Gone are the days every track title at SAP TechEd had HANA in it. The 2017 edition instead was full of IT industry buzz words, nicely structured around three themes though: Data, Platform, and Experience.
For successful Digital Transformation, SAP said, you need to be in control of data as the fuel your enterprise runs on, you need a platform that caters for scalable innovations, and you must provide a user experience that is delightful. There are a few more things as to my humble opinion, but from a tools perspective this sounds not too far off the mark.
Data, Platform, and Experience translates into the SAP Data Hub, launched September ’17, the SAP Cloud Platform (SCP) and eh… I guess a couple of things when it comes to user experience. SAP wouldn’t be SAP if the TechEd key-note wasn’t about business impact, this time amongst others by showcasing machine learning capabilities in an agricultural setting.
SAP Data Hub
Gone are the days SAP only offered software products for transactional processing, along with the related analytical tools. The data landscape enterprises are confronted with today stretches across structured and unstructured data, on-premise just as well as in the cloud. Data can be streaming or geographical; in SAP databases or outside. So for advanced analytical purposes, various types of data needs to be extracted or ingested from operational systems and data sources anywhere, be transformed, merged, and integrated.
To orchestrate all this, VFlow’s are being used in SAP Data Hub to build data pipelines and Hadoop and/or SAP Vora are used for the processing of Big Data. The SAP Data Hub v1.0 is available on-premise only for now and pricing is based on the number of managed systems and the number of computing nodes where the distributed processing engine is deployed. Pricing is available in volume tiers.
SAP Cloud Platform
Gone as well are the days SAP hardly played a role in cloud computing. The SAP Cloud Platform (SCP), launched in 2012, is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) product that brings the on-premise world and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) world together. Think S/4HANA OP and SuccesFactors or Hybris.
A key ingredient is the ‘secure tunnel’ between SCP and on-premise backends, as we can learn from the architecture blueprints on developers.sap.com. Another security tool allows you to monitor where your data is stored and who accessed it from where.
The SCP can very well be thought of as a development platform. A very extensive one though, as it offers platform services that enable here-to-stay hypes like Internet of Things (Leonardo), Blockchain, and Machine Learning. Persistency services are many as well including MongoDB and Redis. Programming languages supported include Java, Python, and more. Architects thus will need to review their principles, standards, and guidelines and reinforce them for SCP.
Next to development capacities the SCP also presents you with an ever evolving range of pre-packaged apps for e.g. customer service or tax determination and computation for over a hundred countries.
Architects and managers are faced with quite a decision tree when it comes to the cloud stack: which data center location and public cloud provider (AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud), which PaaS foundation (Neo, Cloud Foundry, or kubernetes), then ‘accounts’-related decisions are needed and choices need to be made related to running and operating applications.
Cloud Foundry seems a safe bet. This container-based architecture runs apps in any programming language over a variety of cloud service providers, but mind that not all tools for installation and administration are included in the open source variant. For that, you’d need to look into the Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF) product. On Neo, a tool like autoscaler is not available. Kubernetes is still work in progress for SAP.
Gone are the annoying overly complex SAP ABAP screens. Those are more and more replaced by Fiori-apps, based on HTML5/UI5 technology. Important for architects and managers is to know that there’s one long-term maintenance UI5 version every year, the next one is 1.52. Check openui5.hana.ondemand.com.
Delightful user experience does not stop with good looking and easy to navigate screens. What if you wouldn’t have to navigate screens at all and have a digital assistant instead? Well, that’s where the SAP CoPilot comes into play. This first version is now available in SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1705. The further CoPilot road map is contained in the SAP Fiori Road Map.
Just hope all the lovely young ladies you can ask your questions to at TechEd won’t be replaced by chat boys in future.
Still here are the days the SAP key-note is about business value. One case demonstrated how the SAP Data Hub was used in a Retail setting for combining cash register line times per individual customer – Point-of-Sale (POS) data – with streaming data about how customers make their way through the store, which was visualized in a continuously refreshing heat map. This helps Retailers for instance to optimize their shop floor plans or the location of promotions.
Another intriguing case was about how Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) aka drones scanned palm tree plantations and identified millions of them which were than classified and characterized by a machine learning application; “Is it really a tree that I see”. Based on digital twin models for each tree, growers have the means to build models for how each tree should be fertilized, irrigated, and harvested. Similarly, disease risks, nutrient deficiencies, and yield can be modeled.
And after all that great stuff we saw an actual command line – back to MS DOS from the 80’s…
MENDEL KOERTS is the author of Jeff’s Journey To A Digital Business. He has specialized in business-impact-driven Enterprise Architecture with a specific focus on Enterprise Applications and Digital Transformation. Mendel joined Ernst & Young Consulting in 1996 after graduating from both Business Administration and Computing Science. He founded ENSEAD Advisory in 2011.