HANA on the Azure cloud brings IT a new choice -- at a cost

The good news: HANA will run on both Azure and AWS. The bad news: You have to figure out which path to commit to

On Tuesday, SAP and Microsoft announced that they are now buddies, working together to better integrate their cloud services. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivered the news in person on stage at SAP’s annual conference.

Under the new relationship, Microsoft will deliver broad support for the SAP HANA in-memory database and business applications on its Azure cloud. Also, there are new integrations between Microsoft Office 365 and SAP cloud applications.

Why? It’s all about the cloud users. Microsoft has more than 70 million active business users on Office 365, and the SAP alliance will let it do new tricks, such as access an expense report from Concur (an SAP service) directly from Microsoft Outlook.

SAP has had for some time a similar relationship in place with Amazon Web Services for HANA. At first blush the Microsoft-SAP deal broadens the cloud providers that IT can use for HANA deployments. And Microsoft now has yet another reason for its customers to move from on-premises Exchange and Office to Office 365.

The “partner with everyone” method of doing business is common among large enterprise providers like SAP. It makes sense it wants partnerships with the top two public cloud platforms. Ironically, the increase in HANA cloud options actually complicate matters for enterprises.

For example, enterprises now have several HANA cloud options to assess and test to make sound technical decisions. That significant testing effort is critical: HANA is one of those databases that quickly becomes critical to the business, so if you pick the wrong platform, you’ll end up in trouble down the road.

Price is another issue. Picking one cloud over another due to price could drive the wrong overall decision. (There are many other factors to consider, such as security, governance, integration, and management.)

There's a price to choice, and an irony of SAP getting broader cloud support for HANA is that enterprises now have a higher barrier to their initial entry into HANA.