Over the last few years, the cloud has significantly changed how enterprises consume software, and it is no secret why cloud has ascended into the mainstream of business technology. There are three clear benefits to pursuing subscription-based cloud technology. First, this pricing model makes it easier to manage budgets while procuring solutions needed for a competitive, proactive workforce. Second, there is no downtime in the cloud; businesses have continual access to the latest updates, applications, and innovations. Third, the cloud empowers internal IT departments to focus on innovation and agility as a partner with the business, freeing them from the traditional burdens associated with managing on-premise solutions.
The opportunity to drive innovation and transform the business is at the heart of why companies are turning to the cloud, and SAP is embracing this shift by adopting a cloud-first company model in everything it does to support customers who are declaring a need to become more agile in a data-driven, digital, and service-oriented economy. This is the centerpiece of SAP’s cloud strategy, and it has evolved in accordance with the recognition that the need for agility to drive innovation preempts a one-size-fits-all approach.
Gone are the long, process-ridden software cycles that used to be counted in terms of years. The cloud has consumerized enterprise software by making lag time between versions an issue of the past, and iterative, user-feedback-driven cycles are the only way forward. Simplified delivery, nimble innovation, and instant time to market are what customers expect, and this is the approach SAP takes in the delivery of its cloud-based solutions. Another key aim of SAP cloud offerings is to reduce non-value-add activities that create complexity for customers, such as building and maintaining an infrastructure, or provisioning and upgrading software.
A Cloud Journey with SAP
While SAP recognizes that each customer’s cloud journey will differ, its cloud offerings all run on a common cloud infrastructure to ensure that each of these journeys will include a unified and integrated cloud environment, and that common infrastructure rests on SAP HANA.
SAP has evolved its cloud offerings to align with the growing needs faced by both small and large enterprises alike. For customers running on-premise SAP applications including SAP ERP or SAP Business Warehouse (SAP BW) that want maximum control and customization when moving these mission-critical systems to the cloud, SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud is a privately managed cloud environment, which is run in trusted data centers of SAP and its partners.
Or, for organizations that want to get started in the cloud quickly and easily with pre-built, business-ready applications, SAP offers a number of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications including SAP SuccessFactors solutions; Ariba solutions; SAP Cloud for Customer; and Concur technology, as well as many other next-generation applications that cover a multitude of customer needs. All these cloud applications can be integrated into SAP’s on-premise applications (e.g., SAP Business Suite) or other cloud applications to ensure a fully integrated and holistic view into the business.
And for organizations that want to build and run brand-new cloud applications or extend existing applications to the cloud, SAP offers SAP HANA Cloud Platform, a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering that enables IT and developers to build the functionality and applications to quickly meet the demands of both customers and line-of-business heads. This is the natural progression from a more off-the-shelf SaaS world; the open SAP HANA Cloud Platform offering enables customers and developers to build, extend, and run applications on SAP HANA in the cloud.
Before examining SAP HANA Cloud Platform in more detail, it is worthwhile to take a step back and examine why PaaS offerings are becoming more prevalent. Driving this interest is a need for companies to center their overall cloud activity on a smaller number of strategic sources. Obtaining off-the-shelf SaaS applications is a common starting place for entry into the cloud, but at some point, organizations recognize that meeting specific business requirements will necessitate extending the functionality of pre-packaged applications into other areas. The optimal way to do this is with a unified platform that can ensure seamless integration between a disparate application landscape and the business systems the applications support.
PaaS bridges the gap between traditional on-premise applications, development toolkits, and new sets of cloud-enabled solutions; thus it stands to reason that PaaS acceptance will rise as the SaaS space matures and the cloud market in general becomes universally accepted as the optimal way to consume enterprise software. A truly mature cloud landscape precludes having to cobble together development tools from a variety of sources without a certainty of a seamless integration between both back-end systems and an existing stable of SaaS applications.
Consolidating in the Cloud
By offering this unifying gateway, a robust PaaS helps to reduce cost, risk, and complexity, as well as significantly accelerate the process of extending, building, and running new applications. Organizations now recognize they can rely on SaaS enterprise applications to run traditional on-premise solutions, such as customer relationship management (CRM) or ERP systems, and then partner with a single, trusted strategic vendor to build out and extend this enterprise application portfolio. This essentially serves to future-proof a cloud investment, and it’s a concept that has evolved with general cloud maturation. In the nascent days of enterprise cloud computing defined by a tenuous cloud start-up landscape, organizations rightly took more of a wait-and-see approach before committing to a platform vendor, but this concern has understandably subsided with the knowledge that PaaS helps to assure the viability of cloud investments without the complexities and costs associated with the on-premise world.
The growth and familiarity of consumer platforms, such as Android and iOS, and the applications that are built and run on them is another reason why PaaS has caught on. Business end users expect to complete business processes with the same ease they now enjoy to arrange transportation or book travel in their personal lives, and because of this, business decision makers are more comfortable with turning to the cloud to run mission-critical business processes.
Apprehension has also faded in parallel with the maturation of PaaS offerings from traditional on-premise enterprise software companies such as SAP; organizations are more comfortable migrating to a central cloud platform when they know that it offers seamless integration to their back-end systems, thus bridging the gap between their on-premise and cloud environments.
Helping to mitigate any lingering unease over moving to PaaS offerings is the fact that all, by definition, are a pay-as-you-go service allowing organizations to scale up or scale down as needed, eliminating the need for a perpetual license for a software application, or for upfront hardware costs that went on the books as a capital expense. These options naturally carried risks and often had tenuous ROI propositions. This isn’t the case with SaaS, PaaS, or even infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solutions that offer a much clearer path to both calculate and achieve ROI goals.
SAP HANA Cloud Platform: The Path to Agility and Innovation
Having laid out the reasons why PaaS is becoming a more attractive option for consuming enterprise applications, we will now explore in more detail why SAP HANA Cloud Platform is the preferred PaaS for SAP customers, developers, and others who require a robust cloud application development environment.
First, an important distinction between developing in SAP HANA Cloud Platform and prior development in the SAP ecosystem is that SAP HANA Cloud Platform is a truly open PaaS; until now, SAP had taken the walled-garden approach, requiring users and developers to essentially work within the confines of SAP languages, technology stacks, and servers. By adopting all open standards such as Java and HTML5, SAP HANA Cloud Platform customers can realize their vision for quickly building, extending, and integrating modern, mobile-first applications, and are doing so through a variety of unique platform services. SAP HANA Cloud Platform consists of database services, technical services, and business services that provide customers with a clear path to achieving a multitude of changing business needs.
4 Use Cases: Driving Analytics in the Cloud
Another factor that sets SAP HANA Cloud Platform apart from other PaaS offerings is that it includes SAP HANA, a powerful in-memory database that provides customers with a state-of-the-art platform on which they can build, run, and integrate their existing applications.
This important differentiator is really at the heart of the first of four use cases for SAP HANA Cloud Platform. In a world with big data and Internet of Things scenarios on the rise, it is no secret that enterprise applications today are becoming more data-driven; end users need to generate timely analytics in a cost-effective fashion, and using a PaaS with a built-in, powerful, in-memory database achieves this. Users running applications on the SAP HANA platform in the cloud can quickly find the answers they need by churning through large volumes of complex data thanks to the speed and power of the SAP HANA database. This helps personalize business applications for end users who can ask any question they wish of the data without having to query IT and wait for answers.
Personalized business applications, however, tell only half the story as their value does not exist in a vacuum but rather as part of an integrated business strategy that fosters collaboration and empowers line-of-business users to proactively drive change. For example, a supply chain professional can develop and deliver a custom-built application for its distributors that presents them with a real-time view of product build and delivery timetables.
This brings us to the second use case for SAP HANA Cloud Platform, which is to bridge the gap between on-premise and cloud environments to connect the enterprise on a unified platform that integrates applications from various vendors and gives them a similar look. An example is communications software company GENBAND, which used SAP HANA Cloud Platform to extend an existing call center application to allow a ticket to be opened from any application — whether it’s from SAP, Oracle, Workday, or Salesforce.com — that is filtered through a single portal. In this portal, GENBAND built a personalized collaboration column so that when a ticket is filed, the call center knows what systems and products the user is on and can respond accordingly. A user may be using applications from all four vendors, but the call center experience with GENBAND will be consistent regardless. The company also built chat and video functionality into the existing application and had everything up and running in two weeks. This is the power of SAP HANA Cloud Platform to create an integrated, unified user experience.
Third, the market to build and consume new customer solutions that run in the cloud is growing. There is an increasing demand for data-driven, agile applications that can be built and shared quickly, and this is why it is so important that SAP HANA Cloud Platform remains an open environment. It is about connecting the enterprise, and a truly connected enterprise should not be limited to using only what is developed by SAP or in-house, or to what has been built strictly on SAP technology. Instead, organizations are rightly focused on consuming the application that is best for the business regardless of how it comes to light, and the SAP commitment to have SAP HANA Cloud Platform remain an open environment with open standards ensures this is the case.
Fourth, SAP HANA Cloud Platform offers an optimal way for organizations to customize existing on-premise and cloud applications to quickly meet the needs of customers or line-of-business heads. In fact, SAP HANA Cloud Platform can seamlessly integrate with and extend the functionality of the SAP S/4HANA suite, which means that customers can use SAP HANA Cloud Platform to customize and personalize applications within the suite, and ensure unified connectivity and integration that, in years past, was only done through time-consuming and costly efforts.
Business needs are forcing a change in how organizations consume software to get access to the latest innovative applications. This is the vision for SAP HANA Cloud Platform: a unified, data-driven PaaS that exposes business users to more data, processes, and applications to enable them to do their jobs more effectively and to drive innovation.