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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!!

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  1. Jon Reed
    Chris,

    This was a terrific elaboration on the previous piece Leo, Vijay, and I did! To me, it’s impossible in any one podcast or blog to accurately portray all the variations in SAP skills trends, so the best possible way to go about this is for one post to inspire another, and then let the conversation continue from there. I have no quibbles with your advice for technical SAP people either – “Basis” folks in particular – and more than that I respect the passion you clearly feel for this topic. I hope we see more blogs from you on these themes! I’m also glad you moved beyond your initial reaction on Twitter to posting in more detail, it was a classy move on your part, and beneficial to readers. I will add a link to your post from mine as soon as I add this comment.

    With that said, I do want to offer up a few clarifications. It was great that you included a couple links to the material, but I think it’s helpful for readers to know what those links are. For several years, Vijay has posted a great blog each year called “The Road Ahead for SAP Consultants.” This year, for the first time, we did a podcast with Vijay, Leo, and myself to talk about Vijay’s blog post and discuss the themes he brought up in it. Basically the goal was to take a deeper view into the motivations behind what I view as an important post each year. So, for your readers, the links you included in the first paragraph are to Vijay’s most recent 2011 post and then to the mp3 file of the podcast itself. If you want to check out a bit more background on the podcast, please check out my Podcast: Road Ahead for SAP Consultants – The SAP Mentor View that includes not only the mp3 file but some more background on what we were trying to do.

    When you say in your intro that we were talking about “what they saw the year ahead in SAP looking like, the trends and technologies that would drive SAP forward,” I would probably phrase it differently. It’s really Vijay’s project, but what he is trying to do is to assess where the actual consulting demand for SAP work is. Consulting demand is, generally, a lagging indicator, because it takes a while for an SAP technology to get adopted to the point where there is consulting demand. I personally like looking at consulting demand because it focuses not on what technology is sexy but what companies are actually investing in and taking seriously on their projects.

    When I asked Leo to join us, it’s because he runs a firm with an SME/mid-market focus, so between Leo and Vijay there is a good sense of what skills are actually in demand and going to be in demand. So this is less a talk about cool technology and more about what customers are actually using. That’s why Vijay left mobility off of his list and we got into that on the podcast itself.  Even though we had talked for an hour, we left out a lot. With most of the trends that were brought up, from ByD to HANA, there are skills implications for both functional and technical consultants. We didn’t get into the implications of those trends for either functional or technical people in much detail, because after an hour, it’s time to have mercy on the listener. 🙂 That’s why your follow up is very much welcome.

    One more clarification: Both Leo and Vijay have technical backgrounds, but primarily on the development side. Leo is still very much a hands-on ABAP developer and presents on best ABAP approaches regularly. We did get into some of that (development trends) on the podcast. Long way of saying: when you are saying “technical” in your post, I think you’re especially referring to Basis/NetWeaver admin, correct? And that’s an important clarification, because that’s an underserved area on SCN and elsewhere. If you can be more of a voice for Basis individuals it will be surely welcomed. One of the main reasons I do the “SolBros” podcast series is to try to shed more ongoing light into areas that Basis and architecture folks are concerned with. Basis/NetWeaver folks need more voices. I’m sure if you continue to chime in, it will be most welcome!

    – Jon

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    1. Tom Cenens
      Hello Chris

      I cannot agree more with what Jon points out. Some time ago Juan Reyes wrote a blog about rebranding the forum categories named “Netweaver”. Out of the comments of his blog we formed a small group (Juan Reyes, Martin English and me) to discuss what we could do about to point out the need for more technical content and try to motivate SAP system administrators (Basis persons or whatever naming used) to step up and become active on SCN.

      There is a still a big chunk of the group that finds SCN to be too much Development oriented and they only use SCN in a passive way, looking up possible solutions to a problem they encounter for example. This should change.

      In my opinion system administration is important and knowledge sharing around the subject is as well.

      Blog Calling out to the SAP system administrators:
      #SAPADMIN calling out to the SAP System Administrators

      You can already search twitter using hashtag #SAPADMIN for related blogs and content.

      ps: I like the SolBros episodes so certainly keep them going. I pointed out already in the comments it would be nice to see some coverage of certain technical, most likely less used but certainly interesting scenarios.

      Kind regards

      Tom

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      1. Jon Reed
        Tom, thanks for calling my attention to your blog post on #admins on SCN and elsewhere and why they should unite. Even beyond SCN,  I’ve often thought that SAP Basis peeps needed their own Enterprise Geeks equivalent. eGeeks speak to Basis issues but there tends to be a developer vibe there. The SolBros podcast series is one element but obviously with a narrower focus.

        I could not agree more with the push towards more visibility for Basis/NetWeaver Admin areas/culture/threads on SCN. I’ll add my vote to IdeaPlace. Tom I now have your blog in my reader also so I’ll track further developments as you post them. And next time we tape a SolBros episode we will pull in your comments.

        – Jon.

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        1. Tom Cenens
          Hello Jon

          Thanks for your intrest in the cause and for following the content. There should be more content and trend following for SAP Basis people.

          I’m looking forward to the next SolBros episode.

          Kind regards

          Tom

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  2. Kumud Singh
    Hi,

    Thanks lot for voicing out for technical consultants.I have an added concern here, SAP is running fast, we work on one version of let’s say any object and the next advanced version is already getting full fledged used somewhere else. We don’t get to work on the advanced versions or new developed scenarios until the customer we work with gets the advanced version.
    We can just read about them in SCN or other technical sides. This always gives us a feeling that we are not updated or rather are running back of many of our co-partners.
    How can this gap be bridged?

    Thanks,

    With Regards,
    Kumud Singh

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    1. Tom Cenens
      Hello Kumud

      It’s one of those concerns I have as well and it lives among the technical persons.

      The problem is that we cannot create some situations like particular troubleshooting. situations which call for huge amount of loads If you cannot create that load you cannot trigger such events yourself.

      There are demo versions of certain products which are ok to look at some features from a technical point of view but to get experience with the latest products and scenarios there isn’t much to go on.

      The most suitable solution right now is to find a employer or work as a consultant/independant employee for such companies that can offer you that kind of work.

      This is exactly the reason why there is a need for more technical hands-on at big SAP events. I still have the feeling development and functional area’s are addressed most of the time and technical persons are left out.

      I did get numbers from SAP from TechED 2010 feedback that most participants gave the feedback that the technical content was sufficient. The question then becomes, do enough system administrators and technical persons provide feedback? I doubt it really, it is visible on SCN a lot of system administrators are registered but are using SCN in a passive way.

      We have to wake up the system admnistrators to speak up and show there is indeed a need for technical content, hands-on and so on. I’m getting the feedback SCN is more for developers but at the same time they (other sys admins) are not doing anything about it. If you complain about something, try to change it around and use the negative energy to create something positive.

      Our own space on SCN could further energize the idea to have more content for system administrators.

      I would love to do a hands-on how to properly set up certain technical scenario’s in Solution Manager for example like End-user Experience Monitoring or alikes. Yes there is documentation available but this is also valid for development and still there are a lot of hands-on sessions concerning development.

      Or how about a hands-on at TechED 2011 how to integrate HANA with an ERP solution for example from a technical points of view. How many would sign up for that, I would for sure.

      Kind regards

      Tom

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      1. Kumud Singh
        Hi Tom,

        Thanks for the acknowledgement.
        The message is pretty clear.
        Certainly TechED would be a great way for knowing things ahead.

        With Regards,
        Kumud

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    2. Martin English
      First, off, I’m going to apologise for going a little off track 🙂

      Despite SAP’s current speed to market and innovation, sometimes the customers want or need to take it further.  When I did my first SAP portal (EP6) installation as a .  As far as the client was concerned – despite all the warnings from me, my organisation AND from the SAP Account team, that SAP was not supported in production on VMWARE at the time – the production Portal was going onto VM Ware.  The argument was that, becaue it was mainly for ESS and MSS, that the peaks and troughs of usage were quite severe, but could be reasonably modeled.  Buying an oversied server for most of the year (a fortnightly payroll and a 2 month performance review process) didn’t make financial sense.  And the BASIS team (i.e. me and others around me) was going to have to make it work, or they would find someone who would.

      Other SAP customers I have dealt with just had too much going on in their IT space, and so they have 4.6c, 3.1, 3.0 and even earlier (there are still customers running PRODUCTION instances of R/2) systems performing small but important roles in the business.  The business need hadn’t changed – the systems may have moved from large NT boxes to vmware appliances, but they still had to run – so why change what was working ?  There was no SAP support, no Vendor supplied DBMS support, no Vendor supplied Operating System support available.  And the BASIS team (i.e. me and others around me) was going to have to make it work, or they would find someone who would.

      These thoughts were triggered by a a brief chat I had today with Gunther Schmalzaf, prior to one of his presentations at the Sydney Australia #masteringsap ( http://www.eventfulmanagement.com/masteringsap/ ) conference.  Gunther is SAP’s Solution Manager of Virtualisation, Adaptive Computing and Cloud Technology.  Amongst other things, we discussed the challenges he is facing in setting up the processes for SAP certifcation of cloud vendors for things like running an SAP instance on an Amazon server.  SAP will not support this yet, because (amongst other things) parts of SAP have yet to work out HOW they will support it; issues like licencing (if I take a copy of a running image, the harware keys are identical, so my friend can use the same licence key if she wants to use the same sid), hardware perequisites (is a performance issue caused by the SAP software, an incorrectly sized virtual hardware specification / request, or becuae of a monetary bottleneck in the cloud ?).

      The point of all this ?

      There are customers who can not or will not ignore the benefits of technology platforms that SAP does not (yet) support.
      There are customers who can not or will not ignore the technology platforms that SAP does not support (anymore). 

      And the local BASIS team (or SAP Technology team, or Netweaver Platform team, or whatever we are called in your organisation) WILL make it work 🙂

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      1. Kumud Singh
        Hi Martin,

        Thanks for the acknowledgement.I think this is one of the reasons why we consider Customers as King.
        I also understand the message serves to a large group of people for making things run faster.

        Thanks,

        With Regards,
        Kumud.

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