SAP TechEd Afterthoughts

It’s been a couple of weeks since our Bilot crew of 10 attended SAP TechEd 2013 Amsterdam. The clear difference in comparison to recent TechEd(s) was that the promises had turned by and large into concrete content and usable solutions as demostrated in the hands-on sessions. Even the keynote was a bit – no offense SAP – customary and did not involve too much of SAP’s top brass; Vishal Sikka sent his quick greetings via video. However, this “dullness” is by no means a bad thing, since HANA surely got its fair share of attention, and more, last year, so this means that the innovations have matured enough and do not require the grand show anymore.

Speaking of keynotes, top brass, a bit of hype and innovations, and because good old NetWeaver seems to be gradually fading away, I have to go down the memory lane 10 years back to TechEd 2003 Basel. I was among the fortunate ones in the audience to witness SAP’s Shai Agassi introduce a new concept, NetWeaver, in a two hour non-stop keynote fireworks that I consider the best presentation I have ever seen in within the IT industry, all due respect to a certain fruit company. I have always wondered what kind of a fuss this guy could have made with HANA… Anyway, now that NetWeaver seems to nearing the end of its lifecycle – the new marketing name is HANA – I have to say that the actual impact of NetWeaver was not that significant in the early years of its history. It was mostly a new way of arranging the integrated stack of SAP technology products, and adding in the web server dimension of course, but platform wise nothing really changed compared to the world of “R/3”.

Now, let’s get back to TechEd Amsterdam 2013. Regardless of hype or no-hype within the keynote, HANA was literally all around us as that one sleazy song goes. But the main thing is that we are dealing with a mature enough of a product that can deliver. The paradigm shift difference compared to the good old NetWeaver is that HANA is actually a platform capable of standalone functionality without utilizing the “old” SAP ecosystem. While NetWeaver – as a platform – in practice needed the SAP Business Suite to provide value, HANA you can just use, run it, as such and as a platform. NetWeaver was a standalone technology platform in theory, but in practice it was not. Please note that I am writing in the past tense in purpose for comparing the early life-cycle of both NetWeaver and HANA. NetWeaver will surely stay around for ages at various customers.

My personal TechEd session and lecture experience was a bit different than before. As TechEd goers know, one can reserve two hands-on sessions and queue for a stand-in place for other sessions in case there is room. I have usually done maybe three sessions, but this time I thought that I have listened enough of TechEd lectures, and I can read the slides afterwards, so I went all-in for the sessions: I thoroughly enjoyed all 6 of them this time, as that is where the real value of the TechEd lies.

My 6 sessions closed the loop around HANA, Cloud, Integration, Mobility, etc. The first session was selected as a baseline for all of the following sessions: since HANA was used in multiple ways throughout most of the sessions, one should first try to get some data into it, so I found myself preparing for HANA data loading scenarios with SAP Data Services 4.2 right after walking away from the keynote. This was followed by Cloud Integrating SuccessFactors, Mobilizing HANA with or without the SAP Mobile Platform, running Predictive Analysis, running Operational Process Intelligence and running to the Amsterdam Stadium to catch the Ajax-Celtic footy game.

If you read this blog carefully, you’d notice that I did not mention Big Data once. I saved it for last, and that was the topic of one of the few lectures I attended. It was about Real-Time Data Platform Integration with Hadoop, presented by Richard Soundy. This guy should have his own talk show, but I will leave you with just one remark he provided: “Large data is not Big Data”.

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Janne Vihervuori