Should we innovate? Or should we just integrate systems of the past?
At the SAP TechEd in Barcelona, SAP brought its new technology down to developer level, showcasing the latest in SAP Hana, such as the Hana Cloud Platform’s usage of Cloud Foundry, while calling on IT to innovate and build a ‘digital core’, rather than just integrate.
The faces of ‘developer heroes’ escort us along the long path, through escalators and wide corridors, that leads to the the Fira de Barcelona, the city’s exhibition center, where the SAP TechEd 2015 is taking place. These heroes – developers working with SAP – are displayed with their name, portrait and technical focus. But it’s not average SAP employees pictured here, but developers that use SAP technologies in user groups and meetups to share knowledge and experience.
There’s no doubt that the SAP TechEd is trying really hard to put the spotlight on the developer, as authentically as possible. The motto of ‘digital transformation’ is a buzzword at so many events today, among others here in Barcelona – but at least this conference doesn’t tell us in a top-down way, but a refreshingly authentic perspective of the technical base.
Speaking mainly about mobile apps, SAP HANA and the user interface technology UI5, Thomas Grassl, SAP’s global head of developer relations, occupied the space between classical ABAP technology and modern approaches for web, mobile, big data and the Internet of Things. Grassl runs a team of 10 full-time evangelists who work together with many other individuals from the SAP engineering teams to show new SAP technologies to a wide audience.
Grassl is aiming primarily for classic ABAP developers. But it’s not only core SAP community that the evangelists want to reach, but developers from all sorts of technology areas beyond the SAP cosmos. Their general message translates to this: ‘Look, we’re prepared for the technological future and we’re working in trendy areas.’
Cloud platform with open source ingredients
The cloud focus remains on existing SAP customers who want to expand their systems to modern services or new user interfaces. Various tools can be used implement modern web UIs, realise mobile or Internet of Things scenarios, without impacting the company’s traditional SAP systems (which are often subject to substantial government regulation).
This is particularly important, says Dirk Basenach (Director of Product Management of Hana Cloud Platform), because the core systems rarely receive updates. Mobile, IoT or web scenarios, on the other hand, can be realized with this cloud technology using the favoured fast release cycles of innovation projects. As a result, SAP presents a technology kit that enables “Dual Mode IT” (robustness, compliance, security, on the one hand, innovation and risk on the other) for companies.
Beyond the Cloud Foundry news, another important component was added to SAP’s portfolio in September – Hana Vora. While the Hana in-memory database is designed for high speed, Vora builds a bridge between the Hadoop and Spark worlds. Here, Hadoop is the platform that persists data efficiently and cost effectively, while Apache Spark is establishing itself in the market for its fast data processing based on Hadoop.
Vora has an in-memory query engine for Spark that extends the framework with its own interactive analysis functions. The idea behind this to deliver speed-optimised in-memory-based queries for distributed Hadoop data farms.
The digital core
Björn Goerke provided a extensive insight in his keynote on the conference’s second day. Goerke, Executive Vice President for Product & Innovation Technology, carried out a live demonstration with plenty of code, showing his audience how to access to a database in a classic SAP system using all sorts of Hana features.
In about 60 minutes Goerke surveyed various technologies for user interface, mobile apps (for iOS and Android), IoT, data analytics and integration. “Do we innovate or are we only busy integrating the system of the past?” Goerke’s colleague Steve Lucas asked one day earlier on the keynote stage. Companies need a “digital core” if they want to make themselves future-proof, said Lucas, who made sure that the conference opened with as many buzzwords as possible.
Tech conferences, especially those run by vendors, don’t have the goal of reflecting the past or the present, but rather to spread optimism and future-optimism. And in this regard, SAP did quite a nice job in Barcelona. The range of new approaches is impressive indeed and there’s a clear desire to help users to deliver consistent IT systems that balance core systems and digital innovation.