Looking back to TechEd Las Vegas, I am really impressed how much I learned, how many people I met, how full I am with impressions and it was just three days for me, from Monday evening to Thursday evening. It’s true that my agenda was very aggressive, I tried to follow the blogger/influencer sessions, SAP Mentor sessions, HANA Distinguished Engineer meetings, visit the show floor, attend sessions, so a mission completely impossible. The only way I survived this craze was good preparation. I spent quite some time optimizing my agenda, reading session pdf’s upfront to decide which session to attend, when to have lunch, when to meet people, so I went with a schedule worked out to the smallest details. (I just left 2-3 hours open for topics which catch my attention, e.g. based on the keynotes.)
For me TechEd Las Vegas was about HCP, Cloud Foundry, XS2, UX, Fiori 2.0, Vora, IoT, S/4, Cloud 4 Analytics. I can’t say that these were the main news, because so much happens in short time that I must have missed many other important news. I can only say that these were the top topics I came across. Let’s go one by one – without any specific order.
SAP HANA Cloud Platform was clearly the main focus of this TechEd. Steve Lucas told us that 1800+ customers use HCP for live scenarios. SAP positioned HCP as the platform to make extensions for S/4HANA. Beyond the known platform and application services, SAP announced micros- and mashup services on HCP (together with YaaS – hybris-as-a-service). Bernd Leukert challenged the developer community to transform the growing volume of available digital assets into business value through creating such services. The solutions will be listed in the marketplace available at sapappcenter.com and the ones which reach market traction will be actively promoted by SAP’s sales force. He introduced the tax service, which calculates tax based on country-specific taxation rules and SAP Translation Hub which supports translation for 38 languages. The next type of service SAP is considering to provide is data as a service. Think of examples such as purchasing indexes, industry trends, recruitment data, etc. With all these services coming, the API management space will be interesting to watch.
SAP sees PaaS as an enabler for IT departments to create innovation even on top of older existing system landscape. I understood that SAP is very much aware of the “platform war” going on among the main platform providers (Google, Amazon, etc.) and finds it top priority to focus on the execution of the plans and keep up the fast pace of innovation in this area. Especially because large manufacturers, retailers and automotive companies are approaching the point to make platform choices and such choices may last for 10+ years. SAP thinks they have what it takes: business know-how, global presence, reach, ecosystem. scale in development, broad portfolio in industries and solutions. At the moment most HCP-based extensions are related to SuccessFactors and C4C.
Another very interesting development is a new offering on HCP: a Linux-based VM (Iaas) which will be rolled out in Q1. This opens up a door for creativity for customers, but SAP expects partners to leverage it too, e.g. Capriza or Birst.
Open source was a key term at TechEd. SAP has decided to get involved in more open source projects (at the moment the counter is at approx. 100) and in some of them invest very heavily and improve the enterprise readiness of these solutions. Cloud Foundry belongs to the latter group. SAP joined the Cloud Foundry Foundation as Platinum Member. It is a technology to open up HCP, because Cloud Foundry is becoming the de-facto standard for PaaS as it provides a scalable runtime container with choice of clouds, runtimes and services.
There are big news regarding HANA, like the hot standby in SAP HANA SP11, coming in Q4, but I will zoom into XS2, because this caught my attention the most.
The current XS engine will remain under the name “classic” and a new, advanced XS will be introduced in SP11, which will run the web application runtimes on top of HANA, and not inside HANA (as it Is now). They will be more scalable and suitable for cloud usage. There are many changes coming in this area:
- Thanks to the fact that it will run on Cloud Foundry, multiple new runtime will be introduced next to the current XSJS one: node.js, Java, etc.
- The repository inside HANA will go away and git/github will take its place.
- In the future there will be only one view type: graphical calculation view. And yes, there will be a migration tool.
- The users won’t need to be in HANA itself, node.js will use a technical user to connect to the database and SAML will be used for authentication.
- SAP will gradually move away from HANA Studio and will open up the development tool chain. Developers will be able to use their favorite tools. At the same time Web IDE will be embraced for HANA development too. Customers will be able to run it on HCP or on their on premise HANA system.
I found it very nice to see that Bernd Leukert started his keynote with one4, a project SAP supports to improve the refugee situation in Europe. This campaign has reached 200 million people around the world, which I think SAP can be very proud of.
We as mentors tried to spread the message too in our group photo with Sam Yen, Chief Designer Officer of SAP.
Cloud 4 Analytics
You may have heard of project Orca, which now got released under the official product name: Cloud 4 Analytics. C4A is the first big product natively built for HCP (Cloud 4 Planning was the first one, but it is much smaller) and it is a state-of-the-art, completely built from scratch BI tool in the cloud with a new and clear UX. It is now open for registration for a trial account and I understood that it will become available in few weeks. Steve Lucas mentioned a starting price of 25 dollars/user/month, which is really attractive, considering the wide range of functionality which SAP will put into C4A. SAP Cloud 4 Planning has been integrated into this new product and the roadmap covers some more very important extensions such as Predictive and GRC. In my opinion the top 3 discussions about C4A were:
- Does it replace Lumira? The answer is no, SAP keeps investing into their on premise BI portfolio, BI 4.2, Lumira, etc. C4A is a new option in the complete portfolio and SAP believes cloud based BI will be a true differentiator in the market. Lumira Cloud, on the other hand, will merge into C4A.
- Do customers have to put their data into the cloud? No, data can stay on premise and processed on premise.
- Which are the most typical use cases? Customers who have data in the cloud (e.g. from other cloud solutions or data gathered externally) can do analytics without bringing this data on premise. Another example scenario is when customers would like to share their analytics externally.
C4A is the engine behind SAP Digital Boardroom or the “Boardroom of the Future”, which is a solution to bring real-time insight into performance across the company for board members.
SAP started to offer integration with Hadoop back in HANA SP6 via Smart Data Access. Each SP brought some extra feature (access to Hive, Spark, etc.), but now SAP created something completely new: a query engine for Spark. This brings HANA innovations (in-memory technology, columnal storage, etc.) to the Hadoop community. Needless to say, the idea is to combine data in Vora with data in HANA to enrich external data with enterprise business application data in order to create new insights and applications.
There was great content about IoT on the Show Floor. We cloud play with some Tessel devices and build some applications, but at the same time there were various demos as well to underline the business value in some scenarios. I learned about Connected Manufacturing. For example how Harley-Davidson can produce fully custom bikes in 6 hours thanks to process optimization with IoT. I really liked the Connected Logistics scenario of WeissBeerger. The company built sensors into the beer line to give insight into the whole life cycle of the beer. You can read the whole story here. A visually very attractive example was the “predictive maintenance” application for sport: SAP Injury Risk Monitor. For example football or basketball players wear a sensor and HANA predicts based on the data stream if the given player is at high risk of injury.
SAP is partnering with large companies, e.g. Siemens, which have industry specific domain knowledge and can leverage HCP.
Simple Finance, now called S/4HANA Finance, is going to be extended with logistics functionality and more in the future. SAP refers to S/4HANA as Digital Core.
Customers can follow 3 paths to S/4HANA: greenfield, migration or landscape transformation
The migration can go via SoH or directly from ECC on anyDB to S/4HANA. SAP announced that 1300+ companies have purchased S/4HANA. I understood that the majority of them implemented it as a side-car greenfield solution.
The upcoming 1511 release will be a big step and we can expect more details in TechEd Barcelona.
SAP has gone a long way with user experience from SAP GUI to Fiori, which has recently won the very prestigious reddot award. The challenge now is to roll it out and make sure customers actually adopt it. SAP has recognized the lack of designers and design skills in the whole industry and therefore they launched two new products to facilitate the UX creation process. This enabling is what SAP calls UX as a Service. SAP Splash is a library of resources to help designers and non-designers learn best practices and find templates, method cards and examples. While SAP Splash covers the discovery phase, SAP BUILD is focused on the Design phase. It allows non-programmers to create mockups, prototypes, do user research, etc. Eventually the output of SAP BUILD can be imported into Web IDE and extended into a fully functional app. This complete flow among Splash, BUILD and Web IDE looks very promising.
SAP has a challenge to create the new Fiori UX fast enough for hundreds of screens which need the uplift. One major innovation to help this is the introduction of smart controls and smart templates. Basically there are 20-30 design patters which can be reused to create applications with less coding effort. Still, to meet up the growing requirements for S/4, SAP is considering to enhance SAP Screen Personas with HTML5, responsive design capabilities so that it can be used for S/4HANA.
Fiori 2.0, the award winning design concept, will be rolled out during 2016. Cloud products are adopting Fiori too: C4C, SuccessFactors, Ariba, etc. The Fiori Overview Page is going to be released soon. Have a look at this video, I think it is going to be extremely useful to organize content. The biggest learning moment for me regarding OVP was to realize that from a technical point of view OVP is a Fiori app, so they will be available in the Fiori Reference Library, and if anybody would like to make/extend one, then the Web IDE will be the place to go.
Another big news regarding Fiori is Fiori Cloud edition. Fiori will be available in the cloud, of course on HCP. Initially 24 transactional apps will be in scope, but SAP will extend the list based on demand.
To sum up
SAP is encouraging its whole ecosystem to take 3 steps:
- Move from on premise to the cloud
- Move from any database to HANA
- Move from old fashioned UI technologies to the Fiori UX
It’s not a little to ask for and at the same time SAP itself needs to change too. Imagine the world described in the keynotes, where SAP provides the business platform as a service and customers and partners create microservices. These services and the apps built from them have to be marketed and sold. SAP Digital is a preparation for this world. Think of high volume automated digital transactions, in-app purchases, selling to individuals and small teams too, not only large enterprises via account executives.
It is a huge change for SAP experts too. We all need to learn the new development techniques in HANA, UI5, CDS, etc. and leverage PaaS. As Steve Lucas said: “We have technology, now we need technologists.” Here are some hints from Matthias Steiner and Rui Nogueira. Get prepared. As Matthias put it in his lecture: “It’s not your grandfather’s SAP”.
Disclosure: SAP made my participation possible at TechEd Las Vegas via the blogger/influencer program.