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SAP's CTO shares his vision for SAP's product roadmap

SAP CTO Vishal Sikka offers a glimpse into which emerging technologies will be key to SAP product development.

Mobile applications, the cloud and virtualization will be key technologies in SAP's product roadmap, according to the company's CTO.

Vishal Sikka said he sees entire economies going mobile in the next several years and companies running almost exclusively on mobile environments. So the way in which people access and support those applications will become increasingly important.

All of this technology fits into four categories: constructing the applications, delivering them, customers consuming them, and ensuring the change and lifecycle management of those applications, Sikka said. His vision for SAP's product roadmap is to continue to establish a framework for consuming these technologies in a way that doesn't disrupt customers.

"I have this notion of timeless software, which basically ties together how you deliver software that is always reliable, always stable, always modern, always agile," he said. "We will make sure we deliver innovation in our software in a way that is not disruptive to [customers]."

In a wide-ranging interview, Sikka -- who is charged with the technology and innovation strategy for SAP's product portfolio -- offered a glimpse into the future of SAP's product roadmap. He became SAP's first CTO in 2007, after working as the company's chief software architect. He's now in charge of everything from providing guidance to the roadmap to doing software experiments.

His department will help tackle the challenges of putting SAP's applications in the cloud. Most recently, Sikka added nine Coghead engineers who he hopes will help SAP solve the problem of SaaS integration. Last week, SAP acquired the IP rights for Coghead, a Platform as a Service provider.

SAP customers want applications delivered in the cloud, he said, but they don't want to sacrifice the functionality they get from their on-premise applications. Cloud computing has seen a lot of advances when it comes to easy consumption, and significant progress when it comes to infrastructure and managing hardware. But there's a lot more work to do.

"There's a lot of exciting work happening on the cloud -- application construction, interesting approaches to new programming, new programming languages on the horizon," Sikka said. "What we have not seen is the ability to deliver more substantial enterprise functionality in the cloud."

New programming languages are on the horizon, but Sikka is committed to establishing architecture that will support SAP's old friends as well. To those worried that with NetWeaver development, ABAP is getting pushed out the door, Sikka says fear not. People mistake the adoption curves of programming languages with the lifecycle of applications built using those applications, he said.

For more on SAP's product roadmap

Learn how SAP is promoting its virtualization ecosystem

Read about SAP's plans for cloud computing

"The way I establish architecture for software is to make sure all those programmers can contribute," he said. "ABAP is a great language for building applications, but to think ABAP is the only language in the world is nonsense. And to think ABAP will go away anytime soon is nonsense."

"If you're an ABAP programmer, you're fine," Sikka said. "There's plenty of room to write code in all languages."

In turn, more and more customers are running SAP in a virtual environment, he said, and more want to do so. His team is committed to ensuring that it will be easier for customers to run their applications in virtual environments.

With the Adaptive Computing Controller, SAP currently provides a central point of control for assigning resources to run on any server at any time, Sikka said.

Working with partners like VMware, HP and Cisco, SAP will optimize the virtualization landscape, make administration simpler, and make managing the landscape less intensive, he said. The company will tackle such problems as optimizing capabilities when landscapes suddenly aren't operating at peak capacity and how SAP software can be moved so that it's operating at peak consumption.

SAP will focus on working with its partners to make it easier to run SAP in a virtual environment, Sikka said, and will continue to guide its partners on how SAP applications will consume services.

For instance, supporting virtualized applications is one issue where, as an industry, "they're not quite there," he said. That, as well as providing change management support, still needs work, he added.

"The support issue is a critical one," Sikka said. "You don't want to lose the ability to detect errors when you virtualize."

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