Takeaways from SAP TechEd and SAPPHIRENOW Madrid 2012

I am watching the Formula 1 Texas grand-prix on the background while writing this blog. I am sure Kimi knows what to do, but I guess it won’t be enough this time. However, I am now aware of certain details of the F1 racing even the commentators don’t probably know about. As it happened, I visited the McLaren Mercedes F1 team exhibition area at the TechEd and learned that their cars have +100 sensors that are gathering race data multiple times in a second during the race. This raw data is sent to UK and imported to – you wouldn’t have guessed 😉 – SAP HANA in order to be analyzed in real time.

For those who are newbies with the term HANA: it is SAP’s database product that stores all the data in-memory instead of saving it to hard-disk in order to speed up the execution times radically. HANA was such a hot topic at this year’s conference that it made people count how many times it was mentioned in presentations. There are of course other software vendors that are utilizing in-memory technology, and it is a logical step forward, but SAP seems to be current front-runner in this business.

There were three keynote presentations, and I found the last of them, presented by Vishal Sikka (board member and head of technology and innovation at SAP) the most intriguing, because it included some topics that were novelties in SAP perspective and aligned SAP’s current direction well. But before commenting the keynote contents further, a brief jump to the SAP Technology Strategy & Road Map lecture TEC100: the traditional ERP is in the heart of the core, Systems of Record. These systems of record are not to be disrupted, because SAP systems manage e.g. +80% of global beer production, so you do not want to mess with that! This is why SAP’s strategy is to expand from systems of record to Systems of Engagement (a Gartner term). In other words, you innovate with Analytics, Mobile, Cloud and Database by non-disruptively integrating with Applications in the core. These 5 items make up the current market categories of SAP. This did ring a very familiar bell since this is along the lines of Bilot’s strategy. Even though, we even have some fresh SAP ERP component consultant certifications and we have vast knowledge about the ERP, we are usually not working only within that domain, but non-disruptively integrating with it in order to provide better usability, business processes and information for our customers.

And, back to the keynote. HANA was again the main topic, not so-much for mainly showing off product-specs, but for aligning its purpose and value. Vishal said HANA represents the “Logical Platform” with which “we have the power to get rid of batch”, the possibility to manage business without the traditional bottlenecks of the IT industry. Apparently one of SAP’s founders, Hasso Plattner, had this in mind already in 1992 with SAP R/3, but the technology was not yet mature enough. I have to remind that we still need to wait some time for this to be fully available as HANA’s last phase in the current roadmap includes the ability to use it as the database for SAP Business Suite/ERP applications. That will be the real game-breaker in this business; I guarantee you.

As most of the speakers in TechEd, I will also try to quit talking about HANA in this blog and will cover a few other interesting issues within Vishal’s keynote. First, design and user experience were highlighted intensively. Those who only remember the “Enjoy” themes and transactions of the old-timer R/3 can have a hard time joining SAP and design, but the latest years have shown that SAP really has the ability to execute, so I am looking forward to this. Second, the systems of engagement showed up again as Vishal noted that business will be conducted at the end-points, at the point of engagement, at the frontline because the “end-users are empowered”. Third, and I am still sort of amazed by this after using the SE38 editor all those years, SAP will “radically improve the experience of software developers”. Putting all these three together means that SAP is not only going to take care of its customers, but its partners and developers also, at the end-points, at the frontline.

Participating at TechEd is always a privilege and great fun, but it’s not just the lectures, the sessions and overall conference buzz, but the good times outside of the venue as well. We once again shared a few drinks, lots of laughs and insights in downtown Madrid with good friends and colleagues, within the Extended Bilot Crew.

Adios Madrid,


P.S. It seems that McLaren’s analysis strategy paid off!

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Janne Vihervuori