“Forget HANA. Forget cloud. Let’s talk platform!”

There… I said it … in public! Guess that leaves me only a couple of minutes until they came and get me! 😉

Jokes aside – with today’s blog post I want to address some of the misconceptions floating around in regards to the SAP HANA Cloud Platform (HCP)! Many a times I’ve been hearing from people that SAP HANA Cloud Platform is not of interest for them because

a) they don’t use HANA (yet) and/or

b) cloud is not a topic in their companies (yet)

Call me biased, but nothing could be further from the truth! As such, I’d like to talk about the last part of the name – platform.

Platform [definition] – a horizontal surface or structure with a horizontal surface raised above the level of the surrounding area. – Reference: dictionary.com

In simple terms, one could say that a platform is an elevated area compared to your current position – “the next level” if you will. Furthermore, it’s a stable, reliable and future-proof foundation to build on. So, one is truly well-advised to look beyond the HANA and cloud part of the name and have a closer look at the the platform aspect!

From a technical perspective one could truly state that HCP is the successor of NetWeaver. While they have completely distinct code-lines and upbringings they share a common mindset; only this time SAP develops & operates the platform for you. This implies a shift of responsibilities very favorable for customers, as now it’s SAP that takes a lot of the heavy lifting while customers can exclusively concentrate on developing apps( and not having to worry of operating the underlying platform).That’s the whole promise of Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and in non-technical terms it translates to business agility.

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In today’s economy, everyone is competing on a global level and the speed of innovation is constantly accelerating. To gain or keep an competitive advantage companies need to be able to roll-out innovations quickly: time-to-market is critical. At the same time, ensuring smooth operation of the core processes is fundamental. Gartner has been referring to this concept of bimodal IT requirements as pace-layered IT, see In the Digital World CIOs Need Bimodal IT: Rock Solid IT with Ability for Fluidity.

That’s one of the value propositions for SAP HANA Cloud Platform and it’s something that is relevant for every company regardless of whether they have embraced HANA or cloud (yet).

Note: Of course, I strongly promote considering to use HCP to leverage HANA and make your first step towards the cloud, but to stay true to the title of this posts I’ll continue with emphasizing on the platform aspect.

In simple terms, HCP enables you to out-source your innovation – in the truest and most literal meaning of the word. Instead of doing plenty of custom-coding, configuration and customizing (or even modifying) directly within your core backend system(s) SAP recommends to use HCP for these purposes. That way, you don’t start/continue to pick up baggage (aka technical debt) and consequently benefit from being able to constantly update/upgrade your core system(s) without having to worry that something breaks.

At the same time, given the comprehensive set of platform capabilities and services provided by HCP you can develop and roll-out new applications and solutions in unprecedented time.

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For many customers a great way to get started with HCP are so called on-premise extensions. In such a scenario, one uses the cloud to expose functionality residing within the on-premise Business Suite (or S/4HANA) system(s) to the end-users. Typical use-cases are employee self-services (ESS) or other Fiori-like scenarios. In general, I usually recommend to start with non mission-critical use-cases in order to have the chance to gain experiences first. Also, keeping the scope to a small or medium complexity level also helps to ensure that the first pilot solution will be a success. From my personal experiences I can say that once you have demonstrated to the business that you can now develop new solutions in a matter of weeks (not months or years) they will quickly come up with more ideas and suddenly you don’t have to convince the business people any longer, but they help you shape the path towards the cloud.

With that, I hope I was able to pique your interest and if you should happen to attend TechEd (or watch from afar) then you’ll sure hear more about SAP HANA Cloud Platform in the following days. I hope you tune-in and now that you know that HCP is more than just HANA in the cloud you may realize that there are many ways to leverage the platform as part of your own agenda.

At the end of the day, HCP is a platform intended to help you take it to the next level and build amazing things on top. Only you know what the next “killer app” may be within your company, your domain or the whole industry… so, let’s get started!

With that – let me wrap it up with a hat-tip to Hugh MacLeod aka “gapingvoid“. In his eBook “Authenticity is The New Bullshit” there’s a paraphrase from an interview conducted by Tom Peters with Horst Brandstätter (owner and CEO of the Germany-based toy manufacturer Playmobil):

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Replace ‘toy’ with ‘platform’ and ‘child’ with ‘developer’ and you have a very inspiring guiding principle for any aspiring enterprise developer, don’t you agre? 😉

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24 Comments

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    1. Ali Lodhi

      Dear Matthias,

      Good job in terms of spreading awareness about HCP it has helped clarify some of the questions I had in my mind. I have couple of quick questions for you:

      1. SAP claims that it has conceived HANA as a platform and not as a database-only. I like HCP and its offerings, what if I want to use it on-premise instead of in-the-cloud? Is it possible / available on-premise?        Or does on-premise HANA platform covers the same scope (functionality and features) as of HCP?
      2. As you have mentioned in your blog, HCP is a successor of NetWeaver. My question is then why SAP keeps mentioning upcoming release of NetWeaver 7.5 as the foundation for S/4HANA? Doesn’t HCP replace NetWeaver as a foundation or is it the foundation for on-premise S/4HANA instances?

      Regards,

      Ali

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      1. Matthias Steiner Post author

        Hi Ali,

        thanks for your feedback and happy to hear that my post answered some open questions! Let’s try to answer the remaining ones as well:

        1. yes, HANA is more than ‘just’ an in-memory DB, but rather a full fledged application development platform in its own right. When using HCP users have a choice between using HANA or ASE as the underlying DB. In case of the former, people can use the vast majority of features offered by HANA in the same manner as if using the on-premise version. However, as I wrote… HCP is much more than just a HANA in the cloud and comes with a whole set of platform capabilities, runtimes and programming models and last, but nor least a completely different operational model than an on-premise HANA. So, NO… on-premise HANA is a completely different thing than HCP.

          Going forward however, there’ll be a bigger overlap as both HANA and HCP will leverage Cloud Foundry to provide support for additional runtimes and programming models. HANA already shipped this with SPS11 – see here for more details: SAP HANA SPS 11: New Developer Features; XS Advanced

          Cloud Foundry support in HCP is also on the roadmap, as is… additional deployment models including (virtual) private cloud. Our most recent roadmap can be viewed here: SAP HANA Cloud Platform – Product Road Map (Q3/2015)

        2. I’m sorry if I gave impression that HCP is the direct successor of NetWeaver – that’s not the case, at least not in the sense that HCP will replace NetWeaver in existing installations or the current on-premise roadmap!!! What I intended to say is that HCP plays a similar role within our strategy and with SAP’s cloud-first approach it is now the center piece of our technology strategy.

        Hope that helped!

        Cheers,

        Matthias

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        1. Ali Lodhi

          Dear Matthias

          Yes, your explanation helped. 

          1. I believe it would be good if SAP shares a document / list on functionality / scope comparison between HANA Platform (on-prem) and HCP.
          2. Let me clarify, I didn’t ask about existing ECC installations or ECC on-premise road map. My question is about next-gen business suite (S/4 HANA), does HCP/HANA Platform replace NETWEAVER in the next-gen architecture? Like if I am implementing net new S/4 HANA instance in-the-cloud or on-premise, does it come with NETWEAVER as a foundation or HCP/HANA Platform will act as a foundation?

          Regards,

          Ali

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  1. Chintesh chopkar

    Very good article. To further understand SAP’s Solution as Service, how the business who have done customization will use this SaaS? Will they lose those functionality? Will SAP develop standard solutions for different industries?

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    1. Matthias Steiner Post author

      Hi Chintesh, thanks for your interest in the topic. However, I’m not 100% I truly understand your question. When you say to “customizations” are you referring to Business Suite customizations or to one of our Software-as-a-Service solutions (SuccessFactors Employee Central, etc.)

      Best regards,

      matthias

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      1. Chintesh chopkar

        Hi Matthias, Lot of clients have done the custom developments to support business processes, for example batch determination, customer confirmation date? Will SAP support customer specific needs while offering SAP solution as a service on cloud? Or customer has to have its own private cloud to meet specific requirements?

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        1. Matthias Steiner Post author

          Hi Chintesh, well I assume you are speaking about custom development in your on-premise business suite systems. Well, that’s exactly one of the targeted use-cases: HCP is the recommended extension/custom development platform for both the business suite and/or our SaaS solutions, so no… you can develop & run them on HCP.

          BR,

          matthias

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  2. Guy Lamoureux

    Star Wars is coming. Let me rephrase some parts from your text:

    a) They don’t have a lot of midichloriHANA

    b) The dark side clouds this topic in their company

    Lot’s of similitudes between SAP and Star Wars. HANAkin Skywalker (walks in the coud) and HANa Solo. And the “On-Premise Extensions” sounds like a light saber !!

    Great article.

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  3. Samuel Ifeanyi Ogbogbo

    The icings on the cake of HCP propositioning would be that of reassuring customers on the magic word for all cloud environments- SECURITY !

    A nice piece that was though. Thanks Matthias.

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    1. Matthias Steiner Post author

      Thanks Samuel for the feedback!

      The smartest thing I ever heard about security was along the lines of:

      “Security is a process, not a state!”

      In that context, SAP is taking security very, very seriously and in case you want to know more about all the related security certificates, audits, regulations and processes in SAP’s data centers please check out: http://www.sapdatacenter.com/

      BR,

      matthias

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