As cloud services mature, they are likely to come closer to services being offered in the enterprise data center. SunGard, for example, is now offering enterprise-class application services, including highly available SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications.
Since mid-November, SunGard's Availability Services unit has been offering cloud-based SAP ERP services that "meet the availability, security, operations, and capacity needs" of enterprise customers, said Indu Kodukula, executive VP and CTO, in an interview. That means all SAP applications running as a service in a SunGard data center have a guaranteed 99.95% virtual machine uptime and 99.9% production application uptime, spelled out in a service-level agreement. A 99.9% guarantee still allows 8.75 hours of downtime a year.
The SAP applications are being offered as a virtual private cloud service, where communication lines used are more secure than the public Internet. The virtual private cloud still runs on a multitenant infrastructure, as opposed to, say, SunGard-managed application services, which are offered from physical servers dedicated to particular customers. Cloud services tend to take advantage of greater economies of scale than predecessor managed services, Kodukula said.
SunGard was a supplier of SAP managed services for 10 years before initiating the cloud service. Unlike managed services, customers initiate and terminate SunGard cloud services on their own through software interfaces and decide on the level of scalability they will need.
The applications run on vBlock infrastructure based on Cisco Systems Unified Computing System servers and network fabric, EMC storage, and VMware virtualization software. VBlock is a high-end, optimized-for-virtualization rack of blade servers produced by a manufacturing consortium, VCE. The company was established by Cisco and EMC, with additional funding from Intel and VMware.
SunGard offers its availability services, including SAP applications, at data centers in Philadelphia and Denver, two in the United Kingdom, and two in Ireland. It will add a seventh in Toronto in January. SunGard availability services claims 9,000 customers worldwide.
The SAP services available include monitoring an SAP production environment, configuration support, administration of updates and patches, and workload scalability. The SunGard software-as-a-service environment includes automated failover of virtualized servers, multisite availability with secure data replication between them, and layered security measures to protect applications, including intrusion detection, Kodukula said.
SunGard has been certified as qualified to run the ERP applications as a service by SAP, said Kodukula. It provides ITIL version 3 level production services in hardened data centers audited under the SSAE 16 Type II standard, he added.
If an existing SAP environment is moved from an enterprise data center to SunGard Availability Services, a customer might save 15% of direct costs, while gaining higher availability, Kodukula said. If the customer duplicated SunGard's levels of availability, the cost comparison would be a 40% savings in the cloud, he said.
The SunGard service is priced with a base cloud service charge, with one of three tiers of SAP service added on. They are: advanced monitoring, SAP infrastructure, and SAP production support. A development environment using NetWeaver with SAP services runs $2,500 per month to $19,000 a month, depending on the size of the environment and services chosen.
In addition, SunGard is making disaster recovery (once comprised of a geographically separate data center service based on matching physical equipment) into a cloud service based on matching virtual machines. As a result, applications that were once deemed not worth expensive disaster recovery services may now be protected by backup virtual machines in the cloud, Kodukula said.
Offering lower-cost services in the cloud "leads to the democratization of disaster recovery," said Kodukula. Most applications that are important to the business may now be covered, instead of just those deemed too critical for the business to go without for more than a short period, Kodukula said. He said he lacked a direct cost comparison of apples-to-apples recovery services, but the cloud service capitalized on economies of scale that aren't possible when disaster recovery requires matching hardware.
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