SAP execs predict more innovation as economic outlook improves in 2014

SAP executives are looking to 2014 as a year to establish the supplier’s innovation agenda of in-memory database technology, cloud and mobile

SAP executives in the UK and US are looking to 2014 as a year to establish the German supplier’s sogenannte innovation agenda of in-memory database technology, cloud and mobile as the economy improves.

Christian Rodatus, senior vice-president and general manager, analytics, at SAP, says the supplier is going through a transformation that its customers are only now starting to recognise. 

"We’re mainly seen as a business applications company, but that is not so true any more," he says.

Moving towards a multi-tiered architecture

On his account, SAP is evolving as a platform provider in the areas of business analytics, database software, and mobile. Rodatus argues that the era of enterprise data warehousing is passing, with the emergence of two trends.

“First, there is a need for a cost-effective ‘infinite store’, containing unbelievable amounts of all types of data. There is a massive increase in data volumes, new data sources. It sounds like a cliché, but it is true.

“That is moving towards Hadoop, even with government agencies. I have seen the most conservative IT organisations in Europe that have not really adopted anything new for years experimenting with Hadoop,” he says.

The second trend, says Rodatus, is the development of compute power to “crunch a lot of data with sub-second latency". Event streaming is a big trend, with the need for technology that can handle that in real time. "This we call 'immediate store', and this is where Hana plays.

“The latest release of Hana has a ‘smart data access’ [SDA] feature that means you can federate queries through Hana to any other data management platform. So if you are a Business Objects user you can launch a query in Hana and that will tap into any data store, for example a real-time request in Hana, but also a volume request on Hadoop, or Teradata, or Oracle or [IBM] Netezza. 

"We are moving away from a holistic data warehouse concept that is no longer sustainable. A multi-tiered architecture, using cheap storage, is the future. This is where we are going.

“Hadoop and in-memory will squeeze the [data warehousing] incumbents. They won’t go away – it is too much effort to replace them – but workload will move away from them”.

Purchasing patterns changing for the better

Adrian Simpson, chief innovation officer, SAP UK and Ireland, echoes Rodatus’s view that the supplier’s customers are beginning to see a new SAP emerging.

“We talk a lot about our innovation agenda, in terms of Hana, mobile and cloud, but we’re not always heard all that well by our customers because they are busy running their organisations. They are focused on getting the most out of their investments, and getting through tough trading conditions.

We are moving away from a holistic data warehouse concept that is no longer sustainable. A multi-tiered architecture, using cheap storage, is the future. This is where we are going

Christian Rodatus, SAP

“I think we are seeing a lessening of that. We are seeing improvements in the economy. People are putting purchasing back on the agenda and looking at how doing newer things can be of interest to them. We have been through a period of people running at the lowest possible cost. That was changing at the end of 2013. We’ll see how the first quarter goes," says Simpson.

Converse with business and IT leaders

Simpson says SAP’s business dealings are becoming more strategic and C-level in the EU because European businesses are having to differentiate and compete globally by being more innovative. 

“It’s not always just an IT discussion any more,” he says. “Our ambitions can only be realised if we are talking to the business, not just our traditional IT audience.”

SAP’s in-memory database, Hana, is being used for more than analytics, says Simpson. He confirms there are “around 30” Business Suite on Hana customers in the UK. 

“Hana is our fastest growing product. Also Hana ‘enterprise cloud’ continues the momentum. We always made clear it would be a platform for the applications. That ambition does run true for our customers. But UK customers we can talk about are hard to find. It is a relatively conservative market. It’s a cultural thing – we prefer to just get on and do things, and not shout about it,” he says.

In-memory technology and cloud adoption to rise

In 2014, Simpson expects to see increased adoption of in-memory technology as a platform, with industry use cases solving particular industry problems. 

"We’ll also see more cloud adoption. ‘This is part of our landscape, how do we make it real?’ is the question companies will be addressing.”

As for big data, “I don’t like the term”, he says. “Who does? It underpins such use cases as fraud detection, real-time offer management [in retail], predictive maintenance, and so on. I would not call it out as a separate topic.

“[Organisations] do have the data silos issue. Knowing the data is there, but not making the best use of it [is frustrating].” IT professionals are vital to remedying that, he concludes.

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