The Beginnings of Customer Experience
The SAP C/4HANA Suite has become indispensable, and rightfully so! After all, it is a seamless integration of the Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Customer Data Cloud, Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and, as their most recent addition, the Qualtrics solution. SAP offers a complete cloud portfolio for Customer Experience (read more in the blog post C/4HANA in a Nutshell).
SAP Commerce in the cloud is not an entirely new approach. Three years ago, SAP started moving their fairly new e-commerce solution, Hybris, into their own cloud. Back then, they didn’t quite dare make the move to public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), MS Azure or Google Cloud Platform (GCP) but decided to use their own data centers, calling this “SAP Commerce Cloud on SAP Infrastructure”. This led to a number of implications, which should be resolved with the new “SAP Commerce Cloud in the Public Cloud”.
SAP Commerce in the Public Cloud
Since the grand announcement of the Commerce Public Cloud at Sapphire Now in 2018, more than 250 customers worldwide have moved activities to the new SAP Commerce Cloud. While they previously worked on SAP infrastructure, they now rely on established cloud services and runtime environments such as MS Azure and Kubernetes. Some of the main sales arguments for SAP Commerce Cloud are:
- Automated infrastructure
- Improved self-service tools
- Dedicated cloud build platform
- Automated scaling options
- Disaster recovery
- Continuous upgrades
- Dynatrace application performance management
- Extensions through SCP Extension Factory (project kyma)
- Global availability
But what do all these buzzwords mean? Does SAP keep its promise of a state-of-the-art cloud solution that is fit for the digital future? Let’s take a closer look at the individual aspects of SAP Commerce Cloud.
As is the norm with on-premises solutions, the cloud infrastructure consists of three independent cloud environments for development, integration and production. When in the past, you were responsible for your own continuous integration of the application, the cloud will now do this for you via Commerce Zone which is based exclusively on Docker. Additional build APIs allow you to access the continuous integration pipeline to trigger additional builds, for example. However, you can also use your own continuous integration tools such as Jenkins and integrate them into the development process.
Improved Self-Service Tools & Dynatrace Application Performance Management
Deployments can now be triggered in a dedicated cloud portal. A complete Docker image which is deployable to Kubernetes is generated via the Commerce Zone and can then be distributed to one of the three cloud environments. Zero downtime deployments are a long-awaited feature that has now become available.
SAP offers several services for monitoring the operation of SAP Commerce Cloud. The tried and tested Elastic Stack, which was part of the first cloud solution, is used to analyze log files. Various data sources can be read, analyzed and visualized on a neat Kibana Dashboard. Performance analysis should also not be neglected. Thanks to the use of Dynatrace Cloud, customers can make the most of performance metrics. All the usual Dynatrace options to analyze the application are available via the SAP Commerce Cloud portal. Read more about logging and performance monitoring here.
Automated Scaling Options & Data Retention
You will need to get along without the traditional analysis on application servers. SSH access to the individual nodes is not provided. So far, only the production environment is scalable and the development and integration environments are exempt from that for now. In general, however, flexible adjustment to changes in website traffic via scaling is available, both to handle seasonal traffic fluctuations as well as special marketing campaigns such as Black Friday.
MsSQL is used for data retention. This is a move away from the in-house HANA database that was used in the initial cloud approach and caused some difficulties in local development, as HANA architecture was only designed for SAP-certified hardware. Direct access to the database is not intended, but is also not necessary. SAP takes over the application operation. Flexible search requests are still possible via the familiar SAP Commerce Cloud administrator interface.
Disaster Recovery & Snapshots
Other new features include disaster recovery and an additional snapshot service. Disaster recovery is used if the data center is destroyed during a catastrophic event. In severe events, customer and store data can be recovered from primary and secondary data centers. The snapshot service also enables you to capture a complete snapshot of the SAP Commerce Cloud at any given time. Should complications occur or should you want to revert to an older data point for any reason, a rollback will allow you to easily transfer all store data, including media, at the touch of a button.
The release strategy has changed from previous SAP Commerce versions. For update packages, you need to distinguish between the Commerce Cloud infrastructure and the Commerce Cloud application. Cloud extension packs (CEP) are offered on a monthly basis for the application, and they refer back to the previous major release version. These focus on new features and bug fixes for the Commerce Cloud application. But the Commerce Cloud infrastructure also has a monthly update cycle. Here, update packages focus on enhancements of the infrastructure, cloud automation, cloud APIs and the Cloud Portal. There is no need for any manual intervention by the store operator since updates are automated and any new features become available straight away.
Of course, microservices are also a must in the new SAP Commerce Cloud. The SAP-driven open source project kyma (https://kyma-project.io) has evolved into the SAP Cloud Platform Extension Factory, which uses event-based architecture and provides a platform for microservices. With regard to SAP Commerce Cloud, the Extension Factory offers various opportunities to process events, be it through separately deployed microservices or serverless Lambdas – the sky is the limit. The Extension Factory can be configured and events and microservices can be managed via a dedicated cockpit.
What Else is in Store?
Almost a year has passed since the announcement at Sapphire Now, and SAP’s plans for the C4/HANA Suite Commerce Cloud are becoming clearer. Cloud automation is taking shape through Commerce Zone and becoming a little more accessible with APIs for triggering your own builds. In operation and monitoring, tried and tested services are available, but there is room for improvement when it comes to configuration options. Disaster recovery and snapshot tools ensure that users are always on the safe side and can trigger a data rollback at the touch of a button. The release strategy with monthly updates for the cloud infrastructure and the Commerce application will ensure that users always have the most recent features on hand.
Cloud automation will see further strategic development in the future. This means better and automated deployments, support for multi-cloud infrastructure and even more self-service options. You will not be limited to the MS Azure cloud platform, and will be able to add other established cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud Platform to your repertoire. The faster release cycle of the cloud option will, however, slow down the release cycle of the conventional on-premises version. You will probably only receive the latest Commerce features once a year from now on. This strategy highlights SAP’s intention to move all customers to the new SAP Commerce Cloud within the SAP C/4HANA Suite as soon as possible.
As an SAP Recognized Expertise Partner and with a full range of experts on our team, we can support your migration to the cloud. Find out more about us on our Partner page SAP C/4HANA.
With the repositioning of the customer experience (CX) products within the SAP C/4HANA suite, SAP takes the next step towards the integration of the Hybris e-commerce platform.