You've all heard it: "My company is switching to SAP ..." - sadly the next part of the sentence often includes a statement to the effect that IBM i will not be part of the new environment. There are many reasons for this, ranging from pure ignorance on the part of the management/consultants involved in the decision to willful ignorance.
Willful ignorance? Well, if you talk to an SAP consultant who has been actively involved in installing SAP on IBM i they will tell you that it typically takes less time and effort to install and tune the software on IBM i than on other platforms. But SAP's value proposition, at least to those marketing it, has always been about selling consulting and customization services - the actual base cost of the software is a relatively small component.
Consequently when an SAP installation is based on IBM i it will end up costing less than if hosted on another platform. That should be a good thing, right? Wrong! Hardware and software sales are an ever-shrinking component of the cost of new systems. Services are the new profit center - even for IBM. If you have any doubts take a look at IBM's latest financials:
"... Our Services businesses delivered powerful margin and profit growth with combined pre-tax income up 17 percent. Services revenue growth was again led by growth markets which were up 13 percent at constant currency..."
As we've discussed here before, many IBM i shops have allowed their applications to stagnate in the green screen world and as a result it is rarely difficult to convince senior management that they should dump their "old fashioned AS/400". Heck, even IBM's own SAP consulting practice rarely recommends that the IBM i be used as the server for new SAP deployments, even when the shop is an existing IBM i user. That is truly sad and something that the folks at IBM really need to fix. We have encountered many situations where IBM i customers were already well into an SAP conversion to a different platform before they even realized that hosting on IBM i was an option. No one had told them - they didn't find out until they went to SAP conferences, etc., and met IBM i users there. "Too late" came the cry.
But there is good news. There is finally sufficient awareness of the IBM i option in the marketplace that at least people are beginning to ask for advice from their fellow iBM i professionals BEFORE it is too late. IBM themselves have published a few success stories - this one relates to a conversion from a Windows SAP install. There have also been a number of threads on different internet boards ranging from this one on Midrange.com to this recent thread (one of several) on LinkedIn.
This "SAP question" is one we are constantly being asked, so if you can contribute anything to the discussion please add your comments. The more material we have the better.