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For the last couple of years, I keep hearing more and more talk on Virtualization and Cloud at every event. For SAP customers, the sense of urgency to evaluate, plan, or even implement virtualization in their data centers is driven by several key factors, not the least of which is the cost of managing their SAP systems. Surprising fact is, even though many customers are at the early stages of understanding and learning what virtualization is all about,  nearly 70% of the customers are using virtualization (Source: RAAD, 2008) in one form or the other. Customer who adopted early have already started seeing significant TCO improvements as well. At SAPPHIRE 2010, SAP highlighted virtualization and cloud as a top technology priority for customers.

Implementing current practices of managing SAP systems will be no different in virtualized and cloud environments. And just as in the case of physical environments, there are already many SAP Notes available on availability, support, and best practices for virtual and cloud deployments.

However, given the very dynamic nature of virtualized and cloud environments, customers need a very robust application management platform to take advantage of these infrastructures. Cloud and Virtualization does not mean simple cost savings with hardware. There are some critical issues like compliance, security, availability, and robustness that will need significant planning and management processes. On the other hand this dynamic nature also creates opportunities like ability to slice and dice the infrastructure to provision, when and where required. A robust application management platform which can provide capabilities such as application appliances, system configuration, deployment, system copy, system refresh, tuning, automated system scaling, end-to-end monitoring, SLA validations, and compliance checking etc., will take customers a long way by reducing TCO and management pains.  There is lot of efforts taking place leveraging the knowledge and experience we already have with products like ACC and Solution Manager in this direction. It is a matter of time before we get to know more.