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LAS VEGAS -- Although some customers liked SAP's message that the intelligent enterprise centers on the cloud and openness, companies are not yet ready to commit to that vision.
Attendees at SAP TechEd 2018 this week learned that the SAP Cloud Platform ABAP Environment -- introduced last year -- is now generally available, drawing cheers from a developer-heavy keynote audience. The SAP Cloud Platform ABAP Environment provides APIs that developers can use to build app extensions and new apps on the public cloud.
"The keynote was good, with openness and moving to the cloud and the functions. So, they were good announcements," said Srinath Sadam, senior manager for development and integration at Boeing, based in Chicago. "My primary focus is on the technical side, which is ABAP and things of that nature. We are [on premises] and are looking in the future about moving to HANA and S/4HANA, potentially on cloud. So, this is a good learning experience. It's in our roadmap in the long term."
The significance of the SAP Cloud Platform ABAP Environment depends on where you are with your SAP landscape, said Timothy Hughes, director of SAP technology and architecture at Discovery Communications, who has attended SAP TechEd for the past 10 years.
If you run SAP in a multi-tenant cloud, "then ABAP in the cloud is a useful thing," Hughes said. "If you're not in the cloud, it wouldn't make much sense."
However, Aravinda Boyapati, a supply chain manager for advanced tech at Johnson & Johnson, based in New Brunswick, N.J., said he thinks SAP's focus on moving to an open model is a good thing.
"At [Johnson & Johnson], with this whole digital ecosystem that we're building, it's essential for us to see what's out there in the open source world and have them coexist with SAP as a whole," Boyapati said. "So, it's a good move overall."
Kubernetes as a service is among new products
"We strongly believe that openness is the future of enterprise software," Bernd Leukert, member of the executive board at SAP for products and innovation, told attendees.
The SAP Cloud Platform ABAP Environment "provides a great opportunity for you to transform your on-prem ABAP extensions to the cloud," Leukert added. "You can organize and stabilize your custom code by enhancing the skills of your ABAP team to create really innovative cloud extensions."
He said the SAP strategy for building the intelligent enterprise stands on three interconnected pillars:
- an intelligent suite of business applications, including the S/4HANA digital core;
- a digital platform, which consists of the cloud technologies and data management applications that run the intelligent enterprise; and
- intelligent technologies, including AI, machine learning, IoT and advanced analytics.
To help manage and deploy cloud-based services, SAP also announced Kubernetes as a service for SAP Cloud Platform, which allows customers to deploy containerized business workloads in a Kubernetes environment on the SAP cloud.
The vendor also unveiled a beta SAP Cloud Platform Functions service -- calling it "functions as a service" -- that enables developers to pull functions from SAP applications to use in other services or applications.
SAP may struggle with vision's execution
Srinath Sadamsenior manager for development and integration, Boeing
The SAP intelligent enterprise vision is worthy, but the vendor needs to show how companies can really turn this notion into reality, according to Jon Reed, co-founder and principal analyst at Diginomica.
"SAP has evolved pretty quickly in its technical vision in the past few years from that S/4HANA, digital core, real-time business thing to the intelligent enterprise now. And we're trying to understand what that means for customers: What are all these pieces, and how soon can they get started?" Reed said. "SAP has done a pretty good job, at least from the keynote perspective, in laying out the vision, but my issues come up with helping customers get there and guiding their choices."
The idea of openness is welcome, because it shows customers a future where they can mix and match components. But there are considerable gaps in SAP's message, Reed said.
"SAP has some big challenges, because there's a huge difference between an S/4HANA customer running the latest stuff and someone on a much older release trying to make sense of which pieces of this they can actually use," he said. "SAP is struggling right now to help companies do that, especially when you get to the business case side, when you have to show how you get a business result. Very few customers I've talked to can talk about the ROI from these investments."