What Are the Differences of the SAP S/4HANA Operating Models?

This blog post describes the individual characteristics of the respective operating models of SAP S/4HANA in detail and compares how the corresponding editions of the SAP S/4HANA product family meet these criteria.


Hardware, Software, Operation, and Maintenance

The most obvious difference between the on-premise and cloud editions of SAP S/4HANA is the fact that you operate, maintain, and manage the SAP S/4HANA on-premise editions yourself, while SAP carries out these tasks in the public cloud editions. Public cloud editions are available via SaaS operating models. All SAP S/4HANA Cloud editions are operated at different data centers located in various countries and regions around the world. The table below lists the differences in detail.


Overview of Hardware, Software, Operation, and Maintenance


For each public cloud edition, the hardware can be obtained in different packages, depending on the number of users and the required size of the SAP HANA database storage. When the cloud system is handed over, the applications are fully installed. For the public cloud editions, SAP is responsible for operating, monitoring, and maintaining the system (implementing enhancements and upgrades).


At the time of this writing, maintenance cycles are specified as follows:

  • Hotfix collection: A hotfix collection is implemented every two weeks.
  • Release upgrade: Upgrades to the next SAP S/4HANA Cloud release are implemented quarterly. Upgrades contain new functions and hotfix collections.
  • Emergency patch: Critical corrections for a specific customer system, if required, are implemented as soon as possible.

In the managed private cloud, customers can customize the scope of the required hardware and the supported services to a large extent. For the hardware, you can choose between a two-tier or three-tier landscape (public cloud editions consist of a two-tier system landscape). From the services available, you can choose implementation services (requirements analysis, implementation, data migration, go live) and operation services (incident, problem, and change management and application monitoring). In SAP S/4HANA in SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, you can even control details like maintenance dates.


You can find further information on this topic in the SAP agreement documents at


User Interfaces

In all SAP S/4HANA editions, the role-based approach of SAP Fiori is the basic target UI technology. Thus, the public cloud editions are completely designed for this target architecture. In individual cases, public clouds also use other web-based SAP technologies, such as Web Dynpro, in addition to SAP Fiori. In the on-premise edition and the private cloud edition, you can also use SAP GUI for Windows in addition to the web-based UI technologies (see table below). SAP GUI-based transactions that can no longer be executed in SAP S/4HANA on-premise are included in the simplification list for SAP S/4HANA. You should use the SAP Fiori launchpad as the central entry platform for end users in all SAP S/4HANA editions.


UI Technologies of SAP S/4HANA Editions


Because traditional user interfaces are still supported, gradual migration to SAP S/4HANA is feasible.


Functional Scope and Supported Country Versions

The on-premise and public cloud editions of SAP S/4HANA are based on the same program code line. Consequently, the same data models and product innovations are available. However, the editions vary with regard to their functional scope, the supported country versions, and the options for customizing the business processes.


Functional Scope and Supported Country Versions for SAP


The on-premise versions and the private cloud edition have the same business functions and support the same country versions. The complete functional ERP scope is supported in 64 countries with the standard SAP localization. To adapt these SAP S/4HANA editions to your specific requirements, all the traditional configuration options are still available in the Implementation Guide (IMG).


The functional ERP scope provided in the public cloud editions differs partially from the functional scope of the on-premise edition. For example, compatibility packages are not available in the public cloud edition. The supported functional scope is based on the best practices content of the public cloud edition, which has been deployed as preconfigured. SAP S/4HANA Cloud supports more than 40 countries with corresponding localizations and numerous languages. The functional scope and localizations are extended continuously.


For more details on the functional scope and supported country versions, see Feature Scope Description in the SAP Help Portal ( and in the globalization area (, as well as in SAP S/4HANA Cloud. The product roadmap is available at


Options for Enhancement

Basically, you can use the key user enhancement tools and enhancement options, which are based on SAP Extension Suite (extension services that run on SAP Business Technology Platform), in all editions of the SAP S/4HANA product family (see below). In SAP S/4HANA Cloud (private option), you can carry out further adaptations through ABAP programming. With these adaptations, modification-free enhancements are possible, which can be used for Business Add-Ins (BAdIs) and user exits.


Enhancement Options for SAP S/4HANA Editions


Beyond that scope, in the on-premise editions it is theoretically possible to even modify SAP objects, but we don’t recommend doing this considering the increasing costs for future release changes.


Payment Model and Runtime

Variants of SAP S/4HANA on-premise still offer the traditional license and maintenance model, whereas the public cloud editions are provided via a cloud subscription model with flexible runtimes (see next table). The actual costs for the subscription model depend on the number of users, the application scope used, and the hardware packages selected.


Payment Models and Runtimes of SAP S/4HANA Editions


Model for Migration to SAP S/4HANA

With SAP S/4HANA on premise, customers can choose either the brownfield approach or the greenfield approach. In other words, you can either convert an existing SAP ERP system to an SAP S/4HANA system or install a completely new SAP S/4HANA system.


Migrating to SAP S/4HANA Cloud always entails a new installation of the system. The business processes supported in SAP S/4HANA Cloud are implemented according to best practices, and the required master and document data is transferred to the cloud system.


Migration Scenarios for SAP S/4HANA Editions


Editor’s note: This post has been adapted from a section of the book Migrating to SAP S/4HANA by Frank Densborn, Frank Finkbohner, Jochen Freudenberg, Martina Höft, Kim Mathäß, and Boris Rubarth.


Migrating to SAP S/4HANA
Migrating to SAP S/4HANA

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