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Vodafone to move SAP S/4HANA ERP system to Google Cloud

Spare a thought for the techies hauling on-prem mega-platform of one of world's biggest mobile companies to the fluffy stuff

Vodafone has announced it is migrating its SAP S/4HANA ERP platform from an on-premises installation to Google Cloud.

In a statement released today, the global telecoms provider, which boasts revenue of around €45.58 billion (c $44 billion), said it had been running on on-premises for 15 years, "during which time it has significantly grown in size, making this one of the largest and one of the most complex SAP migrations in EMEA."

The company is in the top five mobile network operators in the world, and is the biggest outside of India and China, with 300 mobile subscribers across 21 countries.

"By integrating its cloud-hosted SAP system to its data ocean running on Google Cloud, Vodafone aims to introduce operational efficiency and drive innovation," the company said.

Vodafone is migrating its SAP system, the backbone for its financial, procurement and HR services, to Google Cloud.

Until November 2019, Vodafone was running single-instance SAP Enterprise Core Components (ECC) but managed to upgrade its on-prem system to the five SAP S/4 Hana instances worldwide in a programme which took around 18 months, according to reports.

At the time, CIO Ignacio Garcia said the company would "eventually" move its S/4HANA instances to the cloud, in line with a broad strategy for corporate data.

According to the corporation, Vodafone will launch "EVO2CLOUD" to migrate its financial, procurement and HR services SAP S/4HANA workloads to Google Cloud. "It's the backbone of ... internal and external operations. High availability and reliability are fundamental requirements to ensure smooth operation with minimal downtime. Moreover, hosting SAP on Google Cloud is a foundation for digital innovation and maintaining cybersecurity," the company said.

Vodafone said it foresees a "step change in its operating model" because of its ability to use Google Cloud M1 and M2 infrastructure on demand.

According to Google, the M1 machine series has up to 4TB of memory, while the M2 machine series has up to 12TB of memory. "These machine series are well-suited for large in-memory databases such as SAP HANA, as well as in-memory data analytics workloads," Google said in a post.

Vodafone also said it would increase its release-cycle frequency for its SAP software from bi-annual rollouts to weekly ones, increasing agility and introducing features faster. It did not indicate when it expected to complete the migration.

Vodafone and Google offered scant detail on how they intended to proceed with the migration but the size of the challenge will depend on the extent of customisation it made or replicated from ECC when moving to S/4HANA.

Experts have warned that users will have to wave goodbye to customizations as they move ERP to the cloud.

For example, in 2021 CEO of the Americas' SAP Users' group (ASUG) Geoff Scott warned SAP users there was much more to consider than just software and IT infrastructure.

"The traditional on-prem, highly customised ERP solution, absolutely, positively has to give way to a more SaaS-based ERP solution," he said.

"You need to spend some careful time looking at how your business is operating and perhaps the way you've operated a certain business process five years ago is not the way you want to operate it today. Thinking about how your business is operating in a post-pandemic world, there could be a lot of opportunities for you to take a look at," Scott said.

Vodafone's move is in line with its decision to use Google as the main provider for its analytics platform using BigQuery and other data products hosted on Google cloud.

It's worth noting though that Vodafone also remains a customer of Teradata and Oracle in its enterprise analytics stack. ®

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