Hasso Plattner Unveils New SAP HANA Cloud Services, Talks Qualtrics Acquisition at SAPPHIRE NOW


When it comes to SAPPHIRE NOW keynotes, most attendees eagerly anticipate the yin and yang of SAP CEO Bill McDermott’s inspirational, big-picture first-day talk and SAP Supervisory Board Chairman and Co-Founder Hasso Plattner’s technical deep-dive second-day discussion.

Playing to the crowd, this year Plattner acknowledged the style differences as he took the stage, proclaiming “This is the opposite of what you experienced yesterday… I didn’t get the budget. So we do it old-style, a few PowerPoints… much more about ‘IT.’ This is the low-cost keynote.”

While the keynote may have been low-cost, the content was decidedly high-tech, as Plattner talked about a topic close to his heart: SAP HANA. Proclaiming it the “foundation of the Intelligent Enterprise,” he proudly noted its success: 50,000 customer licenses, 72 terabytes on the largest customer scale-out, 100 million transactions processed daily for a single customer, and 48 terabytes for the largest customer on single node.

As successful as SAP HANA has become, Plattner was excited to unveil the next stage of its growth: the newly announced SAP HANA Cloud Services. “SAP HANA is too good a database just to lock it inside SAP enterprise applications,” he said, noting the explosive growth in data from many sources, in particular customer relationship management (CRM).

Fast, Flexible, Simple

Gerrit Kazmaier, senior vice president of SAP HANA and Analytics, joined Plattner on stage to discuss how SAP HANA Cloud Services aims to bring the power and performance of the SAP HANA database to the cloud, where it acts as a single gateway to data of any size to address the challenges of distributed data landscapes. The combination of the in-memory technology of SAP HANA with data virtualization results in simplicity for data consumers and flexibility for data management.

As Kazmaier noted in his article, “With SAP HANA at the core, the new solution will be built on the fastest in-memory computing engine. By making this engine elastic, it will be possible to scale out indefinitely, enabling customers to add more resources as they require — and reduce them when they don’t need them anymore. Building on technologies such as SAP IQ, SAP HANA Cloud Services also will also offer an SQL data lake as a storage layer at minimum cost.”

One of the big benefits of this new offering is that it will make the power of SAP HANA readily available to organizations of any size. “There is somehow this conception that SAP HANA is only for large enterprises and complex scenarios,” said Kazmaier. “[SAP] HANA is for everyone! With SAP HANA Cloud Services, by making it low TCO, delivered as a service, virtually everyone can get started immediately with their SAP HANA journey.”

SAP HANA for Everyone with SAP Data Warehouse Cloud

Continuing the “SAP HANA for everyone” theme, Platter and Kazmaier also unveiled SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, the first solution planned to be built with SAP HANA Cloud Services.

“[This] is the newest and coolest service in data management in my opinion,” said Kazmaier. “We had one key principle in mind: design it for simplicity [so that] it goes beyond IT professionals working in a data warehouse to anyone in a business who wants to work with data.”

SAP Data Warehouse Cloud unites heterogeneous data in one solution, maintaining the security, trust, and semantic richness of a company’s data. Users can quickly access their entire data landscape and translate it into value in line-of-business-specific spaces, and all with a pay-as-you-go flexible pricing model based on consumption. Interested SAP customers can apply to participate in the beta program.

Cloud Development, On-Premise Benefits

Although the focus today was on cloud offerings, Plattner and Kazmaier were quick to address concerns of on-premise SAP HANA customers, noting they will also benefit from development efforts on the cloud platform and the ability to flexibly add capacity as needed.

“Because we move in the cloud much faster than anywhere else, future development of SAP is taking place in the cloud first,” said Plattner. “What we learn in the cloud we will bring back to on prem — we don’t forget that our business is still to a large extent on prem.”

X- and O-Data Come Together

Fast and innovative data access is important, but without great data it’s ultimately useless. SAP’s recent acquisition of experience management (XM) software pioneer Qualtrics opens the door to integrated access to both operational data (O-data) and experience data (X-data).

“Experience is now the organizing principle of the global economy,” said McDermott in his day-one keynote at SAPPHIRE NOW. “Every CEO I meet is trying to solve the experience gap… the difference between what people expect and what they actually receive. […] SAP was already the richest source of operational O-data, but we didn’t have experience X-data. SAP must be the platform that combines X-data and O-data. X- plus O- [data] gives you the ability to deliver true personalization at mass scale so you can bridge the experience gap.”

Joking that he was upset that “SAP didn’t invent” experience management software, Plattner invited Qualtrics Co-Founder Jared Smith on stage to discuss the importance of X- and O-data and how Qualtrics and SAP are working together to combine the two types of information in an easily consumable way.

The Right Data Matters

Smith compared making business decisions based on just O-data to flying an airplane with only one instrument: You get some of the info you need, but not the full picture. “We see this all the time,” said Smith. “People focus on the wrong things as they work to compete in the experience economy, because they don’t have the right instrumentation to guide their business.”

“The true promise of X-data,” said Smith, is “integration with all of the systems from SAP that you are using today.” This combination will finally unlock a true “end-to-end” view of a business, including how customers experience products, providing valuable insight to drive near- and long-term planning. “Setting the right priorities often matters more than the execution,” he said. “If you execute on the wrong things, you don’t get to the right place.”

Plattner and Smith also addressed what Smith called the “million-dollar question in the room”: how SAP plans to integrate Qualtrics into its already robust SAP solution portfolio. “We don’t want to disturb the operational system, and we don’t want to disturb the experience center – the Qualtrics center,” said Plattner. Rather, the data from the two systems can be integrated by creating “spaces” in SAP HANA Cloud Services, allowing direct access to the information without transferring the data out of the source system.

SAP’s X-Data Promise

Plattner reminisced back to the early years of SAP, when he and the other co-founders essentially gathered X-data from customers by sitting with them for months to learn and solve their business software pain points. Showing that he understands the value of X-data to continue to improve SAP’s business, he encouraged customers to provide feedback on the company’s products to guide future updates.

“I promise – I don’t know how long it will take – we’ll do everything possible to get the feedback in,” he said. “We will improve the system on a detail level [and] will do everything we can to be a poster child and to be a role model for our customers on how you can change with X- and O-data.”