Live from the SAPinsider Studio: Chuck Kichler of IBM on Cloud and SAP HANA

An interview recorded live at HANA 2014 in Orlando

May 13, 2014

In this interview recorded live at SAPinsider Studio in Orlando, Florida, Chuck Kichler of IBM discusses the virtues of cloud computing, and things to consider when deciding whether to run SAP HANA in the cloud.

Full transcript:

Ken: Hi this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider reporting live from SAPinsider’s BI 2014 and HANA 2014 event, and I’m joined by Chuck Kichler, CTO of IBM SAP practices for global business services, Chuck, welcome.

Chuck: Thank you Ken, appreciate that.

Ken: Chuck, you’re presenting here this week on running SAP applications in the cloud, and I’m just curious if you could address the major advantages to a customer? Is it cost, performance, a mixture?

Chuck: Yeah Ken, I think it’s not the same for every client, and it would depend a little bit on how you choose to run it. In general, using cloud is a question of agility versus on premise, which I look at as optimization. So, I have a system in my data center; it’s highly optimized and customized to my needs. In the cloud, we often give up some of that optimization for a much more agile—and by also going to a more standardized, more agile platform we often can go to a slightly lower cost. I don’t think it is a huge difference because, in the end, cloud providers are in the business of selling. Most of our application needs high performance gear, they’re not light duty, so they’re not going to fit on a little tiny virtualized piece of architecture that goes up and down; we can’t run our businesses that way. So we need some pretty robust infrastructure in the cloud. So the cost saving, but the ability to spin something up, use it for a few months, put it away; that certainly is very attractive. The second part of that is when I put it away, that is when the cost saving occurs. I don’t have that hardware store running in my data center and potentially sucking up air conditioning, and power, and people, skills, which are expensive.

Ken: Can you also address the different deployment options for SAP customers, who are looking to run their applications in the cloud?

Chuck: Sure, in general there’s really kind of two different ways we are seeing clients attack the problem, so maybe three if we add them up but let’s go through the two. This is around, “Do I just put my non-production gear in the cloud because I can get a more cost effective, or possible more agile environment where I can bring up, bring down as I need it?” So many clients go through, for instance, an upgrade where they need an N+1 environment. They need an additional dev and QA, and they may need it for many, many systems, for many landscapes. That then becomes problematic for many customers to buy that hardware, set it up, build it, and bring it all together. And then after they’re done, what do they do with it? So a lot of customers are looking at can I put just that N+1 or maybe I just put all my non-production in the cloud.

The second way is to attack it landscape by landscape. In other words, let’s talk about something like ECC or BW or maybe GRC, or something like that; and then we’re going to build out a whole landscape—dev, QA, production, and move that to the cloud and have that either just use the infrastructure, potentially use the platform as a service, consume it as a completely managed offering. I now no longer have to have those skills, I no longer have to run it, but I can interact with it. Both are great strategies, I’m just going to say the third one is that I don’t just take a landscape, but I take all my landscapes and everything goes to the cloud; and certainly IBM and many other vendors out there are capable of doing that, and offer those types of services.

Ken: Ok, I just want to ask specifically about HANA in the cloud, is the future of SAP HANA in the cloud?

Chuck: I think that’s one of those yeses and nos. I think that when you put things in the cloud, you need to think a little bit about where the latency is going to occur. So, if I have data coming from all over, and consumers coming from all over, very diverse consumption and supplier model, such as mobile users are very diverse, and mobile and cloud just are like, you know, they fit together like lock and key. On the other hand, if everything is coming from your BCC system or your BW system, it’s pretty hard to move my BW system to the cloud and replicate all that data constantly; so there has to be a huge advantage to the infrastructure, flexibility and other things because you’re going to pay a lot for that network cost. So we don’t want to do that unless it makes sense, but on the other hand, if you’re building a BW or an analytics application that’s bringing in say, Twitter feeds, or Facebook feeds, and all your users are on mobile phones, the cloud’s a pretty good solution.

Ken: Ok and lastly, I’m wondering what advice you have for an SAP customer, that’s currently not running any applications in the cloud, is 100% on premise still a realistic, feasible option?

Chuck: Well I think for many customers, they’ve really optimized and hardened their data centers and their strategies, especially those that are in regulated industries. Pseudo-government, they really can’t get out of their conditions, they’ve gone and they’ve bought you know, virtualization capabilities. They’ve gone and bought management capabilities. In essence, they’ve built their own private cloud inside of their fort walls, they can be very cost efficient. With that said, they’ve got to run it, they’ve got to absorb expansion and contraction, all those things and they have you know, true capital expenses on all that gear. So a lot of clients now are, like I said, looking to use non-production in the cloud, as one way to get their toe in the water.

And then there’s also, with SAP, we see a lot of clients for their first, not looking at HANA necessarily, but looking at some of the SaaS applications; so we’re doing a lot around SuccessFactors and Ariba, so cloud means more than infrastructure, more than just platform, but can actually be a SaaS-based solution from SAP, so we’re seeing clients absorb it that way. And again cloud, if you’re just doing some PoCs, you just want to try it out, or you have a very light-duty app; the cloud is certainly a good way, or if it is standalone and it’s getting a lot of diverse sources, those are all great use cases. You do have to explore it a little bit by use case.

The final thing I’d say is that we are seeing most companies that are just now starting on their SAP journey, they don’t have an SAP staff, they don’t have Basis people, they haven’t bought hardware; maybe they’re moving away from a legacy system, one of their competitors’. A lot of those are choosing to buy a managed cloud, and move straight to a managed cloud, and never build up Basis skills, never build up infrastructure skills, never build up all those networks; in that case, everything runs in the cloud and it works real well.

Ken: Great, Chuck, thanks for joining us!

Chuck: Thank you for having me Ken!

Ken: Again, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, reporting live from SAPinsider’s BI and HANA 2014 event!


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