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Live from SAPinsider Studio: SAP’s Irfan Khan and Jayne Landry on SAP HANA, Analytics, and the Roambi Acquisition

February 16, 2016

Irfan Khan, CTO of SAP Global Customer Operations, and Jayne Landry, Global VP and GM for Business Intelligence, joined SAPinsider's Ken Murphy at the BI-HANA-IoT 2016 conference to discuss insights shared during the event keynote.

Topics of this discussion include:

  • The importance of the Roambi acquisition – just announced at the event! – for SAP customers
  • The evolution of SAP HANA, leading to the data foundation of the digital enterprise
  • SAP S/4HANA as the digital core
  • Benefits of SAP Cloud for Analytics

This is an edited version of the transcript:

Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, and I am at the SAPinsider BI-HANA-IoT event in Las Vegas. This morning I am pleased to be joined by two of our keynote presenters here at the event, Irfan Khan and Jayne Landry of SAP. Irfan is the CTO of the Global Customer Operations group, and Jayne is the Global VP and GM for Business Intelligence. Irfan and Jayne, thanks for being here.

Jayne Landry, SAP: Thank you.

Irfan Khan, SAP: Thank You. Well done, that was quite a mouthful to get out there.

Ken: I’d like to start as I said you were both on the keynote stage and the big announcement today has been SAP’s acquisition of Roambi. Can you tell us a little bit more about Roambi and why is the acquisition important for SAP? What does it mean for SAP and SAP customers?

Irfan: Sure. I’ll perhaps start and I’m sure Jayne will have some additional comments to share. The first thing to highlight is SAP has been making significant investments in really expanding its entire offer in the cloud. And when you take a look at SAP as a cloud company in the dimension that we’re dealing with now you have to have an end-to-end capability. Not just analytics in the cloud, but a fantastic mobile experience in the cloud as well. And if we take the combined assets of what Roambi brings to SAP, the domain expertise, the fantastic capabilities that they build out in user experience, and you combine that with what we have already it’s going to be a fantastic offering for our customers.

Jayne: Roambi is a leading mobile analytics solution in the marketplace and they have a really interesting team, some of the team has come from the gaming industry and so they have an amazing focus on the user experience. And as we look forward to where we want to take our portfolio we’re really excited to be working with that team and have the opportunity to work with that team to take our analytics solutions to the next level.

Ken: And specifically for SAP Cloud for Analytics what does the acquisition of Roambi mean for that landscape?

Jayne: Well Roambi is a leader in the mobile analytics space specifically and so we’re going to be physically looking at how we bring their existing solutions into the SAP price list and portfolio so that customers can take advantage of them there. And then secondly look at how we can leverage their expertise around both our mobile on-premise offering as well as Cloud for Analytics. They’ve got amazing domain experience in this area and I think they’ll bring a lot to the table not only for SAP customers but for new customers as well.

Ken: And there was another announcement you made this morning about an offer for customers, sort of a trade-in for existing BI applications. Can you tell our viewers a little bit about that?

Jayne: We’re super-excited what we’re doing around our analytics portfolio and how we’re re-imagining analytics. We really wanted to offer the opportunity for anyone if they’re using a competitor’s solution today, they might have a few licenses of one solution over here and a few licenses of something else over there, just the opportunity to trade those licenses in and we’ll apply that as a discount or credit towards their purchase of our solutions, whether it’s our on-premise solutions or our Cloud for Analytics solution.

Ken: Irfan, you addressed in your presentation the evolution of SAP HANA to where it’s now the HANA platform and the data foundation, as you called it, for the entire digital enterprise. As far as the opportunities, do you see HANA evolving because more and more companies are going digital, or are companies going digital because of technologies like HANA that are architected to support that digital platform?

Irfan: That’s a very interesting question and I think that the confluence of SAP’s own journey of wanting to become more of a digital foundation provider which obviously started from our perspective several years ago; we anticipated if you like the demise of classical on-premise applications and more importantly the way those applications were constructed given the traditional runtimes was not going to be fit for purpose in the 21st century. So it was actually right around 2006 we already started that journey re-architecting SAP applications anyway. It just so happened in 2010 the strategic milestone that we reached was HANA as a platform was brought to market and it was almost a necessity that was if you like missing in order for SAP to evolve as a company. Now, addressing your question there’s almost an evolution cycle that’s already in play and SAP is helping to accelerate that. Our foundations in terms of our digital core and the data foundations of SAP HANA really are the accelerative part of most customers’ journeys. In fact I’d be as bold as saying that if you take a look at the market as a whole today, most customers today will probably find themselves reverting to a HANA-like technology and ultimately HANA, because they will run into so many headwinds that ordinarily that without a platform that we’ve been focusing on they will just not be able to get over the line.

Ken: As you also said it’s not just the platform but also from the application side so in that regard can you address just the importance of SAP S/4HANA as the key part of supporting that digital core?

Irfan: SAP S/4HANA has come about for the reason simply because if you take a look at the antiquated  processes of yesteryear and particularly if we want to have much more real-time, low latency in the moment type of processing, dealing with aggregates, dealing with sort of sideline copies and duplication of information wasn’t going to cut it. So with S/4 and particularly the reinvention of S/4 as the application suite for SAP, what we really focused on is three key elements of our architecture. We have a columnar architecture for HANA which gives us compression, and that’s the interesting part from a technology part of view, but from a business perspective what that gives us is that we actually end up getting no latency. So effectively if you are having an inventory check for example on a production line, let’s say it’s a car being manufactured.  Every 90 seconds if a car is coming off the assembly line, at that point in time you’ve got tens of thousands of components which are part of that car which are all now effectively coming off the inventory list. So you can wait until the end of the day and go through batch processing and then do an emergency retrofit if you like of bringing more inventory online, or immediately at that point in time you know what your stock position is and you’re forever on top in terms of your customer demand.  Those customers who don’t actually have that level of agility in their business are going to fall behind. And S/4 is enabling that capability to be brought to market.

Ken: Another thing we heard in today’s keynote quite a bit from some of the demos we saw was that one important part of the HANA platform is that it’s not just for SAP (data), but for non-SAP. Jayne, I was hoping you could address what that means as far as analytics is concerned and just being able to connect to different data sources.  

Jayne: We’ve always said we never met a data source we didn’t like, and that’s certainly includes cloud data sources, on-premise data sources, new data sources like Hadoop, Spark and Hive. Certainly when it comes to Cloud for Analytics we’re on top of the HANA Cloud Platform so as Irfan mentioned we get to take full advantage and full power of that HANA engine, and it also means we get to take advantage of things like HANA cloud integration, so being able to connect to data wherever it may reside. And one of the things that’s unique about Cloud for Analytics is that some customers are reluctant to take that first step toward cloud because they’re concerned about cost, or concerned about just accessing data and moving it to the cloud. And what we can do with Cloud for Analytics if that data is in S/4HANA or BW or HANA, connect to it and leave it on-premise behind the firewall. So customers really can get started now with their digital journey and journey to the cloud in a way that really protects their assets and the investments they’ve made but moves them forward as well.

Ken: Irfan and Jayne, thank you for being with me.

Jayne: Thanks very much Ken.

Irfan: Thank you.

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