Partnering with Your Infrastructure Providers
As you have seen, there is much to consider when developing an infrastructure design or plan for SAP. Choosing an infrastructure provider or network of providers is therefore serious business. Do not just automatically choose a hardware, OS, or database vendor your company is already familiar with in the context of desktop PCs or laptop purchases. Look to your data center standards first, to get a sense of whom you might already be comfortable with. And then look at competitors. It is certainly a fine strategy to choose a hardware partner you know and trust, for example, but too much is at stake to not conduct a more thorough assessment.
Be sure to investigate any prospective infrastructure providers in light of their relationship with SAP. Do they have a long history of partnering with SAP? Are they “certified” for SAP, or do they hold SAP’s Global Technology Partner status? Check with potential providers for SAP-specific customer references, and follow up by talking with these references over the phone or via an onsite visit if possible. After all, it is helpful to see and hear from other customers; their experiences with SAP and your other likely infrastructure partners can really shed some light on whether your proposed infrastructure solution will provide the foundation the company needs. References in a similar industry or reflecting SAP components and products hosting similar workloads or scope are even more valuable.
Attending an SAP tradeshow such as SAP TechEd, ASUG, or any number of SAP Insider conferences is a great place to meet other SAP customers as well as potential infrastructure providers. SAP is generally happy to make these introductions, but don’t fear striking out on your own. This process is akin to peer support, similar to what is seen in the open-systems arena. Many SAP customers have peer contacts with other companies, sometimes even their own competitors, which can be leveraged to share various experiences and technical challenges as well as answer questions related to how well the provider supports and maintains its customers after money changes hands.
Bottom line: It is not advisable to bet your SAP environment’s viability on a whim, on a relationship that has not been vetted over time or shown to be fruitful by others, or on a little-used technology. Save your cutting-edge IT decisions for something less critical and less essential to the company’s financial well-being. Finally, do your homework, and do it early—before all the SAP project’s budget money is spent on consultants!