A few days ago I read from Vijay Vijayasankar and Jon Reed (including Leonardo De Araujo)a few posts about what they saw Road Ahead for SAP Consultants – 2011 in SAP looking like, the trends and technologies that would drive SAP forward. When I read the list initially I found nothing substantive about the underlying technologies that would underpin these whizzy and fancy portents. So I posted on twitter to both of these people that I, as NetWeaver Technical Consultant, was unhappy at being left out of the party. It was a reaction, they to their credit responded very nicely and confirmed they had inferred the technical requirement in many places but for lack of time they could not cover all of it.
So I decided to write this post to hopefully compliment their previous posts, offering a technical point of view to their vision.
1. BusinessObjects reporting tools will get significant traction in BW shops
I have not seen a great deal of detail about how the architecture of the BO tools can and should be mapped into an existing landscape. I have seen many pretty pictures and can infer much from these, but it feels a little subjective and open to interpretation. Also I have been talking to some of the hardware vendors and they are sketchy on some of the detailed sizing requirements. So I see a huge learning curve for the BO 4.0 release and many painful lessons for technical people.
4. Learn what is possible with HANA and what is not
Completely agree with this one, HANA is developing at a furious rate with Chinese whispers about version 2.0 functionality being discussed like it is gospel. Lets bring it back to earth here, first I love the concept of John Appleby’s BFS technically known as an In-Memory database. Second I do not love the sheer lack of technical information on it, there are no SAP Architecture documents about it on Marketplace, no Master guides about it, there are 212 SAP Support Notes for it but no entry in the Product Lifecycle or Installation guides about it. I am not hugely concerned for me, I work for a consulting organisation with strategic partnerships with SAP and the appliance vendors, so I can get at least 3 different views on HANA and how to integrate it into a landscape, but customers’ technical people must be engaged on how this fits with everything.
6. Virtualization will continue to gain traction
After sitting through so many vendor presentations, and analysing the increase in SAPs ratings of servers – I really did being to wonder how customers were going to get a decent ROI without virtualisation, which was not helped by SAP dragging their feet on some platforms. There are several types of virtualisation that are now supported for SAP, VMWare ESX, IBM p Series LPars, HP Integrity VMs, Sun Solaris Zones, Microsoft HyperV, if you add to that the multitude of developing Cloud Services like HP, IBM, Microsoft Azure and the mature(ish) Amazon. You now have a massive amount of choice in platforms, Enterprise architects foaming at the mouth to consolidate every piece of software ever developed and Vendors scrambling to sell the client licenses for a Virtualisation stack that locks them in. Good dialog is necessary and many workshops to help thrash out a workable solution. As regards Cloud, there is too much hype around this, it is at the top of the Gartner Hype Curve and we all know what that means. Technical teams must be allowed to critically evaluate the platform in terms of management, integration, supportability in order to ensure they are able to maintain a stable progressive platform. The business need to challenge the technical team to help them grow!
7. Security and Compliance is a big deal
I hate doing Security and Compliance, but I recognise why it is needed and the quality it can enforce. There are many gotchas in this area around architecting a valid solution – security and technical people need to start talking more, not dictate to each other.
8. Data federation can add significant business value
I want to see system owners opening up their data sets to the Data federator, I can imagine that a major part of the issue is that the technical people do not want others digging in their ‘vegetable patch’ – who knows what they might find.
9. Wait and watch for Business by Design
This is something that has me excited and I have been that way since I was at the Innovation Weekend in Las Vegas Oct 2010, Kai van de Loo explained his vision about ‘De-perimeterising’ the SAP landscape. It resonated with me particularly because I was working on deploying SAP within AWS, and taking advantage of the ability for people to build new composite applications without having to ask Security. This meant that they could derive business value quickly and easily, then go to Security with two things, a working application they can test (not a HLD document) and a solid business reason/backing.
SAP are developing/releasing platforms at a furious rate, SAP River, Streamworks, BYD, OnDemand HANA, developers and business people are being sold on the value of them, of which there is plenty. Technical people are not being shown the architectural designs behind them or in front of them, we again are forced to infer architectural details from diagrams. When developers sell these ideas to the business, they are not able to talk to the security people as to how these services should be consumed in a secure way – they ask me to do it!
This is only going to get more and more common for 3 reasons
1. People are becoming more at ease with using ‘Cloud based’ services, applications like Dropbox, Evernote are more common – this is feeding into the Enterprise and as a result people are more receptive to them.
2. It is easier to sell customers/architects Platforms as they are easier to see and conceptualise than web services
3. SAP will certify Cloud IaaS providers which will make the ability to link with these services much more realistic without the risk of compromising the core network.
I think in the main the guys got it right in both of their pieces, I just misread the intention of their pieces a little. For me right now I think this is an amazingly exciting time to be working in Technology for a number of reasons
1. Technology keeps advancing, and I have to keep learning about some many new things.
2. The connected nature of the SAP community is driving so much right now, and SAP are listening.
As a result of these things, I am able to communicate with many people, link many pieces of information to come up with solutions at really help customers and drive things forward. I probably am able to talk more ‘languages’ than a UN translator in terms of the technology I can converse about – this can often steer me away from incorrect assumptions and trouble, not everyone takes the time to learn about how their area integrates with other technology stacks.
The thing that worries me right now, is that these technologies are moving at such rates, without complete communication from the designers through to the consumers. Fast moving platforms have a habit of moving themselves and their customers either into trees, dead-ends or if they are lucky onto the highway. What I want to see is more engagement with technical people at the front end, not just architects, with roadmaps decreasing to 6 months to 1 year in places – it becomes difficult to plan and architect the right agility into a solution.
People have to stop being so parochial about their platforms and system – yes your system is special, yes it is different from mine, but if we do not talk, and design a good solution, we’ll get told what the solution is.
By the way, we have 14 hours to save the earth!!