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SAP has long been an undisputed market leader in the ERP space. As part of my role within the SAP S/4HANA Customer Care and Regional Implementation Group, I can see how we are more and more helping global companies become intelligent enterprises, including companies in China.

As hundreds of new SAP S/4HANA systems go live every month, I can see more and more customers asking us for guidance on how to start their journey to the new digital core product SAP S/4HANA, which is really a big topic. That’s the reason I have decided to write a series of articles to guide your way to SAP S/4HANA.

Due to my region and background, this article is talking about the technical journey to SAP S/4HANA (SAP S/4HANA on-premise / SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition) in China, which has some differences compared to other regions.

Let’s have a look.


1. Strategic Options

With a New Implementation, you build a new SAP S/4HANA system and either cut over to the new system (the so-called “big bang” scenario) or migrate the individual business units sequentially from your legacy SAP ERP application to the new system (“a phased rollout”).

With a system conversion, you turn your existing SAP ERP system into an SAP S/4HANA system, which includes the SAP software conversion to the SAP S/4HANA code line, data conversion to the SAP S/4HANA data model and database migration to SAP HANA 2.0 as technical requirement.

Figure 1: Way to SAP S/4HANA in general

There is a 3rd option SDT (Selective Data Transition), with which you can migrate/convert selected parts of your system data into the target SAP S/4HANA system.

Our records over the past three years show that the vast majority of SAP ERP customers decide for either conversion or new implementation in almost equal parts. We estimate that about 10% choose other options because of their specific situations and requirements. In the end, there is no right or wrong. Each customer needs to choose the option that best allows them to continuously adopt SAP innovations in the future.


2. SAP S/4HANA release Strategy

SAP S/4HANA has reached its next stage

Figure 2: SAP S/4HANA Release

We will be taking the next evolutionary step towards a release strategy, which better supports our customer base.

  • Starting with SAP S/4HANA 2023

  • Stable two-year release cycle

  • Three easy-to-adopt innovation shipments via Feature Packs every 6 months

  • Mainstream maintenance duration for each release is expanded from 5 to 7 years

Figure 3: SAP S/4HANA release maintenance

SAP S/4HANA 2023 release marks an important milestone for our customers with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition, or on-premise:

  • To migrate to the upcoming SAP S/4HANA 2023 release, RISE with SAP is the perfect solution.

  • To make it more effective for customers to upgrade to the 2023 release, SAP offers an extended maintenance option for customers on SAP S/4HANA 1709, 1809, or 1909

Figure 4: Extended Maintenance

Four options are available for SAP S/4HANA on-premise customers approaching the end of mainstream maintenance:

  1. Upgrade to a release in mainstream maintenance

  2. Lift & Shift to RISE with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition

  3. Continue to operate SAP S/4HANA with customer-specific maintenance

  4. Optionally purchase extended maintenance

        • For on-premise installations of SAP S/4HANA releases 1709, 1809, and 1909

Extended maintenance for SAP S/4HANA 1709 will be commercially available Nov 1, 2022.

You can check more details in the announcement on the SAP webpage:

New SAP S/4HANA Release & Maintenance Strategy | SAP News


3. SAP S/4HANA Approach and Tools

Let me discuss the approach and tools for getting to SAP S/4HANA on-premise respectively SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition for conversions and upgrades.

Figure 5: SAP S/4HANA Approach

3.1  SAP S/4HANA System Conversion 

Three approaches are offered for system conversions from SAP ERP to SAP S/4HANA:

    • Standard Approach (aka “DMO of SUM / SUM”)
      Uses Software update Manager (SUM) with several optimizations or nZDM

    • Downtime Optimized Approach (aka “downtime-optimized DMO”)
      Uses SUM as well, and reduces downtime by moving the database migration partly
      to the uptime with a shadow system approach

    • Downtime Optimized Approach (aka “downtime-optimized Conversion”)
      Uses SUM as well, and reduces downtime by moving the data conversions and database migration partly to the uptime with a shadow system approach

    • Customer-specific Approach (aka “Near Zero Downtime Technology” or “NZDT”)
      Uses SUM as well, and further reduces the downtime by executing all system conversion tasks on an isolated clone

The decision on which approach is best for a given system depends largely on the size of the source system and the available technical downtime.


3.2  SAP S/4HANA System Upgrade

This will apply if you are on a lower SAP S/4HANA release already and would like to perform a system upgrade to a higher version of SAP S/4HANA

Three approaches are offered for upgrades from a lower to a higher SAP S/4HANA release:

    • Standard Approach (aka “SUM”)
      Uses Software update Manager (SUM) with several optimizations

    • Near-Zero Downtime Maintenance Approach (aka “nZDM”)
      Uses SUM via downtime reduction by moving downtime-relevant phases to uptime

    • Zero Downtime Option Approach (aka “ZDO”)
      Uses SUM as well, and All phases are running during uptime, system restarted is required

4. SAP S/4HANA Options in China

SAP S/4HANA offers customers a consumption choice, which is a unique differentiator in the market. No matter whether we talk about SAP S/4HANA Any Premise or SAP S/4HANA Cloud, it can be run on different infrastructure, including Hyperscaler offerings.

Deployment Flexibility of SAP S/4HANA

When SAP S/4HANA is consumed as a Cloud solution, SAP owns the governance of the solution according to SaaS principles. When SAP S/4HANA is consumed as a product, the governance of the solution is with the customer, but can of course be handed over to a 3rd party (including SAP) as part of classical software application management services (AMS).

SAP S/4HANA Deployment on Hyperscalers | SAP Blogs

Figure 6: SAP S/4HANA Cloud and On-Premise

4.1  SAP S/4HANA On-Premise

Figure 7: SAP S/4HANA Cloud and On-Premise

Customers can choose different options, such as customer-owned data center or Cloud options like running the system on a Hyperscaler.

Figure 8: IAAS share in China

According to an IDC China report on all IAAS market share in China, Alibaba Cloud takes the No.1 share of 37.8% and Huawei Cloud is following up with 11.4%.

Talking about SAP S/4HANA applications running on Hyperscalers in China, SAP announced the below SAP-certified Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platforms as of today.

SAP and Hyperscalers

Certified Infrastructure as a Service Platforms

Discover available Infrastructure as a Service Platforms for your preferred deployment model. Here you can find all certified hardware supporting IaaS configurations for OLAP, OLTP and SAP Business One for these vendors:

  • Alibaba Cloud Computing Limited

  • Amazon Web Services

  • Google Cloud Platform

  • Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd

  • IBM Cloud

  • Microsoft Azure

  • Open Telekom Cloud

When a customer chooses a cloud option for SAP S/4HANA, make sure you consider all technical prerequisites for different vendors and refer to SAP Note 2951356 - Hyperscaler (IaaS) Support & Information Resources - SAP ONE Support Launchpad for more details.

4.2  SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition

SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition follows the SAP S/4HANA 2022 release strategy. Consequently, release dates, maintenance durations and upgrade paths are identical.

SAP will typically deploy the latest release and support package. If your deployment is planned a few weeks before or after the availability of a new release or support package, please align with SAP which version should be deployed.

On customer request or if any required software components (e.g. add-ons) are not yet available with the latest release, the use of an earlier software release (with at least 9 months remaining mainstream maintenance at the time of system delivery) is possible.

If you plan to add software components (e.g. add-ons) at a later point in time, it is recommended to consider their version compatibility when determining your initial software release and support package.

With SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition it is the customer’s decision when to upgrade, as long as the system is still in mainstream maintenance.

Please find a summary below about technical criteria for customers who are running SAP S/4HANA on their premises to move to S/4HANA Cloud, private edition:

Figure 9: S/4HANA Cloud, private edition Maintenance

SAP-provided scope

Figure 10: SAP Provided Scope - AMS

Currently Microsoft Azure is the only option in China for SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition, it will be released and extended to Amazon Web Services (AWS) soon.

Methods to move to a Hyperscaler

Figure 11: DMO with System Move

Other than standard SWPM export/import or backup/restore approach, there are advanced methods for moving a system to a Hyperscaler.

“DMO with system move”: the previous approach for a move to Hyperscalers

➢“DMO with System Move”:

use case to move complete SAP system

  •     Allows to switch PAS host

  •     Allows to migrate across data centers

  •     Allows to migrate to cloud (IAAS)


  •     Start SUM in source, export happens

  •     Copy and start SUM on target, import happens

R3load runs in file mode

Can be combined with “SUM on AAS

Cannot be combined with “downtime-optimized DMO” or “downtime-optimized Conversion”

DMO with System Move comes with the following disadvantages:

  • R3load transfer mode is used

  • Downtime optimization methods cannot be leveraged

In essence, the total SUM runtime will be increased, operations are more complex and the impact SUM technical downtime will be impacted a lot. Thus, SAP provided additional innovation and enhanced the plain DMO to combine the SAP S/4HANA conversion with the data center move to a Hyperscaler, thereby eliminating the disadvantages of DMO with System Move.

Let me introduce you to the method called “DMO to Azure”.

Figure 12: DMO to Azure

Guided System Conversion to Microsoft Azure
Plain DMO to be used for combination of system conversion and datacenter move


    • R3load pipe mode is used (so no dump files are created)

    • Allowing downtime-optimized approaches also for hyperscaler move

    • Application Server VM in MS Azure can be scaled up during migration

Guided System Conversion to Microsoft Azure is the overall title

    • Technical name is "DMO to Azure“

    • Further simplification in discussion, like automation

Approach specific steps:

    • Install AAS on target

    • Start SUM on that AAS in target

    • Confirm ASCS switch offered by SUM

Prerequisites for pilot participation:

    • low latency (< 20ms), high bandwidth (> 400 MBit/s)

    • Source database is non-SAP-HANA, and size of up to 5 TB

    • Consultants experienced with DMO must be part of the project

    • Pilot project is starting with Proof-of-Concept


4.3  Some Recommendations for SAP S/4HANA projects

I have been involved in 30+ SAP S/4HANA conversion and new implementation projects. As technical lead in several of them, I’ve captured lots of lessons learned during these projects. Let me share some recommendations to Chinese customers:

System Conversion projects:

  • Plan a system conversion on a sandbox system as early as possible and leverage the system for technical conversion and functional adjustments requirements

  • Run the SAP Readiness Check, Maintenance Planner and Simplification Items check early to get an overview for the planning baseline to plan for requirements regarding SAP and partner Add-ons, business functions, Simplification Items, etc.

  • SAP Fiori apps usage needs to be considered as early as possible

  • Do not underestimate the effort for custom coding adjustments

  • Leave sufficient time for testing (UT, SIT, UAT, etc.)

  • Plan for dress rehearsal, optimize the downtime

  • Consider dual maintenance for required changes until cut-over to SAP S/4HANA

New implementation projects:

  • Technical prerequisites are fewer compared to system conversions

  • Customers and partners can learn and experience SAP S/4HANA innovation as early as possible with demo or trial environments like SAP Cloud Appliance Library (CAL)

  • Data migration is a time-consuming activity and needs to be planned for in detail

  • For SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition delays could occur due to miscommunication between project team and SAP support, therefore I would like to emphasize the communication channels with our technical support again:

Figure 13: Communication Channel

Figure 14: Support Channel


4. Summary

From 2016 onwards, more and more Chinese customers have moved to SAP S/4HANA to reap the benefits of innovation, embedded analytics, in-memory database technology provided with SAP S/4HANA.

Now in 2022, several big SAP customers have gone through the journey of converting their SAP ERP system to SAP S/4HANA and I’m expecting a domino effect for many other customers to finally start their journey to SAP S/4HANA as well.

I hope this article will help you with some considerations when planning and preparing for your own SAP S/4HANA journey. Any feedback or suggestion is welcome to share to us in the comment.

If you have more interests to SAP S/4HANA topic, you can refer to below S/4HANA community resources as well, such as
- Related topics - link from the text
- SAP S/4HANA Topic Page (https://community.sap.com/topics/s4hana)
- Ask questions about SAP S/4HANA and follow (https://answers.sap.com/tags/73554900100800000266)
- Read other SAP S/4HANA and follow blog posts (https://blogs.sap.com/tags/73554900100800000266/)

Brought to you by the SAP S/4HANA Customer Care and Regional Implementation Group