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SAP's push to be a digital transformation hub for business accelerated in 2017.
The most visible sign was the branding of a collection of internet of things (IoT) and other next-generation technology as SAP Leonardo. The cloud was at the heart of almost everything SAP did in 2017, with SAP Cloud Platform underlying much of the initiatives, including SAP Leonardo.
Here's a look back at SearchSAP's coverage of some of the major trends and stories for SAP in 2017. Although these trends are categorized in a loose way, it's important to note that many of the trends are interrelated, which is to be expected given the way that SAP systems are integrated and interdependent.
Emergence of SAP Leonardo and next-gen technology
One of the top stories of 2017 began in 2016 when SAP announced a multibillion-dollar investment in developing IoT-related technology and services. In January 2017, the company put a name on this initiative -- SAP Leonardo -- that appeared to indicate an emphasis on creativity and the versatility of the platform. When SAP Leonardo was unveiled, it was made clear that it would involve much more than IoT and would encompass a variety of next-generation technology, including big data, AI, machine learning, advanced analytics, blockchain and 3D printing.
The prominence of SAP Leonardo for SAP's future was emphasized at the Sapphire conference in May by CEO Bill McDermott, who deemed it to be "the biggest move our company has made since HANA." However, many SAP customers were hard-pressed to define exactly what SAP Leonardo really is, and SAP used the conference to highlight interesting use cases. Some current SAP customers are not exactly sure what SAP Leonardo adds up to, but they appear to be intrigued by the possibilities.
Expansion of SAP HANA Cloud Platform
If SAP Leonardo was the new kid on the block, SAP Cloud Platform was the old hand with the new name and spiffed-up capabilities. Formerly known as SAP HANA Cloud Platform, SAP Cloud Platform is intended as SAP's foundational platform as a service; for example, it serves as the underpinning for SAP Leonardo. The renamed SAP Cloud Platform also came equipped with a number of services intended to make it easier to develop or extend business applications. For example, the SAP Cloud Platform software development kit for iOS allows SAP developers to create applications natively for Apple iOS devices, such as iPads and iPhones.
SAP Cloud Platform was also at the heart of some other initiatives to drive Industry 4.0 technology. SAP will participate in Mitsubishi Electric's e-F@ctory Alliance partner program, which enables Mitsubishi Electric's automated factory applications to run on SAP Cloud Platform. SAP will also collaborate with the German robotics manufacturer KUKA AG to integrate KUKA's robotics technology into SAP Cloud Platform.
Momentum of S/4HANA
The inevitable march toward SAP S/4HANA continued in 2017. One report from Rimini Street indicated that a strong majority of customers are not eager for an S/4HANA migration, with 65% of survey respondents saying that they don't have a business case to justify the cost of a migration. This may change, however, as the deployment options for S/4HANA grow. SAP increased the ways to adopt S/4HANA on a public cloud infrastructure, for example, which could dramatically address the high costs of deploying and running it.
More customers are also deploying S/4HANA and reporting significant benefits. Adita Technologies, a small but growing professional services firm, implemented S/4HANA Cloud (SAP's private managed cloud service) to handle finances and as a means to prepare for future growth.
Ultimately, a day will come when SAP pulls the plug on its Business Suite ERP, so it may make sense to start preparing for the inevitable S/4HANA migration now. If you wait too long, the migration process becomes ever more costly and complex, according to Wes Mauer, director of SAP operations at Rackspace, a San Antonio-based firm that offers infrastructure management and hosting services for SAP and other systems.
"Ultimately, we're recommending to people to start the process, even though we're eight years out and it seems like a long way away. But for some customers, even that might be cutting it kind of close at this point," Mauer said.
Vitality of data
Data is the lifeblood of businesses today, and SAP has shown a variety of ways that businesses can wrangle this data to build applications that produce value. SAP Vora, for example, is intended to help businesses extract data in large volumes from Hadoop data lakes and derive business insights from it. SAP Data Hub, released in September, is built on SAP Vora and enables companies to build pipelines between a variety of data sources.
A new version of SAP Vora that SAP released in March includes features intended to make it easier to use and manage, such as industry value accelerators, or application components tailored for specific vertical industry use cases.
One challenge that organizations face is how to manage all the data coming in from a variety of sources and formats, SAP CTO Björn Goerke said while announcing SAP Data Hub at SAP TechEd 2017 in September.
"The question is: How do you put a consistent layer on top of it so you can make sense out of all those different data sets and correlate them and process them so that you can develop new applications on top of it, do analytics, do data science and drive insights? You need to manage the whole pipeline of data flowing through your different data sets, and this is what SAP Data Hub does," he said.
Who's leading the ERP market share battle?
Finally, while the sizzle of Leonardo, S/4HANA and SAP Cloud Platform get most of the attention, SAP's core ERP systems remain the company's meat and potatoes. The ERP marketplace is more crowded than ever, with many more choices for deployment options and vendors.
The independent ERP research and analysis firm Panorama Consulting Solutions determined in its first quarter Clash of the Titans survey that SAP continues to hold the top spot in the ERP market, albeit with a slimmer lead than in previous years. Although Oracle slipped to third place behind Microsoft Dynamics in the Panorama survey, it is traditionally seen as SAP's main competitor. Panorama Founder and Managing Partner Eric Kimberling compared the two systems in areas like cloud adoption, implementation time and costs, customization levels and the business benefits achieved by adopting each system.