SAP Cloud Platform goes multi-cloud

SAP Cloud Platform

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Still trying to understand the recent changes to SAP Cloud Platform, or HANA Cloud Platform, as it was formerly known? Murali Shanmugham has the answers. 

SAP Cloud Platform is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) which has had tremendous growth since its announcement back in 2014. Earlier named as SAP HANA Cloud Platform (HCP), it is widely used by SAP customers as their innovation platform to quickly build and deploy applications. Lot of SAP customers who have on-premise and cloud solutions to run their core processes are beginning to use the Cloud Platform as their agile layer to extend these solutions. It’s great to see customers across Australia and New Zealand embracing the Cloud Platform and building innovative solution to meet their requirements – whether it is building consumer grade mobile apps, renewing their UX, setting up an agile datamart or even integrating with the digital economy using APIs.

There are over 40 services offered by the platform and the count has been steadily growing. In the first half of 2017, there have been some major announcements. The first announcement was the name change. SAP HANA Cloud Platform becomes SAP Cloud Platform. When the platform was evolving, the addition of HANA was a big differentiator. Apart from providing in-memory database services, few other key services in the platform were powered by HANA. However, in the last five years, the platform has evolved into a comprehensive Platform-as-a-Service which enables customers to extend their on-premise and cloud solutions as well as build new digital apps in quick time frames. The name change also helped to clear confusion which existed among people that the platform was just HANA in the cloud.

The second announcement was around the availability of Cloud Foundry within SAP Cloud Platform and the multi-cloud strategy. SAP Cloud Platform is the first and only multi-cloud enterprise platform which can run on different infrastructure providers. This makes the platform truly an open platform for any developers to come and build their applications using their development language of choice. SAP Cloud Platform is generally available in Amazon Web Service (AWS) and offered as beta in Microsoft Azure. The collaboration with Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is currently in pilot and we can expect to hear more announcements by the end of the year.

What is the significance of this approach and how are customers going to benefit?

Firstly, being based on an open platform, it will attract more developers from the community. We will get to see nodejs or .NET developers use their existing skills and rapidly develop new applications on top of SAP solutions using their own tools. This significantly lowers the total cost of development. Portability is also one of the important benefits of a multi-cloud approach. You can move your applications and developers to a different infrastructure with limited efforts.

Secondly, customers can choose a data centre belonging to a different infrastructure provider to host the platform. If a customer has already made a huge investment with say Azure, they could deploy SAP Cloud Platform on Azure and use the platform services in conjunction with Azure services. This opens lot of new opportunities by being able to leverage services from multiple platform. To give an example, SAP customers could start building applications which leverage Azure Active Directory for Single Sign-on across SAP, Azure and Office 365 assets.  If for some reason, the customer decides to move to another infrastructure provider, they could easily move their applications to an SAP Cloud Platform hosted on another infrastructure. Hence, there is no vendor lock-in.

There are customers who in the past couldn’t leverage the Cloud Platform due to either the need to support latency-sensitive applications or data sovereignty issues as the platform was not hosted within their country. With the multi-cloud approach, these customers now have more options to pick a data centre close to their location.

Many organisations are moving to a hybrid environment and are beginning to subscribe to various SaaS solutions in the cloud. The ability to co-locate all cloud assets and services along with the PaaS is becoming one of the key drivers for adopting a PaaS. For example, if a customer has heavily invested in AWS and have lot of SaaS solutions in hosted in AWS, they can start to use SAP Cloud Platform in the same data centre and benefit from reduced network latency and have better integration possibilities.

Lastly, it protects customers from failures associated with one infrastructure provider. We recently heard about failures of a cloud infrastructure provider which nearly affected a fifth of the internet. Customers need to start planning to have their applications/storage across multiple infrastructure providers to avoid such kind of failures. SAP’s multi-cloud approach can help address this issue.

What is included in the Cloud Foundry environment?

The introduction of Cloud Foundry within SAP Cloud Platform has provided more flexibility as developers are no longer restricted to building applications using runtimes like Java, XSJS and HTML5 and data storage like SAP HANA and SAP ASE. SAP Cloud Platform now supports developers to build applications using Java, Node.JS, Go, PHP, Python, Ruby etc. Developers can also import other community build packs and start building their applications too. The platform also offers open-source (based) and industry-proven data and storage technologies like PostgreSQL, MongoDB, Redis and RabbitMQ.

All major innovations for this year are going to be around the Cloud Foundry environment of SAP Cloud Platform. Customers can begin to use IoT services, consume business services infused with machine learning capabilities and use the big data platform based on Altiscale.  Announced at SAPPHIRE, SAP Cloud Platform would become the underlying platform for SAP Leonardo, SAP’s purpose-built set of solutions to assist customers in their digital transformation journey. SAP Cloud Platform will power all the dimensions of SAP Leonardo – machine learning, big data, IoT, block chain and data intelligence.

In the below image, you can see the Cloud Platform made available in SAP data centres (Neo environment) as well as other infrastructure providers like AWS and Azure (Cloud Foundry environment). It’s important to note that all the services which are currently available in the Neo environment are not available in the Cloud Foundry environment. HANA is the only storage service which is available in all the environments. In fact, customers get the latest HANA 2.0 which is based on MDC in the Cloud Foundry environment.

Customers can achieve cross-service consumption for HTTP based services. Currently, there are only data centres in US and EU which support the Cloud Foundry environment. The data centre availability in Australia is in the roadmap.

It’s an exciting time in the Cloud Platform space with a new direction aimed at providing customers the highest flexibility and at the same time enabling them to become more agile, optimised and digital.

Murali Shanmugham is solution advisor, SAP Cloud Platform, SAP Australia.

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