SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC), SAP HANA Cloud Platform (HCP), SAP S/4HANA Cloud and, most recently, lots of references to SAP Industry cloud. Are all these different SAP cloud services just new marketing names for the same thing or are they actually very different solutions for different needs?


SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC)

SAP’s original cloud service was SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) which was launched in 2013 and consisted of SAP providing the cloud infrastructure with and certain applications as a cloud service. HEC is effectively an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) service that enables companies to run SAP-based operations in a hosted environment with the advantages of being on cloud.

This is SAP’s own cloud service which hosts SAP Business Suite software and includes SAP HANA custom and the out-of-the-box applications with SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse software on a single instance of the SAP HANA in-memory database platform.
In 2017 HEC was made available on both Amazon Web Services (AWS) & Microsoft Azure public clouds and later in 2019, HEC also became available on Google Cloud Platform (GCP).


SAP HANA Cloud Platform (HCP)/ SAP Cloud Platform

It was as early as 2012, when SAP unveiled their HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) which became available as SAP’s Platform as a Service (PaaS). Originally it was called “SAP NetWeaver Cloud” but renamed to “SAP HANA Cloud Platform” in May 2013 as the foundation for SAP cloud products, including the SAP BusinessObjects Cloud.

“SAP HANA Cloud Platform (HCP)” is now referred to SAP as “SAP Cloud Platform” (sometimes I have seen this abbreviated to SCP, although I don’t think this is an official acronym). This platform is primarily intended to allow organisations to extend existing on-premises or cloud-based ERP applications with next-generation technology, such as advanced analytics, machine learning and IoT.

Essentially this is an SAP HANA ‘Platform as a Service’ tool to provide a development and runtime environment for cloud applications. SAP Cloud Platform is an integration and extension platform for the Intelligent Enterprise that enables users to connect their landscape and create application extensions based on business needs.

SAP Cloud Platform is SAP’s innovative cloud development and deployment platform that now runs on multiple cloud infrastructure providers. The multi-cloud foundation supports multiple environments such as Cloud Foundry. Newer SAP Cloud Platform literature also illustrates use cases involving integration with Microsoft Azure.

Sap cloud

SAP Cloud

SAP HANA Cloud is more like a Database as a Service (DBaaS) offered to customers who want to more easily use the high speed of the in-memory database SAP HANA, use a relational data lake to handle larger amounts of data and enjoy the benefits of the cloud such as low TCO and elasticity.

It is also described as a cloud-native platform that offers the power and performance of SAP HANA with full capabilities to manage data storage, virtualization and run powerful applications – where in you can bind HANA DB to applications which are running on SAP Cloud Platform or elsewhere.



In 2017, SAP launched their SAP S/4HANA Cloud which is a Software as a Service (SaaS) version of the SAP S/4HANA ERP – a suite of integrated business applications. According to SAP at the time, the intent was to provide a “next-generation intelligent ERP” system that enables companies to achieve digital transformation. SAP S/4HANA Cloud is built on SAP HANA and takes advantage of HANA’s in-memory processing and real-time data accessibility and makes this available in a Software as a Service (SaaS) model.

SAP S/4HANA Cloud includes three technologies that form the foundation of intelligent ERP:

  • Digital assistant – SAP S/4HANA Cloud uses SAP CoPilot, virtual assistant
  • Machine learning – SAP S/4HANA Cloud automates repetitive and error prone tasks.
  • Predictive analytics – SAP S/4HANA Cloud has embedded analytics to predict outcomes of actions.

SAP S/4HANA Cloud has seen some positive big name early adopters but has also faced some criticism about a lack of customisation, especially in complex industries like manufacturing or pharmaceuticals. As SAP controls the basic infrastructure, it does not allow extensive customisations. S/4HANA Cloud may not be suitable for larger enterprises that typically require ERP systems to be highly customised to meet their needs. See related article You’re planning your move of SAP to the cloud, but which cloud?


SAP Industry Cloud

Most recently the term ‘industry cloud’ has been widely publicised, but this is more of a packaging and positioning strategy term designed to bring their cloud industry accelerators together under a single umbrella. SAP’s industry cloud strategy is to deliver innovative, vertical solutions from SAP and its partners using an open API framework to create a better customer and user experience and enable rapid development, deployment and integration.

SAP’s industry-specific versions are built using their open platform as a service which is ‘SAP Cloud Platform’ discussed earlier. Historically, SAP added vertically orientated functionality to simplify and automate their ERP. Industry specific improvements like the ability to perform staffing analysis for professional services, or manufacturing related enhancements were added to their own SaaS offering SAP S/4HANA Cloud.

Industry Cloud now reflects vertical specific choices required by current SAP organisations as well as attract new prospective customers. 25 industries were identified by SAP, some of which they are developing solutions for themselves and others with co-development partners such as IBM. The range of Industry cloud solutions also reflects a mix of hosting/adoption preferences. According to Microsoft’s commissioned research from Forrester published in March 2020, 70% of Azure companies are still on -premises and not yet moved their core or mission-critical systems to cloud.

On-premises, private cloud and public cloud are all real options, with private cloud now set to grow more than public cloud over the next few years. See my earlier article Analysts say private cloud will quadruple over next 5 years. Industry Cloud reflects the current needs and desires for SAP users to operate with different architectures:

  • On-premises industry-focused options so that organisations can deploy an existing SAP on-premises product as standalone software.
  • Industry Cloud options so that organisations can deploy one of the new industry cloud offerings as standalone software.
  • A mix of Industry Cloud and on-premises industry options so that organisations can deploy both old and new products in a hybrid model, where existing on-premises products provide core functionality that is integrated with new features that are deployed in the cloud.

After looking at the different SAP clouds/services offered and their names, I would summarise them typically representing the following common industry service terms:

  • IaaS is represented by SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC)
  • PaaS is represented by SAP HANA Cloud Platform (HCP)/ SAP Cloud Platform (SCP)
  • DBaaS is represented by SAP HANA Cloud
  • SaaS is represented by SAP S/4HANA Cloud
  • APIs are represented by SAP Industry cloud

Clients now have more choice than ever before, not just in what SAP software they might choose, but how it is hosted, how it is managed and how it is consumed e.g., as a service. Plenty of choice is good for clients, but it can also be overwhelming.

An organisation facing digital transformation must first determine what their business needs are both now and in the future. Only once these are fully understood can they start to determine what software solutions are needed and how they should be delivered and managed in a way that’s best for them.