Time flies – SAPPHIRENOW is already past us and as everyone is heading home from the annual pilgrimage to Orlando I find myself in my hotel room digesting all the news we’ve heard the last couple of days. There were plenty of announcements big and small again, yet the one topic that I’ve been thinking about lately has been the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC). For various reasons this caused a lot of interest (which is good) and confusion (which is not so good) within the ecosystem/industry. Given the importance of this topic and the fact that I’m very passionate about it I would like to weigh in and do my little part in helping to make you understand of what the “HEC(K) is going on” – and how it all fits together.

One word upfront: please note that all of what is to follow is my personal point of view and must not be mistaken as any official statement by SAP. I rather summarize and build up on some great blogs by SAP Executives and well-respected analysts and bloggers alike and weave them together. As such, I strongly recommend to everyone to read the referenced articles, blogs and twitter conversations themselves in order to get the complete picture. If my own reasoning should be off (your judgment!) than at least the collection of references provided may help people to quickly come to their own conclusions…

So, what is the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud? How does it relate to the SAP HANA Cloud Platform? Is the term Cloud justified? Is it IaaS, PaaS or SaaS? What’s the impact for customers and partners? For developers? These are the sorts of questions I would like to address.

Let’s start by getting a common understanding of what the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud is. As HANA is Vishal’s “little girl” it’s only fair to let him be the first to raise his voice and talk about the fusion of HANA + Cloud:

“With the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud […] we are simplifying customers’ experience and expanding their choice in how they want to adopt SAP HANA, now bringing it to a massive scale for enterprise mission critical applications – and we are doing this without disruption through the cloud.”  – Vishal Sikka [Ref]

For me this paragraph of his blog summarizes all there is to know to get the discussion started into the right direction. It’s all about:

  • simplifying the customers’ experience (simplicity)
  • expanding their choice (openness)
  • massive scale (scalability)
  • without disruption (faster innovation cycles)

These four principals are the motivation for and the foundation of the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud itself and as well the underlying platform (SAP HANA Cloud Platform). Before we dig deeper, let’s have a closer look at what HEC is offering. The high-level (!!!) marchitecture diagram looks like this: 

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Aiaz Kazi describes the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud offering as follows:

“SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud is a cloud based managed service offering for SAP customers and partners to deploy their HANA applications on a modern peta-scale cloud. By running mission-critical SAP® ERP, SAP® CRM and SAP NetWeaver® Business Warehouse applications in a managed cloud service model ,SAP aims to enable organizations to realize faster time-to-value coupled with lower total cost of ownership. SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud also supports custom HANA applications, including non-SAP centric ones.” – Aiaz Kazi [Ref]

In a nutshell, the value proposition is to provide our customers with an additional deployment option enabling them to run the SAP Business Suite, BW and other HANA-based applications in the cloud. In my own understanding this deployment option is best described as providing a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering, yet others may interpret it differently and call it little more than hosting. One common argument being the licensing model associated with the offering (Bring your own license – BYOL.)

Simplicity

Whatever your stance on this matter, the underlying motivation adheres to the value proposition of SaaS, which is to allow customers to focus on other things than managing and operating their core business systems. In today’s fast-pace world companies are well advised to focus on driving innovation that sets them apart from the competition. Managing and running their core processes while keeping them constantly up-to-date is something that many would be willing to have a trusted partner (such as SAP) do for them.

The Licensing debate

“The announced HANA Enterprise Cloud follows the “Bring Your Own License” paradigm. While this is great for customers that already have a HANA license and would like to relocate it into the cloud, it is useless for customers that might have largely fluctuating data volumes or user numbers and might specifically use a cloud because of its elastic business model.” – Stefan Ried [Ref]

While I understand that pay-as-you-go is considered an important aspect of cloud computing I wouldn’t go so far to make the (current) lack of this option a legitimate reason to state that HEC is not a true cloud offering! Looking at the current ecosystem and the nature of the Business Suite systems of our existing customer base it make sense to start off with a business model that is closer to what the business is used to, because it eases the transition and onboarding. It would surprise me if there wouldn’t be some smart minds at SAP working on some alternative pricing models right now to complement the current offering. Plus, the vision and value proposition of HEC is far greater than just “hosting” the traditional SAP applications in the cloud, there’s also a Platform as a Service (PaaS) component to it!

SAP HANA Cloud Platform

The close observers of SAP’s cloud activities know that SAP is offering an open-standards based PaaS solution since fall last year launched as “SAP NetWeaver Cloud” (internally known as NEO). A very common question I’ve heard frequently these days has been whether or not SAP HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) is NEO.

Yes it is! SAP HANA Cloud Platform is NEO – our New Enterprise Offering in regards to PaaS. 

OK, jokes aside. The best way to look at it is that NEO has been integrated into the broader SAP HANA Cloud Platform plus a whole lot more. Björn Goerke wrote a great summary blog post about it, which hopefully helps to clarify some of the confusion.

For those that are not too familiar with this PaaS offering, here’s a short description:

“It is (and remains to be) SAP’s only public Developer Platform-As-A-Service (PaaS) offering that allows SAP partners, SAP customers and SAP development itself to build, deploy and operate applications in an open and standards-based Cloud environment. Building these applications is made easy by our offering of a number of shared application services and in particular the power of SAP HANA in a service-based manner. The SAP HANA Cloud Platform is hence tailored towards the huge SAP developer community: It provides both Java and Java VM-based language environments like Java itself, (j)Ruby, Scala, Python, Clojure or Groovy as well as HANA native development capabilities like e.g. SQLScript or River Definition Language.” – Björn Goerke [Ref]

The corresponding marchitecture illustration of the SAP HANA Cloud Platform looks as follows:

SAP_HANA_Cloud_Platform.jpg

Openness

For software engineers this is great news, because the platform provides a lot of capabilities typically required in software development without enforcing a pre-defined programming model, but rather it’s all about choice. Aiaz summarized it as such:

In other words, the vision of NEO is stronger than ever. It only spells NIO now (Native, Integrated and Open).

I believe that this is a powerful combination and a platform that provides developers with lots of capabilities to develop great applications. Which programming model to use is up to you! Platforms are all about adoption, so it sounds like the best only way forward to not restrict it to one programming model, but instead let developers use their programming model/language of choice!

Personally I see that XS may be the best choice for data-centric applications such as analytical dashboards, as XS provides native access to SAP HANA and it’s simple to expose endpoints to be used by the UI. RDL will come in handy as a Rapid Application Development tool for smaller use-cases focusing on very specific tailor-fitted scenarios and such. And thanks to the flexibility of the JVM-based runtime capabilities through NEO you can develop more complex business applications in Java (or any other JVM-based language).

Scale

Cloud is all about scaling. What surprises me to hear though is that prominent voices wonder about SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud’s capability to scale?!?

As announced during the keynotes at SAPPHIRENOW the whole thing (internally named “petabyte farm” [Ref])  has been brought to life considering the scale it would require to run ALL SAP Business Suite systems of our existing customer base. One of the guiding design principels of SAP HANA has always been the ability to scale and it has been build with parallelism from the ground up. Last year we already had a 100TB system [Ref] and we sure didn’t stop there.

However, that debate is missing the point I think. Shouldn’t the question rather be whether or not HEC can scale as required/driven by demand? Should SAP ever be confronted with the challenge of not being able to cope with the demand then the adoption would probably be exceeding SAP’s wildest imaginations! If that’s the primary concern, then we are up for a ride!

Faster innovation cycles

As I already stated, companies are in need to adopt to the demands of a constantly evolving global market. They need the ability to quickly adjust in order to stay competitive. Taking the burden of operating their core systems off their shoulders and providing them ways to develop and roll-out new innovative products is how SAP tries to support them in achieving this. The former is addressed by the SaaS aspects of HEC, the later by the integrated PaaS offering (SAP HANA Cloud Platform). I recently wrote a longer post on the value proposition of PaaS titled The Cloud Platform Play, hence instead of repeating it all here I rather like to encourage the interested reader to check it out. 

Conclusion

I’m an SAP employee and hence the critics will probably say that I drank too much of the “kool aid“. This is why I collected all the related information I deemed important so that you can come to your own connclusions. I believe the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud and the integrated SAP HANA Cloud Platform are the foundation of the “new SAP” and the result of our intellectual renewal that Vishal is driving within SAP.

It’s surely in its infancy and there are valid questions yet to be addressed, but isn’t that underlining SAP’s ambition to establish open communication? With this post I tried to provide a solid set of reading material for people to familiarize with the topic and personally I’ll be closely following the discussions. Matter of fact, I see it as the primary part of my role as Cloud Platform Evangelist to engage with the community and exchange thoughts and ideas. I may not have all the answers myself, but I’m willing to surface them so let us know what you think!

SAP’s Point of View

Outside Voices

Related

New NetWeaver Information at SAP.com

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