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SAP promotes virtualization ecosystem

SAP isn't in the virtualization market, but one executive says there's an opportunity to integrate virtualization technology more closely with general application and business functions.

SAP isn't in the virtualization market, but the creation of a virtualization ecosystem consisting of AMD, Cisco, Citrix, EMC, HP, Intel, NetApp, Novell, Red Hat, Sun and VMware indicates SAP's desire to integrate virtualization technology more closely with more general application and business functions. Accordingly, SAP's ecosystem of 12 virtualization technology companies will help SAP customers align virtualization with business processes. But what does that actually mean?

To find out more, recently caught up with Richard Probst, vice president of solution co-innovation with SAP's global ecosystem and partner group. He conceded that virtualization's relevance to business processes isn't apparent at first glance, and he shared more about the new SAP virtualization ecosystem and what he thinks it means for the market.

SAP doesn't come to mind when we think about virtualization.

Richard Probst: SAP's not in the virtualization business per se. We're not picking one technology and shipping it. We're working with the partner ecosystem so customers can pick different solutions.

Why would an SAP customer be interested in working with an SAP-friendly virtualization solution?

Probst: Virtualization touches everything, but you don't necessarily see that. If you have a business process that's running great and now you want to run it in China, that's going to require virtualization resources to be brought to bear, to be linked up so that the solution runs correctly.

But isn't virtualization management already tied to enterprise application and business process logic?

Probst: SAP's Adaptive Computer Infrastructure [ACI] has been available since 2004. An IT person can use it to manipulate virtual resources that SAP solutions depend on.

Why this new initiative?

Probst: ACI is a great tool for an IT person. But we want to move as an ecosystem to business process-driven virtualization, so that a business expert will be able to map out a business process using drag-and-drop tools. They can specify that a process starts here, moves to there, these people are involved. Then that can be mapped onto the IT resources required to execute the project.

Why is mapping difficult in the first place? Why does it require such a concerted approach?

Probst: Server, storage and network virtualization make it so that it isn't clear which resources are connected to which processes. So when you move a process in a virtualized environment, you need extra diligence to maintain the connection between the logical model and the physical resources needed for it.

So SAP and 12 virtualization companies are moving toward a model in which line-of-business people, business analysts and the like can do the work of virtualization management that accompanies process building and change. Doesn't that cut out IT people?

Probst: IT people still run the data centers and handle testing.

What's the first deliverable of this ecosystem?

Probst: We'll release a roadmap, probably in time for Sapphire.

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