Public Cloud is here to stay, and for me it's about enabling business agility and improving time to value, in addition to all the great techie benefits. In the Enterprise space, I'm seeing Microsoft Azure performing very strongly as the most natural fit for large corporations with existing (EA) license agreements and identity (AD) infrastructure already in place. Added to that, Microsoft has been running SAP for over 20 years and has moved their core SAP systems onto their Azure public cloud platform. Their level of knowledge around running large-scale SAP on their hyperscale infrastructure is pretty obvious when you consult their SAP on Azure web page.
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While SAP Operations runs a very tight ship in terms of data center operations, SAP themselves have recognized they can't keep up with the level of investment that Microsoft & AWS have been making in public cloud hyperscale infrastructure. They have pivoted to start offering customers choices about which cloud provider they can use to deploy SAP solutions on, such as Microsoft Azure. The SAP Cloud Appliance Library, aka CAL, was borne out of this pivot and enables customers to rapidly provision SAP templates and pre-configured solutions onto the cloud provider they choose.
This article provides a simple walk-through of one of these CAL scenarios to demonstrate the incredible time to value this concept makes available on Microsoft Azure. Given all SAP customers are thinking about S/4HANA, we have selected to deploy the latest and greatest S/4HANA 1809, Fully-Activated Appliance with a pre-installed SAP S/4HANA 1809OP (On Premise Edition) SP00 system, including pre-activated SAP Best Practices content and sample data, which is fantastic for customers looking to explore a Greenfields approach to business transformation on SAP.
Before you start
You will need the following to follow along and do everything demonstrated in this document:
1: Microsoft Azure subscription
2: SAP ID
The easy path to deploy S/4HANA 1809 to Microsoft Azure:
- Get your Microsoft Azure subscription ID
- Visit the SAP CAL website and browse the available Solutions
- Select SAP S/4HANA 1809, Fully Activated Appliance (Trial)
- Create a CAL Account and link to your Azure subscription
- Assign the CAL (SAP) Account to use for this new Instance
- Provide the Instance details for the S/4HANA 1809 Solution
- Review Azure VM sizes
- Confirm instance scheduling
- Instance initialization in the CAL
- Instance initialization in Azure
- Verify CAL activation status
- Understand your access and login details
- Login to the deployed SAP appliances on Azure
- Explore S/4HANA 1809!
- Suspend your instance when done
Login to the Azure portal, the Subscriptions view and copy the Subscription ID you want to use from the SAP Cloud Appliance library:
Go to https://cal.sap.com (SAP ID required):
Select the Solutions tab on the left to view all the available options to deploy:
View the Solution details and documentation, and when ready select Create Instance:
Browse the details and select I Accept when ready:
You’ll then be prompted to select Microsoft Azure from the selection list:
Paste your Microsoft Azure Subscription ID into the field provided and select Authorize:
You’ll be prompted to login to your Microsoft Azure subscription to authorize CAL to use it:
Select the Consent checkbox and then select Accept to continue:
Select the applicable SAP CAL Account User and Role to assign to the Instance (of S/4HANA 1809 on Azure) and continue:
Type in a descriptive Instance name, select the closest Azure region and then type in a memorable Solution Password, paying attention to their limited password rules - do not lose this password as it will be used in many places to access your new instance. (The password screen is also shown as Step 4 in Advanced mode):
If you toggle over from Basic to Advanced mode, you can see more details but can’t really do much more. Proceed by selecting the blue Step 3 button at the bottom:
Start by reviewing the Activate column and deselecting any optional Virtual Machines you aren’t interested in - in my case I deselected the optional BusinessObjects platform which is going to save me from consuming any E4_v3 VM costs. Notice that the S/4HANA VM is sized to use a E32S_v3 VM with 32 cores and 256GB memory which is the bulk of the overall runtime cost (estimate in the right hand pane):
Scroll down to review the Storage allocations. Azure VMs always have an OS storage volume and a temporary data volume by default and drives are manifested as VHDs (virtual hard disks):
Scroll down some more to review and edit the (network) Access Points. This is effectively creating a firewall rule (NSG) to whitelist the IP address of the computer you want to use to access the applicable VM over the internet - in this example I’ve selected to only open up the RDP port to the Windows jump (bastion) host VM and kept all other public access to the SAP hosts closed:
Scroll down and then enter or reconfirm your Solution Password, and remember to store this securely in a key vault somewhere. When ready to proceed select the button Step 5:
One of the nicest features of the CAL is its ability to schedule when you want all the VMs to be running and when to shut them down, and deallocate the VMs to save consumption costs. If you have a desired schedule, configure it here and proceed. You can still manually start/shutdown the solution later as well adjusting the schedule by editing the Instance. You can also configure a Termination Date if desired which is when the CAL will deprovision all the Microsoft Azure resources to effectively tear down the whole solution/instance:
Once you have finished reviewing and have Activated your instance in the CAL, it should look something like this, showing a Status of Copying nn% which means the CAL orchestration process is busy setting up the Microsoft Azure infrastructure via API using templates and staging any required binaries:
If you click on the blue Copying text you’ll get a popup window looking something like this:
If we pivot over to the Azure portal we’ll see that three Resource groups have been created:
Resource group SAPCAL-Network-[region] : this only contains the VNet (Virtual Network):
Resource group SAPCAL-[SAP S-ID)-[CAL account ID] : this contains all VMs and all their associated resources i.e. Network Interface, Public IP addresses, Network Security Groups, Disks:
Resource group sapcaleu[CAL account ID] : this contains a single Storage Account with the same name in which is a Blob container called Solutions and stores any .VHD files for the VM hard drives:
After 45-90 minutes, the whole activation process should have completed and you’ll see your CAL instance dashboard showing a status of Active . Select Connect to try accessing it:
If you drill down you can view more detailed information including the estimated costs. You can also click Edit to change certain settings such as the Schedule. At any time you can login to the CAL and choose to Suspend (shutdown and deallocate) or Activate (allocate and start) the Virtual Machines:
There is a Getting Started Guide in PDF form available from the Solution page in the CAL which is pretty good for this latest S/4HANA 1809 release. Make sure you read through the first part to understand the access options and what the various usernames are for the Windows, Linux, SAP components before continuing:
Once you’ve selected Connect above, you’ll be presented with a simple navigation page as follows that lists any Access points that you configured during the instance setup. In our case we only configured RDP to the Windows jump host, click Connect next to that option to continue:
In this instance, a small .RDP file will be downloaded to your computer. Double-click on it to initiate the RDP session from your computer to the Windows jump host on Microsoft Azure (on Mac you’ll need the Microsoft Remote Desktop App). You’ll be promoted to provide login details once the RDP session starts - login in as Administrator with the password being your Solution Password you configured during the instance setup:
Continue past the usual RDP certificate prompt:
You’ll be logged into a fully configured Windows Server 2012 VM with all the SAP client software loaded with the correct connection information:
SAP GUI is configured with the local Azure name of the VM that is resolved by Azure DNS internally:
The SAP GUI login page is presented with a pre-configured splash page showing the different clients available to login to:
The S/4HANA instance components seem in order (sanity check :)
Go explore this latest version of S/4HANA and have fun! A good resource is this SAP blog from Joerg Wolf that has links to business process demo scripts and explains in a lot more detail how to get value out of this preconfigured solution.
You are paying for the Microsoft Azure resources by the hour/second, so anytime you are not going to be using the instance it is highly recommended you Suspend them using the CAL. Your instance should show the status Suspended meaning that the VMs are not running and not costing you anything; you are only paying a nominal amount for the storage being used.
From the Microsoft Azure perspective there is 1 VM that will cost you 95% of the total solution, so as a sanity check you can manually double-check that its showing a Status of Stopped (deallocated):
Issues you may encounter
Your Microsoft Azure subscription might not be configured to allow the deployment of so many CPU cores and you’ll first notice this by your CAL instance activation failing with an error message saying Instance Operation Failed.
If you select the Show Error text you’ll see something similar to this complaining about your subscription resource limit being the issue:
To overcome this you can follow the instructions in the SAP Community Page link above that explains how to log a support ticket with Microsoft to raise the limit of your subscription for the specific VM in question - in my case they resolved it in a couple of hours without fuss:
You might also get other CAL Activation issues and I would recommend that you start by confirming that your Azure user has sufficient privileges (to create VMs etc in the Regions required etc.), and that your Azure subscription supports the specified VM sizes and Regions - some Azure subscriptions are limited.
EPI-USE Labs is a Silver level Microsoft Partner specializing in SAP on Microsoft Azure solutions and services. Contact us today to see how can help you rightsize, migrate, secure and manage your SAP workloads on Microsoft Azure.