SAP continues to focus on the cloud business, cleverly addressing the technical restrictions of large ERP systems and the rejection of business customers.
Like most competitors in the IT industry, SAP sees its future in the cloud, as does that of its in-memory database platform HANA. The accelerated migration of business processes to the cloud has been driven mainly in recent years by the desire to reduce costs, improve agility, increase efficiency, and exit the responsible infrastructure management business. At the same time, modern technologies such as machine learning or big data analytics need to be tested faster than prototypes or taken directly into productive use. Recently, the historical reluctance to move business-critical applications or sensitive data about security, compliance and strategy/management concerns into the cloud seems to be easing.
SAP goes a stony way
However, SAP’s history around the HANA platform and its cloud ambitions has become much more exciting in recent months, largely due to a company-wide restructuring program. The company presented the program at the beginning of the year and announced that it would cut a total of 4,400 jobs. Over the last few months, the impact of these cuts has become increasingly evident as they have affected executives involved in both the HANA platform and the cloud. These included names such as Ken Tsai, whose marketing activities included SAP HANA, and HANA developers Thomas Jung and Rich Heilman. There were also cloud-focused executives who left, such as Robert Enslin, an SAP veteran who was happily accepted by the Google Cloud team just weeks after his departure.
SAP consistently builds its cloud services on SAP HANA
Despite all internal changes and restructuring, the path is clearly towards the cloud. SAP HANA and the cloud played a prominent role in the recent SAPPHIRE Now. The focus here is on SAP HANA Cloud Services, in which SAP now makes its platform available as a service in several public clouds. Starting with Amazon Web Services (AWS) up to the Google Cloud Platform, all common cloud infrastructure providers are used. As with any as-a-service offering, this approach means eliminating a large portion of the administrative burden for the in-memory database and transferring it to SAP or the infrastructure providers.
Key components of SAP’s Cloud Data Services strategy include
- SAP HANA Cloud Services, which offer distributed data sources for real-time access
- SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, the first solution based on SAP HANA Cloud Services
- SAP Data Intelligence, an extension of SAP HANA Data Services, designed to link unstructured data to the SAP Analytics Cloud.
- Integration with OpenText for unstructured content
- SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation with Bot Studio to automate business processes
- Integration between SAP Leonardo Internet of Things and AWS IoT Core
- Collaborative business planning tools for the SAP Analytics Cloud
SAP Data Warehouse Cloud: SAP’s First Cloud Service
In addition to the pure database as a service offer, SAP presented the Data Warehouse Cloud – the first service of the announced HANA Cloud Services. In the beta phase, the service will provide companies with a consolidated view of all analytical, transactional and „large“ data sources. The SAP Data Warehouse Cloud is a new data warehouse solution that enables companies to leverage all the advanced features of SAP HANA without the massive up-front costs often associated with data warehouse implementations. You can start with a small environment that can be scaled in size as needed. The SAP Data Warehouse Cloud has a variety of connectors that simplify access to data anywhere and enable smooth integration with all types of on-premise systems (both SAP and third-party).
Data Intelligence is an extension of the existing HANA Data Services and prepares unstructured data from non-HANA databases for use in other applications, including and especially for the SAP Analytics Cloud. Data Intelligence, which will be introduced in the coming months, will leverage the offerings of the SAP Data Hub and SAP’s IoT portfolio „Leonardo“ to help companies implement machine learning models.
The SAP Data Warehouse Cloud service is still in the beta phase, which is known from the offer so far:
SAP Data Warehouse Cloud: a hybrid cloud service
With the SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, SAP continues the approach of a hybrid cloud. Users can choose whether to move the data to the cloud (by replicating the data) or access the data in existing systems. This approach enables the company to find its own balance between on-premise and cloud provision. For example, a company with large local databases does not need to move them completely to the cloud. With the SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, business users can extend existing shared data locally (in on-premise systems) with their own data in the cloud (from previously unintegrated systems). Alternatively, with the SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, the IT department can build new scenarios in the cloud that are based on or in combination with local data and enable a temporal development to a fully-fledged cloud data warehouse.
SAP is thus consistently continuing along the path of the hybrid cloud, which it first hinted at with the SAP Analytics Cloud. Here, too, the large amounts of data that accumulate in long-running SAP ERP installations and are simultaneously classified as sensitive remain on the company’s own server and only the possibilities offered by SAP HANA are exploited. This has already been clearly drilled out with the cloud data warehouse, which really loads data from third-party sources. With the Analytics Cloud it looked at first glance as if all workloads were executed on the local HANA instances and only the results were displayed in a nice user interface in the cloud.
SAP Data Warehouse Cloud: Flexible and Scalable
The SAP HANA Data Warehouse Cloud addresses the issues of elasticity and scalability with a new concept called „Spaces“. Spaces make it possible to scale individual areas of the data warehouse or data mart independently of each other instead of having to build huge monolithic systems. The functionality integrated in the HANA core enables the SAP Data Warehouse Cloud to intelligently replicate data to the specific storage space where it is needed instead of merging all data. Combined with flexibly and independently rentable spaces, allocation allows you to control how much computing and storage capacity a defined set of users, typically a single business unit, can consume.
The concept of spaces enables an architecture in which defined user groups can consume and extend trusted data without having to replicate the data beforehand. Quota assignments act as a kind of gatekeeper for each user group. It also ensures a durable, mature data mart solution that end users do not need to have the knowledge or time to set up the technical infrastructure required to operate such an architecture.
SAP Data Warehouse Cloud: Conclusion
As with any cloud offering, the SAP Data Warehouse Cloud does not require companies to provide resources for the setup and operation of an SAP HANA database platform or data warehouse. Operating such a system in a traditional large enterprise system also requires a team of qualified IT experts dedicated to securing enterprise data, providing consistent and reliable data, ensuring data availability around the clock, and more. With the SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, the company can focus on creating value from the data and not on these operational tasks. With the SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, SAP is able to offer all the benefits of other cloud-based software-as-a-service solutions, but is also able to address its target group of large enterprise customers. For technical reasons (excessive data volumes and latency problems), they cannot switch completely to the cloud, but are now open to the use of cloud offerings. At the same time, SAP HANA has created a platform that perfectly integrates local on-premise systems and cloud services: the large amounts of data remain on-site and seamlessly integrated with the cloud via SAP HANA’s native mechanisms.