Liv’n the Dream at SAP TechED

 A New Era Underway 

I am sitting in my hotel room in Las Vegas. I just packed and I am ready to head to McCarran airport for my trip home. This week I attended SAP TechED. I know “what happens in…stays in…”, but I wanted to take a moment and share some insights I took away.

SAP has made it clear, all bets are on Hana.  Hana is SAP’s vision of a new platform for their landscapes that will reside in memory. Most customers and System Integrators are interested, most are still trying to determine exactly what it is and how it will apply to their specific environments. The concept creates big changes for everyone. Everything will need to be integrated to Hana, both SAP’s products, their partners’ solutions, and customers’  landscapes.

There are a wealth of things to consider and address, like backup, high availability, disaster recovery, systems management, piping data between Hana and non Hana piece parts.  Many things are still unclear as this vision gets realized; it’s really new so it’s understandable. I grew up in North Carolina and have seen my share of Hurricanes. The climate at TechED reminded me of that feeling you get right after a storm goes through. Everyone’s not sure what to do yet, but we’re all in the yard picking up sticks, and working together to make progress. Hana is their future, that much is solidified.  Here’s a write up from ComputerWorld on the same topic.

Ok, I tend to bring “cloud” into the conversation and I want to live up to my reputation…  First let me say, cloud is not the biggest topic for SAP, they tend to talk of terms like “TCO”, “Business Process Realization”, etc. They have traditionally minimized their focus on the architectural mechanisms upon which SAP sits and allowed the world-class eco-system drive this segment. Hana arguably starts to change that. Hana will have more impact on the design of the infrastructure than past approaches.  Then the question is can Hana exist in a Cloud?  I believe it will, but I’m not sure we all know exactly how yet.  And will SAP find themselves deeper in the Cloud discussion out-right.

Much of the official dialog still tends to focus on traditional landscapes where a customer buys and deploys everything as one chunk either on premise or hosted.  However, their customers are innovating.  People are connecting up a diverse mix of on premise, hosted functionality, and cloud offers all within the same environment. Here’s a little taste of what is being realized.

I have to start by saying “virtualization is king”. I estimate in my own discussions virtualization was mention 99% of the conversations. I spent some time with Andre Kemp of VMWare. Andre is a key resource at VMW covering SAP. With Vsphere 5 released, capacities increase and virtualizing SAP is not an interesting idea, I would call it a mandate. Andre is one of the busiest guys in the business right now. I did an informal survey as I talked with customers. My straw poll showed the market is overwhelmingly VMWare, with a notable number of companies using LPARs on AIX. I also heard Citrix and Hyper-V more than once.  I also mentally collected why most were creating initiatives. The top three reasons were:

1)      Reduce hardware costs

2)      More flexibility in their architecture

3)      Improve disaster recovery service levels

Yes I know those are obvious reasons, I didn’t say you were going to be shocked and impressed! It’s the basics that matter and boy do they matter.

Let’s get back to the clouds. There were other interesting models coming out. In fairness to my large and powerful friends who work for the large system integrators and service providers, they tend to make their sponsorship investments in “Sapphire” each spring. Those who attend TechED are there to learn. This year was no different, what we saw in the booths were smaller, specialty SI’s and are the focus for this conversation.  

A few years back Texperts showed up on the scene as one of the innovators driving cloud. Over that time, they have built a full suite of cloud services to help customers understand and integrate private systems; or to buy a service level offering. They were one of the few pioneers driving the message. The notable difference this year was they weren’t alone. I had at least five companies approach me to tell me about their cloud offerings.  The services market for cloud has arrived; the best and brightest are making their bets for cloud in 2012.

Another company who has worked with our customer base quite a bit over the years is Wharfedale Technologies (WFT).  They too have been pioneers on the “virtual prairie”. They specifically have been involved in some of our recent Vblock customer deployments for SAP and have been really helpful to the effort.  They brought, to the show, one of the most innovative ideas I have seen yet. A good friend of mine, Ganesh Radhakrishnan, is the CEO of WFT and demo’d for me his newly released “WFTCloud”.  WFTCloud is a web venue where users can purchase SAP development environments over the web for a daily price of buying a can of soda.  You go on the web, sign up and boom you have an environment that has many profile options for getting the hardware/VMs to look like your environment.  Ganesh was showing me this on his mobile phone and we watched a couple orders come in while we were talking.  This could be a great opportunity for increasing development productivity for many companies and individual contractors.

OK, how about EMC?  Well I could talk a while about all the different solutions we showed and events we held at the show, but I’m not a marketing guy and this is my blog, so I won’t.  Instead I’m going to grab just one moment from it all.  One of our speaking sessions we had Bernhard Schulzki and Bill Reid present.  Can you say too much talent for just one stage?  Based near SAP’s Walldorf headquarters, Bernhard recently became EMC’s VP covering the SAP relationship. Prior, Bernhard worked for Vishal Sikka heading up many of their virtualization and cloud initiatives over the last several years. Bernhard took the packed audience through several key technologies. Duplicate snaps, geo clustering, security, de-duplication, virtualization and cloud where covered. He also shared how we are investing to further integrate with SAP like their new LVM product for managing virtual environments.  Bernhard then introduced Bill Reid. If you haven’t met Bill yet, you’re missing something. I am a big fan of Bill’s. He is Director in charge of our “Project Propel”. Propel is the very large deployment of a green, 100% virtualized SAP deployment and based on my knowledge of the install base, it will likely be the largest, 100% virtualized SAP deployment worldwide when it goes live next year.  Bill drips data when he sweats. The guy is so jam packed full of knowledge nuggets, that I’m not going to attempt a  proper summary of Propel. However, I will  point you to EMC IT’s  blog site that gets into a lot of what they are working on. Let’s just say he’s putting to practice what we preach to our customers and his team is invaluable to our cause. 

In Summary we’re all “Liv’n the Dream”. Big visions, with real payoffs, that are works in process.  There were no head spinning new announcements, we didn’t need any. The buzz was on the progress of customers who are on the move to a new era of landscapes and the organizing eco-system that supports them to get there.