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SAP NetWeaver Cloud (Neo) – The road forward

Yesterday Richard Hirsch posted his observations and conclusions on all things cloud from SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando (Sapphire Impressions and SAP’s Cloud Strategy (1): Musical Chairs and SaaS Chastity Belts   .) Not surprisingly it is a well-thought out blog and it is obvious that a lot of reflecting and thinking went into his post.

While I have to say that his observations are spot-on and fully backed-up with references to further info on the wide list of topics he adressed I do not always agree with his conclusions. Yet it underlines that such feedback is truly of indisputable value as it reveals where SAP’s public messaging may be missing the point or needs further polishing. Let’s face it: if someone like Richard, who is knee-deep in the whole cloud space, still has open questions or draws hasty conclusions, then SAP may need to fine-tune the communication. Or, by the words of Seth Godin:

You will be judged (or you will be ignored)

Those are pretty much the only two choices.

Being judged is uncomfortable. Snap judgments, prejudices, misinformation… all of these, combined with not enough time (how could there be) to truly know you, means that you will inevitably be misjudged, underestimated (or overestimated) and unfairly rejected.

The alternative, of course, is much safer. To be ignored.

Up to you.

[Seth Godin – You will be judged (or you will be ignored)]

So, personally I’d opt for the first choice and – starting today – I’d like to do my little part to help start establishing ‘open communication’, because when it comes to SAP NetWeaver Cloud and being an ‘open platform’ SAP is well-advised to also embrace the social aspect of it, which implies to being open and approachable.

The role of SAP NetWeaver Cloud

While it’s true that at SAPPHIRE NOW the emphasis was on the bigger picture of SAP’s Cloud strategy, the role of SAP NetWeaver Cloud is indeed many-fold. Enterprise Integration is just one important aspect, yet expanding our ecosystem and embracing SMEs is equally important. Given the customer audience in Orlando and the need to clarify the aligned cloud story (now that SuccessFactors has joned the SAP family) the focus was clearly on SaaS. But don’t mistake that as a sign that PaaS is not as important. Let’s recap on what has been said before we dig deeper:

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Yes, currently the most pressing questions seem to revolve around the question on how SAP NetWeaver Cloud fits into the big picture and here Lars presented the slide shown above highlighting the integration aspect of the platform. For me it sounds reasonable to address the inherent questions of the people on-site at SAPPHIRE NOW, which for the most part comprises of the ecosystem that got us to this point.

It also seems to makes sense to highlight how SAP intends to use SAP NetWeaver Cloud to integrate SaaS application according to the ‘SAP runs SAP’ philosophy, because usually that’s the first question people have: “‘So how does all of that fit together then?” I’d file it as doing our homework first, before starting to address new customers… I’d also call it good business practice to treat regular customers prior to new ones, after all – without the established ecosystem we would not be where we are right now.

The importance of these SaaS applications in SAP’s overall success makes this strategy understandable. Of equal importance is that the NetWeaver Cloud team must remember that its long-term survival depends on creating a broader developer base than that associated with use cases based primarily on the needs of the Cloud Business Unit.

[Richard Hirsch – Sapphire Impressions and SAP’s Cloud Strategy (1): Musical Chairs and SaaS Chastity Belts   ]

Be rest-assured that the team is fully aware of this! In fact, it’s the one aspect that really underlines the full potential of the platform. For me, Neo (there, I said it!) is the designated technology to really help SAP to expand its user-base, simply because it’s cloud-ish. The platform is based on Open-Source software, which makes it easy as never before to get started AND get tangible results in little time. Users do not need to cope with a steep learning curve, but can build upon the frameworks and libraries they already know. There’s plenty of documentation, examples and best practices out there to help people get started. Given the fact it’s Java-based makes it a viable choice for all the Java developers out there.

Plus, along the road we also envision other programming models to run on the platform such as JRuby, Grails or Scala. There has been demos and proof of concepts for these scenarios in the Labs already, and the only reason why we have not yet started to spread the word about this more prominently is that we want to take it one step at a time. But trust me, we sure got some aces up our sleeves and we will roll them out as we move along… (on a personal note: that is the hardest part of the job of advocating for the platform, that there’s so much going on internally that makes you frickin’ excited, yet to remain silent until the time is right!)

So it may seem like that aspect is not a priority for us, but that’s not true. It’s just that it seems to be smarter to focus on taking one step after the next. If you try to do too many things at once, you risk doing nothing right. Others may be talking loud even though they have nothing to show yet. We opted for another approach. We want to get our act together and let our work speak for itself as we believe that actions speak louder than words.

The road ahead

So, maybe it makes sense to share with all of you our approach to win developers’ hearts for the platform in order to avoid further confusion on that matter. It’s a three staged process:

  1. Internal – We rolled out Neo within SAP first and it has been spreading like a wildfire! Turning around what some of the critics have been saying about SAP (= lacking any kind of cloud DNA before the acquisition of SuccessFactors) I have no doubt that we’re up to something BIG with Neo, because if we managed to get people inside the company to embrace the platform I wonder what people will say that do have a cloud DNA. Those few externals like the SAP Mentors who have been privileged to attend SAP’s internal Developer Kick-Off meeting and the accompanying DemoJam this year will know what I’m talking about…
  2. Current ecosystem – The next step is to share the exiting news with our established ecosystem. I already stated why it makes sense to treat them first, but there’s more to it: SAP understands that nothing beats customer testimonials in conveying the value of the platform. This is why it has been decided to go for a closed BETA. First we want to make sure that we get quality feedback from trusted partners and customers on where there’s need for improvement before going public. The first impression is important and so the team wants to make sure we are in good shape before getting on stage at prime-time.
  3. Expanding our ecosystem – That’s the next step and we have already started setting the tracks! But let’s be frank: doesn’t it make sense to first see how our current ecosystem adopts the platform before reaching out to those who may never have heard about SAP or may doubt that SAP is serious about Java, the Cloud, embracing SMEs, etc ?

I have no doubts that SAP NetWeaver Cloud will be winning new fans beyond the current ecosystem for many reasons. Besides all the features that are must-haves for a Platform-as-a-Service let me just give you three differentiating factors that should attract new customers and partners:

  1. HANA (ladies first!)
  2. OnPremise connectivity
  3. the SAP Store and access to an established ecosystem

So with that being said let me conclude by saying that the vision and strategy of SAP NetWeaver Cloud is definitely much broader than just integration scenarios for large enterprises. If you’re interested in more details just stay tuned 😉

PS: A few days back we announced the free trials for SAP NetWeaver Cloud – and taking effect immediately – every SCN user can register for the trial within minutes in a full automated process! Interested in test-driving the platform? Please go to SAP HANA Cloud Platform Developer Center

10 Comments
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  • Good response.

    As I said in my blog, Neo is promiscuous and that is good so.  Yet it also exists in a company in which Lars’ personality and reputation is being used to jump start its Cloud efforts.   Neo is still in its baby shoes and can and should ride Lars’ wave. Yet, as you suggest above,  Neo should always be flirting with new opportunities / use cases while still focusing on the central SaaS applications (shall we call them “The 4 Horsemen”?) . At some point, Lar’s chastity belt will become too uncomfortable and then, Neo will liberate itself from this restrictive influence. Until Liberation Day comes, Neo should keep batting those eyes and looking pretty while working to assure that the 4 Horsemen are wildly successful.  Those developers and SIs who use Neo to meet Lars’ use cases will be the same ones who with their hard-earned experience will create other Neo-based applications later.

  • Thanks Matthias,

    I quite agree that the real proof will be in the adoption. But with every slide that features Neo plugging into the “Four Horsemen” (honestly Richard! is that because those four spell the end of the onPremise solutions that we’ve grown to love?) also showing that other PaaS will be allowed, it is hard to understand where the value is.

    If however, with my free trial (please I would like an unlimited developer edition instead) I can connect up to my running SucessFactors/Ariba system (ok – perhaps a “developer” SuccessFactors instance) – with some authentication SSO APIs etc, then we are talking real value proposition. But until I can do that – well – there’s nothing that going to make me use Neo rather than say GAE. (which is free in the volumes that I’m thinking of playing with and only if I got to town on it starts costing.)

    I don’t know – perhaps what I’m dreaming of is already possible – it’s just that I didn’t know. I live to learn!

    PS – love the quotes!

    • Well, showing that other PaaS solutions can be used to achieved similar goals goes hand-in-hand with a long tradition of providing customers with options. I stated some points that I’d consider a unique value proposition in my blog post above… now that I think about it again, I could also have added identity management and SSO to the list.

      Unlimited developer editions are on top of the list and seeing SAP HANA lead the way clearly underlines that this is where SAP is heading.

      Concerning the SuccessFactors integration I have little to add to my OP, where I clearly stated that this is a priority at the moment and why. We have already started working on this very topic: Hurricane at SAPPHIRE NOW: Building extensions to SuccessFactors Employee Central on SAP NetWeaver Cloud

      While I agree that this is important, I would still say that there’s much more that SAP NetWeaver Cloud provides that sets it apart from GAE. I stated some at the bottom of OP. And that is just the beginning 😉

      • Thanks Matthias.

        If I were to be running SuccessFactors at my company – how easy would it be to build something like Hurricane? (i.e. tap into SFSF APIs) I spoke briefly with Aaron Au (SuccessFactors CTO) about this a few weeks ago – but at that time hadn’t thought that we might actually go SuccessFactors ourselves (that we do is yet to be confirmed… don’t worry I’ll shout loudly when it is). I’m guessing having our “own” (as much as it can be in the cloud) system will make it easier? From our completely covered by multiple safe-harbour statements conversation, it would seem that currently embedding additional UI components into SuccessFactors Employee Central is not possible, but that it may well come in the near future – especially if the whole Neo as an extension platform idea takes off.

        What wasn’t well understood and was clearly marked out as fuzzy area (can’t use the word “cloudy” any more) was the possible implications for licencing the data being passed in and out of SuccessFactors API. Seems the SAP guys in the room were more keen to think that there would need to be a cost to pulling data out of EC for use in another application. I really hope that it doesn’t go down the Gateway model and we end up being billed per transactional fetch from SuccessFactors.

        Anyway – think I’m going to be playing in this area soon. Hope the HttpClient functionality is better than GAE! 😀

        • From our completely covered by multiple safe-harbour statements conversation, it would seem that currently embedding additional UI components into SuccessFactors Employee Central is not possible, but that it may well come in the near future – especially if the whole Neo as an extension platform idea takes off.

                             

          Right, but that is the next logical step and we are continuing the coop we started with the Hurricane demo with our SuccessFactors colleagues. It’s being worked on is all I can say at the moment.

          About the licensing… good question indeed. Let me see what I can surface here.

  • Thanks for trying to unwind the things Matthias!

    Overwhelming with various (non-proprietary) solutions is still not a promising idea in my opinion. I must admit that I was (and partially still am) on the same boat in drawing hasty conclusions. One of the recent one was expecting a link between Neo and NetWeaver Cloud Integration but I will just leave this right here. 😏

    I really appreciate your effort in opening the communication against various murmurings. I am waiting to hear and understand more about the differentiating factors you mentioned. I guess people like me have to try to take all of this with a new outlook. Cheers!

    • Hi Prateek,

      oh it’s quite hard to please everyone. I think “freedom” of choice is a good think and I’m confident that we’ll continue to see the community sharing experiences with what works and what doesn’t. I’m also committed to do my share to provide examples and best practices as we move forward.

      I thought I was able to clarify how NW cloud and Cloud Integration relate to each other to you on Twitter. If not, let me try again: our integration approach is to provide additional capabilities on top of our PaaS (= SAP NetWeaver Cloud.)

      I understand that for techies the slides Nayaki presented may caused some confusion, yet keep in mind that it was SAPPHIRE NOW, so it was not meant to be ‘read as a layered architecture.’

      We’ll hear much more about all the good stuff we are working on as we approach SAP TechEd.

      I really appreciate your effort in opening the communication against various murmurings. I am waiting to hear and understand more about the differentiating factors you mentioned. I guess people like me have to try to take all of this with a new outlook. Cheers!

      Fully agree. The Cloud surely gives a few topics a new spin – yet I’m sure the open-minded are in for a real treat 😉 Stay tuned!

      • “I thought I was able to clarify how NW cloud and Cloud Integration relate to each other to you on Twitter. If not, let me try again: our integration approach is to provide additional capabilities on top of our PaaS (= SAP NetWeaver Cloud.)”

        I understood the theory. 😀

        Craving to see the real stuff. 😉

  • I don’t know if there is value in integration of HANA into platform right away. What values does HANA provide to cloud business applications right away? 

    At this point of time, Neo is way too far behind established PAAS platforms like GAE, Windows Azure etc. SAP always differentiated itself by providing not only the platform but out of box business content also (think portal and business packages).

    If SAP wants Neo/On Demand Portal  to succeed, it should concentrate on providing secure on-premise connectivity first and then on OOB API and content to access their on premise and cloud products.

    Until then, I don’t see why I should use Neo while there are other mature and stable platforms available to me already.

    • Thanks for joining the discusion Pallayya!

      I don’t know if there is value in integration of HANA into platform right away. What values does HANA provide to cloud business applications right away?

                         

      Well, SAP’s strategy is to leverage in-memory technologies as the underlying persistence layer for all products and platforms. Consequently it is also an integral part of SAP NW Cloud.

      When I think about use-cases for SAP HANA in the cloud the first that pops into my mind would be sentiment analysis and recommendation engines and everything that falls into the area of big data and social.

      If you want to read about further use-cases you may want to check out the catalog here: https://www.experiencesaphana.com/community/resources

      At this point of time, Neo is way too far behind established PAAS platforms like GAE, Windows Azure etc. SAP always differentiated itself by providing not only the platform but out of box business content also (think portal and business packages).

      Way too far behind‘ is a strong statement… are you referring to adoption or functionality?

      Either way, as I stated in this blog integration and integration content is certainly one of our top priorities for the platform and those participating in our BETA program are already developing applications using OnPremise – OnDemand connectivity. There’s a lot more in this area on the roadmap.

      Until then, I don’t see why I should use Neo while there are other mature and stable platforms available to me already.

      It’s your choice. Our strategy clearly sees the SAP Store as an integral part and I’d call that a USP as it provides you with the opportunity to market and sell your applications build with our PaaS offering to a huge ecosystem. I see this as a real opportunity for the early adopters to familiarize themselves with the platform now and develop their apps so that they can be among the first to sell their apps once the pieces come together.

      Cheers,

      Matthias