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What do you get when you team up mature technology companies with young startups? Something that parents experience with their babies, toddlers and teenagers: while the parents are lifted out of their comfort zone and finally learn everything about Spongebob, Mangas and Britney, the children get guidance and a toolset of values and proper behaviour for life. And also learn who Jerry Lewis and Doris Day were.

Overall, we have a lot of fun and excitement, to the benefit of all. All that’s what the SAP Co-Innovation Lab in Palo Alto (COIL) has facilitated in an astonishingly short period. Within a year SAP partners and customers jumped on the idea of pulling together resources to co-innovate and provide solutions for challenges, that none of them could solve alone in such a short time.

In the true spirit of Silicon Valley and in time for its first birthday, the COIL hosted today a mini-event where companies like Cisco, HP, NetApp, VMWare, Deloitte, Amberpoint, SOA Software together with SAP gave 30 minutes briefings and demos on solutions the COIL has fostered. While 30 minutes is longer than the 30 seconds elevator pitches the Silicon Valley is famous for, the 3 hours event made clear that putting together a bunch of highly creative people with different backgrounds can lead to astonishing solutions.

In total 6 solutions were presented, some of them as proof of concept, but some ready for productive use. The solutions were:

  • Collaboration workspace
  • eSOA Management
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Borderless Manufacturing
  • Corporate Performance Management
  • BIA

The variety of topics gives a good feeling of how diverse the challenges and the reaction of the SAP ecosystem is. The same variety that parents face, depending on the place they live, how old their children are, what talents they have. Let me explain what each of those solutions does.

Collaboration workspace

To enable Co-Innovation, not only a physical location is crucial, but even more a virtual place to collaborate. As member of the SAP Community Network (SCN) you already profited from public collaboration places. The collaboration workspace is nothing else than a “hosted private SCN”, with the same features and, just with restricted access for the innovation partners. Blogging, WIKIs, discussions, document stores, notifications, RSS-feeds: you-name-it-they-have-it.

And the best is: It’s live with more than 200 private spaces.

Check it out here: https://cw.sap.com/

Think: a safe playground

Borderless Manufacturing

Another solution for collaboration was shown by Cisco and SAP. The “wikinomics” of collaborative manufacturing on a global base has led companies to the insight that “no longer a company exists and succeeds on its own”. Companies need to build up their own ecosystem and business network to tap into the pool of knowledge, resources and talents.

What does that mean? First, forget about inventing and building everything in house. This is very possibly neither efficient, nor does it serve your customers well enough. Secondly, how do you move from your current status of doing everything yourself to “collaborate with the best in the field”? How do you transform your business network? That’s where “Borderless Manufacturing” enters the stage. While SAP offers the “brain” that helps bringing in the right business context, processes, data, roles, metadata…, Cisco’s contribution is the “nervous system”, with the ability to reach out, with pervasive and event-driven technology.

An example was shown with xMII, an ERP backend and a bunch of telephones, that represented an example of  notification channel. A customer cancels an order? No problem, you get the notification imediately and can react and cancel your own orders directly from the system. Imagine doing that all manually before. And all of that real time, globally and packed as one applicance. Just put the blade – an xMII-system on Cisco’s unified communication stack – into the server rack and there you go.

Think: managing your child’s busy schedule

BI Accelerator

What we love about search engines like Google or Yahoo! are speed and simplicity. One field and fractions of second later you have your result. While speed hasn’t been much of an issue for SAP BI with the introduction of BIA, simplicity has posed one. Not anymore. After HP, Intel and SAP brought us “BI on steorids”, they teamed up again to introduce “BI for the masses”. The SAP Business Object tool “Polestar” makes using analytical data so easy that it’s a shame that it has not been done earlier. Exactly one search field is the starting point. Type in the keyword that you want data about, and the solution scans in memory data and metadata.

The whole solution comes in one box and a setup time of 6 days. Well, I lied: 3 days are setup and 3 days are knowledge transfer. And when I say box: the “box” is an HP server blade (but who cares for such details…)

The biggest problem with this solution? Your users. The solution works so fast and is so easy to handle, that your business users will think that something is wrong with the BI. (Note: that reminds me of a “perfomance-problem” with a demo on BIA that we built 3-4 years ago: the results came back so quickly that the pinging-intervals of our monitoring tool for measuring the server load were way too long for that. But that’s another story and you don’t want to get me started on that…)

Think: you need to say only one thing and your child does what you wanted

Disaster Recovery Solution

Disasters happen. Every parent knows that. What’s better than having a plan that works in case the disaster strikes? That’s what VMWare, NetApp and SAP offer. A disaster recovery solution called VMWare Site Recovery Manager (another solution being abbreviated to SRM) helps you to manage multiple virtual sites. With replication-technology SnapMirror from NetApp, and the VMWare SRM everything is taken care that automated recovery plans jump in, if one site goes down. And if nothing went down, you can always run test plans and use the resources of both sites for productive use.

Think: a better thing than just household insurance for stuff that your kids break.

Optimize Corporate Performance

Nothing is easier than to formulate a business strategy. But try to implement or even monitor it. That’s what Deloitte and SAP realized. And that’s why they pulled together experience and software tools to help optimizing corporate performance the first time in a closed-loop. By integrating Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) software, Business Planning and BI/Business Objects, organizations can translate strategies into objects, feed them in the KPIs, manage, assess and plan risks, and monitor profitability. The solution integrates in the core SAP systems to give you the full picture, and there is no need to trash your process: this package interates with your existing processes.

Imagine a company trying to expand their business internationally. Strategy: become a global player. Break that down into objectives and KPIs like revenue and profit. But what are the risks? Missing export licenses or channel partner failures for example. Do not only react when it happened, but mitigate and plan ahead.

Think: plan your child’s life and make it safe and happy.

SOA Management

The biggest changes in the last years for SAP was definitely the SOA enablement of all solutions and technologies. The success of this technological transformation opened another area of challenge: how do you manage all your services? For that customer-driven inquiry two small companies came to help: Amberpoint and SOA Software (in purely alphabetical order, not in the order of the amounts they bribed me to mention them).

While design time management of services is pretty much related to the standard life-cycle management, runtime management is new. First you have the technical layer, where  visibility and control is important. An IT manager administrates, safeguards the deployment of SOA artifcats and understands interdependencies. The second layer is business context driven, where policies are enforces (e.g. concerning security) and data collected.

How does this work? With Amberpoint you first run the autodiscovery tool to discover services and web services, and which often leads to a surprise of how many of them are already used by organizations without the IT managers knowing about them. And from that point on you define via templates what has to be tracked and enforced for external and internal users of services. A SOA Administrator dashboard helps you keep the oversight.

A similar toolset and offering comes from SOA Software. With a focus on operational governance (read: focus on running services) this integrated governance vendor helps you planning, developing and operating services. Their runtime proxies (they call them “Network Directors”) do not only enforce policies like security and service level assurance, but also collect data. This way you have a good way of monitoring the services in place, who consumes them, how good their availability is and where they fail.

Think: daycare for your child

Summary

I wish I had tools like these for raising my one year old without driving me nuts — I mean: with ensuring that I can raise him to become a happy and valuable citizen. Anyone out there who has a Co-Innovation Lab for Babies?

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