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Envisioning your SAP Landscape for the Future

By Matt Hayes,VP-SAP Business, Attunity

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Matt Hayes,VP-SAP Business, Attunity

SAP HANA has driven the transformation of SAP from being just an enterprise applications company to being an IT platform play. As a result, implementation services vendors are following suit with an extended suite of services, including updates to database server and storage architectures and datacenter hardware. This transformation builds on SAP's earlier acquisitions and partnerships in mobile and cloud.

“Provisioning an accurate, relevant and reduced dataset to non-Production environments can further simplify and reduce the storage requirements for HANA”

Implementation service vendors are defining more industry-specific and cloud-based SAP solutions and are extending the IT project-based implementation services offered to clients to include business consulting, hosting, support, and maintenance. This is a logical progression as SAP last reported another quarter of strong results riding on the SAP HANA growth platform and is now targeting cloud subscriptions to exceed sales of new software licenses by 2018. Moreover, SAP predicts 7x growth in its cloud business to reach up to €28 Billion (US $29.6B) total revenue by 2020.

As the SAP business suite has expanded, customers have more systems running SAP applications than ever before. Have you seen your SAP application landscape diagram lately? The drive to HANA is exciting, but costly. Customers need to understand what an in-memory database is really going to do for them and SAP needs to start demonstrating optimization and simplicity in the landscape. Yes, this means that HANA will help to simplify your SAP landscape, especially now with the announcement of SAP S/4 HANA.

If you are to buy in to this concept, you need to see the big picture. To simplify it for you, in-memory databases help to speed performance. This of course enables Big Data and analytics, which catalyzes mobility and thus transforms the way we transact business today on a large scale. If you get this, then you’re already ahead of the curve and you need to start working in tactical components to be ready for this change.

Over the years, innovations in technology have evolved based on the peripheral or dependent technologies that would either impede or enable them. Slow networks of the past limited the amount of content that could be transmitted and displayed, disk I/O limited the number of resources that could access data, and processor speed limited the number of instructions that could be executed.

As each of these areas of computing technology improved and evolved, so did applications and innovative solutions. Complexity in the SAP data model has grown out of necessity based on limitations such as these. When I/O contention on database tables creates access bottlenecks, index tables are created to help balance the load. Likewise, Logical Information Systems (LIS) and Business Warehouse (BW) evolved to help offload and speed reporting requirements. All of this adds complexity, mostly to the data model.

Over the past ten years, SAP’s data model grew from around 10,000 tables in version 4.0 to over 30,000 tables in ECC 6.0, not just through the introduction of new modules and functionality, but also as a way to create balance in an application where thousands of business documents were being transacted daily or hourly by hundreds, if not thousands, of users. In-Memory storage of that vast volume of data and simplicity of the data model can change everything.

Columnar indexed and in-memory databases are radical enablers that not only improve the base of how and where we store our data, but also reconstitute the foundation. This means that if we are to take advantage of this radical shift, we need to look at our entire business application architecture and be ready for anything.

To do this, we and SAP need to “hashtag” simplify our approaches. No longer do we need masses of tables that provide infinite views and structures of the same data or dozens of indexes that create multiple levels of dimension. If the data is in-memory, we have immediate access to the data and can eliminate the slowest layers that have historically been part of the foundation. This creates the ability to truly simplify. Simplification here creates a more streamlined and straight-forward data model while reducing a massive storage requirement. Less storage of multi-layered data means a smaller footprint for HANA.

Whether or not you trust in SAP’s ability to run simple, there are two things you can count on; this isn’t going to happen overnight and at some point, you are going to be running your SAP applications on HANA, hence S/4. So what can you do now?

Start envisioning your SAP landscape for the future. At the highest level, this means HANA, cloud and optimization. Forward thinking at this point and making important tactical decisions are going to better position you for the biggest changes that lie ahead. What data you store and where you store it in your application landscape is critical now. This means provisioning an accurate, relevant and reduced dataset to non-Production environments can further simplify and reduce the storage requirements for HANA or in-memory databases. Intentional and strategic replication of key data in desperate locations can speed access to data as well.

These are just two of the ways that a tactical decision today can enable the broader long-term strategy down the road. Today, many innovative and uniquely positioned solutions exist to help you quickly and easily manage this shift. Leverage them. The future is yours.

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