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After attending the recent Sapphire in Orlando, I absorbed  the information from the event (the keynotes, the meetings with executives,  those thousands of tweets, blogs by analysts and bloggers and hallway  conversations) and tried to figure out what it all meant.   I wanted to do more  than understand the messages that emerged from the event. I was more interested  in the practical application of my lessons learned from the event. 

The Sapphire is always a very optimistic / upbeat event (as  demonstrated by the Late-Night Talk Show format of the second Keynote) which  attempts to demonstrate that SAP is able to equip its customers with the tools  necessary to respond to future developments in technology and society at large  (as seen by the first keynote on Tuesday dealing with broader future trends).  This year HANA was being pushed as the new panacea with various events showing  the promise of the new technology (for example, the The complete series of SAP HANA InnoJam demos during SAPPHIRE NOW 2011 in OrlandoThe complete series of SAP HANA InnoJam demos during SAPPHIRE NOW 2011 in OrlandoThe complete series of SAP HANA InnoJam demos during SAPPHIRE NOW 2011 in OrlandoThe complete series of SAP HANA InnoJam demos during SAPPHIRE NOW 2011 in OrlandoThe complete series of SAP HANA InnoJam demos during SAPPHIRE NOW 2011 in OrlandoThe complete series of SAP HANA InnoJam demos during SAPPHIRE NOW 2011 in OrlandoThe complete series of SAP HANA InnoJam demos during SAPPHIRE NOW 2011 in Orlando), its customer relevance (the  testimonials from a variety of companies in the third keynote) and the ability  of SAP to deliver on this promise (the demo-pods showing live demos of the  technology). Yet despite all this “positive energy”, there were a few sharp  rocks which were visible underneath the smooth surface of the “Sapphire  Kool-Aid”. 

Although SAP largely steered clear of these obstacles, the  challenges still exist and must now be confronted following the successful  conclusion of the event. 

Let’s take a closer look at two of these challenges and then  I’ll suggest one possible solution to meet the resulting requirements.

Challenges

1. Dealing with the established base of largely OnPremise customers and  their concerns 

Of all the videos and content that emerged from the Sapphire  Now, I found the video  that Dennis Howlett and Jon Reed made with board members Otto Schell and Andreas  Oczko of the DSAG (The German-speaking SAP User Group) the most revealing.    Both representatives attempted to bring SAP back down to earth and described the  essential issues of lowering TCO and increasing ROI on their existing OnPremise  assets as the primary concern of these “legacy” customers.

The fundamental issue involves the conflict between the  requirements associated with existing systems and the new innovations that SAP  is proposing.

A recent report by Constellation  Research principal analyst and CEO Ray Wang finds that many SAP customers are  struggling to maintain their legacy systems while also dealing with the intense  pressure from perceived IT innovation demands, he writes in the report: “The  Market for SAP Optimization Options.”

Three areas, in particular, are  causing customer angst, according to Wang’s survey research of more than 100 SAP  customers: “Higher cost of ownership that reduces overall ROI; an aging and  brittle infrastructure that hampers innovation; and increasing complexity that  hampers greater adoption.” [SOURCE]

The idea of timeless software assures that no disruption  should occur but some suggest that much of this anxiety reflects a feeling that  innovations emerging from SAP at a rapid pace are not made with an awareness of  the constraints with which many customers are confronted on a daily basis.

The technology gaps among where existing SAP customers  are in their systems landscape and where SAP is headed is widening even more,  and customers face difficult decisions as to strategic direction and budgets.   Keeping current with SAP NetWeaver, Business Objects and other technologies  could be an expensive proposition and as noted, SAP has now put on-demand HANA  on the table for long-term consideration. [SOURCE].

This sentiment isn’t only present regarding HANA, the  cure-all of new mobile applications is also questioned by some:

With a global business, the proverbial “sweet spot” for  mobile applications was travel approvals, so Birnley had his team build out a  mobile app for BlackBerry to speed up the approvals process. Then he ran the  metrics on it.

“We were only getting 3-4% usage of these tools which we  only used internal resources for,” he said. “I was expecting 30%. When you hear  all the noise [about mobile applications], in my opinion [usage] is low.”  [SOURCE]

It is not that business users are not interested in this  technology (indeed Dennis Howlett commented that “the mobile part of the show was packed”); the main  problem is that a detailed business case describing the actual TCO / ROI effects  is often necessary for the use such new technologies.  

Note:   Based on my discussions with SAP reps on the show-floor (for example, those  demoing the hot new product “SalesOnDemand), I’ve come to understand that the  marketing of many of these new innovations is primarily for the existing  customer base.  Of course, BusinessByDesign also focuses on winning new  customers in the SME market but the attention being paid to subsidiaries in this  area is also focused on existing customers by demonstrating the integration  possibilities involved with the ByDesignbased subsidiaries and their OnPremise headquarters.

Thus, you have a conflict between SAP’s marketing focus  of its innovations – the existing customers – and the ability of these customers  to really use these innovations.

In this blog, I’m going to going to concentrate on the  ROI-related aspects of this challenge – especially, the ability of OnPremise  customers to use their existing environments in a new innovative ways with a  limited impact on the associated costs.  If you think that my proposed solution  includes NetWeaver Gateway – you are right – but Gateway by itself isn’t  enough. 

2. The need to increase the number of SAP users 

Recently, SAP announced an ambitious goal 1 billion users by  2015 and the use of mobility-related innovations to achieve this goal.

“The pervasiveness of mobility and  impact on consumers to businesses make it one of the most profound  transformations in IT history, and it is a key driver for enabling SAP and  Sybase to reach 1 billion people by 2015,” said Dr. Raj Nathan, executive vice  president and chief marketing officer, Sybase. [SOURCE].

Of course, the key word in this quote is “reach”. The  implication is that these 1 billon users won’t be SAP customers but, in all  likelihood, will be the customers of SAP customers.   The ability of SAP to meet  this goal is largely based on the new innovations (In-memory, on-demand,  on-device) that were promoted at the Sapphire.

The questioning by investors of the ability of SAP to meet  the associated sales goals also reveals that there is some doubt as to whether  these expectations are realistic and whether the existing strategy with its  strong focus on HANA is correct.

SAP needs to be “more precise about  what the different innovations will contribute in terms of sales and profit,”  Hans- Martin Buhlmann, president of Vereinigung Institutionelle Privatanleger, a  Cologne, Germany-based shareholder proxy group, said at today’s meeting, which  is attended by 3,300 shareholders. “We want to know how much money we’ll make  when, from these innovations.”

….

“Many investors believe SAP’s  product portfolio has potential, but we want to see proof and we probably won’t  see that for another two years, three years,” said Thilo Mueller, a portfolio  manager at MB Fund Advisory GmbH in Limburg, Germany, who helps manage 120  million euros including SAP shares. “I haven’t yet had the big ‘Aha!’ moment  with the new management.” [SOURCE]

Thus, the goal in itself isn’t being questioned but rather it  is the ability of SAP to meet this goal.  The problem is that there is no  detailed description provided by SAP to show how these new innovations will meet  the goal of 1 billion “reached users”. The vague depiction of the potential of  Sybase technology (assumedly in the form of the Sybase Unwired Platform ) doesn’t satisfy investors demanding to “see  proof”.  It is not the fact these innovations do not yet exist that is the  problem but rather that the details on how they will be used (and the associated  timelines) that are absent.

My compelling future architecture

 Note: The section header reminds me of the famous  Monty Python skit (Anne Elks Theory about Brontosauruses)

 Caveat: My proposed solution obviously  reflects my interests and my subjective experience at the Sapphire.  There are a  myriad of other solutions that are possible and some of which are now being  certainly being discussed in the hallways and drawn on the whiteboards in  Waldorf and Palo Alto and other locations around the globe.  My intention is not  to malign these other solutions.  

I placed all my experiences from the Sapphire in a proverbial  blender and then hit the Liquefy button.  Every time a solution emerged  from the blender, I looked at the result and tried to poke holes in it.  A very  specific idea emerged from this process and is based on my desire to meet the  challenges mentioned above. 

Note: A first attempt to describe this idea  is present in the video  I made with Jon Reed and Dennis Howlett on day after the SapphireNow  conference

My architecture in one sentence:

Focus on customer-facing  micro-applications – preferably mobile – that use data from OnPremise  environments (either via Gateway or HANA in the Cloud) that are hosted on the  OnDemand Edge PaaS environment. 

Here is a very high-level diagram of this scenario.

 

This architecture isn’t dogma. The diagram above shows all  the possible components involved. However, depending on the use cases involved,  other related architectures are possible. For example, the following related  architecture shows a scenario in which data from multiple companies are used to  create applications.

 

My solution has a variety of moving parts which increases its  complexity; furthermore, some parts are more important than others.  I’m not  assuming that the entire solution is possible right now (Indeed, I know that  this is not possible based on the fact that some parts are currently not  available) but I feel that only in its entirety with all parts working in tandem  will it be able to demonstrate its full potential.

Some might say this idea is nothing new. Indeed, Jim Hagemann  Snabe, SAP’s co-chief executive presented a similar idea which he discussed in a recent interview with FT.com.

That means companies can use mobile  devices to reach out all the way out to consumers. So for example in retail,  loyalty programes can be on the mobile phone and companies can optimise their  advertising and trade promotions for the user.

In the banking industry, financial  institutions can reach out to people who have no means of getting to a  bricks-and-mortar bank and can use their mobile phone instead.

Suddenly you have all these  scenarios where the consumer is the end user and companies can have a real-time  link to and from the consumer.

If you look at my idea, you’ll notice that I’ve made Jim’s  suggestion more concrete – adding more details about the type of application,  sources of data and where it will be hosted.

A general description of the technology architecture involved  was also drawn by Vishal Sikka and described in a blog  by Dennis Howlett.

 

If you look at my solution in comparison to that presented by  Vishal, there are some interesting differences. I’ve focused more on the “cloud”  aspects of the solution and I’ve placed more emphasis on HANA in the Cloud  rather than OnPremise uses of HANA.

I’d like to divide the following description into two parts –  the “what” and the “how”.  The first part will examine the particular market  segment and the characteristics of the applications in question and the second  part will examine how SAP should implement / support these applications.

Let’s examine each characteristic in detail and describe the  particular experiences at Sapphire that led me to realize its importance.

Trait: “customer-facing“ 

Level of Importance: high

I’m interested in applications that will empower the existing  SAP customer base to better help their customers. These users are  consumers of the goods and services of SAP customers rather than being SAP  customers directly.  SAP customers should be provided the technology and  methodologies to create more than just “business apps” or even “productivity  apps” –  I want SAP customers to be able to create applications that enable them  to attract new customers and enhance the brand loyalty of existing customers.   Based on the number of potential users, the target audience is much larger than  that usually focused on by SAP’s marketing efforts.

If the SAP customer is a brewery, then I want to figure out  better ways to interact with all those beer drinkers.   It is also important to  state that these users for these applications can still be “business users”  rather than consumers. The same brewery should also be able to create  applications that assist those selling their products – restaurants, grocery  stores, etc. The diversity of SAP customers is enormous, so the characteristics  of the users of these new applications will be just as diverse. 

Every company knows that its customers and the relationship  to its customers are its most valuable asset.  The creation of applications to  meet these requirements is nothing new. Extranets for customer usage have  existed for years and provided customers with a variety of data – the proposed  type of interaction is different from that provided by these older applications.

SAP’s customers include most of the Fortune 500 companies.   In the past, SAP has focused on the internal landscapes / environments of these  customers. Optimizing internal processes through standardization (for example,  in the form of proven blueprints) or increasing efficiency (for example, through  the speed enabled by HANA-based analysis).   Improvements in internal processes  have an indirect benefit on those customers of SAP customers through faster or  more efficient service.  Yet, the emergence of Social CRM and social media in  general has shown that this interaction can be enhanced and direct interaction  can bring even more benefits.  New rules apply in the marketplace and SAP must  adjust accordingly.

Many of my closest colleagues  believe SAP is conflicted. On the one hand it has a track record of success for  what it does that is second to none. On the other hand it is striving to remain  relevant in a world dominated by Google, Facebook and Apple. SAP can learn from  these players. [SOURCE]

If SAP is to evolve and change how the market views it, it  must change its image and its relationship with its customers. 

Lessons Learned from “Guten Appetit”

On Monday night at the Sapphire, the SAP HANA InnoJam finals  took place and various applications were evaluated by a panel of judges. Of all  the applications that were presented, one in particular caught my attention –  this was the first application that was presented and enabled users with food  allergies to examine merchandise – using bar-code technology- to see if the  products could be eaten or not.  The app had the following characteristics [SOURCE].

  • Process the large and  growing database of food ingredients and listing of allergens.
  • Provide real time  response of ingredient list in the desired format as per the consumer  allergy-profile over the existing telecommunication infrastructure.
  • Handle large number of  concurrent users both consumers and the company that is maintaining and  accessing the food database.

The screenshots from the application – which was created by a  team largely made of SAP Service consultants (not developers!) – show that it is  focused on the needs of end-users – not the typical business users associated  with SAP technology.

I was intrigued by the technology, because it showed that its  creators looked beyond the typical SAP focus on the enterprise market and  thought about how HANA could have a wider societal impact than just providing BI  data in record times to managers.  As Kaj van de Loo, SVP of Technology Strategy  said while judging this application, “You want to reach consumers at the point  of decision-making”.  This high degree of personalization is critical to assure  brand loyalty.

Yet, this consumer focus doesn’t mean that the relationship  to existing SAP customers and their needs is ignored.  This application is  perfect for SAP customers in the food industry who are trying to increase or  maintain their market share. Such companies are now able to use the information  usually locked in the ERP systems to benefit their consumers directly.  The  ability to provide coupons for the consumers via the app (just think of  combining this functionality with the features described in recent announcement  of the Google Wallet) also provides direct financial  incentives for such companies to create such apps.  

The idea of combining the food-related data with the personal  health data of the end-user (taken from a user’s health provider) also shows  that data from different industries / companies can be combined in innovative  ways. The application shows the potential of data-based cooperation /  collaboration that looks beyond the boundaries of the firewall.

The application is also an excellent example of  design-thinking. Furthermore, it also demonstrates that the people-centric  design philosophy that is often connected with the LoB OnDemand applications –  such as SalesOnDemand – can also be applied to the broader consumer market with  equal success.

Yet, as a comment on a blog written by Vinnie Mirchandani demonstrates,   many still view SAP as being limited to the enterprise and are not ready to see  the broader implications of this new technology.

Vinnie – Am surprised none of those  top contesting applications are business related. With decades of experience in  various verticals, SAP could have demonstrated much more stronger use  cases/application of HANA rather than showcasing something like diet advisor  kind of apps. I see a significant innovation deficit. [SOURCE]

It is critical to understand that I’m not only restricting my  proposed architecture to potential consumers based on purely capitalistic  motives.  If we remember the ever increasing importance of CSR activities, many  corporations are looking to support solutions that help the general public to  deal with societal problems (such as clean water, hunger, nutrition, etc).

Trait: “micro-applications“

 Level of Importance: medium

By micro-applications, I’m referring to small applications  with limited functionality that is developed rapidly. These are the typical mini  applications with which users familiar with iTunes, etc. see on a daily basis.  Such applications are either free or cost very little.

Dennis Howlett makes one step in the right direction when he suggests  using mobile applications – largely based on the Sybase technology – to create  new applications for the existing SAP customer base.

I ran some ‘back of fag packet’  numbers that suggest even if SAP is 100% successful in selling the Sybase PaaS,  the revenue it derives will pale into insignificance compared to operating the  equivalent of an Apple AppStore. It would need to largely ditch its addiction to  $1+ million deals in favor of business apps priced at $2-5 per user per month.  Based upon another back of fag packet estimate of total user numbers in the SAP  universe plus the number of SAP developed mobile apps I saw on the show floor,  SAP could blow the on-premise model to pieces and still come out ahead.

Dennis’ figures show the financial relevance to SAP of  creating micro-applications but for me, this step doesn’t go far enough. Dennis’  idea is restricted to apps created directly by SAP / Sybase and focused on  internal users – I’m more interested in expanding the creators of such  applications to SAP customers so that they can supply such apps to their  customers

For me, the limited functionality of such applications isn’t  paramount – rather the speed of development is critical.  SAP’s increasing use  of agile development methodology that focuses on fast sprints and involving  customers at an early stage shows that they also realize the importance of such  new development paradigms

Once again, the experience of the InnoJam Finals in which  many applications were developed in 30 hours represents a change in how  “enterprise software” is developed. Blogger Vinnie Mirchandani describes the  impact in this manner:

If small teams can build fairly  ambitious HANA applications part-time in a matter of days, SAP’s and its  partner’s project time scales need to be similarly compressed. if on-demand  benchmarks are showing frequent upgrades and importantly instant propagation  throughout the customer base, SAP cannot afford to have old-school and grudging  multi-year customer base migrations at the core. [SOURCE]

Of course, this market may not relevant for the usual  enterprise user – as demonstrated by a tweet from Sameer Patel.

The use cases relevant for these applications are different.

The challenge is identifying the use cases that fit such  applications and responding rapidly to such opportunities. This is another sign  that SAP customers must move closer to their customers to be able understand  their needs and respond quickly to such changes. If you look at tools such as Radian  6 where social media in all its forms is tracked and analyzed in real-time,  the economic potential of meeting such needs is increasing in importance. The  challenge is being to create the applications that meet such needs rapidly.

Low costs are another important concern for such applications  – mega development projects are no longer acceptable. Micro-applications usually  have lower costs based on their limited scope. Of course, this does not mean  that this limited scope might not have greater impact on the experiences of  individual users. Once again, the stress is on design thinking and developing  apps that reflect this philosophy.

Trait: Mobile

 Level of Importance: high

How do you want to reach the intended market? Of course,  browser-based applications are also possible but due to the increased number of  mobile devices used by many end-users, mobile-based solutions appear to be  optimal. What is also critical is to understand that we aren’t restricting the  suggestion solutions to smartphones. Many of the markets in developing countries  do not yet have the technical infrastructure to support such technology; thus,  using other mobile technology (SMS, etc) should also be considered. 

Lessons Learned from the SAPMentor Outreach App

 A Proudly Presenting the SAP Mentors Outreach Mobile App for Android – Connect with SAP Mentors at SAPphireNOW/ASUG OrlandoProudly Presenting the SAP Mentors Outreach Mobile App for Android – Connect with SAP Mentors at SAPphireNOW/ASUG OrlandoProudly Presenting the SAP Mentors Outreach Mobile App for Android – Connect with SAP Mentors at SAPphireNOW/ASUG OrlandoProudly Presenting the SAP Mentors Outreach Mobile App for Android – Connect with SAP Mentors at SAPphireNOW/ASUG OrlandoProudly Presenting the SAP Mentors Outreach Mobile App for Android – Connect with SAP Mentors at SAPphireNOW/ASUG OrlandoProudly Presenting the SAP Mentors Outreach Mobile App for Android – Connect with SAP Mentors at SAPphireNOW/ASUG OrlandoProudly Presenting the SAP Mentors Outreach Mobile App for Android – Connect with SAP Mentors at SAPphireNOW/ASUG Orlando – the first version was an Android  application- developed largely by Thorsten Franz, was finished shortly before  the Sapphire started. The application allowed users to search for SAP Mentors  via various criterion as well as display details about specific Mentors.   The  application’s data is stored in River – the new OnDemand Edge Development  Environment and accessed via REST APIs.

Currently, other versions for the iPhone and iPad are being  developed and will hopefully be available in time by the upcoming TechEds.  [As  a side note, much of the organizational work for these applications is being  done in StreamWork]. 

Of interest to me in the context of this blog was the rapid  speed with which this mobile application was created, its rapid acceptance by  end-users and the ability to push the app rapidly to users via the Android  Marketplace.  The fact that it was a mobile app also made certain use cases  possible (meeting a Mentor on the show floor and accessing his profile, etc)  that would have been otherwise impossible to implement.   

The role of the Sybase Unwired Platform

 The purchase of Sybase with its Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP)  was an attempt by Sap to meet the demands for such mobile applications.  With  the SUP, SAP has ability to let developers easily create mobile applications  that run on a variety of mobile platforms.  Approximately new  30 mobile applications were demonstrated at Sapphire   – many of those based on SUP.

The various other components described in my architecture may  provide all the necessary ingredients to fill an application with data but there  is no component that can create a mobile user interface (UI). Ideally, this  function would be provided by SUP.  If SAP / Sybase make the use of SUP  difficult or expensive (see SAP is Building its Mobile App Ecosystem – FastSAP is Building its Mobile App Ecosystem – FastSAP is Building its Mobile App Ecosystem – FastSAP is Building its Mobile App Ecosystem – FastSAP is Building its Mobile App Ecosystem – FastSAP is Building its Mobile App Ecosystem – FastSAP is Building its Mobile App Ecosystem – FastSAP is Building its Mobile App Ecosystem – FastSAP is Building its Mobile App Ecosystem – Fast for  more details), then widespread usage of the SUP may be hampered.. SUP should be THE platform for developers who are creating mobile apps based on SAP  data. In my opinion, SUP should be provided free of charge to interested  developers. This must also been done to meet SAP’s goals (as seen in this tweet  from fellow SAP Mentor Kevin Benedict) in this area:

Note: I often see the SUP being primarily associated with  mobile applications for the enterprise – I’d like to see it also used for the  broader consumer-market as well.

The SUP should also have a tight integration with the Edge  PaaS platform and Gateway – such features should be available out-of-the-box  without incurring additional costs.  Remember the goal here is 1) to assist the  OnPremise customers to increase the ROI of their existing applications by easily  allowing their data to be turned into new applications and 2) to support the  Edge PaaS.

Trait: data from OnPremise environments

 Level of Importance: high

 As expressed in the first part of this blog, we are  interested in increasing the ROI of existing OnPremise customers. This  requirement will be met by providing data from OnPremise environments for use  cases that involve previously untapped user groups.   

Of course, SAP must provide the tools that assure that this  access occur safely to prevent unauthorized access to corporate data.  Furthermore, it must be guaranteed that, if desired, that such access is  monitored to assure that a corporation is remunerated accordingly for the use of  its data.

Trait: HANA in the Cloud

Level of Importance: medium

As I mentioned above, it is critical to be able quickly  create applications. However, the ability to rapidly develop apps isn’t enough;  the data in those applications must also be displayed rapidly.  In a marketplace  full of applications, slow applications in which requests take a minute or so  usually die rapidly. 

Another one of more interesting aspects of the Sapphire was  the idea of HANA in the Cloud which “will allow customers to upload data  to the vendor’s own cloud setup for processing, rather than deploy related  infrastructure in-house” [SOURCE].

HANA in general can rapidly analyze data, return results  quickly and make certain types of analysis possible that were previously  impossible due to the time / cost involved in calculation.  Usually, HANA is  seen as part of the internal infrastructure (see the architecture proposed by  Vishal mentioned in the beginning of this blog) and can be used to quickly  create reports for managers, etc.  The various customer testimonials during  Vishal’s keynote show the myriad internal use cases for which HANA is the  optimal solution.

In the solution proposed above, however, a HANA installation  behind the firewall isn’t going to help much.  We need an environment that can  be quickly set-up and which may only be used for a short time. For example, a  sponsor of a sporting event (for example, the Wimbledon tennis tournament) that  takes place for a few weeks can create an application using their data stored in  the HANA in the Cloud and then remove the data after the event. Such actions are  usually very difficult in terms of Corporate IT where the lead times for the  ordering of such infrastructure-related decisions are unfortunately quite long.

HANA in the cloud is also interesting, because various SAP  customers (for example, SMEs) that might not be able to afford the HANA  technology in their own environments could still use it for various use cases.   This offering enables such companies to take advantage of the advantages of  OnDemand environments ( not just HANA in the Cloud) . Thus, TCO concerns are  also dealt with such technology.

One SAP customer (Medidata) is already using HANA in the  Cloud to support its customers.

Medidata, which makes a SaaS  (software as a service) application to help run clinical trials, is thefirst  partner to begin building on the HANA cloud, said president Glen de Vries, who  appeared on stage with Sikka. HANA will give Medidata the ability to provide its  customers with analytics on large volumes of clinical trials data in seconds, he  said. [SOURCE]

Just because a corporation is using HANA in the Cloud to  store its data doesn’t necessarily mean that the corporation in question must  develop its own applications that use this data. It is now common knowledge that  SAP is creating a new store for its OnDemand offerings.   Usually, this store is seen as selling applications in a variety of forms for a  variety of platforms. What if this store also offered data that was stored in  HANA in the Cloud.  (NOTE:  This idea isn’t mine alone but emerged in my  brainstorming with Heike van Geel and Hwee Lin Lee on the last day of the  Sapphire).  Corporations could sell their data to other application developers  for a per-use or monthly fee.  SAP would take a cut based on usage fees of HANA  in the Cloud and a percentage of the charges associated with the store.  There  are already a number of government agencies (cities, etc) that would like to  provide citizens with data (traffic, weather, pollution, etc) to promote open  government. Using HANA in the Cloud to provide this data would make life easier  for such entities and would allow them to concentrate on their core  competencies.  What would also be exciting about opening this data up to  external developers is that new innovative use cases might be possible that  hadn’t been considered by the companies providing the data.

Trait: Gateway

Level of Importance: high

HANA was the princess at Sapphire and all eyes were on her.   There was another announcement that occurred at the event that was of equal  importance. The revelation that Project Gateway would emerge from its cocoon and  join the NetWeaver product line was intriguing and reinforced my feeling that  SAP is seriously about resurrecting the NetWeaver brand . Gatewayhttp://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/gateway unlocks the information in  OnPremise environments and provides it to external applications.

The SAP NetWeaver Gateway is a set  of ABAP add-ons to your existing SAP ERP system that provides easy access to  your business information in a simple, people-centric manner and lowers the data  consumption barrier to the point that no prior knowledge of an SAP system’s  internal workings is required. [SOURCE].

One of the challenges that I mentioned above was the  ROI-related concerns of existing OnPremise customers. Gateway (and NetWeaver  Live) both deal with this issue by allowing such customers to easily participate  in SAP innovations.  For our architecture in question, Gateway focuses on  providing easy access to data that exists in the back-ends of SAP customers.

However, the architecture of the Gateway Server isn’t really  enough to provide the platform that is necessary in a PaaS environment and to  meet the demands involved to supply all those potential customers.  The  following picture below shows Gateway’s architecture:

[SOURCE]

In the last section, I mentioned HANA in the Cloud – a  question may now arise: If we have HANA available in an OnDemand model, why do  we need Gateway?” In my opinion, the use cases are different. HANA is only  really appropriate when you have a critical mass of data (usually this is  read-only access). Gateway, however, has a different focus – it provides access  to the processes that are usually present in the BusinessSuite but were only  accessible in the past via SAP-proprietary interfaces. Such access could also  provide write-access to data as well  Previously, I Quick thoughts on on-demand and on-premise environments and their innovative potentialQuick thoughts on on-demand and on-premise environments and their innovative potentialabout the Treasure Chest of process  information that SAP must open up – Gateway now allows this to happen. Indeed,  it is very easy to think of applications that could combine the functionality of  HANA in the Cloud with that of Gateway. 

Trait: OnDemand Edge PaaS

 Level of Importance: high

 Note: Alternative section title:  Thinking  about River on the Lazy River – I started thinking about the various parts of my  architecture the morning after the Sapphire while I was swimming in the Lazy  River at the Hilton.  I started with River – a new Development platform that  will be part of SAP’s future Edge PaaS – and then I begin filling in the other  pieces of the puzzle.

Without focusing on any particular PaaS environment, what are  the typical characteristics of such environments [SOURCE]:

  •  Services to develop,  test, deploy, host and maintain applications in the same integrated development  environment
  • Web based user  interface creation tools
  • Multi-tenant  architecture
  • Integration with web  services and databases
  • Support for  development team collaboration
  • Utility-grade  instrumentation

   

A PaaS allows developers to rapidly create applications by  providing basic functionality out of the box. Developers no longer have to deal  with such things such as persistence or user management. The advantage is that  such environments allow devs to create applications quickly. For our  architecture, a PaaS enables applications developed and deployed quickly and  made easily available to end-users. 

OK – now some may be thinking, why do I even need a PaaS?  Gateway and HANA in the Cloud should be enough to create applications. Or  perhaps, SUP in combination with Gateway might be enough as well.  In terms of  Gateway, the architecture is such that the appliance resides behind the firewall  – and may not be able to adjust to changes in load quickly. Gateway and HANA in  the Cloud only provide data – they aren’t designed to host applications.   Furthermore, other necessary components such as billing, monitoring, links to  SAP’s app stores are also missing.   Gateway might be perfect for some scenarios  in which a restricted set of internal business users are accessing a limited set  of backend data but use cases in which the number of potential users can only be  determined with difficulty, it might not be ideal.

SAP’s OnDemand PaaS offering is broken down into two parts –  Edge and Core.  Why can’t we just use the Core PaaS? If it is good enough for  Business ByDesign and the other LoB OnDemand apps, we can use it as well?   The  Core PaaS is largely associated with internal customers (in other words, SAP’s  direct customers) and, if you look at ByDesign – an association with processes  dominates such applications based on this environment.  OK – the LoB OnDemand  applications with their people-centric focus demonstrate that the technology  involved in the Core PaaS don’t have to be process-centric. The Edge PaaS was  designed for lightweight / collaboration applications and thus, the  micro-applications that we’d like to build are better built and hosted in this  environment.

I’d be curious to know of any restrictions that will be  placed on applications in either the Core or Edge PaaS environments.  Currently,  only applications created by SAP are running in these environments. Yes,  partners are creating add-ons for Business ByDesign but such developments are  restricted by the development model imposed by the ByDesign SDK and the  configuration possibilities inherent in the platform.   I’m assuming that there  will be fewer restrictions placed on those applications in the Edge PaaS  environment.

There are a variety of PaaS environments  (Force.Com, CloudBees, CloudFoundry, etc) that are currently in the marketplace  or which are currently in Beta. Why should the developers using our architecture  even use the SAP PaaS environments? The main advantages of such environments  must be the tight integration with other SAP offerings – especially regarding  the interaction with existing / OnPremise customers.  StreamWork has done a good  job in this area with its tight integration with CRM and other BusinessSuite  products. Its efforts should be emulated. 

Once NetWeaver Gateway is in GA, I could integrate it into  applications hosted on SalesForce using the new APIs.  Such integrations must be  easier in SAP’s OnDemand PaaSs to provide these environments with a competitive  advantage versus other platforms where this functionality is not standard and  often require partner solutions.

Conclusion

What initially fascinated me about the GutenAppetit  application was the use case.  It got me thinking and broadened my horizons to  look beyond my typical focus on the business side of enterprise software.   I  started thinking about other types of apps that were based on this innovative  technology but were targeted at new groups of users.

This blog has primarily focused on a new architecture.   However, without the innovative use cases that apply this technology, the  architecture is largely irrelevant. 

Recently, I’ve been working with other SCN “activists” to  bring more design thinking and diversity into the SAP ecosystem / community.   I’m participating, because I’m curious in learning about these new use cases and  the involved methodologies.

Hopefully, we will be to combine these new methodologies and  SAP’s technological innovations at upcoming events (TechEds, InnoJams, etc).   So, if you are ready to join us in this new adventure, I guess I see you there. 

Disclaimer: SAP paid my T&E for the conference.

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16 Comments

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  1. Arun Bala
    Nice post… Interesting to read your posts esp the challenges listed point wise… Interesting points on in-cloud vs erp, use cases & app shots… Would like to hear more interesting DSS use cases. Nice post (+1)
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      1. Arun Bala
        Sorry I’d kept things abbreviated.. Meant to say decision support systems… Had figured lot of future HANA based micro-apps/client apps are going 2b either data miners or predictive decision apps based on summary data… so, best to tag them in the dss segment. ex. the ‘decision-making’ gluten app… Lot of informative links! Must have taken you days to write this I guess?
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    1. Richard Hirsch Post author
      Thanks.

      It was fun to write – it just took a while – it was like a short story – once you get the whole plot figured out you can’t leave anything out.

      D.

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  2. Marilyn Pratt
    While I’ve come to expect quality posts from you Dick, you have exceeded expectations in the depth and breadth of this particlar insightful piece.
    I love the fact that you challenge the opinions and reviews of other of my favorite movers, shakers and analysts and was intrigued that you choose to rebut some of the conclusions other smart minds have come to.  Triggers even more thinking and review on the part of readers such as myself.
    Thanks for raising the invitation to join the community in “Design Thinking”.
    There will definately be opportunities before the series of SAP TechEds to participate in Webinars, community virtual meetups, streamwork activities.  And changing and challenging the ERP/Enterprise focus will be indeed refreshing.  I’m looking forward to seeing the mini apps highlighted and their merits discussed/debated.  Those interested please begin to raise your hands to join us in this exploration.
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    1. Richard Hirsch Post author
      On a bloggers’ call with Vishal last night, the importance of design thinking in SAP’s future became even more apparent to me. I’m assuming that at some point in the future, classes on design thinking will be mandatory for SAP consultants and will be more important than any other educational efforts in assuring success in the ecosystem and with customers. 
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  3. Frank Koehntopp
    And I can only underscore the classic “Developers, developers, developers!” meme – if the 1 billion user and 10% SAP mobile apps goal is supposed to be reached technologies like SUP and Gateway must be made accessible to far more developers than before, in a far easier way (read: free, as in money _and_ hassle).
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    1. Richard Hirsch Post author
      I agree completely. There was a quote from James Governor that I liked but didn’t use in the blog – “its all about the PaaS, where job one is attracting developers, and key to success is removing barriers to participation”. To meet the goals SAP has placed on itself and in face of aggressive competitors, this openness is critical.

      D.

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  4. Community User
    Hi Richard,

    Great blog. Full points!

    I believe your statement that, the suggested high level architecture is just one of the options, is important to keep in mind. With HANA being marketed as the next big thing, it is becoming even more important to rationalize decisions to use it. As they say, when you have a hammer in your hand, everything looks like a nail 🙂

    From the discussions we have had with customers, they want to throw HANA at about everything without actually understanding the product positioning and value. Also, they overlook the  architectural implications of a particular approach. For example, while your proposed architecture could be augmented by Orchestration layer to deliver end to end integration between PaaS, HANAC(HANA in the Cloud) and OP applications, the implications of this approach are that organizations need to move massive amounts of data from OP systems to the cloud to use HANA functionality. This is similar to BIOD from SAP which offers BI toolset in the cloud. With an explosion of data volumes, compliance requirements, and increased security threats, the pros vs cons have to be weighed carefully.

    I find your proposed architecture to be quite relevant to organizations using ByD as their core ERP platform. In this case, I’d like to see HANA as part of the PaaS offering from SAP to enable customers to use native HANA features while running apps in the cloud. Data from other systems can then be pulled into HANAC for reporting and analysis purposes.

    However, organizations with significantly large OP systems should consider HANAP (HANA on Premise) and consider SaaS apps like SFDC or ByD as one of the sources of data. Even then, it is important to understand the actual business requirement for data integration vs. data federation. Do you really need to move data from source into HANA or can you live with a snapshot of this data?

    The arhcitectural complexity of SAP landscapes is ever increasing due to the technology choices we have today to deliver business functionality. What I find missing from SAP as a technology vendor are the following:

    1. Reference Architecture (product agnostic),
    2. Architecture Patterns,
    3. Solution Blueprints utilising 1 and 2 above
    4. Governance Approaches

    As technology offerings mature and portfolio enriches further, SAP needs to take a step forward and help customers/partners turn experiences into insight. In-memory is not a new thing for SAP or for the rest of the industry. So it would be good to see architectural best practice guidelines from SAP across the complete technology portfolio of on-premise, on-demand, on-device, and in-memory products.

    Regards,

    Shehryar

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    1. Richard Hirsch Post author
      Good comment,

      You’re right. The GA of HANA is just the first step in a successful penetration of the marketplace. Of more importance is guidance from SAP regarding which use cases are appropriate for its usage. In some cases, HANA On Premise may be more appropriate than the HANA AppCloud. The challenge for SAP and the SAP ecosystem will be the discovery of such rules and their efficient and rapid dissemination to SAP customers.

      D.

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  5. Michael Koch
    Hi Richard,

    Congratulations on this well-written post.

    Re point 1: The day-to-day clients I’m dealing with are PRECISELY facing those problems. All of them long-standing OnPrem customers.

    Amidst all this innovation they are feeling left behind, like moving ahead slowly within a cloud of dust whilst the sports cars have pulled away. Caught in a mix of cost pressures/ROI on one side and pressure to come up with “new stuff” on the other, they want help with their current issues.

    I’ve heard a lot about comparing Apple and SAP recently, which to my mind is not apt for one single reason: Apple understands better where they have to pick up their existing customers.

    “no one wants to hear about ERP” – A quote from a recent conversation. From where I stand, I can’t help but disagree.

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    1. Richard Hirsch Post author
      I agree with your assessment.

      I think we often forget that one definition of “legacy” refers to “a gift by will especially of money or other personal property” and has positive rather than the negative connotations associated with the use of “legacy” in IT circles. The presence of OnPremise SAP customers is reality. Period. The main question is whether we (and the SAP ecosystem) view these customers as an opportunity or a threat.

      D.

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  6. Srinivas Reddy
    Hi Dick,

    Thanks for sharing your insights. While you make a great case for PaaS, its really about how to build vertical specific “data stores” at internet scale and then have micro apps on top. While shipping “industry standard biusiness processes” is challenging enough having a PaaS with multi-tenant vertical data is where industry seems to be heading with social CRM leading the way.

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  7. Bert Bishop
    Rightly, SAP enterprise customers pause as they are confronted with new applications founded upon their enterprise system & data. Nothing exposes issues within a system like a new user. This has been true throughout the adoption cycles of CRM, SRM, APO…. I predict that customers-of-customers appliation innovations will spawn a quality revolution in enterprise systems upon which these micro applications will source their information. The Companies who emerge with viral adoption of their micro applications will be those who are able to adapt business processes, data creation and mainenance in an elegant frictionless way. Their investment pays off in the ability to reliably repeat the performance.
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