Exclusive: SAP chooses Equinix for Australian cloud

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Exclusive: SAP chooses Equinix for Australian cloud
Equinix' SYD3 data centre.

SuccessFactors first in at Sydney data centre.

SAP will host its first multi-tenant cloud solutions for Australian customers in Sydney’s Equinix data centre, iTnews can reveal, and will choose a second co-lo data centre in Australia by the end of 2012.

SuccessFactors, an online human resources software company acquired by SAP twelve months ago, began offering its SaaS solutions to Australian customers from a caged off area within Equinix on October 18, 2012.

Globally, SAP is looking to consolidate its multi-tenant cloud solutions into two data centres per region (one production and one DR).

Greg Harbor, regional vice president of cloud sales for SAP in Asia Pacific and Japan, confirmed that SAP is also moving its IT infrastructure into the Equinix facility, with production services scheduled to go live by the second quarter of 2013.

Harbor said Australian customers will be able to consume a large range of SAP software solutions as a true multi-tenant service.

This will include Finance solutions (Business ByDesign, finance on demand, travel and expense management on demand, enterprise performance management); CRM (sales, service marketing, analytics, social media and collaboration solutions), supply chain management (including the full Ariba stack and human capital management (SAP and SuccessFactors’ solutions).

All of these solutions work with SAP’s new social platform (a combination of Jam and Streamworks) and sit on top of SAP’s HANA cloud for augmentation and customisation of existing SaaS apps.

Harbor said that within six to eight weeks SAP will have selected a second co-lo facility in Australia to ensure the highest availability for these applications. Ideally, he said, the two will be running in an active-active configuration by the end of 2013.

But despite its direct approach, SAP will continue to work with partners such as CSC, Fujitsu and Telstra to host more complex legacy versions of SAP's ERP software.

“We expect many of our customers to take a multi-pronged journey to cloud,” Harbor told iTnews.

"If they have some complexity around asset management or plant management or some other aspect of ECC6, they might virtualise their on-premise software into a private cloud environment with one of our partners, and then over time integrate our multitenant public cloud options for things like travel and expense management, HCM, social,or sales and marketing.”

SuccessFactors at speed

SAP’s decision to offer cloud services from local data centres has been spurred on by rapid take-up of SuccessFactors from its Australian data centre.

Bill Harmer, vice president of security and global privacy officer at SuccessFactors told iTnews this week that SuccessFactors has already moved several Australian customers from US data centres to Equinix's Sydney facility.

SuccessFactors claims its customers are seeing an average decrease in latency of 95 percent when connecting to Sydney rather than Arizona, USA, based solely on the distance to the data centre.

Average ping times from Sydney to SuccessFactors’ Arizona data centre are approximately 180ms (milliseconds) - the same pings to the Sydney data centre are only 8ms.

Harmer gave iTnews an insight into why the facility was chosen during a tour this week.

“We partner with best-of-breed in our locations,” he said. “We’re looking for location, quality, fit-for-purpose. Choosing the top tier tells our customers that we’re serious about how we host our installation.”

SuccessFactors demands certifications that apply to each region — be it ISO27000, SSAE 16 or SOC2, he said.

“We are looking for physical and environmental controls - things like physical guards, background checks on personnel, cameras where necessary, multi-factor authentication, solid redundancy infrastructure and multi-point ingress for electricity,” Harmer said.

Harmer said customers get some level of assurance knowing that their cloud applications are hosted locally at top tier facilities.

“What people need to understand about cloud computing is that you still need transparency,” he said. “To provide what we call a ‘controlled cloud’, you must do what you say, say what you do, and prove it.”

Five years ago Harmer built an auditing infrastructure at SuccessFactors to provide that transparency.

Building on the toughest audit requirements he could find (in European customers such as Siemens and Deutsche Bank), SuccessFactors conducts a twice-yearly audit conducted by a third party, which checks whether SuccessFactors’ operations match the ISO standards they were designed upon.

All 300-odd pages of audit report are forwarded to the company’s many thousands of customers to “give them a comfort and understanding that we are managing data appropriately,” he said.

“Multitenancy drives cost savings to customers,” he said. “But if you simply move licensing costs to audit costs – you’re adding risk and not cutting costs.

"We have to be able to turn around to auditors and regulators and say, here’s the proof. That way customers don’t have to come audit us. If I had 5000 customers auditing me, I simpy wouldn’t have the time.

“You have to give customers the transparency into what we do. We’ve always been very attuned to their security and privacy needs, we get that discussion out of the way early before we talk about contracts. That way the internal champions of our software will be more confident when speaking internally about our solution.”

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