Can you test SAP S/4HANA for free?
By Cristina Gil Gallo
January 20, 2021

SAP states that S/4HANA can be tried for free. 14 days free for the cloud version, and 30 days free for the on-premise version as seen here.

However, is it really true?

In this post, a review of the options for accessing an S/4HANA sandbox is provided. There are various options to explore. Depending on your needs, or pocket, you’ll find some are more affordable than others. In addition, some are completely free. However, the free options may not be entirely interesting to you, it really will depend on your needs. If you are puzzled as to why a free option would not be ideal, it will be clearer as you read this post.

Firstly, before reviewing the options, it is necessary to clarify the difference between the two SAP S/4HANA products.

Difference between Cloud and On-premise installation

Instinctively, when someone refers to SAP S/4HANA, the On-Premise edition of the SAP’s iERP (iERP stands for intelligent Enterprise Resource Planning) is assumed. However, the cloud-based product called SAP S/4HANA Cloud is gaining momentum. What is the difference you may ask?  Let me explain with an example.

Imagine that you are in need of accommodation. Basically, the difference between the Cloud product and the On-Premise would be the equivalent of choosing between buying a house or renting. In both cases the accommodation need is satisfied (or an S/4HANA system to run your business). Inherently, there are consequences and differences depending on the option you choose:

  • S/4HANA On Premise would be the equivalent of buying a house outright (without a mortgage). The property will be completely yours and you won’t have to pay rent. However, you will only pay fees should you require hiring additional maintenance services (in the case of S/4HANA it would be for example support and periodic updates). You are at liberty to paint a wall red or drill a hole to your taste (this will be the equivalent of making modifications in SAP). The property is yours, as so is responsibility for maintenance and upkeep.
  • S/4HANA Cloud would be the equivalent of renting the house. Access to your home is guaranteed only if the rental fee is paid. In this case, the rental price covers maintenance from landlord. Furniture and appliances are also provided. However, failure to make payments may result in the loss of access. Consequently, if you don’t make a copy of the information prior, you could lose access to it. Another disadvantage is that if you love red walls, for example, you are not allowed to fully customize the property to your liking. Businesses running the Cloud-based solution largely adapt to standard SAP processes. There are more limitations to what you can change.

Note: Innovations are applied first in the cloud and arrive with delay to the on-premise product.

Having said that, it is important to point out that in S/4HANA there are several implementation options that are not pure Cloud or pure on-Premise, there are hybrid solutions as mentioned in this other post.

The  different options to access a test system in each of the two versions discussed are explained below.

Access to SAP S/4HANA Cloud Environment

There are three options for testing the S/4HANA Cloud product:

  • Pay a subscription to SAP for the product. SAP has never published its prices openly, and that is still the case. If this option is of interest, request a quote from this link.
  • SAP Live Access. It is a pre-configured environment in which SAP provides data and documentation with practical exercises. Access to this environment is sold in packages of 20 hours or 60 hours. It is worth noting that the prices presented in the links are not final. The purchase of SAP Live Access is not accessible to everyone. Currently, it is exclusive to subscribers of the SAP Learning Hub (the official SAP training platform). Reviewing the learning hub options carefully will reveal some editions that include free hours for the Live Access.  If you are planning to hire the Learning Hub, depending on what courses you are interested in, it may be worth considering a subscription that includes it.
  • Free 14-day trial. SAP offers a free 14 day trial: Cloud ERP | SAP S/4HANA Cloud Trial. However, the applications you have access to in this environment are severely limited. This platform provides, along with the applications, several video tutorials that you can use as a guide for testing each of the selected applications. For example, there is also a video tutorial to adapt Fiori screens. However, as stated, access is limited. It is not possible to access master data applications or system settings.

Access to SAP S/4HANA on premise

There are three options for testing an S/4HANA on-premise product:

  • Through an SAP customer or partner. Find an SAP customer or partner that will give you access to their system. A less viable option would be to purchase a license yourself, but for most consultants who just want access to a test system, this is not an affordable option.
  • SAP Live Access. This was mentioned above. This is not a cheap option. However, it has some benefits such as a pre-configured platform ready for the exercises defined by SAP. Additionally,  you have access to documentation and support is provided by SAP.
  • 30-day free trial. This option is the one that the author considers most feasible and affordable. It works for people with some experience in SAP looking to explore the functionality of the new versions. This option combines a 30-day free trial S/4HANA license, use of hyperscalers in the cloud, and the free trial of the SAP CAL service. Unlike the cloud trial, you have access to the full functionality. Essentially, you are the owner, and can test what you want, break what you want, delete and recreate the instance if as required. I am picturing your eyes wide open. Below is a quick overview of how to implement this option.

To have access to 30-day trial On-Premise installation of S/4HANA, you need to purchase three different products (don’t panic yet, there is a way to find a free combination):

  • You need a license for the SAP Product you want to test, SAP S/4HANA. SAP issues 30-day free trial licenses. Once the 30 days have been consumed, you cannot continue using the same product but you can reapply for another 30-day trial license.
  • In addition, unless you have a proprietary server, it will be necessary to hire the services of the Hyperscaler in the cloud. You will need a virtual machine to install the SAP S/4HANA product. Currently ,the Cloud Appliance Library service is only available for Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. However, It is easy to misinterpret the information on the website of these providers.  For example, when they present free accounts or free tiers, they are not valid for S/4HANA. The reason is the size of the machines for the free accounts is very small and does not cover the minimum requirements for an S/4HANA installation. To get free access in our case, it is necessary to check if they give away free credit. At the time of this publication, Google Cloud Platform gives a credit of 300 USD to spend in 3 months after you register. If you manage it well, this $ 300 can last 3 months. On the other hand, Microsoft Azure gives away a free credit of 200 US dollars to spend in 30 days.
  • Additionally, you will need a Cloud Appliance Library License. Once you have the virtual machine and the free license of the product, it is necessary to do the installation. This license is like when you buy a boiler and need to pay an extra for a technician to come to your house to install it. Only in this case, no one actually comes to your house, you do everything just by pressing a button. SAP offers a 30-day free trial.

In order not to make this publication too lengthy, I’ll leave other information for a future publication. I’ll explain each step of the on-premises installation in more detail so that you can quickly create one yourself. If you are interested, you can subscribe to the blog and receive a notification as soon as it is published. You can also subscribe to the YouTube channel to be notified when a new video is available.

Cristina Gil Gallo
Cristina specializes in SAP SD consulting holding a certification in S/4 HANA Sales On Premise. She started her career in SAP in 2005. She is particularly interested in international projects. She holds a BSc in Industrial Engenieering from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia.