13 September, 2011

Keynote summary from SAP TechEd in Las Vegas

The 15th anniversary edition of SAP TechEd has kicked off in Las Vegas and the keynote was delivered this morning by Vishal Sikka on stage, introduced by Hasso Plattner connecting through from Germany. In addition, various technical leads were called in to add their two cents’ worth in their respective areas of expertise. If there was one common theme throughout the keynote, it was certainly HANA. Actually, there was barely a single sentence during the 1.5 hours that didn’t include the magic word, HANA!

Before Vishal Sikka came on for the main act, Hasso Plattner briefly summarised the vision for HANA which was painted at SAPPHIRE earlier this year. Back then, a great deal of attention was given to the ‘what’ and the ‘why.’ Now, after 12-18 months of proving the technology with early adopters and after three months of general availability, it’s time to get down to business and concentrate on the ‘how’. The inherent challenge will be to bring a highly disruptive technology to the market without causing major disruptions in the installed base.

Vishal Sikka started out by emphasising that the intention with HANA is not to add more complexity to an already crowded mishmash of application layers in the SAP technical landscape. Nor are they “replacing the litter with a different kind of litter.” HANA is all about “bringing together the grand simplification.” Delivered on the next generation of commoditised hardware, HANA will provide a unified infrastructure for future applications. A new consolidated layer of in-memory data and application logic will “provide businesses with the freedom to innovate.”

There were lots of lofty promises as you would expect from a keynote, but halfway through the presentation there was a reality check when the attendees were asked to raise their hands if they were considering embarking on a HANA project. Less than 5% of the audience put their hands up. Despite all the hype surrounding HANA, most customers are still battling with much more mundane aspects of realising the return of their existing investments in SAP technology.

Moving on to future developments of the HANA platform, the most immediate introduction to the market will be the launch of BW for HANA (Project Orange) on November 7. Customers will basically be able to run BW directly on top of HANA, eliminating the databases currently underpinning BW and introducing unprecedented performance improvements. With HANA, SAP is in general betting on traditional data marts and data warehouses going away in the future.

The keynote also had some brief updates from the major SAP platforms of NetWeaver, BusinessObjects and Sybase. The key message here was that all technologies are undergoing a renewal and support for HANA is added wherever it makes sense. Capabilities for managing HANA in the SAP landscape will be added to Solution Manager. Technologies such as PI, BPM and Gateway will all be extended to support HANA. BusinessObjects universes will be natively optimised for running on HANA.

Finally, the keynote was concluded by a series of demos and examples of applications built on various UI platforms underpinned by the HANA infrastructure, accompanied by the usual customer testimonials of how easy it was to implement. However, the final verdict of the promised simplicity will have to wait until we have heard the experiences of customers that were not carefully nurtured as early adopters. All in all, it was a keynote that was reinforcing SAP’s strong commitment to HANA and driving the message of “bringing on the grand simplification of the layers.”