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On a sunny day last week several SAP customers gathered in St. Leon-Rot to get a closer look at SAP’s Cloud strategy and exchange thoughts and experiences about Cloud in general. Organized by the German speaking SAP user group (DSAG) in close cooperation with SAP this event was all about busting myths, discussing the reality and addressing the one overarching question of “how relevant is cloud computing for your company today or in the short term?

The agenda was as packed as the room and it got obvious that the organisation team had gone the extra-mile to provide the 50+ attendees with both breadth and depth. Not only did we get to understand the big picture in form of overview presentations about the cloud strategy in general and the SAP HANA Cloud Platform in particular, but we also got dedicated deep-dive sessions in those areas people usually are concerned about the most like security and integration. Yet, it was not only about presentations; we also got to see live demos, heard first-hand feedback from pilot customer projects and we concluded the day by discussing all of it in in smaller groups.

Steffen Pietsch, who is heading the working group Development within DSAG, kicked-off the event by welcoming the attendees and setting the stage with a presentation that contained a tag cloud of the most relevant topics when it comes to Cloud (see slide 5 of his presentation here). He also stated his motivation for this workshop: to transition from myths to reality and to establish a constant dialog between SAP and its customers. He then handed it over to Harald Mueller (Chief Product Owner SAP HANA Cloud Platform) who shared his vision of cloud platforms with the attendees emphasizing on the fact that the adoption of agile software development methods is fundamental to cloud development.

Next, Rainer Zinow (SVP Cloud Unit) took the stage explaining the bigger picture including SuccessFactors, Ariba and the recently announced SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud offering. His presentation, spiced with anecdotes and pragmatic examples, highlighted the speed factor that Cloud brings to the table: compared to classical on-premise solutions that need to adhere to long-term global IT roadmaps, SaaS solutions can be rolled out much faster giving individual lines of business (LoBs) an unprecedented time to market. He underlined the importance of security in regards to Cloud and provided facts that support the statement that SAP’s own data centers are adhering to the highest standards (see slide 11 of his presentation).

Another central topic of his presentation was SAP’s hybrid approach to Cloud and the importance of cloud integration solutions that allow customers to connect their on-premise systems to the Cloud. He invited Markus Winter (Chief Product Owner Virtualization & Cloud Management) on stage to present so-called “bridge technologies” such as the SAP NetWeaver Landscape Virtualization Management (LVM) solution and the SAP Cloud Appliance Library (CAL). The main talking point of his presentation was also about speed as he explained how these solutions help to bring down the provisioning time for SAP systems “from weeks/months to minutes/hours” (see slides 9 and 10).

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The next topic on the agenda – SAP HANA Cloud Platform – was presented by Steffen Schad (Director, Solution Management). He addressed the challenges of development organisations at customers and partners such as tight budgets, integration needs and others expectations modern applications are facing such as mobile support, social features and security (see slide 3 of his presentation).

He then explained how Platform as a Service (PaaS) like the SAP HANA Cloud Platform fit in and how the provided features and capabilities help to develop and deploy new types of applications in the Cloud leveraging SAP HANA in-memory technology and integration with on-premise systems. He provided examples of recent solutions developed by SAP that have been built on this platform such as: SAP Mobile Documents, Service On Demand, the SuccessFactors EmployeeCentral “Show Me” media services and SAP Product Stewardship Network.

The last part of this presentation was a live demo presented by Harald Mueller, in which he showed the official online documentation of SAP HANA Cloud Platform, SAP Mobile Documents in action, the SAP HANA Cloud Platform Developer Center and the SAP Mobile Platform Cloud Edition. To wrap it up Harald Mueller demonstrated how easy it is to install therequired developer tools in Eclipse and even developed and deployed a simple “Hello World” example within a couple of minutes.

After the break, Ralf Steinbach (Director Software Architecture) from Danone Group shared their experiences from real-life pilot projects based on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform with the audience. He started by providing some background information on their approach to get a competitive edge by “forging closer ties with consumers” (see slide 7 of his presentation.)  In his talk he explained their reasoning to opt for a cloud solution (e.g. increased flexibility, easy & agile development and lower capital expenditure) and why they have chosen the SAP HANA Cloud Platform (standards-based development and runtime environment, seamless integration with SAP and other systems, federated identity management and SAP HANA based persistence etc.) He wrapped up his presentation with showing live demos of the two developed applications: one being a light-weight call center solution for South Africa (B2E) and the other one being a healthcare online shop for Nutricia in Germany (B2C).

Note: Mr. Steinbach also conducted a video interview about their experiences during SAPPHIRENOW in Orlando this year.

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Ralf Steinbach’s very candid and enthusiastic presentation was followed by a presentation that was considered one of the most valuable ones by the audience afterwards. Michael Tobian talked about “Cloud Data Protection and Information Security at SAP” introducing the relevant standards and certificates and the different areas of interest: physical security, network security, backup and recovery, compliance and confidentiality & integrity. Based on the feedback collected at the end his presentation certainly helped to clarify some of the concerns and establish more trust in cloud computing and SAP as a Cloud provider.

After the much needed coffee break we split up into five smaller groups to discuss what we have learned during the day and put it into perspective from a customer’s point of view. I’ll summarize the key take-aways at the end of the blog post and continue with recapping on the last session of the day, which was held by Markus Tolksdorf. His presentation titled “Connecting Business Applications in the Cloud with On-Premise” targeted the sweet spot of the SAP HANA Cloud Platform for many customers: OP-OD integration. He started with an introduction about the SAP HANA Cloud Connectivity Service, its value proposition and why it may be superior to homegrown reverse-proxy based solutions. He then explained the relation to other SAP integration solutions such as SAP HANA Cloud Integration and SAP NetWeaver Process Integration. At the end he demonstrated the solution live using one of SAP’s end-to-end scenarios based on the Enterprise Procurement Model tutorial.

Wrap-up

After the last session Steffen Schad summarized the discussion topics of the individual groups (see below) and then moderated the Q&A session. Wrapping up the event, Steffen Pietsch thanked all presenters, moderators and attendees and emphasized on the importance of keeping a continuous dialog between all involved parties. He expressed his ambitions to start planning follow-up activities right away and concluded: “The question is not ‘if Cloud’, but rather ‘when Cloud’!

That summarizes it pretty well and I have little to add, except for maybe: “Why wait? There’s a free, perpetual developer license available, which allows you to test-drive the SAP HANA Cloud Platform with no strings attached. Getting started is a matter of minutes and you can get your first app developed and deployed in no time. Why not just give it a try?

Key take-aways

Based on the discussions between customers, DSAG representatives and SAP the key take-aways of the event are as follows:

  • there is a high-demand for tailored information about SAP’s broad cloud portfolio and as such events like this one are helpful; especially the inter-active part of it
  • in general, the adoption of cloud computing is still in its infancy, especially PaaS
    [Note: People interested in the value proposition of PaaS may be interested to read the recent blog post “The Cloud Platform Play“.]
  • a driver for PaaS could be extension scenarios for SaaS solution (in particular SuccessFactors)
    [Note: This is already being finalized within SAP. See here.]
  • the most commonly raised concerns about Cloud are trust (which provider to choose, enterprise readiness of offerings e.g. SLAs, SLCs, compensation models for unplanned down-times) and security (data privacy, legal aspects)
  • there is a high demand for clarification of the individual deployment models: Private Cloud vs Public Cloud; managed services and IT Outsourcing (ITO)
  • there is uncertainty about how ABAP fits into the whole Cloud picture
  • Java is accepted and established technology for most customers; some concerns about the long-time supportability of Open Source frameworks being used in custom development scenarios
    [Note: The relationship between SAP HANA Cloud Platform and Open-Source is explained in more detail in this blog post.]
  • customers expect SAP and DSAG to assist them in the adoption of cloud computing by providing guidelines, best practices and reference customers and scenarios
  • most customers see the hybrid scenario of on-premise and Cloud as the most promising model mid and long-term

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8 Comments

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  1. Abdul Hakim

    >>there is uncertainty about how ABAP fits into the whole Cloud picture

    Is there a plan from SAP to address this as Java is widely used as a development in Cloud. I personally feel ABAP should be empowered to do the cloud based developments. Any thoughts??

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        1. Richard Hirsch

          Chris Paine wrote:

                                 

          I think Caffeine should run on HCP – http://scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-17741 although one does have to wonder why anyone would want to.

                             

          It might be an opportunity for ABAP developers to work in a PaaS environment – something that they can’t really do now.  There are also many ABAP developers out there who could then use the platform – increasing the size of its developer ecosystem. 

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