“The times, they are a’ changing…” This is not 1964 (when this song was written) or 1972 (when SAP was created). In 2013, with the internet-age response time, traditional business has turned on its head. No one understands this better than Dr. Vishal Sikka, Member of the Executive Board, Products & Innovation, of SAP AG – the man primarily responsible for the company’s efforts to intellectually renew itself in the second decade of the twenty-first century. As soon as he stood up to deliver his keynote on the first day at SAP TechEd Bangalore, there was a sense of expectancy fuelled by his keynotes at the two SAP TechEds earlier in the year, which promised several important announcements at the last SAP mega-event of 2013.
Occasionally sipping from a bottle of mineral water, Sikka did not disappoint the more than 6,600 participants from more than 500 companies. His two-hour talk turned out to be a bonanza for developers whom the company is trying to attract to its new platform. As in the last couple of years, SAP HANA was again the center of discussion. However, the focus this year was very different: in 2011 SAP HANA was the new fast-and furious kid in the block. 2012 witnessed great interest in the revolutionary in-memory offering piqued by use-cases demonstrating the capabilities of the new database system. 2013 was all about creating applications on SAP HANA to re-shape the software landscape and its transformative powers to change businesses now with actual industry-specific interventions. It was about empowering end-users. It was about connecting the raw power of machines to the questions that we would like answers to. Sikka quoted the example of using SAP HANA to model epidemic spread. This has been a long-standing problem with clear policy implications, which requires handling huge amounts of data and analyzing it in real-time. Now with SAP HANA, the way forward is clear.
Rethinking end-user experience
The power of SAP HANA must lie not in doing things better, but in performing tasks that have never been dreamed of before. This requires a re-imagining of the user experience – not just prettier screens, but a fundamental shift. Thus, SAP Fiori was created as a paradigm-shifting collection of apps that represents the new SAP user experience, providing enhanced user productivity and personalization. This can be used to create better UX on top of the existing ERP, CRM, procurement, HR, and other business applications that have formed the core of SAP business. This enables IT to be free and timeless. This is also the first-time in two decades that SAP has an integrated user-experience strategy, as all the companies applications are going to converge on SAP Fiori.
Next page: The power of SAP HANA and SAP River
More and more customers are attempting to move their existing applications to SAP HANA to use its power. As Michael Reh, executive vice president of SAP Business Information Technology, Products & Innovation, was called upon by Vishal Sikka to talk about SAP HANA as a platform, a scrolling list of companies in India implementing SAP HANA was displayed. This, while demonstrating the lure of the database platform, also pointed to the responsibility the company has to support its flagship offering. It also requires a dedicated community of developers to build applications on top of SAP HANA. To this end, SAP has been collaborating with universities and has trained more than 176,000 students. Also, SAP has launched a new programming language – the river – as a part of the standard service pack 7 (SP7) for SAP HANA generally available release.
SAP River intends to provide a real-time development environment for rapidly building complete native applications powered by SAP HANA. It increases developer productivity through a simpler development process, easily maintainable source code, and a clear separation of intent – and yet an optimized native execution on SAP HANA. Simply put, developers can think about the questions they want answered and not how an application runs. The developers don’t even have to decide whether a part of an application runs inside the SAP HANA database or inside extended SAP application services. This results in massive simplification with reduction in code and quicker on-boarding for developers with no prior SAP HANA experience. It is an easy way for developers to start building applications on SAP HANA right now.
Open-source toolkit for HTML5: more developers on SAP HANA
To entice more developers to develop on the SAP HANA platform and to do it without legal hassles, Sikka announced at SAP TechEd that SAP UI5, the new UI development toolkit for HTML5 has now become open-source. This will help more developers create applications and as Bernd Leukert, Member of the Global Managing Board of SAP AG and Head of Application Innovation, pointed out, promote the view of SAP HANA as a platform and not merely as a database.
Next page: SAP HANA is the new culture
Through the various product announcements, demos, and customer and partner experiences, one fact became clear: SAP HANA is not only a new fast database. It is a fundamentally revolutionary platform that is solving real problems in real time non-disruptively. It also has the potential to answer questions that no one dared to ask earlier. In the brave new open world that Sikka outlined in his keynote, developers can quickly harness the power of HANA to create unprecedented value for end users. The twenty-first century is going to be the age of platforms that allows for the proliferation of applications and SAP signaled its intent loud and clear at SAP TechEd – do new things in a new way, but non-disruptively.
The keynote was undoubtedly the highlight of SAP TechEd Bangalore, but the event was also a learning bonanza for the participants. With more than 850 hours of training, the customers and developers could understand various technologies in detail and try out the cool new features in the demo-pods over the three days.
DemoJam: toll software uses cloud-based application
As the evening rolled on at the first day of SAP TechEd Bangalore, the atmosphere turned electric with anticipation for the DemoJam – the ultimate developer showdown. As developers trooped on stage for their six minutes of glory, the audience was wowed with applications ranging from a new dimensional navigation system for data visualization to a system for predicting the demand-supply gap for specific rail routes at specific times. Each of the demos were cheered on enthusiastically by the audience, though the largest applause was reserved for the ultimate winners Krishna Kumar, SAP, and Prashant Nirmale, EXA AG India Pvt. Ltd, who created SAP HANA-based M-Tolling. The duo developed an NFC-based device that removes human effort and reduces TCO in the toll software and its billing and settlement process. They deployed a cloud-based application that caters to more than one infrastructure company.
The evening of the first day at SAP TechEd was lit up by the presence of Saurav Ganguly, the former captain of the Indian cricket team, who delivered the guest keynote. Highlighting the importance of team-work, Ganguly also outlined the qualities required of a leader. “A leader has to provide honest and timely feedback, even when it is difficult,” he said. He also exhorted everyone to work so that the future generations can draw inspiration from them. Saurav’s inspiring talk was followed by a cultural performance by the Hindi cinema thespian Akriti Kakkar.
SAP TechEd Bangalore: the largest ever
SAP TechEd Bangalore was the largest SAP TechEd event ever. With unprecedented amounts of knowledge transfer, customer participation, a partner keynote by Accenture, product announcements, and demos, it was three action-packed days for the participants. The SAP future roadmap and the SAP cultural renewal were articulated very strongly throughout the event. The developers had the clear understanding that SAP HANA is the platform for the future and that it’s easy and intuitive to develop applications on it. Taken together, December 11-13 were three days of learning, fun, and excitement.