Developments Accelerate Digital Transformation 

This week SAP released information about new capabilities for Hadoop (the major news in my view) and HCP (interesting, less relevant). SAP deemed it an important enough event to invite analysts and our press colleagues to an event in San Francisco, where CTO Quentin Clark and President Platform Solutions Steve Lucas walked us through the announcements.

So let’s dissect the press release (you can find it here) in our customary style, in order to comment and read between the lines:

SAN FRANCISCO — To help companies transform their businesses in today’s digital economy, SAP SE (NYSE: SAP) today announced SAP HANA Vora software, a new in-memory computing innovation for Hadoop and new capabilities planned for SAP HANA Cloud Platform. These new offerings from SAP intend to help companies simplify how their businesses will run in the digital world.

MyPOV – This brings to light what SAP hinted in both Q&A with chairman Plattner and CTO Clark , as well as Member of the Board Leukert’s keynote. For the longest time Hadoop was a ‘bad word’ at SAP – so good to see what looked more like a dinosaur codename has now come out as Vora. Think ‘Data Divorer’ phonetically to come to the naming. And for the insiders, keep in mind the ancestry of HANA goes back to TRex, so the original code name back then of Velociraptor (many smaller, predators) depicts perfectly what Vora is supposed to do: Spark based extensions and capabilities to utilize Hadoop for next generation application scenarios.

“Our mission at SAP is to empower businesses to lead the digital transformation in their industry,” said Quentin Clark, chief technology officer and member of the Global Managing Board of SAP SE. “In order to succeed in this digital transformation, companies need a platform that enables real-time business, delivers business agility, is able to scale and provides contextual awareness in a hyper-connected world. With the introduction of SAP HANA Vora and the planned new capabilities in SAP HANA Cloud Platform, we aim to enable our customers to become leaders in the digital economy.”

MyPOV – Good quote by Clark, hitting all the key areas that matter today for enterprise vendors, enable the creation of strategic, important applications with a PaaS platform, utilizing cloud, BigData, analytics etc. – we know now that this will be HCP, HANA and Vora. Coming as a SAP message – that was traditionally all about the capability of the packaged applications – quite remarkable.

Creating Contextual Awareness with SAP HANA Vora

SAP HANA Vora is a new in-memory query engine that leverages and extends the Apache Spark execution framework to provide enriched interactive analytics on Hadoop. As companies take part in their digital transformation journey, they face complex hurdles in dealing with distributed Big Data everywhere, compounded by the lack of business process awareness across enterprise apps, analytics, Big Data and Internet of Things (IoT) sources.

MyPOV – So we learn more about Vora –that runs on Spark. Good match for the in memory DNA for HANA on the Hadoop side. SAP needs to be careful and respect both perspectives – from the business application side it is ‘context’ – but from the BigData perspective the business application is the context. And as data volumes and gravity favor the BigData side – I think the context question will be solved in the favor of BigData quickly. Important for SAP to realize and key for its customers to benefit from.

SAP HANA Vora helps to extend in-memory computing innovation from SAP to distributed data and provides OLAP-like analytics with a business semantic understanding of data in and around the Hadoop ecosystem. Companies can enhance their decision-making with full understanding of their business activities in context with SAP HANA Vora. Data access also can become democratized for data scientists and developers, making it easier to mashup corporate and Hadoop data together to discover answers to unknown questions.

MyPOV – Good to see SAP bringing the enterprise application DNA to the table. For now it looks like it is Hierarchy capabilities, an important concept for enterprise applications, traditionally missing on the Hadoop side. Personally I am not a fan of the democratization message, enterprises are not run as democracies, so data access is not democratic either (the employees assumed to be the people, the demos). But what is correct is that access to data empowers people, and giving access to more people, including Hadoop empowers them more.

SAP HANA Vora is planned to help benefit customers in various industries where highly interactive Big Data analytics in business process context is paramount, such as financial services, telecommunications, healthcare and manufacturing. Use case examples where SAP HANA Vora can potentially benefit customers include:

Mitigate risk and fraud by detecting new anomalies in financial transactions and customer history data

Optimize telecommunication bandwidth by analyzing traffic patterns to help avoid network bottlenecks and improve network quality of service (QoS).

Deliver preventive maintenance and improve product re-call process by analyzing bill-of-material, services records and sensor data together

MyPOV – Not sure why SAP mentions verticals (a hint of things to come?) – the examples are good ones, as usual there are more. It will be good for customers to see this more as technology capability press release than a specific showcase or even application announcement.

“As part of our Big Data initiative, we currently have Hadoop and SAP HANA deployed in our enterprise IT landscape to help manage large unstructured data sets,” said Aziz Safa, VP and GM, Intel IT Enterprise Applications and Application Strategy. “One of the key requirements for us is to have better analyses of Big Data, but mining these large data sets for contextual information in Hadoop is a challenge. SAP HANA Vora will provide us with the capability to conduct OLAP processing directly on these large, rich data sets all in-memory and stored in Hadoop. This will allow us to extract contextual information and then push those valuable insights back to our business.”

MyPOV – Always good to have a customer quote, and Intel is both a SAP customer and partner. The key is that enterprises have both HANA (and other databases) and Hadoop deployed and need to make sense of data in these systems. The key message from the quote is that SAP has become more relevant as a vendor to Intel than before. And that’s of course a valid argument for the whole SAP ecosystem.

SAP HANA Vora is planned to be released to customers in late September; a cloud-based developer edition is planned to be available at the same time.
MyPOV – Always good to have a near time delivery date. It also means before TechED / dCode – so it will be interesting how SAP can expand on that. We learnt that Vora will be free for developers, always a good start for new (and yet to be proven technology). And then a yearly subscription by node – but we need to learn more about pricing in detail.

Simplifying Open, Agile Business Application Development with SAP HANA Cloud Platform

SAP HANA Cloud Platform enables rapid application development and extensibility for Software as a Service (SaaS) as well as on-premise applications. SAP also plans to expand SAP HANA Cloud Platform’s ability to power digital transformation, collaboration and application development while improving time to value with more pre-delivered business apps. […]

MyPOV – And whoops – we are off to a second press release. Good to see / be reminded that it’s the HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) that is the tool – but everything else would have been big news. With SAP being usually light on PaaS messaging (I think PaaS as word was not mentioned during the presentations) it is key for SAP customers to extend their SAP assets and build new applications.

Highlights include:

Enhanced digital connectivity: Companies can go from sensor to action with SAP HANA Cloud Platform for the IoT, generally available starting in late September. With the services, customers and partners can add device management, device data connectivity and bi-directional device data synchronization capabilities. Additionally, SAP API Management technology powers and manages secure, enterprise-grade API connections to any SAP or non-SAP application. Leveraging both with SAP HANA Cloud Platform, customers can connect edge devices to business action, build extended business networks and share digital assets.

MyPOV – Key capabilities for the IoT use case of next generation applications. Not clear enough though how it works –let’s see at TechEd.[Update September 8th - SAP AR points rightfully out that there are a number of SAP IoT capabilities - they can be found here.]

Enhanced collaboration: New work patterns for the SAP Jam social software platform, available now, enable developers to build better, more collaborative apps quickly and easily with in-context information to get work done. Additionally, the new cloud trial of SAP HANA Cloud Platform gamification services aims to allow developers to quickly incorporate game concepts into new and existing applications with a workbench, software development kits (SDKs) and widgets.

MyPOV – Ok – it now looks like a press release to make up all the ‘sins of the past’ – the SAP messaging has been light on social in the past – shortchanging capabilities of the SAP Jam platform in my view – so it is good to see t mentioned here – but why in the same paragraph with gamification is not clear to me. [Update September 8th - SAP claries that gamification is a social capability at SAP - so then it makes sense to mention here.] SAP needs to make a better message (and maybe product integration) around social to match what the competition has done. And good to see gamification being enabled – as a trial – new for traditional enterprise software release.

Enhanced mobile security: With the addition of SAP Mobile Secure solutions and mobile app protection, enterprises can now deploy a more secure mobile environment. These capabilities help enterprises simplify the security and management of mobile devices and applications, including application management and remote locking, as well as wiping of managed devices. Additionally, customers can easily build, configure and distribute mobile apps to end-users in a streamlined workflow.

MyPOV – Ok – looks like we are getting to all technology disruptors – so mobile can’t be missing. And security is a message all around the industry, so good to see more MDM capabilities at SAP.

Pre-delivered applications: With the new cloud trial of the SAP Fiori user experience (UX), cloud edition, it is planned that users can leverage a set of SAP Fiori apps to connect with their own systems to try the new SAP Fiori UX or extend an existing SAP Fiori app or create a new SAP Fiori-like app.

MyPOV – Usability has been a sore spot for most of SAP’s history, Fiori is the latest remedy to address this and is showing some good promise, so making it easier for non Fiori shops to test and consume Fiori via cloud trial is a good move.

Business services: SAP is providing cloud trial access to business services, which aims to encapsulate best-practice business functions and expose these functions as APIs. These business services are intended to be quickly combined to create powerful, personalized cloud and mobile apps using SAP HANA Cloud Platform.

MyPOV – Probably next to Vora the most important part of the announcement, SAP opening up critical functionality that can be consumed by new custom apps build on HCP – and maybe even 3rd party apps – though that is not clear. A very important move as enterprises don’t want to and often even cannot consume enterprise software in the way it was built, packaged and made consumable by their vendors. But getting to APIs – err – services remains very valuable. Traditionally this has been a hot spot on the monetization side –so key to keep an eye on it. [Update September 8th - SAP AR points out that SAP provides both APIs and services, good point.]

SAP hybris as a Service on SAP HANA Cloud Platform (public beta) plans to offer a wide range of diverse business developer services, starting with a new set of services that augment and enhance the SAP hybris front office, which aims to include products such as the SAP hybris Commerce and SAP hybris Marketing solutions and others. SAP hybris as a Service on SAP HANA Cloud Platform is planned to be open to developers, solution providers, independent software vendors (ISVs) and IT organizations for building their own business services and then offering them to customers or other developers.

MyPOV – hybris is probably the SAP product that due to its very nature needs the most custom development options. Customer experience is a key differentiation tool and in the battle for the customer’s money no off the shelf solution can provide that. It was to be expected that this work would be carried out in HCP – but this is a key conformation that it will happen in HCP. Given that much hybris work happens on Pivotal CloudFoundry a key area to watch.

SAP tax calculation service (limited trial) intends to provide a tax determination and computation services as an API. This service also plans to offer global tax compliance by covering the legal aspects of tax computation for over 75 countries. Read more here.

MyPOV – Good move by SAP – you may even ask what took the vendor so long – to leverage complex, proven and pretty unique assets as the tax calculation service. On the flip side this was (or had to be) on the hybris roadmap anyway – as hybris and SAP customers would expect this to be integrated. And it will be interesting for hybris customers with non-SAP backends. But that’s a question for later (we know the answer already –– you can plug in other services).

“As the provider of choice for real-time communications solutions for many of the world’s largest companies, GENBAND has achieved rapid growth organically and through acquisition as well as through aggressive sales and marketing, so ensuring the ease of interaction with our customers is a major priority,” said Darrin Whitney, CIO, GENBAND. “To continually improve customer experience and our own internal productivity processes, GENBAND chose SAP HANA Cloud Platform to help personalize our customer and partner experience. With SAP HANA Cloud Platform we improved service desk operations to meet and exceed service level agreements, reduced licensing fees and operational costs. SAP HANA Cloud Platform has definitely met our expectations.”

MyPOV – Always good to see a customer quote and interesting to learn what GENBAND has been able to build.

SAP has an established partner ecosystem that is ready to resell and provide services for customers as they transform their businesses in today’s digital economy with new capabilities planned for SAP HANA Cloud Platform and SAP HANA Vora. Read what SAP partners, including Arvato Systems, Bluefin Solutions Inc, Capgemini, Cisco, Cloudera, CSC, Deloitte Consulting LLP, Hortonworks, In Mind, MapR Technologies and Sprinklr have to say: “Partner Quotes: SAP Accelerates Digital Transformation of Business with New Cloud Platform Services and In-Memory Innovation on Hadoop.”

MyPOV – Good to see the overall excitement in the ecosystem on Vora. Notable absences are Databricks, the main commercial body for Spark, and given its recent investments and announcements SAP co-opetitor IBM.  [Update September 8th – SAP points out they will be a sponsor of Databrick’s Spark Summit, so all seems well on the relationship side.]

Overall MyPOV

Delivering on hints, statements and codenames from Sapphire around Hadoop is good for SAP. In my view the Vora announcement and with that the certainty that SAP will build commercial software both from a technology and application perspective utilizing Hadoop is a very important landmark in SAP’s history. It eclipses easily HANA in my view (ok let the storm begin) – because the use cases for Hadoop support are well understood and known. Customers and industry pundits (moi aussi) have been pounding SAP for not having a Hadoop story for the longest time – which effectively excluded SAP from almost all modern software, next generation application scenarios. If you doubt that – re-read the Intel quote with that in mind. SAP cannot deliver on IoT without Hadoop support, so Vora is key for the whole IoT ambition that SAP has been articulating since 12+ months. Ruling social data, understanding machine exhaust, getting a grasp of what is happening on the internet etc. are all use cases that enterprises need to address… and they are doing that with PaaS platforms – and as much progress as HCP has made – it was not a first class citizen amongst PaaS platforms without Hadoop support. So not only does SAP’s future commercial success and overall market relevance depend on Hadoop support on the applications side, it does on the technology side, too.

On the concern side, SAP is late to the game. For too long SAP has hoped for Moore’s law to make HANA viable for BigData scenarios but the combination of falling memory prices and sophisticated compression cannot keep up with the growth of business relevant (that can only be addressed by Hadoop). SAP now needs to develop roadmaps on Vora capabilities so HCP customers and prospects can understand what they can build and when. The same is valid for the new business services – which will be key for these applications. These cannot just be the ‘fallout’ of the SAP application roadmap (which the current ones are) – but need to be more to help customers build the applications that disrupt markets. It would be good for SAP to listen to its customers for the priorities on business services as key input for the first phases of the roadmap. Last but not least SAP needs to price these innovations attractively. ‘Free’ for developers is the right tune these days, but SAP customers are astute enough to understand that they need to know what operating costs for their next generation application built on HCP, leveraging Vora, will cost. Past experiences with HANA pricing and licensing have shown that this is not trivial, but ultimately SAP will make pricing not the obstacle to remain relevant with customers.

But for now congrats and welcome SAP to the Hadoop games, better late than never. SAP has a lot to contribute from both an enterprise vendor DNA and pure capability side as well as from qualities learnt and operated with HANA on the technology side, if executed right both should make SAP more relevant to SAP customers and with the right momentum, relevant in the overall PaaS market.

Next stop is likely SAP TechEd in a few weeks – stay tuned.