Before the SAP Data Hub, SAP had an unwritten data rule: no duplicates! Sounds reasonable in theory, but in the real IT world, it soon loses its merit.
Still, it was an IT dogma for Hasso Plattner. Looking back at SAP’s successful history, it becomes clear that the central database server has always been the heart of its operations.
With Hana, SAP even went one step further. Hana not only functions as SQL database, but also serves as an infrastructure platform for ERP, CRM, logistics, SCM, etc. Hana is more than just a database, but it still doesn’t make it easier to comply with the rule of central data storage.
Theoretically, Plattner’s dogma of central data storage is independent of technology; it doesn’t matter if the database is in-memory or not, or if users prefer on premises or cloud computing. However, even SAP had to realize that any dogma can only be as good as real life allows.
In a heterogenous IT landscape, Plattner’s dogma is hard to comply with. Users needed to compromise. Ultimately, central data storage became something of a myth that couldn’t withstand real conditions.
SAP Data Hub as alternative?
So, SAP had to switch strategy and created SAP Data Hub. In theory, the concept is brilliant. Since central data storage doesn’t work, SAP tries to achieve the same effect with a linked system using references.
The data itself is not moved but stays in its silos. If an app needs the data stored in another app, there’s no copy and paste, but a reference to the app instead. Meanwhile, the app requesting the data ‘feels’ like it has stored it itself. Great concept, but SAP missed by a mile.
For this system to work, the app storing the data has to take care of data processing and structuring for the app requesting the data, since the information itself can’t be moved. The requesting app will suffer no consequences, but the storing app could. If users request too much data, workload increases drastically, and the app’s server uses its resources solely on requests.
Interestingly enough, SAP itself has a lot of open source options that are way better suited to solve this problem, but they do not get the same attention as SAP Data Hub.
Our company told its basis team that they should incorporate open source data concepts. Our strategy has been proven right by our success and the existence of SAP Hana Spark Connector. Consequently, our basis team not only visits SAP TechEd every year, but also open source conferences like the Cloud Foundry Summit.
When they got back from TechEd, our basis team told us that there’s a new API layer called SAP Graph, which is based on SAP Graph, but isn’t SAP Graph. Hilarious! Again, the concept isn’t bad, but SAP missed by a mile.
Hana has a Graph engine, so it can also function as a graph database. SAP now uses this Graph engine as a foundation for a semantic data model which is supposed to consolidate access to SAP data, much like SAP Data Hub. This API layer is called SAP Graph to be sure to irritate every SAP Hana fan, basis team and app developer.
And in the spirit of ‘missing by a mile’, here’s a quote from former SAP CEO Bill McDermott from an interview he gave to German newspaper FAZ on April 10, 2019, “I still have at least another 30 years of work in me. I like being CEO. I can still think about going into politics when I’m 80.”