I had the pleasure of joining some Keytree colleagues from our technical architecture, business intelligence and innovation communities at SAP TechEd Barcelona 2016. An event marking 20 years of TechEd, ten years of Keytree and five years since my first TechEd. Four things that resonated with me were – the launch of SAP HANA 2, a huge commitment to APIs / micro services, some impressive demos of the IoT platform, and finally a growing commitment from SAP to give developers free tools to try out new features and technologies.
From being a new product at my first TechEd the big announcement was SAP HANA 2 and for me, the standout feature was a new high availability mode, where the secondary database can be used not just as a warm standby but to run read-only queries. Also innovative is a new release schedule for SAP HANA databases – with SAP HANA 2 being on track with twice yearly feature updates, and SAP HANA 1 SPS12 having fixes only for three years.
I can see benefits of this approach for large IT departments. With an innovation track database used by a data analyst team to get the latest features, and a separate maintenance track HANA instance used as a transactional store for a system of record – this means less regression test effort for the business critical system of record.
In terms of helping developers with free tools, the keynote included an impressive demo of HANA 2 geospatial featuring European Space Agency satellite data – plus news that this is exposed as a web API for developers – the API can be tried for free here.
Also highlighted in the keynote, to help developers was SAP HANA express edition – this is a free lightweight version of SAP HANA, deployable on laptops or small cloud servers. It can be used for development and even for small production databases for free. Another clear example of this approach is the SAP HANA Cloud Platform trial addition – fully featured (though non-production) allowing developers to try things out and work out which of the many platform features may be useful.
I believe this approach is vital to SAP maintaining a strong and loyal developer community – with the massive growth of open source and availability of free developer tools there is now an expectation that developers can at least experiment with technologies without having to worry about licenses.
It was also clear in session after session that exposing services as APIs delivered as micro services is SAP’s architectural direction. A key enabling technology for this will be Cloud Foundry on SAP HANA Cloud Platform. It’s been known for a while that SAP HANA Cloud Platform will use Cloud Foundry to support more flexibility in deployment and choice of technologies. However, it was great to see some really excellent material fleshing out this vision.
It was caveated as being a ‘roadmap’ (so no firm commitments), but it appears the SAP HCP Cloud Foundry release will cover the NodeJS, Mongo and PostGres features currently in public beta. It will expose SAP HANA as a Cloud Foundry backing service, and probably support Docker containerised apps using the Cloud Foundry Diego component. Cloud Foundry on SAP HCP is a big subject, which I will cover in more detail in a later blog.
Another feature for SAP HANA Cloud Platform are the increasing range of higher level “business services” all exposed as APIs such as the Hybris commerce micro services, taxation, predictive analytics and in future services from Ariba, SuccessFactors and so on. These higher level business services are a key differentiator for SAP HCP – there are many PaaSs, so it’s hard to differentiate one in purely technical terms, but by adding SAP’s strength in business services to the mix, SAP HCP becomes compelling.
For some fantastic architectural tips on building apps that make the most of SAP HANA Cloud Platform, I’d recommend you check out Matthias Steiner’s session on building cloud native apps.
Finally, onto the Internet of Things. We’ve been lucky enough at Keytree to get early views of the new SAP HCP IoT Platform, so it was good to see it was a hot topic at TechEd. Every IoT session I saw was packed (often turning away late comers). Dirk Ammermann’s session on IoT architectures was interesting – whether IoT data should be handled near the devices, on a central server, in a data stream, in an analytical store, or in a combination.
Keytree’s Will Powell demonstrated some innovation connecting our retail Clienteling app to the SAP IoT platform to allow store staff to get useful information on a number of devices in store, and even see which changing rooms are unoccupied across the store to help direct customers to an available one. The demo was up to Will’s usual high standards – switching seamlessly from showing a low-level hex data stream coming live from sensors on the podium to seeing the end result in an iPad app. It was well attended to given it was 8:30 am after the TechEd 20th anniversary celebration!