Day 3 has been my favorite ever since Vishal and Hasso started keynoting on the last day of SAPPHIRE. So I was up bright and early, and got to the keynote area much before it started.
Unlike last year, this time it was Hasso who started the Keynote. The first part of his session was all over the place, and did not do justice to his tremendous showmanship and technical brilliance. My feeling is that Hasso should be allowed to do it freeform without the constraints of the teleprompter and powerpoints. I would go to the extent of saying, he should also be given a whiteboard that can be projected on the screen so that he can explain his concepts more clearly. He took plenty of shots at oracle, with roaring approval from his fans in the audience.
The highlight of the keynote for me was Vishal announcing that developer licenses for HANA and Neo are now free. That is awesome news – and gratifing to all of us who have made the case with SAP in the past.
Vishal also announced the GA of Visual Intelligence, previously codenamed Hilo. It is a great product – but not the most mature. It hardly had a ramp, which is probably ok since it is a desktop tool. It fills a void in SAP’s portfolio today, and I hope it can match its established competitors some day soon. The only surprise for me was that it did not support Universes in first release. I asked that question to Adam Binnie and Mani Srinivasan – and they assured me that it will get new releases very quickly. Having seen Mani in action over time, I think SAP has a rock star product manager on their staff. His passion for his product is of the highest order of magnitude.
Hasso downplayed ERP on HANA – which I think is the right thing for SAP to do. He also explained how OLAP and OLTP loads are different in nature. ERP on HANA is not the best use of SAP’s time – I think they just aim to do this to gain credibility for SAP to tout HANA as a full fledged database. ERP on HANA makes a lot more sense for SAP if it becomes simpler, and hence cater to an eventual convergence of on-premises and cloud versions. But just for speed – it is limited to long running batch jobs like payment runs, clearing of documents, dunning etc. but considering SAP has to rewrite a lot of code in existing system, I doubt if it is a worthwhile investment.
A big problem for folks going into HANA on Business Suite is the quality of SQL knowledge they need. what we knew of as SQL as ABAPers won’t cut it. Actually the development paradigm of going to database for the minimum, and using more of ABAP is inefficient totally. Even for a SQL developer – he/she should know how to make use of set operations, since cursor based SQL is kind of like doing it in old ABAP. This skillset issue is something SAP and ecosystem should address head on. Product development on HANA should take education along with it. In this regard – I should thank Margaret Anderson and her CSA team for their stellar efforts in keeping us partners educated on HANA all the time, even as things change quickly.
Jeff Word’s HANA book, which some of us contributed to – was heavily pushed at the event. I got a copy signed by Hasso, Bill, Jim and Vishal. I need to get Jeff’s autograph too some day before I use it for the reason I got it all signed. Here is a picture.
It was a gratifying experience for me personally, since IBM got a lot of coverage in the keynote. The 100 TB system for HANA is IBM X series scale out machines, and we saw the subsecond response time on it. I had mentioned to many people at SAP including Vishal, Sethu , Aiaz and Steve Lucas that they should pull the plug on a HANA box during the keynote. And they did exactly that – and it worked like a charm. We saw the fail over of the nodes on the big screen. I hope SAP will provide additional details of the data stored in those nodes, time taken and so on later. HA is a big part of the buying decision for HANA – and I think this exercise will boost customer confidence a lot. The other side of the coin obviously is disaster recovery across sites, to make sure HANA can be put in data centers without too much trouble and manual intervention. But that is harder to show in a key note. But in near future, I expect SAP to publish more details on HA, DR, log shipping, work load management etc. That will single handedly speed up the HANA sales and delivery for SAP.
Vishal also gave my team a shout out for the working capital management solution we built. Late last week, I got pinged by Vishal and team while I was in the Bay Area. It was a simple request – can I come quickly to Palo Alto to meet them, or should they drive out to meet me? I drove to SAP’s offices and showed the app to Vishal and team and they loved it. And they loved it and put it on key note. Thanks folks – much appreciated. Also a big shout out to Dennis Howlett who was the first to tell me this is exactly the type of solution HANA should power. Thanks Dennis. And last but not least – a HUGE shout out to my dear colleagues and their leader Gagan Reen who worked tirlessly to build out 8 end to end usecases to show case business applications of HANA. You guys ROCK, and I could not be more proud of you.
I also got to short interviews on video with the two leaders who manage IBM’s global SAP consulting business, and North American SAP consulting business – Jay Bellissimo and John Leffler. A colleague shot the video of both, and I am waiting to get the download from her. If it came out half decent – I will post it here. These guys have both seen SAP evolve, and I think it will be useful to others in SAP ecosystem to hear their perspective. I am not a skilled interviewer – so I am not holding my breath on this coming out with high quality, but lets see.
And oh – just one more thing. While at SAPPHIRE, I got announced officially by IBM’s Managing Partner for SAP Practice as “Head of Global and North America SAP Forward Engineering team”. Thanks John and Jay and the leadership team.
It is quite a mouthful – and what the title means is that I will lead the efforts in IBM’s consulting organization for the innovation agenda in our SAP partnership – including HANA, Mobility and Cloud. My charter is to build the capabilities in engineering to put SAP’s amazing technology innovations in the context of business applications to add value to our customers. It is a tall order, and I am humbled at being given this opportunity.
I knew of this for a few months now, and till the official announcement came – I have already been working on many of the things this job entails. One thing I know for sure is that I cannot do this alone – so I am looking forward to collaborating even more with customers, the SAP community, SAP itself and within the larger IBM organization to collectively surface the best solutions. I already have solicited input from many people and they have all been generous with their time and ideas – and I want you to know I greatly appreciate it. I am not trying to lead a charge here – I am more looking forward to being an enabler of innovation with the teams and leaders in place today.
There are way too many people to thank – but I will resist the urge to name them all. You all know who you are ! But I have to make two exceptions – without SAP’s Marilyn Pratt’s and Mark Finnern’s efforts, I would have NEVER gone down the path I eventually did with SAP community, and that is what made the difference when I look back. I cannot thank them enough. I know all of us SAP Mentors and community members will join me in saying a big thanks to both of these wonderful people for all they do ! they are the BEST !!!