure the project is a success.
It’s important to note that the same team who will manage your systems long-term, is the one that also drives and executes all the migration phases, including the workshops. This personal touch & dedicated team approach, in which oXya is unique at, ensures both consistency and proficiency in the details of your landscapes, throughout your relationship with oXya. Our approach also builds the relationship from day one, and ensures that your team knows the oXya support team who will handle your systems going forward, and vice versa. We are very proud of this personal touch & dedicated team approach, and it has been one of the cornerstones to our great success over the years.
What has been your experience, regarding SAP landscape migrations?
Did you experience any difficulties and issues? Where exactly?
Does your vendor also provide the same personal touch and dedicated team approach? Or each phase of the project is done by a different team, and each ticket you open is handled by different people?
Our next blog in the “Outsourcing SAP” series will cover the Technical Operations stage of moving your datacenter to oXya. Then, the blog after that will be a Q&A, based on questions we receive from customers, on all the topics covered in this blog series. Send us questions about any aspect of “Outsourcing SAP”, either by posting them to the Comments below, or sending them directly to us, Sevag Mekhsian <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Dominik Herzig <email@example.com> or Melchior du Boullay <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Sevag Mekhsian is a Service Delivery Manager at oXya, a Hitachi Data Systems company. Sevag is an SAP expert with more than eight years of experience, the last four of which leading a team of ten SAP professionals, at oXya’s service center in New Jersey.
Dominik Herzig is VP of Delivery for US & Canada at oXya. Dominik has 10 years of SAP experience, starting as a Basis Admin, and then moving to SAP project management and to account management. Dominik was one of the first few people to open oXya’s US offices back in 2007.
Melchior du Boullay is Managing Director, Americas at oXya, responsible for all of oXya’s operations across North, Central and South America since 2007, when oXya started operating in the Americas. Melchior has nearly 15 years of experience as an SAP Basis admin and technical consultant, SAP project manager, SAP account management, and business development.
oXya, a Hitachi Group Company, is a technical SAP consulting company, established in 1998. oXya provides ongoing managed services (outsourcing) for enterprises around the world. In addition, oXya helps customers that run SAP with various projects, including upgrades and migrations, including to SAP HANA. oXya currently employs ~600 SAP experts, who service more than 260 enterprise customers with more than 250,000 SAP users around the world.