How to Interpret SAP and Microsoft’s 2017 Cloud Partnership Announcement

Executive Summary

  • SAP reversed its position on the Cloud with its 2017 position on partnering with Microsoft’s Azure.
  • We make sense of SAP’s puffery.


Recently we were asked about SAP and Microsoft’s cloud partnership announcement of November 27, 2017. (not to be confused with previous SAP and Microsoft’s cloud partnership announcements.

In this article, we will review the announcement and provide our analysis. We did not mean to do this when we began writing this article, but as part of the research, we came upon a Forbes article on this topic, which we will be lampooning. We did not expect this analysis to find such a rich vein of comedy, but that is the way things work out sometimes.

Opening With The Standard Puffery

“Microsoft Corp. and SAP SE on Monday announced integrated offerings to provide enterprise customers with a clear roadmap to confidently drive more business innovation in the cloud. In a bold show of commitment, the two companies also announced they will be deploying each other’s cloud solutions internally.”

So the first part of this paragraph is throw away. Most announcements like this are often filled with gratuitous bragging on the part of the participants. The meat of this paragraph is the part about each company deploying each other’s solutions.

For Microsoft, this is a mistake. As we cover in our Study into SAP S/4HANA Implementations, S/4HANA has had an enormous number of problems being taken live.

Will S/4HANA become a production system for Microsoft? Probably not. It may never become something that Microsoft relies upon. Microsoft can simply run S/4HANA as a test environment. No one is going to check if Microsoft is really using S/4HANA, but Microsoft may want to get a version doing something so that they can use it for marketing purposes. Internally, the MS Dynamics team will most likely not appreciate this part of the announcement.

Now, will SAP be deploying Microsoft’s Azure solutions internally? That would be curious if they did. But it may be to run some small portion of SAP. These are companies with enormous resources, and they can afford to run each other’s products in a minor way if they like. But one should not merely take SAP and Microsoft’s word for it. They may only be saying this to get a marketing boost.

The announcement says more things on this point.

“Additionally, Microsoft will deploy SAP S/4HANA® on Azure to help run its own internal finance processes, and SAP will move its key internal business critical systems to Azure.”

This is a curious statement given that SAP had, at one point, said that it was going to beat AWS in hosting.

For example, in 2015, Steve Lucas of SAP was reported in Diginomica had a very different perspective.

One Hundred and Eighty Degrees Different from Steve Lucas’s Comments on This Exact Issue in 2015

“He took the opportunity to explain why he believes SAP is a better option for enterprise buyers than Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and AWS. But does it make sense in today’s world?

However, Lucas was also keen to highlight the benefits that owning Ariba’s network has on application design for S/4 and the fact that SAP has built out its own data centre infrastructure. Lucas said that SAP had no interest in building on the likes of Amazon Web Services (which the likes of Infor have done) because it doesn’t believe that this will cater to people’s data protection requirements. Lucas said:

We could have also said a long time ago that we were going to build this on AWS. It’s cheap. Why not? The reason why not is because of the healthcare laws and the data privacy laws, which are so different country by country. For us really we want to be able to deliver a consistent, safe and secure offering.

We built our own data centers for the HANA Cloud Platform, this is really important. The reason that we have not put the HANA Cloud Platform on something like AWS, is because AWS doesn’t adhere to all the global privacy laws where we operate. We actually own and operate our own data centers. That’s incredibly critical.” – (Steve Lucas) Diginomica


Times have changed in a short time!

In 2015 Steve Lucas thought that AWS was…

  1. Too insecure
  2. It lacked privacy
  3. He thought that SAP needed its own data centers.

Now SAP is promoting customers to place S/4HANA on Azure, which is no more secure or private or as much on SAP’s data center as is AWS. This is consistent with SAP’s announcement of the Multicloud, which we covered in the following article How to Best Understand SAP’s Multicloud Announcement.

SAP did not move to promote the use of SAP with AWS or Azure because it was or was not right for customers. They changed their policy because they failed to compete with Azure and AWS.

Hosting has been a long-term weakness of SAP, outside of the hosting offered by the companies that SAP acquired (liked SuccessFactors and Ariba) that were already in the Cloud before SAP acquired them. This was explained best in Vinnie Mirchandani’s book SAP Nation 2.0.

Let us move back to the SAP Microsoft Announcement.

On Ariba

“Finally, SAP Ariba is currently utilizing Azure and is exploring further use within its procurement applications.”

This is a long-term trend. Even Salesforce, the largest pure SaaS vendor, and a vendor that was well regarded for very competent hosting capabilities outsourced their hosting to AWS in 2016.

A Unique Partnership?

“Through their unique partnership, the companies will co-engineer, go to market together with premier solutions and provide joint support services to ensure the best cloud experience for customers.”

So this paragraph is just fluff. It can be disregarded as it does not carry any information.

“SAP HANA® Enterprise Cloud — SAP’s private managed cloud service — on Microsoft Azure will allow customers to run SAP S/4HANA in a secure, managed cloud.”

Ok, but that is not particularly relevant. The reason for this is because SAP has extremely few cloud customers.

The reason is twofold.

  1. Installed Base: As mentioned earlier, S/4HANA is very lightly installed. The numbers provided by SAP (over 1000 live instances of S/4HANA) are highly exaggerated.
  2. Customization: S/4HANA requires customization to meet customer’s requirements (ECC was customized in 92% of cases). For this reason, S/4HANA cannot be multitenant. This is covered in the article Is S/4HANA Actually Designed for the Cloud?

This image is designed to allow your brain to rest and to prepare you for an extensive section of puffery. Get up and get a drink if you like. 

A Rather Extensive Section of Puffery

Breeze through this next paragraph as it does not actually contain content.

“Together, SAP and Microsoft will help companies make the most of running SAP applications in the cloud. Bill McDermott and Satya Nadella sit next to each other on stools SAP CEO Bill McDermott (left) and Satya Nadella, CEO at Microsoft, double down on their commitment to partnership “As technology transforms every business and every industry, organizations are looking for the right platforms and trusted partners to help accelerate their digital transformation,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. “Building on our longtime partnership, Microsoft and SAP are harnessing each other’s products to not only power our own organizations, but to empower our enterprise customers to run their most mission-critical applications and workloads with SAP S/4HANA on Azure.”

“Enterprise companies are increasingly moving business-critical systems to the cloud for the benefits digital transformation provides: better customer relationships, more empowered employees, streamlined operations, new business models, and new products and services. According to research firm Gartner Inc., two-thirds of all business leaders believe that their companies must pick up the pace of digitalization to remain competitive.* As leaders in enterprise software, SAP and Microsoft are aligning closely to provide customers with the safe and trusted path to digital transformation.”

“We are taking our partnership to the next level with this new capability to run SAP S/4HANA in the Microsoft Azure environment,” said SAP CEO Bill McDermott. “The world’s significant businesses trust Microsoft and SAP. Together, we will help companies win the customer-driven growth revolution.”

That is enough, as I said.

There was more, but I cut the quotation at this point.

Surprise…….Big Companies Use SAP and Azure!

“Enterprise customers of all types, such as The Coca-Cola Company, Columbia Sportswear Company, Coats and Costco Wholesale Corp., count on SAP and Azure today for their businesses. “The strategic partnership announced between Microsoft and SAP is an extremely important development for the Coca-Cola System,” said Barry Simpson, senior vice president and chief information officer at The Coca-Cola Company. “The value of aligned engineering, sales, and delivery between these two strategic partners will allow our system to accelerate our digital agenda. This is a very positive and exciting development for us.”

This is the social proof part of the announcement. There were several other companies listed, but you get the idea.

Paid Not to Notice the Change in SAP’s Cloud Policy?

What might be the most interesting thing is that the about-face between SAP’s position in 2015 and their position in 2017 is so drastically different. Steve Lucas’ arguments in favor of not using a 3rd party for hosting did not make any sense when he said them by then, or now. We have a full critique of Steve Lucas’ statements to Diginomica in the article The Problems with Diginomica on Steve Lucas on HANA, Oracle, IBM, AWS and Microsoft.

And that we were not able to find any place where it was mentioned that SAP pulled an about-face on this topic.

Forbes had some coverage of the partnership that was quite amusing. Here are a few quotes from Forbes.

“(the partnership) It directly involves the high-profile CEOs of each company: Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and SAP’s Bill McDermott, and it extends—signficantly and dramatically—the long-time alliance that’s existed between the two software powerhouses.

It’s not just some deep-tech code alignment but an end-to-end partnership: Microsoft and SAP say they will “co-engineer” new products and services, “go to market together with premier solutions, and provide joint support services.”

Against that backdrop, here’s what some world-class customers had to say about the benefits they’ll gain from the deep cloud collaboration between SAP and Microsoft.

So: amid the saber-rattling and bombast and blunt-force competition that have been the hallmark of the Cloud Wars, it’s quite compelling to see two of the world’s leading enterprise-software and cloud-computing companies embrace the opportunity to collaborate deeply and broadly for the benefit of some very, very happy customers.”

It’s just too funny! This is obviously a paid placement on the part of SAP or Microsoft or both. The level of analysis provided by Forbes is nill. The author could not care less if anything they are writing is true.

And that ladies and gentlemen is how you make big money in the media business.


As is usually the case, the money in both media and consulting comes from repeating what SAP says to you.

The compliant nature of the coverage of things like the SAP and Microsoft announcement demonstrates that when SAP and Microsoft have their marketing departments craft such statements that they know that the media entities they pay to cover these types of things will report it almost word for word.

Overall, the announcement most likely does not amount much. But it is further reinforcement that SAP is no longer trying to fight the powerful trend of specialized IaaS and PaaS vendors.

Financial Disclosure

Financial Bias Disclosure

Neither this article nor any other article on the Brightwork website is paid for by a software vendor, including Oracle, SAP or their competitors. As part of our commitment to publishing independent, unbiased research; no paid media placements, commissions or incentives of any nature are allowed.

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How to Best Understand SAP’s Multicloud Announcement

Executive Summary

  • SAP announced the “multicloud,” which has been used by SAP to try to bolster its credibility regarding the cloud.
  • This announcement is a 180-degree change in SAP’s previous strategy, where SAP denigrated the IaaS cloud provides like AWS, proposing that SAP could do better.
  • SAP makes several claims in the announcement that are either false or can be classified as “word salad.”


This article covers the announcement made at SAPPHIRE regarding SAP, offering what it called multi-cloud options.

SAP and Multicloud

SAP has announced that its Cloud Platform is now also offered as a multicloud environment, which will allow customers to develop and run apps via their choice of infrastructure providers.

This is an excellent time to review the definition of multicloud. According to Wikipedia, multicloud is the following:

“For example, an enterprise may concurrently use separate cloud providers for infrastructure (IaaS) and software (SaaS) services, or use multiple infrastructure (IaaS) providers. In the latter case, they may use different infrastructure providers for different workloads, deploy a single workload load balanced across multiple providers (active-active), or deploy a single workload on one provider, with a backup on another (active-passive).”

Therefore I interpret this to mean that different “layers” of the cloud are accessed from different vendors. Consequently the term multicloud would imply a great deal of choice.

Using Multiple Cloud Vendors

“Customers will be able to use Amazon Web Services (AWS), in general availability; Microsoft Azure, under public preview; and the demo showcase of Google Cloud, in addition to full multicloud support through the SAP Cloud Platform.”

This part of the article gets a bit confusing because AWS and Azure are not different layers in the cloud. The SAP announcement is merely stating that you can use a mixture of cloud providers to, in essence, host SAP applications. And that this then allows you to support SAP Cloud. But you could also have done this before this announcement.

Is it Really Multicloud?

I am open to being persuaded otherwise (so comment below if you think I am missing something), but SAP’s announcement does not seem to use the term multicloud properly. Instead, what SAP is proposing is is that its cloud can be used in conjunction with other far more established and successful cloud providers. SAP is primarily an application vendor, and they always have been. They have applications like XI/PI, which is an integration harness, which is rarely used on projects. They have MDM, which is seldom seen, and if seen as a tiny footprint within a company’s master data workload. The basis is the server control in SAP.

SAP’s NetWeaver Shenanigans and the Questions of NetWeaver’s Existence

SAP calls this and several other items, “NetWeaver,” which it also calls a platform. Netweaver is not a platform in any sense. NetWeaver is an umbrella marketing term to describe some things that already existed before the word showed up on the scene. Strangely, I am one of the few analysts to question whether NetWeaver ever existed, as I covered in this article years ago. If you go to an SAP account executive and ask to buy NetWeaver, he or she will have nothing to sell you. You have to buy NetWeaver MDM, NetWeaver XI, etc.. The product is the second word. NetWeaver is merely tagged on the front.

Several SAP account executives have admitted to me that they have stated to customers that XYZ was “NetWeaver Compliant,” and realized that they did not know what this meant. But it seems to work on executives and makes them feel calm, so they would only keep saying it.

HANA for SAP’s Infrastructure Street Cred

SAP’s real claim to being at the level below the application is HANA, which is a database. First, HANA is very new and still not that common as SAP has run on non-HANA databases for the vast majority of its history. Also, HANA is rarely delivered via the cloud. SAP Cloud, which was until just recently called SAP HANA Cloud. It was specially designed to deceive customers and Wall Street, that more HANA was being used than actually was, as I covered in the article Is the SAP HANA Cloud Platform Designed for HANA Washing?. While at the same time deceiving customers and Wall Street that HANA was being deployed more in the cloud than it actually was. Is the SAP HANA Cloud Platform Designed for Cloud Washing? 

The long and the short of it is that SAP has been posing as an infrastructure vendor for some time, and they continually use the term platform in their product names and marketing material, but what infrastructure product of any prominence do they own? That would be HANA, but a highly expensive (and therefore limited use) database that is rarely delivered from the cloud does not put SAP in the position they would like to be.

AWS and Azure

Although I am unconvinced why one would need to use the SAP Cloud Platform, Azure, for instance, already offers SAP on Azure. AWS offers SAP on AWS.

As a general statement, customers will want to stay away from SAP’s cloud offerings as much as possible, as SAP does not have any competitive capabilities in the area. AWS and Azure, on the other hand, are proven in this area.

So understanding that it’s difficult to see why one needs the SAP Cloud Platform.

Details on the SAP Cloud Platform

“The Cloud Foundry-based SAP Cloud Platform includes multi-language runtime environments, such as Java, Node.js, and the advanced model of SAP HANA extended application services.”

That is nice. All technologies have some components to them, but I don’t know why this sentence is here.

Azure and the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud

“As part of its alliance, Microsoft said it is also working with SAP to make Azure available as a deployment option for SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud.”

Yes, but why? One can already host SAP on Azure. Why would a company want SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud involved? Once again, outside of its acquired applications (SuccessFactors, Ariba, etc.) that were already cloud-based, SAP does not have much competence in the cloud. SAP has few customers for any of the areas listed by SAP up to this point.

SAP APIs Announced

“Also announced during day one of Sapphire Now in Orlando was the addition of “hundreds” of new APIs for SAP S/4HANA, SAP Hybris, and SAP Ariba to the SAP API Business Hub, as well as the availability of new integration flows and microservices.”

That is nice but unrelated to the central issue.

“Similarly, the SAP App Center also received an upgrade.”


Is SAP Positioning Itself as the Open Vendor?

“SAP’s cloud-related announcements are focused on the theme of openness.”

Perhaps, but SAP has, for its entire history, been focused on closeness. I don’t know how the most closed-off software vendor that ever existed (IBM would be a close second) in enterprise software can claim now to be open. I have had so many conversations on projects with SAP and SAP consultants at Deloitte, IBM, etc. where it has been explained to me that it is a good thing that SAP is such a closed system. And that customers should only be using SAP applications because integration is such a pain. It is hard to describe to those who have not experienced it, but most of the SAP consultants and consultancies I know consider non-SAP applications to be non-starters. If you are an SAP consultant, it does not pay for you ever to praise non-SAP software. That software may become popular, and that is not profit maximizing for the SAP consultant.

Therefore, SAP has hundreds of thousands of consultants that are loyal to them (the vast majority not working for SAP) to help block out non-SAP applications. This applies equally to IT decision makers in customers that use SAP, which often sees their allegiance being more with SAP and the SAP ecosystem than with their present employer.

Is SAP Constantly Taking IP from Other Vendors?

In one meeting, the following was stated by an SAP consultant to the customer.

“The thing is that SAP is constantly surveying the landscape for good things in other applications. SAP then takes those things and places them in SAP. So no matter what, you eventually get everything you need in SAP.”

Hmmm…does that sound like openness? Also, can you smell what SAP is selling Wall Steet here?

It’s locked in customers.

Wall Street wants to purchase the stock of monopolies that can fleece their accounts. Wall Street talks in terms of free markets, but when it comes to how they behave, they want secret cartels. It’s a bit like the way they operate, unencumbered by regulation, running monopolies, getting government insurance (why the investment banks became banks after the bailout) and receiving money from the Fed at 0% interest. That is the big “free market” system that Wall Street favors.

Bill McDermott Tacitly Signals SAP’s Monopolistic Power to Wall Street

Another comment against openness is from Bill McDermott, in their 2017 Q1 earnings call.

“So here is my hypothesis on the industry. Why is SAP the de facto standard business software company in the world? I’ll tell you why. Because even if we don’t win every sale and somebody at a point solution level takes something, they still have to live with us and the other 80% of the enterprise.”

So there you have it. SAP will enforce its power against a vendor that offers a superior application to them. They will make it as difficult as possible for that application to be successful, speak dismissively towards it, make it challenging to integrate into SAP. Bill McDermott very effectively makes the argument that SAP will continue to behave as a monopolist.

Mind Controlled SAP Accounts

On projects, I use an application called Demand Works Smoothie to perform forecast testing to make improvements to SAP DP. I do this because testing anything in SAP’s DP application is so complicated that the vast majority of companies don’t perform any testing. However, even though I show up at repeated customers that have never tested any forecast comparison in DP, I am still asked why I would test outside of SAP, even if I will make the adjustments back in DP.

This is their position even though I have documented the problems in DP in best fit functionality in articles going back to 2009. So it is clear, according to SAP and to SAP consultancies, all non-SAP applications are inferior to SAP. They are not standard (SAP is the de facto standard, as expressed by Bill McDermott) and these other applications (that are superior to SAP in every single application category outside of ERP as explained in How SAP is Now Strip Mining its Customers) need to be minimized and removed from the solution design when possible. Indirect access, which SAP is the only vendor enforce*, is the manifestation of SAP’s perspective that any customer that connects any non-SAP system to an SAP system should pay them to double the licenses for the SAP system. It is difficult to see how SAP could make it any more clear that they oppose open systems.

Is SAP About Open Systems?

Openness means more competition, and it means a reduction in profit margins. It is the right thing to do for customers, but when has SAP been in favor of that?

“Speaking at the opening keynote on Tuesday, Bernd Leukert, member of the executive board of SAP SE, products & innovation, touted openness as the new game changer within an organization, saying it drives new business values.”

SAP has a constant stream of proposals about things that sound good, but then SAP goes and does the opposite in reality. So some other statement to the same effect carries no information.

“We promise we will breakdown all the barriers that prevent you to innovate,” he said.

“Openness makes our software much richer. This is the age of openness of SAP, but more importantly for you, our customers.

“Leave the technology to us.”

I would suggest disregarding all of these statements. They do not carry information.

Some SAP Word Salad

“According to SAP CTO Bjoern Goerke, we are living in a time of accelerated change; a time where software is eating the world and everything will be digitized.”

“Every company — large and small — needs to constantly adapt and reinvent itself to stay competitive. Embracing constant change and the willingness for continuous learning are the new norm for the 21st century workforce,” he said

“Business agility and speed become imperatives for success, and customers are looking for ways to accelerate the delivery of innovative solutions that provide an engaging and seamless customer experience, all without disrupting their core business processes.

“Digital transformation needs escape velocity.”

This has nothing to do with whether one should use SAP for hosting services when there are so many better options in the market that are proven. Overall the expansionist and looney tunes commentary sounds like something from one of Deepak Chopra’s book. You can get the same commentary from the patients of any number of insane asylums.

NetWeaver and Some Buzzwords

“Also on Tuesday, SAP announced the expansion of its Google Cloud Platform partnership to certify SAP NetWeaver and integrate machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), and productivity tools, as well as the expansion of its Leonardo digital innovation system which covers new applications concerning machine learning, the IoT, Big Data, analytics, and blockchain on its SAP Cloud Platform.”

So I have pointed this out several times in the past, but NetWeaver does not exist and has never existed.

Machine learning and IoT are buzzwords and have nothing to do with SAP. SAP has nothing to do with Big Data, and the rest is just word salad.

What is The True Purpose of the Multicloud Article?

The purpose of this article is not to announce anything but to get customers thinking about using more SAP cloud offerings. However, this is a white flag of surrender. SAP has not been successful with its cloud, and there are many reasons why. One is that SAP is not even interested in hosting. They outsource the hosting to companies like IBM and Wipro. All while pitching to Wall Street, they are a big cloud company. How they do, this is the subject of a future article.

However, IBM has been losing very significant data center business to AWS and a lesser extent Azure. CSC, another dinosaur like IBM, has been losing business to AWS and Azure in a similar fashion. I mean, what I take from it is that SAP realizes their goose is cooked, and their old strategy did not work. Even Salesforce now uses AWS. Evernote now hosts with Google. So it is demonstrating that the large-scale economies of scale of companies that provide hosting.

SAP, who previously put AWS on notice, finally realized their goose is cooked, and their old strategy did not work. Even Salesforce now uses AWS. Evernote now hosts with the Google Cloud. So it is demonstrating that the large-scale economies of scale of companies that provide hosting are not just affecting SAP but all manner of vendors.

But it is only taking SAP so long to figure out these things; it brings up the topic of how good SAP’s management is. I can, with far less access to information, easily outguess SAP’s management. Eventually, they switch back to what is practical, when what they would like to have happened proves untenable. Is that really why SAP top executives are paid tens of millions per year? So they can repeatedly fall into uncovered utility hole covers?

What is precisely the point of using SAP’s cloud offering? Companies can go out to AWS or Azure and just stand up SAP already and push the SAP Cloud out of the way. The value of the SAP Cloud is only not there, and they don’t appear to have any vision aside from producing aspirational press releases.

I have had a hard time seeing how the announcement changes anything. It seems like a way to promote SAP Cloud while essentially admitting defeat internally, but putting on a brave face externally. The proper interpretation of this announcement is the following:

“Hey how about if you use our cloud along with AWS and Azure……pretty please….use our cloud ok?”


Advice on Enjoying the SAP Cloud Quiz

To see the full screen just select the lower right-hand corner and expand. Trust us, expanding makes the experience a whole lot more fun.


Vendor Enforcement of Indirect Access

*I was recently told by a customer where Software AG tried to enforce indirect access. They were inspired by SAP to do so. However, without the market leverage of SAP, they were unsuccessful in doing so. To enforce a false legal concept like Type 2 indirect access, you need to be very large. 

Financial Disclosure

Financial Bias Disclosure

Neither this article nor any other article on the Brightwork website is paid for by a software vendor, including Oracle, SAP or their competitors. As part of our commitment to publishing independent, unbiased research; no paid media placements, commissions or incentives of any nature are allowed.

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