SAP HANA Cloud Platform – Setting the stage (Part 1)
SAP TechEd && d-code is just around the corner and as everyone is busy with last minute preparations it’s buzzing all around me. From what I can tell SAP HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) will be a BIG topic this year and as such I’d like to set the stage for the things to come. Assuming that not everyone is yet familiar with SAP’s cloud platform I decided to divide this post into two parts.
In part one, we’ll start from scratch and talk about cloud platforms and their value proposition in general before we have a closer look at HCP. As such, it can be considered as preliminary reading for those that want to gain a better understanding of the platform prior to going to SAP TechEd && d-code. The second part will then take it from there and focus on more recent activities and announcements
Before we dig deeper, let’s establish a common vocabulary:
Cloud computing is a relatively new phenomena within IT, yet it’s a close kin (if not the brain child) to established practices such as hosting and virtualization. More so, it takes the principle of outsourcing the operation of systems via hosting services and the flexibility of hardware virtualization to the next level: the result is called Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). In short, IaaS providers offer resources (e.g. computing power, storage, networking bandwith etc.) on a subscription basis. This frees customers from having to buy/maintain their own hardware and instead rent them as needed from IaaS providers. This does not only result in a shift from capital expenses to operational expenses, but also empowers companies to focus on topics closer to their primary expertise (instead of having to deal with low-level infrastructure challenges!) The fact that the dominant IaaS players all operate at extra-large scale and that they are fighting for marketshare very aggressively results in offerings which are also very appealing from a pricing perspective. As such, IaaS by itself is (close to becoming) a commodity business and consequently vendors are offering higher-level services to differentiate from the competition (more on that later on!)
A common analogy to explain the benefits of cloud computing is the introduction of power grids as part of the industrial revolution. Instead of having to operate their own steam engines (or equivalent) to produce electricity companies started to procure electricity from specialized suppliers. What I find particularly fitting about this comparison is the fact that both electricity and computing resources per se are just means to power something. In the context of cloud computing this of course means: applications!
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provides many advantages over traditional on-premise solutions. For consumers, SaaS solutions provide a care-free experience: the software is always up-to-date (without having to cope with tedious updates etc), it’s accessible from anywhere (on-demand) and new features are rolled out more frequently (continuous delivery). Solution providers on the other hand benefit from the reduced time-to-market gained with SaaS and that they can rollout new features to all customers at once. Yet, given the demand to rollout new solutions faster than faster the question arises how-to best (reads: most efficiently) develop SaaS solutions. Enter: Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).
Cloud platforms such as HCP address this challenge by providing a standardized design and runtime environment to develop, extend and run applications in the cloud. They provide an abstraction layer for the underlying infrastructure and take away the burden of managing all the lower-level infrastructure complexity such as load-balancing, disaster recovery (DR), high-availability (HA), fail-over scenarios (FO) and elasticity … just to name a few. This way, development organisations can focus on developing their business solution based on this standardized environment and the comprehensive set of capabilities, services and APIs offered by the platform.
Platform Play: End-to-End approach
So far, we have exclusively talked about the technical implications and benefits of PaaS, however that is only one aspect of it. For a platform to be successful it is important to also cover the commercial factors and the marketplace.
As such, the SAP HANA Cloud Platform needs to seen as the technical pillar of a broader cloud platform play including the SAP HANA Marketplace and of course – the ecosystem. The best example of a successful platform strategy can be found in the mobile space where companies like Apple and Google have established a thriving economy for mobile applications around their respective platforms. The underlying rational is simple:
The platform that accomplishes to attract the most developers will get the most apps. The platform with the most apps will be the most attractive platform for customers. The platform with the biggest customer base will be most attractive for developers and so on. [Source]
In a nutshell, it’s a cycle, that – once set in motion – eventually accelerates itself. SAP is determined to foster such a platform for enterprise software together with its customers and partners. While a lot of the action will take place behind the scenes, this strategy manifests itself in the newly created HCP-centric website: http://hcp.sap.com. (For further information please read the respective blog post: A new home)
Typical usage scenarios
While cloud platforms have to cater to and support a broad variety of usage scenarios (see The VOID that is PaaS) we understand that it helps to provide typical usage scenarios. Especially for less technical people it’s sometimes hard to get a grasp of the opportunities such a platform provides by just looking at its technical capabilities. To address that we have compiled a set of scenario archetypes that have proven to be ideally suited to be developed on HCP, yet please keep in mind that this is not an exclusive list, but rather meant to be a conversation starter.
So, the three major usage scenarios we see are as follows:
- New cloud solutions (e.g. LoB solutions or verticals) that leverage the in-memory capabilities of the underlying SAP HANA database platform
- On-premise extensions that extend or connect to existing on-premise systems and use the cloud as an outbound channel for easier access and providing a first-class user experience (e.g. such as Fiori)
- Cloud extensions that extend the functionality of existing SaaS solutions such as SuccessFactors Employee Central
The next usage scenario HCP will be focusing on is Internet of Things (IoT), so expect to hear announcement in this area during SAP TechEd && d-code.
HCP within the broader cloud strategy of SAP
With common usage scenarios outlined above it’s a good opportunity to elaborate on HCPs role within the broader cloud strategy of SAP. As such, let’s spend a few minutes elaborating on this aspect.
Given the similarities in names it’s important to understand the difference between the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) and SAP HANA Cloud Platform (HCP). The former (HEC) is a managed service provided by SAP to operate (parts of) a companies landscape on behalf of the customer, freeing him to focus on more innovate scenarios and solutions that help to differentiate from competitors. Focus use cases are: SAP Business Suite on HANA, SAP BW on HANA, SAP HANA Data Marts and other solutions based on SAP HANA. Customers subscribing to HEC benefit from an initial end-to-end assessment prior to a tailor-fitted migration to HEC. SAP then takes care of application maintenance and all other operational activities within HEC’s managed cloud environment.
SAP HANA Cloud Platform on the other hand is SAP’s public cloud PaaS offering to develop, extend and run applications in the cloud. This could be either custom-developed solutions developed in-house, applications developed with the intension to sell them as SaaS solutions (e.g. via the SAP HANA Marketplace) or ready-to-run applications provided by SAP or its partners.
HCP is also the designated extension platform for SAP`s SaaS solutions including the recent acquisitions of Ariba, Hybris, Fieldglass etc. as well as the strategic development platform for new cloud solutions. Prime examples of such solutions are SAP Financial Service Network , SAP Precision Marketing or SAP Mobile Documents just to name a few.
[Update:] The latest addition to the list of SaaS applications powered by HCP is the new SAP Cloud for Planning solution.
SAP HANA Cloud Platform comes in various packages, each targeting a unique group of customers – all of which are available via the SAP HANA Marketplace:
Let’s have a closer look at the individual packages:
- Infrastructure Services – This package provides SAP HANA infrastructure on a subscription basis for customers who already have a license and who want to get up and running quickly and without having to invest into hardware.
- DBServices – This package provides both infrastructure and license subscriptions for SAP HANA and it comes in two flavors: a Base and a Platform Edition. Both editions provide native development capabilities such as SQLScript and Extended Application Services (XS) as well as SAP HANA Cloud Integration for data services for initial and delta loads.
Which package best suits your needs depends on your intended usage scenario and whether or not you already have a license for SAP HANA. For more information regarding the individual packages and their capabilities please consult the following blog post: SAP HANA Cloud Platform – The full package.
Please note that SAP offers free, perpetual developer accounts for SAP HANA Cloud Platform to provide developers with the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the platform first-hand. Signing up is as simple as 1-2-3 and does not take more than 5 minutes. Those interested please visit our respective developer page on:
To wrap up the first part of this mini-series let’s have a closer look at the AppServices package and the capabilities it provides:
As the name suggest, HCP is based on SAP HANA, SAP’s in-memory database platform. Needless to say, all applications developed on HCP leverage the vast set of capabilities provided by SAP HANA such as advanced engines (Planning, Geo-Spatial, Predictive, Graph, Text Search & Sentiment Analysis), the Planning SDK and the Predictive Analysis Library. For more details about these features please consult this document.
To facilitate the rapid development of cloud applications the platform provides a vast set of platform services for the most common pattern in software engineering such as persistence, connectivity, identity and document management and so forth. Addressing the needs it requires to develop first-class business applications these application management services are complemented by profiling and monitoring tools, logging capabilities and remote debugging of cloud applications.
In addition, HCP offers a set of higher-level services, which provide specialized capabilities as needed for specific scenarios such as:
- (Mobile) SAP Mobile Platform Enterprise Edition cloud version
- (Portal) SAP HANA Cloud Portal
- (Analytics) SAP Lumira Cloud
- (Collaboration) SAP Jam
- (Security) SAP Cloud Identity
- (Integration) SAP HANA Cloud Integration
With that I want to conclude part 1. By now, you should have a good understanding about SAP HANA Cloud Platform and its comprehensive set of capabilities as well as typical business scenarios that can be solved using HCP. In part 2, we’ll have a closer look on some of the most recent announcements and activities related to the platform and ultimately set the stage for further news revealed at SAP TechEd && d-code. Stay tuned…
Note: The respective presentation can be found on Slideshare: SAP HANA Cloud Platform – Setting the stage