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SAP released their latest results this week and it was no surprise that sales of SAP HANA showed continued growth with triple digit figures. SAP HANA has been confirmed as the fastest growing product in SAP’s history. These are very impressive results. 2013 is tipped to be a big year for SAP HANA and at a recent TechEd discussion titled “Meet the SAP HANA Distinguished Engineers“, John Appleby predicted that 100K SAP HANA developers will be required to meet the demand of SAP HANA over the next 18 months. That’s a hefty number and an equally hefty challenge to ensure that not only are there enough resources, but the resources are of a calibre capable of delivering successful SAP HANA projects.

SAP have had a certification program in place for SAP HANA since late 2011 and there have been a considerable number of developers who have been through the certification process. Each persons journey through certification will differ and at the least, certification will enable you to maintain a conversation around the key points of SAP HANA. For some, the process will have been through hands-on roles working on a SAP HANA project, and for others, it will be through training or a process of reading the required materials. One of the most viewed blogs on the SAP HANA Place on SCN outlines a plan to pass the SAP HANA certification without any training or spending any time in front of a SAP HANA box. This poses obvious problems and will be a challenge for project resourcer’s when trying to staff a SAP HANA project.

The distinguished engineer program aims to add an extra level of recognition to those who have demonstrated and have experience of SAP HANA. A distinguished engineer will be someone who is recognised amongst their peers as an authority on all things SAP HANA. The real challenge is going to be getting those who have the knowledge to pass the SAP HANA certification, to be at a level where they are recognised amongst their peers as distinguished engineers. The path from SAP Certified HANA consultant to a distinguished engineer can be helped, amongst others, through the following 2 ways; Experience gained from working on SAP HANA Projects, or Self Learning through access to a SAP HANA Box.

Experience from SAP HANA Projects

There is always going to be the age old problem in this scenario where you need experience to get onto a SAP HANA project, and to get experience in SAP HANA you need to be on a project. This is going to be difficult given the short life so far of SAP HANA.

Access to a SAP HANA Box

This point is the key focus of my blog and an area where I think SAP can improve. Currently there are 3 ways that I’m aware of to obtain access to a SAP HANA box. That is:

  • Through a SAP HANA project that you are working on,
  • Through a SAP HANA training/demo box that your organisation possess’s, or
  • Through Amazon AWS.

If we are looking for 100K new SAP HANA developers, then I believe the majority of those will have only option 3 as a realistic avenue to obtain hands on experience. I believe the initiative by SAP to create access to SAP HANA boxes on Amazon has great intentions, but I think the monthly subscription is a barrier that restricts a very large number of potential SAP HANA developers and future SAP HANA distinguished engineers. The smallest configuration and usage will cost US$115.26 per month. SAP do not charge anything for the software on these virtual machines themselves, the cost is from Amazon who charge a fee to host the virtual machines.

A new approach!

I’d like to propose an alternative, and that’s a developer edition of SAP HANA. For me, this is the only realistic option if you want to train up 100K SAP HANA developers to a point where they can confidently walk into a project with the level of skill required to ensure that the project is successful. If you look at competitors in the database space, they each offer either trial or developer versions of their db software. Microsoft (MS SQL Server), IBM (DB2), and the ‘O’ word, each do a good job of providing the developer eco system with the resources to skill up.

How would it work?

SAP HANA currently has license, hardware and vendor restrictions. To install SAP HANA, along with the appropriate license, you need certified hardware from particular hardware vendors. I suggest that a developer edition be made available with no restriction on hardware vendors, and a minimum configuration of 16Gb. This version could have additional restrictions such as a single connection to inhibit it from being used as a production type system. It would be possible to obtain a server capable of running SAP HANA for development purposes at a very low price point. For example, you can get a cheap HP Micro Server and 16Gb ram for less than 2 months hosting fees on Amazon AWS.

What benefits will it provide?

For a starter, it will teach potential SAP HANA developers the foundations of SAP HANA. The developer would need to install the trial version of SUSE Linux and get familiar with the Linux OS. Then they would need to install the proposed SAP HANA developer version software. This would generate benefits of educating potential SAP HANA developers with the core knowledge of how the SAP HANA database fits together. There will be issues with such a large number of people trying to install the new version, but this would create more activity within the forums and a greater resource for those involved in projects to resolve their issues.

Another benefit is that it will provide the developers the ability to ride without training wheels. So often when we work on client systems, or systems that are shared by other people, we are very risk adverse and are reluctant accept alternative methods of doing something with the fear of breaking something. This means that if we learn a bad practice, we continue with that because it works, no matter how inefficient, as long as it doesn’t break anything. Being able to prototype alternative ways of doing something within a risk free environment will help developers grow their skills and provide the additional benefit of allowing theories being tested before being trialled in a project or shared environment.This will promote best practice.

A further benefit could be available by providing a VMWare image of SAP HANA developer edition. This would allow developers to download the VMWare image, upload it onto their machine and they can be up and running in a very short period of time. This is similar to what is provided on Amazon AWS, but with the additional benefit of being applied to a developers own hardware.

Can it work?

Absolutely, I can’t see any reason why a developer edition of SAP HANA for people to play around with would be a bad idea? The licensing team at SAP may have some issues with this, but if we are to bring a large number of SAP HANA developers into the market in a short period of time, it is these types of initiatives that will help make that happen.

I passionately believe this is a great idea and would love to see the greater masses help persuade the higher beings in SAP to make this happen. Feel free to leave any comments/discussions below …

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5 Comments

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  1. John Appleby

    Well constructed argument Gary. The HANA One program goes part way to do something about this, but it is still costly for a lone developer:

    http://www.experiencesaphana.com/docs/DOC-2482

    I would actually go as far as to say SAP should create developer hardware – 16GB systems, pre-installed, could be sold for as low as $1000-1500 via a VAR and should include a free developer license. This way SAP can control the hardware a bit, which is helpful for HANA.

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    1. Gary Elliott Post author

      Thanks John, I like the idea of low cost pre-installed machine. I think that’s a price that many potential SAP HANA developers would consider a worthwhile investment in their careers. I’d still like to see a developer version of the software. In fact, I’d like to see developer versions of the majority of products. SAP already have trial versions of some software found here:

      http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/scn/downloads

      This is a good start, but I feel there needs to be a lot more trial or developer versions of SAP products.

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      1. Ethan Jewett

        I agree. A preinstalled machine is a nice convenience, much like the AWS images but fitting a different use-case. However, I think a version of HANA that developers can install on their own machines (or in a VM) is an imperative if SAP wants to see really fast and widespread adoption among developers. It doesn’t have to be fast and it doesn’t have to hold a lot of data (the Dev version of IQ is limited to 5GB, for example), but I need to be able to run it on my own network and hardware with a minimum of hassle.

        Regards,

        Ethan

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        1. Steve Rumsby

          I agree completely. A developer edition of HANA, like the developer/trial editions of NetWeaver, is the only way to get large-scale attention. The lower the barrier to entry, the better. There’s no substitute for free.

          And if we are to take seriously Graham Robinson‘s A Call to Arms for ABAP Developers then we have to provide people the opportunity to keep their skills current as easily as possible. Pre-installed hardware costing $1k or $1.5k is nice, but it would be a sizeable barrier to many.

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