Solving “Unsolvable” Problems

Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe delivered the second keynote at SAPPHIRE NOW. (Photo: SAP)

Tracking the progress of technology over SAP’s 40-year history is a humbling retrospective. The year of the company’s founding, 1972, was also the last year the Apollo program sent a human to the moon. The guidance system in that spacecraft consisted of a computer with 32 kilobytes of main memory, approximately half of what one would find in today’s musical birthday cards.

SAP was in business several years before it could acquire its first computer. The unit was a colossal Siemens mainframe, with two megabytes of main memory, the average size of an e-mail attachment today.

“Who would have imagined in 1972,” Jim Hagemann Snabe asked, “that 40 years later you would be able to hold in a phone a multi-core computer with more than 64 gigabytes of main memory, a GPS navigation system, a high definition camera, a video conferencing system, and an electronic wallet in one device that fits in your pocket …without changing the size of your pocket.”

The next 40 years will host even more extreme developments, Hagemann Snabe showed, with the world’s population going from seven to nine billion people by 2052. In China, an estimated 250 million people will move from rural areas into cities. Urban areas will increase by one million square kilometers, an area roughly the size of France, Germany, and Spain combined. The 60-plus population will triple, and for the first time in history outnumber children.

These changes will have massive ramifications for business and society and present great challenges. “Imagine the impact this has on healthcare, on housing, on labor, on pensions, on taxation,” Hagemann Snabe said. There’s also the strain on the earth’s natural resources to consider.

But the future is not set in stone, Hagemann Snabe argued, and SAP believes it can help customers and society to rise to the challenges to come. Technology will continue to progress, providing the base for innovation that plays a major role in creating a more sustainable future. “The choices we make today have a significant impact on the tomorrow we create,” Hagemann Snabe said.

Integrating the cloud, mobile, and in-memory technology is the next step. (Photo: SAP)

Mainframes to client-server to “intelligent business Web”

As the mainframe gave way to client-server architecture, now client server is giving way to a new paradigm: what Hagemann Snabe called “the intelligent business Web.” This latest shift is enabled by three fundamental technological advancements: mobile, cloud computing, and in-memory technology.

Mobile technology empowers people regardless of location or social status and empowers users on the front lines of business to make decisions when and where it matters. Hagemann Snabe predicted that in five years, everything will be on mobile.

Another technological breakthrough is cloud computing. Driven by the mobile consumer who uses its services, “the cloud” will soon be so commonplace that no one will even refer to it as such. “It’s just there. It’s simply the way we consume software,” Hagemann Snabe said. He predicted that in five years, everything will be in the cloud, either public or private. 

In-memory, Hagemann Snabe described, is the most revolutionary of the three advancements.

It not only enables applications to run more quickly, but prompts completely new applications while simplifying system landscapes. Rounding off his predictions, Hagemann Snabe asserted that everything will be in main memory in the next five years.

Each of these technologies is a significant step forward, but the real power comes when customers combine them. Used in a convergent implementation, they create opportunities for businesses to significantly increase productivity and use data more intelligently in decision making.

Thus equipped, companies are ready for the intelligent business Web, a next-generation Internet designed for the enterprise on which companies can seamlessly integrate their processes with those of other companies and collaborate with them in real time. They can offer their services and products on this business Web and at the same time consume them – all with a single click.

“We have seen this happen in the consumer space,” Hagemann Snabe said. And SAP is defining the qualities of this business Web with advancements in in-memory, cloud, and mobile. The resultant network can turn the supply chain upside down, Hagemann Snabe said, and enable companies to provide individualized products and services to their customers (see coverage of customer panel with co-CEO Bill McDermott for examples of how customers are already focusing on personalization).

Ron Dennis, executive chairmen of McLaren Automotive and McLaren Group, talks to the SAPPHIRE audience. (Photo: SAP)

“Blown away by SAP HANA”

Ron Dennis, executive chairman of McLaren Automotive and McLaren Group, represented one such company embracing in-memory technology. Dennis joined Hagemann Snabe on stage for a dialogue on what McLaren is about and the companies’ mutual passion for cutting-edge technologies.

Dennis divulged that McLaren had recently been “seduced” by SAP HANA. His company will integrate its growing portfolio of businesses using solutions from SAP as its technology backbone. McLaren selected SAP for enterprise applications that improve efficiency across all lines of business, combined with an innovative vision that promises to amplify that value via mobile devices, the cloud, and in-memory technology. “We are blown away by HANA,” Dennis said “It will make us extremely competitive.”

“Come with your biggest problems”

Hagemann Snabe left SAPPHIRE attendees with three recommendations: Customers need to “consolidate the core,” including applications and analytics, so they can co-innovate on the edges. SAP Business Suite, together with enhancement packages, as well as focused attention on a new user experience, give customers a peerless, homogeneous core.

”Enable your business for the business Web.” Customers need two technologies in play to do this: mobile, with a platform approach to deal with ever-evolving mobile devices and applications; and cloud, the technology that (among others) lets users connect via mobile. SAP is the fastest growing cloud business in the market after its acquisition of SuccessFactors and now offers a host of solutions in the cloud for companies of various sizes and industries.

“Add intelligence.” Customers need to enable their business to start predicting the future and not just reporting the past. Hagemann Snabe explained that the best way for customers to experience the reality of SAP HANA is to put it under their BW system – something that can be achieved in less than eight days. Once customers witness the speed of SAP HANA, Hagemann Snabe said, “you will start to think about the problems that you could solve in the future that you can’t solve today.”

Hagemann Snabe concluded his keynote with an invitation and a challenge: “Give us the most complicated problem in your business that could not be solved due to lack of speed or volume of data and let’s see what we can do. You’ll be amazed at the type of problems we can solve.”