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SAP S/4HANA, RISE, or Native? Buyer Considerations


For modern business and IT leaders the question is no longer whether or not to move to the cloud, but rather how to do it most effectively for their organizations. And for SAP users, there are several options that each come with their own unique and powerful benefits.

These options include:

  • RISE with SAP — SAP’s comprehensive cloud transformation support offering launched in 2021 that bundles software, infrastructure, and services
  • Native Deployment — Traditional cloud migration with a preferred hyperscaler
  • Hybrid Deployment — Cloud migration that leverages both the RISE with SAP and native options to optimize cloud environments for different systems

Understanding each option and how to choose the right one for your business is challenging even for seasoned IT leaders.

In this guide, we’ll walk through each in greater detail, recapping key insights from two Protera experts: Binoy James, Protera’s Senior Vice President for Applications, and Jatin Oza, Protera’s Director of Applications.

Their expert insights will help you understand the benefits of each cloud deployment option, the business scenarios that lend themselves to each, and considerations to help you make the best decision for your business.


Want to watch the full webinar? Access it here: SAP S/4HANA, RISE, or Native? Buyer Considerations


Quick Takeaway

  • RISE with SAP offers optimal convenience and expert guidance by bundling software, infrastructure, and services into a single subscription model with one provider.
  • The primary benefits of RISE (as shared by SAP) are value creation through continual innovation, optimized IT costs, and mitigated risk during the transformation journey.
  • Native deployment offers greater flexibility around costs and customizations as well as ownership over how workloads are run and managed.
  • Companies need significant IT expertise and management capabilities (in-house or MSP) to execute a native deployment.
  • An increasing number of customers are choosing hybrid deployment to leverage the benefits of both RISE with SAP and native, aligning each method with the systems they benefit most.

RISE with SAP: Overview and Benefits

RISE with SAP is the SaaS equivalent of SAP’s traditional ERP product, run on the hyperscaler of the customer’s choice. It bundles software, infrastructure, services, and SLAs into one monthly subscription model that makes SAP transformation and long-term management more seamless and convenient for SAP users.

RISE aims to deliver two primary value differentiators to its customers: First, it enables business value creation with continual innovation in the form of new features and tools coupled with ongoing services. Second, it mitigates IT cost and risk by streamlining (and usually accelerating) transformation time to value through its high-engagement, as-a-service experience.

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Alt-Text: Graphic highlighting the many components included in RISE with SAP and its two sources of differentiating value: enabling business value creation and mitigating IT cost and risk.

Some of the specific benefits of RISE with SAP include:

  • A holistic and tailored transformation to a modern intelligent enterprise on the cloud
  • The concept of customer, business, and value journeys to ensure customer outcomes during the transformation process
  • An opportunity to adopt a clean core that embraces going back to standard in the areas of extensions, integration, operations, and data
  • Tools like Signavio for process standardization and PTP  to reduce customization and facilitate creating modular extensibility in the cloud

From a commercial perspective, SAP customers are familiar with the complexities and effort involved in negotiating with SAP. With RISE, those complications are largely eliminated—SAP is working to have a simplified contract model that drives predictability. (Of note, this more standardized model does mean that companies lose the ability to negotiate for discounts or other unique customizations.)

As for cost structure, RISE with SAP uses a subscription model that spreads cost over time rather than requiring large up-front costs. This means companies can kickstart new SAP transformation journeys without cost as a barrier.

In addition, RISE combines everything a company needs to run its critical systems—software, cloud infrastructure, and managed services—in one bundled pricing model. Instead of having to negotiate multiple contracts, customers can handle everything with a single provider.


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Alt-Text: Graphic highlighting SAP’s contract model, which includes infrastructure, managed services, and software in one bundled package.

RISE also includes business process intelligence tools very early in the journey that help customers standardize to clean core even as they transform (ex: transition to S/4HANA), which is especially valuable for those looking to modernize quickly to achieve business goals.

Finally, the seamless RISE experience—and specifically, the focus on achieving a clean core on the cloud—allows organizations to take advantage of SAP’s newest and most innovative new features and updates, many of which are offered more quickly or even exclusively on the cloud.

Important RISE with SAP Considerations

As you review the benefits of RISE with SAP and evaluate it as a potential option for your SAP cloud modernization or migration, there are three key considerations to think through with both your business and IT teams.

Licensing Model

For long-term customers, switching to RISE with SAP means changing from a perpetual software license with annual maintenance costs to an entirely subscription-based pricing model. It’s essential to consider the long-term financial impact of this switch, whether it makes sense to take it on, and your organization’s ability to change over to a completely OPEX model.

Transparency and Flexibility

In order to simplify operations, RISE with SAP comes with a drop in transparency around infrastructure and related costs as well as a lack of customizability in SLAs and various aspects of service.  This is especially true for customers currently who manage their own infrastructure or who outsource to MSPs (who typically offer high levels of customizability) and typically are used to maintaining a higher level of their infrastructure and operational costs.

While there are advantages to this simplification, it’s important to consider and be confident that RISE with SAP can meet your commitment to your business and help you achieve your strategic goals.

Custom, Non-SAP Portions of IT Portfolio

If you have a large amount of customized legacy SAP and/or non-SAP applications with complex integrations, it’s a good idea to closely evaluate your transformation pace and how to manage it as you move to RISE with SAP.

While there are advantages for many customers to the high levels of standardization that come with RISE, in other cases an accelerated pace could lead to an inability to fully think through the transformation and/or unexpected disruption to your current business as usual operations.

And, as mentioned in the last section, there are some cases when the standardization requirements for RISE simply won’t align with more complex business needs. In those cases, SAP transformation will call for a different approach.

Native Deployment: An Alternative to RISE with SAP

While RISE with SAP is a fantastic offering for customers in many contexts, there is an alternative that many customers choose: a classic SAP deployment on the native cloud. There are a few specific scenarios that drive SAP customers toward a native deployment vs. the convenience of RISE, and in the next few sections we’ll walk through each in greater detail.

Customer Influence and Enablement

SAP users who embarked on their cloud journeys earlier than most have often already created a roadmap for their cloud transformation and may even have cloud deployments in place for non-SAP or other mission-critical applications. 

In these scenarios, organizations often choose the native cloud deployment so they can stick to their transformation plan without disruption. This means executing a SAP deployment with their on-prem license, but in a cloud environment through their preferred hyperscaler.

Optimized costs

Some organizations choose the native option because they prefer to manage their own cloud costs rather than bind SAP licenses with the cloud. The advantage is greater flexibility and customization capabilities to optimize costs and adopt specific cloud environments that work best for your organization.

The risk, however, is that your company may incur higher costs and even encounter negative business outcomes if it isn’t experienced enough or equipped with the right resources to manage costs and navigate transformation complexities effectively.

In many cases, companies who choose the native route for this reason will also partner with an SAP managed service provider to help them reduce risk and plan and manage cloud costs with confidence throughout their cloud transformation.

Digital Transformation 

Every organization approaches digital transformation at a different pace and with different goals in mind. Some explore the cloud slowly by deploying non-critical workloads first and doing extensive testing before actually planning a migration. Others approach the cloud journey more aggressively and quickly build their strategy using DevOps and other modern methods.

It’s up to your organization’s IT and business leaders to determine the right pace for your organization and, when considering RISE with SAP vs. a native deployment, decide which allows you to execute most effectively.

Naturally, in cases where greater complexity exists around transferring data, databases, and workloads to the cloud, companies are more likely to lean toward a native deployment rather than the more standardized approach offered through RISE.

BYOL  (Bring Your Own License)

Licensing is one of the most important factors in making your decision about RISE with SAP vs. a native deployment, and it should never be approached from a strictly total cost of ownership perspective. It must be considered in terms of your business goals and how licensing plays a role in your operations and strategy.

Companies that require more flexibility around licensing—for example, a PE firm that frequently executes M&A deals—may choose to go the native route to maintain greater control.

Regardless of your specific scenario and whether you choose RISE or a native deployment, it is critical to make licensing a business-led decision that aligns with your operations and objectives.


Organizations desire different levels of ownership and control over their workloads and how they’re run. Those seeking more standardization and guidance are likely to choose the RISE with SAP route, while those with more mature IT departments may want total ownership over their workloads and how they’re run, and are more likely to choose a native deployment.

Partner Network 

Cloud hyperscalers have hundreds of partners in their networks that you can access as MSPs in areas such as FinOps, digital transformation objectives, cloud governance and many, many more. Companies that want to take full advantage of these partner networks and design a more unique digital transformation journey may choose the native route to do it.

A Hybrid Approach: Getting the Best of Both Worlds

More and more, Protera is seeing clients design their own best-in-class deployment models by adopting RISE with SAP for their SAP environments and executing a native deployment with their preferred hyperscaler for the rest of their environments.

In other words, they leverage RISE to implement a modern ERP (i.e. move to S/4HANA on the cloud, achieve a clean core for greater innovation, or using Signavio to achieve business process transformation) but use a separate hyperscaler of choice to maintain flexibility elsewhere.

Hybrid deployment is an especially attractice option for organizations who have already launched other programs in the cloud successfully but want to leverage the RISE offering for SAP systems.

Making the Best Decision For Your Business

There is no “right” decision when it comes to cloud migration and modernization method—it’s up to your business and IT leaders to choose the approach that’s best for your organization. Let’s recap some of the most important considerations to keep in mind as you decide:

  • Existing IT Complexity — RISE with SAP offers optimal convenience, but if you require high levels of customization to avoid disruption or stay compliant with regulatory requirements (or just because you want to have it), a native deployment may work better for your business.

  • Desired Control and Ownership — RISE with SAP comes with expert guidance and ongoing services to help you manage your workloads—welcome support for many companies. On the other hand, those that want total control over workload management and are mature enough to do it may want to execute a native deployment.

  • Pace of Transformation — Design a roadmap to determine your planned pace of transformation and be sure the deployment option you choose aligns with it.

  • Licensing — Know whether you prefer the centralized licensing offered through RISE or if you want/need greater flexibility.

  • Non-SAP Environments — How well will your non-SAP systems integrate with the RISE methodology? Be sure to choose a deployment option that minimizes detrimental business disruption.

  • Partner Networks — RISE with SAP centralizes most aspects of cloud transformation to a single provider, while native deployment allows for more options to work with hyperscaler partners and MSPs. Consider which option works best for you in this regard.

In cases where aspects of both deployment options work best for different environments and IT systems, consider a hybrid option to take advantage of both.

And in any scenario, it’s best practice to work with a trusted SAP partner with the expertise and experience to help you execute efficiently, effectively, and with confidence. 

Protera works with clients to successfully modernize, optimize, and secure enterprise workloads in the cloud. We create customized cloud transformation plans rooted in industry best practices and decades of deep SAP knowledge.

Our solutions help clients solve business challenges, optimize IT costs, and mitigate risk with a comprehensive support model that provides transparency into cost, configuration, applications, and environments.

Schedule time to talk with one of our experts to more about how we can help your business transform.