EMC-Cisco Put Big IT Power in SAP HANA Solution

 In case you didn’t put your eyes on this important piece of information, there was a press release last week that dropped the green flag on the HANA race: “Cisco and EMC Deliver Premier Infrastructure Solution Running SAP HANA for Big Data”. The product is a stack comprised of a Cisco UCS blade server, Cisco Nexus switches and an EMC VNX 5300. I won’t go into the configuration details here, but I will mention the lack of need for FusionIO cards, the multi-protocol flexibility (file & block support), and the 5 9’s availability that this stack provides. This configuration, which simplifies interfaces, is what SAP is calling a “scale out” configuration providing disaster tolerance in addition to meeting performance requirements. I think this is an interesting entrant to the market for several reasons. Let’s first look at it from EMC’s current messaging they unveiled at EMC World just a couple weeks back.

“Cloud Transforms IT and Big Data Transforms Business”

For a couple of years now EMC with its partners Cisco, VMware and VCE have been setting the measurement for private, hybrid, public clouds with the Vblock architecture. Let’s face it; it can be difficult to inject new technologies into an industry segment like SAP because of the mission criticality of the associated landscapes. In the beginning, many were skeptical if this venture would fly, because it was disruptive and it required not only SAP customers, but the ecosystem to get behind it to create a cloud economy of sorts. History shows that it was well received; many of the global integrators and service providers set up standards on Vblock, built hardened procedures for deployment, and created demonstrations of their best solutions on the platform. Now many of those initial buyers have started a chain of customers who are going into production, signs are good for the Vblock as a critical platform in the realization of SAP on the Cloud. As the tagline states: “Cloud transforms IT”, I was Emcee at a CIO luncheon during EMC World where we had 3 customers speak about their virtualization/cloud journeys with SAP and it was interesting to not only hear the positive comments, but to hear the way they talked about what is next. The tone and terms they used painted a sense freedom. They were thinking bigger, more aggressively than those who are stilling managing the world on physical architectures. For those who have dipped a toe or have dived in head first into the cloud will tell you, the water’s warm, come on in.

Ok great if you give me the latitude to believe my glowing report above (I know I’m biased, but it is true). Then let’s get on to the 2nd component of the tagline: “Big Data Transforms Business”. It’s hard to dispute this statement out right. I think everyone gets the concept of exploiting the inherent growing atmospheric datascape around us will generate new insights in sales and services for companies, and reduce their costs to up sell and please their customers. BUT…

It’s a big BUT… Very few in the industry have figured out how to orchestrate the change. Analytics is esoteric, super brain work that is done with statistical nuance. How do you volumize, programmatize it, is the fresh and challenging question. Most analytics programs have been the realm of Line of Business (LOB) departments who aren’t necessarily versed in big IT. They don’t understand how to go big with big data.

SAP, the market leading provider of business software, has earned the necessary IP clout to make big moves in analytics. Yet traditionally they were not deep in big IT. If I were to put words in their mouths… “IT is a necessary evil that costs too much and adds complexity to our customers’ missions”. With that said, they have been investing for a few years now to understand how innovations like “cloud” can be a catalyst to change. Add to that Oracle’s investment in proprietary vertically integrated stacks and SAP has formed a new level of interest in what’s going on below the deck… So much so, I believe SAP has made the biggest move in database technology in a decade. With the creation of HANA and the purchase of Sybase, SAP has created the general market’s first mainstream in-memory (lightening fast) database which works (will work) in conjunction with Sybase ASE to provide a cheaper platform than their rival Oracle (per their claims). This gets interesting if you understand how much of their existing install base currently uses Oracle, and may eagerly consider a reduction in that investment. Now SAP is defining the terms of the next battle. You could easily say that SAP is the best-in-class business software vendor with a dark horse position in the database market.

Now take “Big IT” best-in-class providers Cisco and EMC who have a significant joint SAP install base, and have compatible market offerings, and the collective opportunity between these companies becomes positive ballast pressing on the tipping point of SAP’s HANA/Sybase go-to-market.

The green flag has dropped, the race is on. I think the Cisco/EMC offering will hit a market sweet spot that demands a refined balance between cost, risk mitigation, and performance. EMC, with its partner ecosystem, can live out the tagline: “Cloud Transforms IT and Big Data Transforms Business”.

If you need to connect on this topic, please let me know, I’ll make sure you get to the appropriate owners in the ecosystem.