Let Public Cloud Platforms be Your Last Battlefield

B. Shimmin
B. Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

• SAP has just announced that its new, real-time data warehouse, SAP BW/4HANA, will run equally well on both SAP- and Amazon-run cloud platforms.

• This push to use the public cloud, not as a point of exclusion (our software only runs on our cloud!), but as a point of value on its own will benefit both SAP and its customers through a virtuous circle of choice.

I proudly admit that I’m a serious Trekkie (not to be confused with those oddballs who call themselves Trekkers) and that many of my expectations of how technology and society should work are colored by my exposure to the idealistic stories created by Gene Roddenberry. For instance, I believe technology should make our lives better and that it should serve as a symbiotic partner rather than as an end unto itself, or worse as a means of exclusion. I’m talking to you, Facebook! But I also understand that at this stage in our cultural evolution, money drives innovation, and competitive differentiation, in turn, drives money. Exclusion and inclusion each push and pull value (read money and innovation) in a seemingly virtuous cycle.
Still, as we learned from a late episode of Star Trek entitled “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” where two representatives of two warring races (Lokai and Bele) chase one another for 50,000 years only to discover that their mutual hatred has led to the destruction of both races, these cycles of exclusion and inclusion are not really all that high-minded or virtuous. What we need is a little inclusion. What we need is a little more of what we saw from public cloud platform rivals SAP and Amazon last week. And what we saw, in a word, was choice.

SAP rolled out a new vision of data warehousing with SAP BW/4HANA, which deftly combines both historical and real-time data analysis within a single logical warehouse architecture that will run, not just on premises and in the cloud, but within multiple clouds, not of its own making. The vendor intends to launch BW/4HANA on both SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud and on Amazon Web Services (AWS) with Amazon itself providing assistance in working with SAP to certify HANA on AWS X1 instances to support true scale-out OLAP performance.

Interestingly, as its name suggests, SAP BW/4HANA is a business (data) warehouse built to run on, and take advantage of, the company’s HANA in-memory technologies to support both transactional and analytical requirements. And HANA itself is perhaps the biggest point of differentiation for SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, serving as a common data architecture for SAP’s sizable cloud portfolio. So why should SAP push both HANA and BW/4HANA to AWS? Won’t that undermine the value of SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud and HANA itself? Remember, there’s value in exclusion. Remember Microsoft’s decades-long endeavor to make Office run “better” on the Windows operating system?

Thankfully, Microsoft figured out that the underlying hardware device also made for a pretty good battleground and a good reason for users to pick Microsoft. Likewise SAP has figured out that HANA and BW/4HANA will best serve SAP, not as means of vendor lock-in (you can only get HANA here at SAP!), but as way to reach the broadest swath of enterprise customers possible. Lest you think this to be an isolated instance, by the way, SAP HANA already runs as a certified instance on Microsoft Azure.

I hope other vendors take up this same approach to the public cloud, seeking differentiation through innovation rather than control and exclusion. Both the platform and the software running on that platform are of equal value in my eyes. They should each be allowed to rise or fall on their own. That’s what I consider to be a virtuous circle in the truest, “Trekkie” sense of the phrase.

What do you think?

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