AWS is driving cloud innovation for customers with SAP

AWS is driving cloud innovation for customers with SAP

Matt Schwartz, who leads AWS’ Global SAP Alliance and Partner Network, on the two companies’ partnership and how its solutions drive cloud transformations

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud, offering more than 200 fully featured services from data centres globally. Today, millions of customers worldwide are using AWS to lower costs, become more agile and innovate faster.

As explained by Matt Schwartz, who leads the Global SAP Alliance and Partner Network at AWS, the company works with anyone from the fastest-growing startups to the world's largest enterprises to government entities. “Our north star is to help customers lower their costs, be more agile and to innovate faster. And that's something that we're very passionate about.”

Having held a number of senior executive roles at IBM, SAP, Ernst & Young and other leading technology companies, Schwartz brings a unique perspective to the SAP ecosystem.

Schwartz’s journey has equipped him with a deep understanding of the SAP ecosystem. “I understand what SAP customers' challenges have been in the past, as well as the challenges they are facing today and in the future. And so I can bring the unique perspective of having implemented this technology that they're on today and helping them on to what’s next in the cloud.”

Today, the synergy between AWS and SAP is multifaceted, with AWS serving as a partner, customer, engineering collaborator and developer – a relationship that Schwartz aptly refers to as a “360-degree relationship”. This drives a virtuous cycle propelled by the partner community, fostering an environment of continuous innovation.

Increased adoption leads to more co-engineering efforts, which in turn spawns more sophisticated solutions, such as the HANA Cloud database on AWS' Graviton processors, which SAP uses to improve performance while reducing costs and energy consumption.

“When you have greater business outcomes at lower costs, you get delighted customers,” Schwartz describes. “We have really spent a lot of time enabling our partners to make sure that they can deliver these outcomes for their clients. Because without that component, we can't continue to grow our business together.”

AWS partnership with SAP

AWS has been partnering with SAP in the cloud since 2008, when the company started using Amazon’s EC2 instances to build and test its NetWeaver solution. SAP has been trusting AWS to build and run its products ever since, and today over fourty thousand customers run SAP applications on AWS.

Schwartz explains the long-standing innovation history: “If you look over the 15-plus years of innovation with SAP, we've continued to break new ground for our customers throughout, helping them take advantage of the cloud.”

This innovation has largely been focused around being able to help customers continue their business transformation. Schwartz notes the increased awareness among SAP customers regarding the necessity of cloud migration, particularly post-COVID, and AWS’ commitment to ensuring their comfortable transition to the cloud landscape. “We've seen since COVID that customers know that the cloud is where they need to go, but for us it's making sure that SAP customers feel comfortable in moving to the cloud.”

Schwartz pinpoints the transformation journey of SAP customers with AWS, typically commencing with SAP system migrations to AWS or initiating new S/4HANA systems. “Typically, we see customers go on a journey that starts with migrating their SAP systems to AWS – unlocking cost savings and better performance, security and reliability than they had on-premises,” he says. The result is not just an operational upgrade but a strategic move to rethinking business processes and customer experiences.

Take, for example, the German athletic apparel and footwear corporation Adidas, which since its SAP migration to AWS in 2021 has leveraged the AWS spectrum of services to innovate across the company’s entire value chain.

“By tapping into the full breadth of services from AWS and the SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP), Adidas has been able to shift its focus from running the application to re-thinking business processes across the entire value chain. With AWS, they can offer an entirely new cloud-based consumer experience with personalised offers and services,” Schwartz explains.

Such capabilities have become the new normal for SAP in the cloud.

“Cloud isn’t just an infrastructure platform for SAP applications, but an innovation platform. In recent years, it’s been fantastic to partner with SAP on the RISE with SAP offering, which gives customers a guided path to cloud transformation.”

AWS partnering with RISE with SAP

AWS’ collaboration with SAP extends to RISE with SAP, a solution designed to guide customers through cloud transformation, and SAP BTP, which maximises the value of the RISE offering. AWS’ partnership on RISE is illustrated by its robust support infrastructure, including 80+ BTP services – more than any other cloud provider.

AWS has been working closely with SAP on RISE since its release in January 2021, helping customers like PPG, Moderna and Versuni (formerly Philips Domestic Appliance) in their transformative journeys.

As AWS continues to add new cloud services, SAP has continued to expand the BTP portfolio. As a result, customers today who choose AWS have the broadest set of native cloud services and SAP BTP services available to them – and in the most regions – of any cloud provider.

“The fact that we have the most BTP services on AWS allows RISE on AWS customers to do what they need to do,” Schwartz adds. “When you have the broadest set of native cloud services and BTP services available, running on the world’s most secure, reliable and extensive cloud infrastructure, you're providing your customers the most complete set of tools to take full advantage of RISE.”

Over the course of 2023, the two companies also partnered to develop and release Joint Reference Architectures for RISE on AWS, making it even easier for customers to harness the value of more than 200 AWS services and 80+ SAP BTP services to deliver business outcomes. 

For example, customers such as Sumitomo Corporation in Japan are modernising their SAP environment with RISE with SAP on AWS. The Tokyo-based trading and investment company is making use of BTP to connect data globally, apply advanced analytics and AWS machine learning to assess its business processes and identify ways to reduce carbon footprint. 

Another example comes from Zurich Insurance, which has taken advantage of AWS’ new region in Switzerland and is moving a thousand applications to AWS. The insurance leader is also utilising RISE with SAP on AWS to integrate systems like finance and HR across its entire business.

“We have the joint reference architecture to make it easier for customers to deliver their business outcomes, and we've got some of the world's largest companies modernising on RISE with SAP and AWS,” Schwartz comments.

Innovation in generative AI

AWS' partnership with SAP is not limited to ERP; it extends to harnessing generative AI, with SAP leveraging Amazon Bedrock to revolutionise services like Concur: a solution which simplifies travel, expense and invoice management.

“Instead of manually checking prices for the various components of a trip – hotel, airfare, meals, ground transportation – Concur will automatically generate a completed trip request and submit it for approval, saving employees hours,” Schwartz explains.

In addition to giving customers the broadest set of native generative AI services to build with alongside their SAP systems, AWS is also working with partners to create pre-packaged solutions through its Partner Innovation Hub.

“For example, customers will be able to automate the generation of finance reports coming from the SAP General Ledger, rather than create them manually,” Schwartz describes. “Or, our generative AI services can analyse historical data from ERP and ecommerce systems to predict demand patterns, assisting businesses in optimising their SAP inventory management.”

Infrastructure key to focus on innovation beyond ERP core

To innovate in this way, building a solid foundation is necessary. “Before you can do all this other really cool stuff, you actually have to keep innovating when it comes to the underlying infrastructure,” Schwartz explains. 

AWS has co-developed extensively with SAP to ensure it meets the most complex and secure reliability requirements and delivers the most high performance, secure and reliable infrastructure.

As a result of this innovation, in October 2023 AWS announced the launch of its European Sovereign Cloud, a new, independent cloud for Europe designed to help public sector customers and those in highly regulated industries meet regulatory data residency and operational requirements.

“We see consistently that customers with the most complex performance, security and reliability requirements bet on AWS, including SAP themselves,” Schwartz describes. “We’re partnering with SAP on the European Sovereign Cloud so EU customers with the most stringent security and compliance requirements can take advantage of cloud innovation for their mission-critical ERP systems, including through RISE.”

Running the world’s largest SAP systems

For years, large organisations from the US Navy to BP and Bristol Myers Squibb have counted on AWS’ large instances to run some of the most significant SAP systems in the world. 

To help meet the requirements of the largest companies across the world, AWS recently announced a preview of its 32TB High Memory Instances – which run on AWS’ proprietary Nitro system – a combination of dedicated hardware and lightweight hypervisor enabling faster innovation and enhanced security. 

“The 32TB High Memory Instances will allow customers to run some of the world’s largest SAP systems on AWS, including through RISE - but we also offer SAP-certified instances with as little as 256GB of memory,” Schwartz explains.

The pursuit of sustainability also sits at the forefront of the partnership between SAP and AWS, with efforts such as the use of AWS Graviton processors for SAP HANA Cloud. SAP is one of 445 current signatories of the Climate Pledge, which was co-founded by Amazon.
“One project where we have been collaborating for a few years is SAP’s adoption of AWS Graviton for SAP HANA Cloud – the database foundation for BTP and RISE,” comments Schwartz. AWS’ Graviton processors leverage custom AWS silicon, and use up to 60% less energy for the same performance than comparable Amazon EC2 instances.”

By migrating SAP HANA Cloud to AWS Graviton-based Amazon EC2 instances, SAP has seen up to 30% better compute performance for analytical workloads and lowered its compute costs by 15%. And with Graviton3-based instances using up to 60% less energy for the same performance than comparable EC2 instances, SAP can reduce the compute carbon footprint of the workloads of SAP HANA Cloud by an estimated 45%.

This drive for sustainability is a common goal: in SAP’s Q3 2023 earnings its CEO Christian Klein mentioned innovating with AWS on Arm as one of its key strategic pillars. 

“We’re proud of the collaboration across both engineering teams, and we really believe it's only the beginning,” Schwartz comments. “This is going to help our SAP customers reduce their carbon footprint. What I'm excited about is not just the innovation around being able to serve small and large customers, it's about being able to serve them in a sustainable fashion.”

AWS and SAP partnership continuing to push boundaries

The future for the partnership between AWS and SAP is bright. “We are going to continue to push boundaries and break new ground for customers together at every layer of the stack,” Schwartz says. 

This innovation – driven by AWS’ customer-obsessed approach – starts with infrastructure to help customers run their SAP applications with better performance, cost, security and reliability, while reducing emissions. 

As Schwartz concludes, the other aspect will be to help AWS customers more easily use SAP applications and AWS services together.

“That's what our customers want, and we want to meet that demand. We're going to do this by continuing to help SAP build additional BTP services and regions, continuously publish more joint reference architectures for different use cases and add things like gen AI to those use cases. 

“Cloud is an innovation platform at this point, and we're all in with SAP to harness the power of the broadest set of cloud services from AWS – including analytics, IoT and of course, generative AI – alongside SAP’s leading enterprise software to help our customers solve business problems.”