Embracing Cloud for Integrated Data Management—Not Just Database Deployment

As announced at Sapphire (or if you didn’t hear, watch the replay here) SAP HANA Data Management Suite reduces the complexity of delivering secure, governed enterprise applications and analytics. This is delivered via an open, on-premises, hybrid, and multi-cloud enabled solution suite that orchestrates all your data into a trusted, unified landscape. It gives customers:

  • Trusted data:  Data that customers can rely on to make business decisions
  • Connected, intelligent data: A single, unified view enabling advanced applications and data management
  • Cloud and architecture flexibility: Cloud freedom for data systems, applications, and system development

I had the chance to sit down with Ken Tsai, Global VP and Head of Product Marketing, Database and Data Management at SAP, to dive into how he sees the cloud and architecture flexibility of SAP HANA Data Management Suite benefiting SAP customers.

It was interesting speaking with customers at Sapphire and hearing the variety of progress they’d made on their journey to the cloud. From your experience, what sort of use cases lend themselves best to the cloud and what particular challenges are customers encountering?

Looking at it from the perspective of a holistic integrated data management solution, it makes sense that when we have data that’s originated in the cloud we should keep it and manage it directly in the cloud. But this presents some challenges that the technology vendors need to solve—like how to manage data across multiple clouds.

Speaking with customers, we found they don’t just have one cloud, they have multiple clouds and this cloud data coming from multiple places (like SaaS solutions, for example a CRM service). So the reality is that customer’s raw data is spread across multiple clouds these days.

The promise of a consolidated logical view of the data element is important, but it can’t be achieved by forcing all data into one cloud. We know that’s not feasible. We learned that lesson 20 years ago, when everybody in the world was trying to consolidate data into one single data warehouse! Today management of data across multiple cloud properties is about orchestrating data movement, in a process flow fashion from one cloud to the other. Refining and enriching it (the data), and tracking it’s lineage and usage. So when you consume the data you actually have assurance of where that data came from and that refinement process has already happened—this lets you can confidently take action based on the data.

 

How can a cloud or cloud/on-premises environment benefit traditional on-premises SAP customers?

One thing I want to recommend to all SAP or non-SAP customers is to actually look beyond the deployment options. Certainly putting software in the cloud simplifies management of the software lifecycle, makes it readily available, and more elastic—that’s a given, its table stakes. And this is true whether it’s a database platform-as-a-service or software-as-a-service application.

We should also look at the growing accessibility of different operations and services that are already delivered in the cloud through either APIs or deeper functional integrations. Today, think about the possibility of creating an integrated data processing system, between SAP HANA as a Service (directly in the cloud) and let’s say it was a best-of-breed machine learning framework, like Google Tensor Flow. Directly running on one of the most advanced IaaS and optimized to run on CPU, , GPU or even TPU, you have the freedom and flexibility. The platform would be a collection of technology solutions all operating in the cloud, but that piece of different functionality, it would be completely dependent on customer choice. It’s up to vendors like SAP to make sure that our different technologies works seamlessly with third party and open source technologies already running the cloud, because ultimately, meeting the customers’ needs and will drive innovation across the board.

 

And what about hybrid (cloud/on-premises) workloads?

So just like I talked about, having a database platform as a service deployed in the cloud, you have the benefit of integrating with any native cloud functionality that’s provided from any third party. But if you think about this logically, what does that mean?

It benefits a lot of customers that may have data spread across on-premises and in the cloud. If for whatever reason they can’t move all the data directly into the cloud, they can still create a private instance of that data set directly in the cloud and enjoy the benefits of the different data computing capability in the cloud.

My favorite example, which you may have heard me share before, has always been Google Photos. Think about the possibility of the data set that any on-premises customer has, even stored on a laptop. Having that automatically processed and enhanced, providing a value added-service back to the user, is incredible.

Consider a marketing or sales team sharing data in the cloud…This data can automatically go through a “do not call” list, or go through a comparison to existing contacts who are already in the sales pipeline to avoid interrupting current sales process. This data use authorization traditionally took two, three, or even four weeks to process. But with the CRM in the cloud, do-not-call list sitting somewhere else, and contact list from events in your mobile, you can actually demand this business-level cloud computing services to give you the answer you want immediately.

 

You’ve touched on it already, but to summarize, why is a multi-cloud deployment strategy important?

From the customer’s perspective, having the freedom of cloud choice is very, very important. As technology advances and government regulation continues to be solidified (even on a regional basis, such as GDPR) it’s becomes a necessity to have the means to actually alter that or change platform very easily down the road, since nobody knows what the future holds.

This is not about just putting your data in the cloud, but having the freedom to move the data, the data processing system and the applications from one cloud to the other and even potentially back to on-premises. That’s really the core of what the customer needs in our completely connected cloud world.

 

So how can the cloud accelerate innovation?

I think cloud is one of those catalysts that makes everything faster, just because it’s already available. I remember the early days, I was doing programming, and maintaining the software was always an issue, updating it and making it available, and accessing it. But that is all gone, now you’re really focusing on the value-added application and the ability that we want to build on top of it.

I fundamentally believe that everything will go the route of cloud in the future, but doesn’t mean that everything goes in to one single public cloud. The data centers themselves will translate into a private cloud environment as we mature these technologies stacks.

The principles of simplicity and eliminating latency and redundancy that you can see in data-driven applications, will ultimately drive the requirement of these technology solutions going forward for business use.

 

What’s the simplest way for someone to start their cloud journey with SAP?

I love this question. I think, just like any cloud options, the simplest way to actually engage and start their journey within SAP is by trying it. With SAP HANA as a service (link), the software’s there, the capability’s there, the trial system’s there and accessing it is not a long cycle of waiting the software to arrive, then waiting for the next version to arrive. With the cloud-oriented paradigm, this is all delivered directly to the customer upfront, and this is why I’m excited about building software solutions directly in the cloud.

Evaluating different capabilities and finding the right fit up-front (rather than doing it as a post-sales process) benefits customers. And from solution provider perspective, it is only through these continuous learning in user and system behaviour will we figure out future improvement and automation opportunities.

 

Well thank you so much Ken for all your insights! On that note, customers should take advantage of SAP HANA as a Service on the SAP Cloud Platform and can learn more about the SAP HANA Data Management Suite.

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