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SAP going full steam ahead on Hana, the cloud and 'simple' software

Chris Kanaracus | June 5, 2014
SAP makes many pledges to customers, but it has much work remaining to actually deliver on them.

A couple of things became clear during SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner's keynote at the Sapphire conference Wednesday: SAP remains fully committed to the Hana in-memory computing platform, as well as its push into SaaS (software as a service).

Neither of those conclusions came as a great surprise, but the event gave Plattner an occasion to reassert SAP's direction at its biggest annual conference, shortly after a management shakeup and the anointment of sole CEO Bill McDermott.

Plattner also laid out what sort of experience SAP customers can expect from their software in the future. In short, SAP will deliver applications based on a simplified architecture, but which give customers much more flexibility than before, according to Plattner.

Plattner described how SAP had radically slimmed down the data model for its Simple Finance application, announced this week at Sapphire. Over time, the same treatment will be given to other modules in the Business Suite on Hana, a version of SAP's flagship ERP (enterprise resource planning) suite that uses Hana as an underlying data store.

Older application architectures don't deal well with matters such as structural changes in a company, Plattner said. The future will provide applications with dynamic, on-the-fly reporting as well as analysis and simulation of such changes, he added.

The human brain already does just that, Plattner said. He gave the example of a person firing an arrow at a moving bird, with their brain automatically generating a model that helps them predict where to point the bow based on the bird's speed in order to hit it.

Simple Finance runs on the Hana Enterprise Cloud hosting service. It and the upcoming Simple modules represent the "natural evolution" of the Business Suite on Hana, Plattner said.

While SAP will continue supporting the use of other databases for the Suite and will not recode any applications so they are solely dependent on Hana, "the breakthrough in terms of technology and the value will only be possible on Hana," Plattner said. Some 1,000 SAP customers have adopted Suite on Hana so far. It became generally available about a year ago.

Plattner's keynote also provided an opportunity to showcase Bernd Leukert, who is now heading up all product development following the recent departure of Vishal Sikka, an executive who oversaw the launch of Hana.

SAP customers are dealing with tangled IT landscapes with multiple application instances and scattered data, Leukert said.

I promise you we will change this," Leukert said. "Hana is the enabler for that simplification.

Expect compressed, but much improved SAP environments, according to Leukert. Its like when carbon becomes a diamond.

The large bearing and steel manufacturer Timken is one company making significant investments in SAP cloud software. It's moved a series of human resources functions to SAP SuccessFactors.


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