Cloud computing is not all the same. SAP CEO Christian Klein is probably right with his "cloud only" postulate, but what SAP is offering as cloud computing is, at best, lift and shift. Harro von Senger described the situation perfectly in his highly readable book "36 Stratagems for Managers" with stratagem number one, called “obfuscation and stealth stratagems:
Deceive the emperor by inviting him to a house by the sea, which is actually a ship in disguise, and convince him to cross the sea.
Christian Klein is not the first SAP CEO to apply this obfuscation strategy to the emperor, i.e., the customers. Former CEO Henning Kagermann (see figure) also tried to deceive SAP users through numerous offers such as ESA, mySAP.com, and NetWeaver.
Harro von Senger writes in his book: "In our European culture, we must learn to be more sensitive to cunning and not demonize it from the outset, but rather recognize it as something that is part of everyday life. Incidentally, in Chinese the same character for the "cunning" is also used for "wisdom". Harro von Senger is Professor Emeritus of Sinology at the Albert-Ludwigs University in Freiburg, Germany, and an expert on Chinese law.
When Christian Klein says, "cloud only," he is describing an ideal situation in which many users simultaneously use a cloud application on the basis of a single release. This situation is common with many cloud-native vendors and demonstrates the added value of a standardized system. SAP's cloud-native applications, such as Concure, SuccessFactors, and Ariba, also offer these cloud-typical benefits.
However, the ECC successor S/4 is not a cloud-native product. In the 2015 presentation by Klein's predecessor, Bill McDermott, cloud computing was never mentioned. It was only later that the on-premises product S/4 was lifted into the cloud through “Lift and Shift”. Christian Klein likes to hide this fact. At its core, S/4 is a classic ERP for your own data center, with outsourcing and hosting options via hyperscalers.