Take a stroll through the scenic project “Gardener” and the “develop once, run anywhere” philosophy at the heart of SAP Cloud Platform.

Catching up with members of the project “Gardener” team for an informal coffee is to meet them in their element. Coffee and tech-talk flow in abundance and the energy with which the team talks about the topic is as infectious as it is confusing for non-techies.

But don’t be fooled by the informal banter; project “Gardener” is serious business, and it has fundamentally changed the cloud technology that underpins SAP’s vision for the Intelligent Enterprise.

The smarts behind project “Gardener” can be found in the nebulous world of open source technologies and in particular Kubernetes, an open-source platform run by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).

In early 2017, a team of four SAP Cloud Platform experts got together with the mission to tackle issues that SAP was having in the machine rooms of the cloud platform. They headed off to KubeCon and CloudNativeCon — think ComicCon for techies — for inspiration, after which, in the words of the team: “We smelled gold!” in Kubernetes.

The team was convinced that Kubernetes would solve the original issue, but the ‘eureka’ moment was realizing that there was so much more to the technology. By fully implementing Kubernetes — essentially making this open-source technology SAP’s de-facto cloud integration layer — SAP would not waste time reinventing what Kubernetes already provides.

It would eliminate the need for years of catch-up development time, eliminate third-party provisioning tools, and ultimately reduce integration complexity and costs.

After selling the idea to management (a story of its own), the quickly-growing team launched “Gardener” as an open-source SAP project on GitHub, a web-based hosting service for open source software. Developing “in the open” is not something SAP often does, but the team was convinced.

It was a good call: To date the project has amassed more than 700 GitHub stars, has been prominently listed on the CNCFs homepage as “one of the most influencing […] frameworks,” and inspired fan-art. All of this in connection with SAP software.

The Kubernetes-as-a-Service/project “Gardener” approach that the team came up with enables SAP to leapfrog the industry trend toward hyperscale cloud providers, and empower private clouds for Mode 2 software development, referring to software platforms that support customers’ transitions into new and disruptive business applications. And that’s huge! Competitors are spending billions to acquire what SAP has with project “Gardener.”

Now customers can do business with SAP no matter what they’ve bought in the past and what their current IT landscape looks like. Using project “Gardener” and open source, customers can adapt and send applications/compute to where the data resides, or data gravity.

At the end of the day, this is a story about a team so well-versed in their expertise that they saw beyond the original task. The team understood the pain points of SAP Customers, changed the technical integration layer at the heart of SAP software, and had the tenacity to sell the idea both internally and then to the broader open-source community. All while having a bit of fun.

The Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award is the highest employee recognition at SAP, awarded annually by the CEO to an individual or a team.

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