Moreover, Jürgen Müller leads SAP’s overall innovation agenda and builds new business model- and market-driven innovations supporting customers’ goals and long-term growth strategies. In this E-3 exclusive interview, he talks about open source, SAP Data Hub, Hana, and much more.
E-3 Magazine: Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of the GitHub platform about two years ago demonstrated the value of open source communities for enterprise software companies. How does SAP collaborate with the open source community?
Jürgen Müller: GitHub is the leading platform, and SAP also uses it extensively for its own open source projects, e.g. the SAP repositories. In 2019, the Open Source Contributor Index listed SAP as the ninth largest commercial contributor to GitHub. We also use other platforms like Gitlab and are actively involved in numerous open source foundations. Currently, SAP is supporting Eclipse Foundation’s move to Europe.
However, a code-sharing platform on its own does not make for the success of an open source project or its community. Rather, time and effort must be invested in the development and maintenance of relationships and partnerships, which is what we actively and sustainably strive for. For example, we present our open source projects at conferences, events, meetups and webinars. We also write detailed documentation and sample applications for our projects to make it easier for interested parties to contribute. Furthermore, we exchange information with the community in forums (such as Slack) and communicate news via blogs, social media or openSAP courses (e.g. a lesson on Kyma).
Every year, we are happy to see an increasing number of external and internal contributors to our SAP open source projects. Especially for our cloud-native open source projects, such as Kyma and Gardener, we were able to attract many new companies as development partners. Last but not least, the Corona warning app that we developed is based on open source, showing just how crucial good cooperation with the community really is.
What is the current status of SAP Data Hub (SAP Data Intelligence) and how can customers integrate open source products?
Müller: In fall 2017, SAP delivered the first version of the SAP Data Hub. SAP Data Hub aims to provide a holistic solution for data integration, orchestration and management across distributed system landscapes. It also allows for the creation and processing of data-driven applications. SAP Data Hub further enables data exchange with open source products, such as Kafka, and can add value to existing landscapes immediately after implementation.
We took the next major step in spring 2020 when release 3.0 of SAP Data Intelligence completed the evolution of SAP Data Hub to SAP Data Intelligence. Enhanced and new functionalities regarding system integration, metadata management and the operationalization of machine learning underline the new name.
Installations of SAP Data Hub will be upgraded to SAP Data Intelligence with all the new functions with release 3.0. SAP Data Hub customers will not incur additional costs, and no migration is required. SAP Data Intelligence is of course also available as a cloud offering.
Let’s talk about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). What framework does SAP use to develop AI/ML applications?
Müller: Although our focus is on software, regarding AI, we are dependent on specialized hardware such as Nvidia’s. Especially in deep learning, when it comes to training unstructured data and complex AI models, Nvidia GPUs often offer excellent acceleration compared to CPUs. On the software side, our strategy is an open one. This means that we use not only open source but also our own developments as well as frameworks offered by partners such as Nvidia. Especially in the open source environment, TensorFlow in combination with Python has proven itself extensively and is equally appreciated by our data science teams.
As we are currently talking about intelligent technologies, allow me to say a few sentences about SAP Leonardo. We have withdrawn SAP Leonardo as an independent brand this year. When we launched it in 2017, our intention was to introduce intelligent technologies such as AI, blockchain, and IoT to our customers and to establish them in our portfolio, and this is exactly what we did. With over 250 use cases, intelligent technologies are an integral part of our Intelligent Enterprise strategy.
To a casual observer, it might seem that e.g. Mercedes in cooperation with Nvidia is much more innovative than many traditional software companies, including SAP. Is this observation true?
Müller: I think it is a little misleading. Any digitalization projects of B2C brands are just more tangible than efforts by enterprise software providers like us. Especially this year, SAP was able to help real people with its innovative strength, flexibility and agility. At the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, when the German Foreign Ministry had to get stranded travelers abroad back home, SAP was able to quickly support the government with a retrieval app. Based on SAP Cloud Platform, the app was programmed and published in less than 24 hours, and more than 240,000 citizens were able to safely return to Germany. As mentioned above, the Corona warning app project also demonstrated how innovative, agile and fast collaboration between SAP, its partners, and experts in the community can be when it matters most.
Furthermore, independent experts also perceive SAP as an innovative company. As part of the annual Global Innovation Survey, conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, SAP was named one of the ‘Most Innovative Companies 2020’. In addition, SAP is on the ‘Fast Company Best Workplaces for Innovators’ list this year.
The SAP Hana database platform was also announced as an open system beyond ERP. What happened to these initiatives?
Müller: Hana is now in its tenth year of widespread use by SAP customers and partners – also as an open system. There are countless examples of how users leverage the SAP database, but here are a few:
SAP and Esri, a leading provider of location intelligence solutions, have been working together for several years. With Hana Service, we provide a Database as a Service offering that can be used as the foundation of ArcGIS platform’s geodatabase.
The number of SAP products based on Hana has continued to grow over the years. Today, the database is the foundation of numerous products and solutions in SAP’s portfolio, including SuccessFactors, Customer Experience and Ariba. For example, since its migration to Hana was completed, SuccessFactors has achieved a peak of one billion cloud transactions per day. SAP Customer Experience customers have been able to import data 65 times faster than with previous databases. And, last but not least, the SAP Ariba team increased its overall cloud integrity score in all areas by 18 points (on a 100-point scale) by migrating to Hana.
SAP Analytics Cloud can connect to live data in Hana databases in your own network, on Hana Enterprise Cloud, SAP Cloud Platform, and Cloud Foundry. SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, an end-to-end warehouse in the cloud that combines data management processes with advanced analytics, is also built on Hana.
As part of the annual SAP Innovation Award ceremony, SAP recognizes projects from customers and partners that build applications on Hana, among other things.
And, of course, we want Hana to be used outside of ERP applications even more intensively. For example, we are currently working on an attractive offer for partners for Hana Cloud.
SAP has not only been very successful in recent years but has also grown immensely – keeping track of all the different solutions is no easy task. Is there a taxonomy of SAP technologies and products?
Müller: SAP has special functions and people who are responsible for terminology, taxonomy and naming. Our so-called ‘One Voice’ experts have been responsible for naming strategies and concepts of SAP solutions, products, technology and services since 2001. Our employees and agency partners have access to our internal Naming Center Repository which contains the exact names of all current and discontinued products, solutions and services, as well as all the names of organizations, events, programs and tools. The Naming Center also serves as a historical database of all approved terms.
Our partners have access to an updated list of all approved and retired names at www.sappartneredge.com. In addition, we have an SAP terminology database accessible to everyone at www.sapterm.com which provides details and additional information on technologies. The entries are updated weekly.
In our annual Integrated Report, which can be viewed and downloaded by anyone online, we provide a glossary of the 250 most important terms related to SAP products, solutions and technologies. The report and glossary are updated annually.
SAP and Intel have been working together for many years. Last year, both companies announced that SAP Hana and Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory are a very good match. Are there any use cases or proof points?
Müller: Hana is the heart of SAP. With Hana, companies in all industries can realize the full potential of data and in-memory information processing by gaining complete real-time visibility and insight into their business operations. Last year, we were able to optimize Hana in a way to make it the first major database to support Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory, enabling companies to further increase application availability while reducing total cost of ownership. Cost-saving data tiering, native memory expansion (NSA) and support for the new Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory modules are particularly helpful in this context. But, of course, the real question is how customers benefit. Swiss sanitary products group Geberit, for example, tested Intel technology for persistent storage with two of its existing Hana systems and found improvements in data loading times at system startup of a 1.5 terabyte Hana database by a factor of 4.2, which is more than 400 percent. Or take German chemicals group Evonik: The combination of Hana and Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory has enabled them to reduce start-up times by a factor of 17, which represents a major step forward for business continuity.
How many Hana versions exist? Will they ever be consolidated?
Müller: There currently exist 3 main versions of SAP Hana and SAP Hana Cloud which are in maintenance or development: Hana 1.0, Hana 2.0, and Hana Cloud. Hana 1.0 SPS12 will go out of maintenance next year. Selective developments and innovations in Hana Cloud will be available to our on-premises customers in Hana 2.0 as well. This is possible because core elements of both Hana 2.0 and Hana Cloud are based on the same code line.
How long will SAP NetWeaver be further developed? And what is the current status of Abap and Java?
Müller: Mainstream maintenance for release 7.5 of the SAP NetWeaver platform has been extended until the end of 2027, with optional extended maintenance until the end of 2030. We are currently optimizing Abap for S/4 Hana and SAP Cloud Platform under the project name ‘Steampunk’. Customers, partners and all interested parties can follow updates on our progress in various blog posts. Here are a few examples:
- SAP Cloud Platform Abap Environment (September 4, 2018)
- It’s Steampunk now (August 20, 2019)
- It’s Trial Time for Abap in SAP Cloud Platform (September 28, 2019)
- SAP Cloud Platform Abap Environment – Release 2002 (February 25, 2020)
- Getting Started with Abap in the Cloud – Update (March 20, 2020)
For Hana and cloud conversions, we offer Abap analysis and transformation tools. We also offer Java on SAP Cloud Platform with Cloud Foundry and Kyma/Kubernetes.