Technology visionaries declare “real-time” is now for SAP customers

JohannesburgReinforcing the messages to customers delivered by SAP co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe in their keynotes at SAPPHIRE NOW, SAP CTO and Member of Executive Board Vishal Sikka, and SAP co-founder and Supervisory Board Chairman Hasso Plattner told audiences how SAP AG (NYSE: SAP) aims to eliminate the divide between transactional and analytical applications with in-memory technology.

At SAPPHIRE NOW, held simultaneously in Frankfurt, Germany and Orlando, Florida, 17-19 May 2010, the hi-tech visionaries highlighted the next wave of real real-time computing technologies that will enable new applications, dramatically increase the pervasive reach of SAP systems across mobile devices and empower people from the shop-floor to the boardroom.

Reinventing real-time enterprise

“We believe that enterprises are looking to unleash the power of the existing landscapes,” began Sikka, speaking live from Frankfurt and via satellite to Orlando. “And we believe in doing that without breaking continuity, without bringing disruption to your existing systems.”

Sikka spoke of the “IT landscapes of choice” that have kept long-time customers with SAP throughout 30 years of technology and business changes. He underlined that, like cities, these “living landscapes” are in continuous renovation, operation and evolution, but without disruption. He then spoke of SAP’s fundamental areas of innovation: “real” real-time, and reach.

“Every once in a while, a set of technologies converge that change everything; entirely new sorts of innovations and products become possible,” proclaimed Sikka. “We believe that we are upon that moment in time.” After hinting upon the real real-time applications for planning, forecasting and simulation that Plattner would later expand upon, Sikka announced SAP’s plans for a high-performance analytic appliance to enable real-time analytics on live transactional data (in SAP Business Suite and SAP R/3 software) and to “supercharge” the SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse component and SAP BusinessObjects solutions. Sikka emphasised: “Today SAP is reinventing the real-time enterprise.” He then invited 20 customers to sign up to be the first to use the appliance, being built by SAP and partner strategic hardware partners such as HP.

In addition to speeding up existing SAP systems with real-time computing, Sikka spoke of SAP’s aims to extend the reach of these systems by liberating the information within them. Using the analogy of the growth and efficiency of the harbours and airports that enabled manufacturers in China to quickly expand globally, he conveyed the need for companies to have “gates” that enable their systems to reach out and touch the world outside – to evolve with new lines of trade and new forms of connectivity.

Sikka announced a project code-named “Gateway” to create a product that would attach to any existing SAP system so that all types of developers from customers, partner companies and SAP could build and deliver simple applications that liberate the SAP application functionality and content for diverse mobile devices and presentation technologies. “The fantastic middleware that Sybase has around mobility gives us an unbelievable opportunity to unbind – to “unwire” – the existing systems that are sitting in your landscape,” Sikka added.

As a further example of expanding reach, Sikka noted that on-premise systems will be around for a long time. He cited on-demand solution SAP Carbon Impact as one of many examples of simple cloud extensions that customers will be able to add on without sacrificing the continuity and integrity of these systems. He also underlined that SAP NetWeaver remains SAP’s platform to enable business without boundaries, and that it was being extended into cloud and mobile environments and would include real-time computing components.

Sikka closed by underlining that this type of fundamental innovation without disruption, by unbinding customers and adding value to existing systems, is central to the concept of “timeless software” that he has outlined. “We believe that it can be achieved not by a vendor of one, but an ecosystem of the best,” said Sikka. Noting that customers need not compromise to enable the innovations that he had referred to, Sikka concluded: “When we bring innovation without boundaries, we get businesses without boundaries. And that is what we at SAP stand for.”

The “Real Enterprise 2.0” – powered by in-memory computing

While Sikka talked about how the new innovations will improve businesses, SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner talked in great detail from Orlando about the development work that went into these innovations, enabling what he calls “the real ‘enterprise 2.0’”.

Plattner started by talking about how these are being realised by an innovation approach called “Design Thinking” and then launched into an explanation of how the new solutions bring the value of in-memory computing – fundamentally risk-free – to existing customers with ERP and business intelligence (BI)/analytics) systems. Throughout his talk, Plattner reiterated the theme of “thinking backwards to move forward” – ie, bringing new capabilities to currently installed software in customer landscapes as opposed to only offering these for new releases.

As proof of success, he claimed that SAP had set up a parallel in-memory database in 48 hours at one of its larger customers’ sites. “For the average customer, the implementation time will be even quicker: about two hours,” according to Plattner. “Best of all, the implementation will occur without changing any of the customer’s software or losing any data quality. The customer will receive the speed of in-memory computing without any risk to their investments or information base.”

Plattner presented the in-memory end result: that all users, including executives, can directly access SAP software to pull the information they need to take appropriate decisions and actions – answering any question they desire in less than a second. The speed and flexibility of business insight not only arms the CEO, but can also be pushed across the entire organisation to empower front-line business consumers. “This new type of enterprise interaction will change the behaviour of boardroom interactions and place a greater emphasis on executives asking the right questions, not waiting for the right answers,” said Plattner. “As a result, executives no longer use energy and time to speculate or debate about what the question is, and instead get to the problem quickly.”

Plattner concluded with demos of production, sales and accounting scenarios illustrating the potential for real-time decisions and actions. “This will change how we do business,” Plattner said. “This will finally – now after all these years – include the managers and [enable] all levels of managers to work together and interact. And therefore we dare to say that this is enterprise 2.0.”

To view replays of the executive keynote speeches, please visit http://sapphirenow.blogs-sap.com/communications-center/.

Freek Malherbe, Head Pre-sales, Solutions and Industry Solutions, SAP Africa states that by launching the next wave of real real-time in-memory computing, SAP is changing the game in business software and enabling a new generation of “supercharged” transactional, analytical and predictive applications. SAP aims to dramatically expand the reach of SAP systems across mobile devices and empower people from the shop floor to the boardroom. SAP helps customers tap further value from existing IT investments by “thinking backwards to move forward”: bringing new capabilities to currently installed software in customer landscapes as opposed to only offering these for new releases.

Alvin Paules, Chief Technology Architect of SAP Africa, concludes that this is a game-changing move by SAP. Information systems will finally reach the level of maturity that we have all been striving for over the past few decades. Now that the technological barriers are removed SAP customers will no longer be constrained and can move to a true world of real-time “boundary-less” information ie, seamlessly orchestrating processes that persist behind company firewalls (On-Premise), in the cloud (On-Demand) and from any point of contact (On-Device). The future will be very different especially for those SAP customers that are the early adopters.

SAP is the world’s leading provider of business software(*), offering applications and services that enable companies of all sizes and in more than 25 industries to become best-run businesses. With more than 97 000 customers in over 120 countries, the company is listed on several exchanges, including the Frankfurt stock exchange and NYSE, under the symbol “SAP”. For more information, visit www.sap.com.

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