Unless you work in a large enterprise, you probably haven’t heard of SAP. They are a German software giant akin to Microsoft or IBM in terms of size and reach. They have two major offerings, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) tool – which is what made the company’s name – and a new fast computing and data retrieval program called HANA.
This is a company that likely affects your everyday life and yet you probably have never heard of them.
Nearly every major enterprise that manufactures goods, moves around a lot of product, handles huge and varied financials, or all of the above uses ERP and many of them use SAP’s – including most of the world’s energy companies. Yet the trend is towards data as a tool rather than a necessity and this has meant a re-think of how data is stored, accessed, manipulated, and viewed. Seeing this trend, SAP launched HANA, a product that combines fast computing and data retrieval to allow companies to better analyze how they’re doing on any level. It’s one of the most-used offerings in this new realm and has been touted as one of the greatest tools in the new Big Data age.
SAP has now announced that HANA will be offered as a cloud-based product, to be provided in a Software as a Service (SaaS) model with access being granted through license purchase similar to how software hosted and used by the enterprise in-house is traditionally sold. IT Departments and their management are familiar with that concept, but will see the very obvious cost savings of not having to host the software (or maintain it, or provide infrastructure for it) via a cloud-based offering.
SAP has built seven data centers globally specifically to host HANA, and has deployed 30,000 computers (read: servers, processors, etc.) on that network. In an interview for the New York Times, Vishal Sikka of SAP’s executive board said:
“We will do cloud-based ERP on a massive scale. At some point in the future, complex implementations should go away. All of our products are moving to HANA.”
That’s a bold statement from an old-guard company that has made its fortune on more traditional software-in-a-box sales. Yet the company has brought on board several unnamed test clients and those businesses have amassed about 750 terabytes of data into the system – the equivalent of 1.875 million average-length music files in CD-quality MP3.
The advantages to going to the cloud are broader than just cost-savings. Many of SAP’s biggest customers are utility and energy companies, which may have tens of millions of people using their products daily. Sikka told the NYT that they serve about 220 utilities globally who in turn reach about 2.5 billion customers. Through HANA, those utilities can start allowing customers to directly access their own records as well as non-identifying information about their geographic area’s usage and learn how to lower their energy usage thanks to the easy access to all of this information. All of those utilities combined, said Sikka, would only use about 2,000 of SAP’s servers to accomplish those goals – far fewer than are being deployed individually by those companies currently.
From the business side, the same sorts of data benefits would emerge. Energy companies could have faster access to geologic information, financial risk analysis, and more.
For you, as a consumer, this would mean more transparency and access and, ultimately, more on several levels. The use of fewer servers, the better access to information, and the smarter control over energy for both the individual household, the energy company’s regional operations, and globally would also mean a cleaner planet through better energy conservation through smarter use.
That’s why SAP’s move to the cloud matters to everyone.
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