One of the trickiest tasks for enterprise software giants like SAP, Oracle and Microsoft is offering the cloud-based applications that are increasingly chosen for new deployments while not cannibalizing their existing on-premise software. SAP took a step in that direction this morning with the introduction of the newest version of its flagship Business Suite.
SAP CEO Bill McDermott called the new SAP S/4HANA "an innovation platform" that has been "reinvented for the digital age" and insisted it was the company's biggest product launch in the last quarter century. SAP is offering cloud, on-premise and hybrid deployment options to ease its customers into the cloud, with a single, consistent user interface offered for all of the options.
Business Suite, Meet HANA
It also marks SAP's most ambitious use to date of its HANA in-memory platform. While SAP will continue to offer versions of its Business Suite that run on databases from competitors like Oracle, S/4HANA will use only the HANA in-memory database.
SAP promises S/4HANA will change how companies analyze their sales performance, inventory levels and other essential business information, with HANA's speed giving them a more real-time view of such data.
While this approach will require customers to make a big commitment to an SAP stack, Dan Lahl, the company's VP of Product Marketing, in an August interview with Enterprise Apps Today said that customers such as Unilever, Medtronic and Vodafone are already doing so. Medtronic, for example, runs a half-dozen SAP applications on a single HANA instance. Lahl reported that some 4,000 SAP customers had licensed HANA, with about 1,000 of them purchasing Business Suite on HANA.
"HANA started out as an immature product, but now we are seeing customers using it as a mature platform. The more we can optimize our application stack for those customers as we've done with BW 7.4 and with Smart Financials, the more we can do to collapse complexity into a stack-based system, the more you'll see broader adoption," Lahl told Enterprise Apps Today.
Late last year SAP introduced a program designed to boost HANA adoption. Called Simpler Choice, the program includes assistance in determining how HANA affects data management costs, help in evaluating cloud applications and trial versions of HANA for both cloud and on-premise environments. Simpler Choice also offers simplified licensing terms and "Journey Maps" that lead customers step-by-step through the process of deploying HANA with applications such as Business Suite, Business Warehouse and Simple Finance.
The S/4HANA announcement referenced Simple Finance, software introduced in June, noting that it "marked the first step in the SAP S/4HANA roadmap." As eWEEK reported, "Simple Finance is the first of an expected series of 'Simple' products that will include other corporate functions such as inventory and enterprise planning."
The S/4HANA announcement also mentioned that the software giant plans to introduce new cloud apps from SAP companies Ariba, Fieldglass and SuccessFactors that are optimized to run on S4/HANA.
Financial analysts are concerned about how SAP can protect its profits as its customers shift business to its newer cloud products. As Reuters reported in October, SAP lowered its year-end expectations for 2014 financial results due in large part to the different way cloud software sales are booked as revenue.
Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.