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Introduction

Some time ago SAP announced the switch of the SAP Cloud Platform (then still known as SAP HANA Cloud Platform, although it had nothing to do with HANA 😉) towards Cloud Foundry (CF) as Platform as a Service standard. After Sapphire 2017 the new edition finally became available in the SAP Cloud Platform (SAP CP) not via YaaS.io as it was for some time of early beta testing.

From a developer’s perspective, that move was and is great as it finally allows us to develop and operate cloud native applications in SAP CP. Although there is still some way to go to achieve one SAP CP bringing the NEO platform services together with the CF platform and finally arrive at one platform from a developer’s perspective.

However, before the start of development there is some important task to do (often overseen by developers 😊) – subscribe to the cloud platform and to the services you need for your application. And this task is a bumpy ride when we talk about SAP CP. So, let us check and challenge the cloud characteristics linked to this aspect of the cloud and how SAP CP deals with them.

Cloud, Subscription, and Resources

In contrast to the old legacy world where hardware should be sized and consequently bought in accordance to the maximum load that will be opposed to the system, a cloud platform has some very nice characteristics when it comes to this topic. Those are:

  • A cloud platform offers a short-term resource rental model. This enables an easy increase as well as a decrease of resources and services that are consumed by your application.
  • A cloud platform offers a metered pay-per-use model. This means that you only pay for currently allocated resources. The usage costs are transparent.

Looking at the settled cloud offerings like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Pivotal these two points are fulfilled. The basic rental model is usually short term, the resources are metered on a pay-per-use-model, and the metering is aligned with the type of service that you consume. The costs can easily be calculated via web-based tools. There is no need to get in touch with any kind of sales representative for the entire process and that is how it should be.

SAP Cloud Platform and Subscription

When it comes to the SAP CP one can state that this platform is struggling to fulfill the characteristics. This was already the case in the “old” NEO world, but there seems to be no change up to now (at least from my current experience), the whole journey remains cumbersome and not matching the expectations.

Let’s make a walk through the different steps that should be supported by the characteristics.

The journey starts when you want to have a first glance at the prices. This already is not the experience you would expect in case of a cloud offering. It is kind of a “hybrid” experience as you start at a web page (good) and end up with a pdf file (aka price list where the emphasis is put on “list”) that lists all the offering in some order and leaves you a calculator (and probably someone who has knowledge what is really needed as service) to finish the work.

Looking at the established offerings that is a drawback. No idea why this situation is persisting now for such a long time, but hopefully SAP sales will look at the other offerings out there that one would expect to see. Here are some examples:

Let us check the other characteristics mentioned above like “pay-per-use”, “transparent” and “metered”. At the very first sight, you get several bundles that contain different services and are based on some metrics. They seem to make sense to some extent as they bundle the common ingredients probably needed in most of the scenarios.  However, some components are not clear at least to me like excluding à la cart services in the packages for medium sized usage. The offering for partners (innovation package) deviates from that path as the sense behind the services bundled here is debatable.

I think one can live with that to some level, but the pricing and the metering are somewhat strange at several points. One example is the compute units that you need to deploy an application. The compute units are offered in t-shirt sizes that comprise a certain amount of CPU cores and main memory. You can fill up those units until you reach the limit of memory and/or cores needed by your app. You pay a monthly fee for that independent of your usage of the unit. This is not pay-as-you-use and is a drawback during development and testing where you certainly will not have your apps running 24/7. Not what one would expect especially in a Cloud Foundry world. My expectation would be a subscription metered in accordance to instances, memory consumed and a time interval like hours that your app is running.

So as for the pricing a lot of room for improvement for the SAP CP when it comes to the metering and consequent basis that you pay for.

Perhaps finally you really want to enter the SAP CP and develop your apps on that, how can you do so? The answer is: it depends. Some offerings are available via SAP Store (starter editions intended for non-productive usage and the ones for medium business, but when it comes to the enterprise packages the journey will lead you to your sales representative from SAP side. You will then probably have several phone calls, discuss what is needed and finally get an offer (Excel-based for sure). Again, not what one would expect and not state-of-the-art.

After the development is done you will certainly come into the situation that you will want to increase or decrease the resources either directly impacting your compute units (e. g. more memory needed) or be enhancing your app via additional backing services. Then this journey starts again and you will probably run into the situation that you must get in touch with a sales representative to get the things done. So currently it is not easy to in- or decrease the resources and/or services consumed by your cloud application. Again, a characteristic of a cloud platform that is not met by the current SAP CP.

Summary

From a developer’s perspective, the strategy to move towards Cloud Foundry was a very good decision and turns the SAP Cloud Platform to a competitive offering in the PaaS area. For sure there are things to do and unique value propositions to be worked out (first steps are ongoing with the SAP Cloud SDK) but here the goals are set and I am quite sure that SAP will manage that.

However, this is only one part of the cloud story and the important part that leverages the benefits of a cloud platform namely the easy subscription of resources as well as the transparent pay-per-use model, was neglected up to now (or in other words was handled in the on-premise mode) and still there is no visible move towards a competitive model. This can and will crucially harm the adoption of the SAP Cloud Platform as a whole especially as there are established platforms out there that have a head start and continue to improve.

As SAP TechEd is around the corner, I hope that more than some announcements that SAP has heard the call but some concrete results will be shown that go in the right direction. It would be really a mess if this great technological switch is impeded by sales based obstacles that are manageable.

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2 Comments

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  1. Matthias Steiner

    Hi Christian,

    first off, many thanks for taking the time to write this and sharing your view with the community. An old community saying goes “Sharing is caring!” and hence we appreciate your honest and candid feedback!

     

    Before we get to your main point I have to say that there are some statements in the introduction paragraph that I don’t agree with. As I gave it my best shot to explain in the respective blogs (listed below)  I refrain from repeating it here, but I want to set a few things straight:

     

    • SAP Cloud Platform does offer HANA as default and recommended database platform
    • the Cloud Foundry environment is not a switch, but just another environment we added to SAP Cloud Platform. We have been doing this in the past (HANA XS) and will very likely continue to do so going forward. Who knows, maybe we’ll hear about this during one of the upcoming events?
    • You can develop cloud native applications regardless of environment, in fact I gave a TechEd session on cloud native applications last year (see below)

     

    With that out of the way… let’s get to the main point of criticism, the lack of elasticity (from a commercial perspective). I agree that there are many use-cases where utility pricing (pay-as-you-go) is useful. No point in debating!

    Yet, we also need to consider that this elasticity comes with a price tag! All the cloud vendors you list also provide dedicated recourses for much cheaper rates. Let me guess, I’m sure you also have a flatrate for your mobile phone, right? 😉

    So, it boils down to “expected utilizations” and “expected changes in load” to make a smart decision if reserved resources for a fix price or utility pricing is the better option.

    You’re right – at the moment SAP Cloud Platform caters exclusively to the former (and that is primarily based on the demand we see from our customers and partners!)

    Yet, SAP does see the use-cases for utility pricing… so, ultimately SAP needs to cater to both fronts: XXL enterprises and SMB. I think this is understood…

    So, here’s my proposal… let’s reiterate on this in Barcelona, shall we?

    Cheers,

    matthias

     

    See also:

    https://blogs.sap.com/2017/02/27/sap-cloud-platform-new-name-new-dimensions/ 

    https://blogs.sap.com/2017/05/16/sap-cloud-platform-the-next-level/ 

    https://blogs.sap.com/2017/03/28/developing-cloud-native-apps-on-sap-cloud-platform/ 

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    1. Christian Lechner Post author

      Hi Matthias,

      the reply took a bit as several statements in the comment leave some room between the lines for interpretation. Keeping things short my point of view: A lot of need for discussion and sorting things out. So I would take your proposal on a reiteration in Barcelona.

      Maybe we can then come up with a “clarifying” post … you now the “sharing …caring” thingy must not be forgotten.

      Cheers

      Christian

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