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SAPPHIRE NOW Spotlight: Speed That Drives Innovation

Hasso Plattner Looks Back at the Origins of SAP HANA, Envisions an In-Memory Future

by Ken Murphy, Senior Features Editor

May 7, 2015

ORLANDO – From the history to the future, SAP Co-founder and Chairman of the Executive Board Hasso Plattner came full circle with SAP HANA during his keynote Thursday morning during the third and final day of SAPPHIRE NOW before a packed crowd at Orange County Convention Center.

Tying in points CEO Bill McDermott and SAP Executive Board member Bernd Leukert made during their earlier keynote presentations, Plattner brought the message home by focusing on SAP S/4HANA as the transformational business suite of the future — and why it is so important to SAP, to the enterprise, and to business innovation.

Plattner said that adoption for SAP HANA, and in-memory computing in general, reached a tipping point in the past year, evidenced by the claim that he is no longer fielding questions from anyone about the importance of speed in the database and applications.

“It is obvious what is happening now,” he said. “There has been an explosion of applications on SAP HANA, both inside and outside SAP.”

Hasso Plattner

“The Boardroom of the Future is not a collection of KPIs.” It is real-time information providing an instantaneous glimpse into any part of the company. 


Plattner’s keynote was divided into four sections, with the first devoted to the design of SAP HANA, a message he also delivered at the SAP S/4HANA release announcement in February. “We revolutionized the ERP system in one day,” Plattner said of formulating the initial requirements of eliminating database response time, aggregates, and indices – at least in theory during those initial brainstorming sessions with his Plattner Institute students and developers. He drove the point home by explaining that as a developer in the 1970s and 80s, up to 80% of his time spent writing code was devoted to achieving performance, trying to break through the inherent database limitations and redundancies, and just 20% on programming application logic. 

“What could I have developed if I had spent the same energy and [instead] built 100% on application logic?” Plattner asked of himself. “This is what these start-ups [the 2,000 on HANA Cloud Platform] see and why they are jumping on SAP HANA.”

Declaring that the fundamental need for separate transactional and analytic systems is now “over,” Plattner moved on to the innovation that enterprises can achieve when analytics are part of their transactional systems.  Displaying a “Boardroom of the Future” behind him, he envisioned executives gathering for real-time information about the financial health of the company. In this boardroom,  data must be instantaneous; a CFO or CEO must be at most two clicks away from looking at and analyzing any information in real-time. “The boardroom of the future,” he said, “is not a collection of KPIs.” It is real-time information providing an instantaneous glimpse into any part of the company.

In the demo from Colgate-Palmolive CIO Mike Crowe brought the point home that the boardroom of the future is already becoming a reality. Crowe presented interactive dashboards to show how his company is, today, able to look at a problem and drill down for instantaneous analysis and proposed solutions.

A powerful demo from Dr. Christof von Kalle, Director, National Center for Tumor Diseases, showed how the center is using SAP HANA to help combat cancer. SAP HANA, he said, has arrived at the perfect time in an intersection with the age of personalized individual medicine, and is the optimal tool for actually drilling down into analyzing human genome data in cancer patients. “This,” he said, “was hitherto impossible.”

Along with speed, the keynote featured other performance measurements for SAP HANA, focusing on a data footprint reduction and query runtime improvement. Plattner detailed the time and cost savings that organizations are potentially leaving on the table by not transitioning to SAP S/4HANA. With this, SAP CTO Quentin Clark took the stage to close with a discussion on HANA Cloud Platform. “This is where this all comes together,” said Clark. “Analytics is the new fundamental for building applications.” SAP HANA Cloud Platform, he said, is where the power of SAP HANA will prove its mettle as innovative new apps continue to come into play.

At the executive Q&A with Plattner and Clark that followed the keynote, the executives honed in on this point, responding to a point from the assembled media and analysts:  How does HANA Cloud Platform fit into SAP’s traditional core strength as an application developer?

“This is the most important question,” said Plattner, who drew a clear division in strategy between SAP NetWeaver and the openness of SAP HANA Cloud Platform . “The days where an application server can make a huge difference are over,” he said, reiterating that the first priority with SAP HANA Cloud Platform is to ensure its success outside of the SAP ecosystem. “I won’t let it happen again, where we say that SAP applications are the first (priority).”

The point was clear:  SAP has staked its future on S/4HANA and HANA Cloud Platform, and Plattner wouldn’t have it any other way. Asked for an example of what will attract developers to HANA Cloud Platform, apart from SAP HANA, Plattner’s answer underscores his firm belief in HANA’s power and speed as a driver of innovation. “The most attractive thing is that it is attractive,” he said, after a moment of reflection.  A simple message, indeed, for the 20,000 attendees at SAPPHIRE NOW 2015.

Watch Hasso Plattner's Q&A with Quentin Clark here:

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