Top SAP technology trends of 2016: All about the cloud

This article is Part 4 of a five-piece series on upcoming trends in SAP software for 2016. In this segment, we will discuss the latest cloud services offered.

A large part of the TechEd keynotes and presentations was geared toward SAP’s cloud strategy. This was evident in the fact that S/4 releases were available in the cloud first and with more frequent updates than the on-premises edition. However, in several sessions, presenters asked whether any attendees were already running in the cloud or planning to do so in the near future. The response from the technical audience was that no one was ready or planning to move their full-scale apps just yet.

SAP’s cloud environment

SAP has placed a large emphasis on the HANA Cloud Platform (HCP), which offers platform-as-a-service for developing native HANA applications and extending ABAP-based offerings. With HCP, developers can choose the best-suited development language from the current options of Java, C++ and JavaScript (now with Node.js support). Complementing HCP is the Cloud Connector, which allows for the seamless integration of exposed application programming interfaces and data via replication — there is no direct view/table access, though, for obvious reasons.

SAP has made a major push to provide an ecosystem for easy-to-consume services from SAP and third parties. An interesting example was presented in the tax-as-a-service offering, which enables consumer shopping applications to quickly support international tax laws — for instance, it adjusts to sales tax in the United States versus value-added tax in other countries. The underlying architecture that enables the quick assembly of data and functionality is provided through the extensive use of microservices. This was featured prominently in the keynote and mirrors an industry-wide trend. The use of OData services for Fiori can be seen as foreshadowing a much larger trend.

Cloud-based analytics and development

Another major announcement at TechEd was around SAP Cloud for Analytics (C4A) and Vora. C4A can be seen as the equivalent to HCP in the analytical space, since it provides easy and consistent access for high-performance planning and predictive analytics with an engaging user interface. Vora is an Apache Spark-based analytics engine for Hadoop-based data to enter into the “very big data” space “at infinite scale” that HANA cannot directly address.

As far as development support goes, SAP is investing heavily into Web-based development tools. The most prominent tool is called WebIDE and is the primary tool for implementing Fiori applications and interacting with HANA. There are still large pieces of functionality missing, such as debugging support, but this will surely be remedied in future releases. Versions of WebIDE, used in a hands-on TechEd session, also showed stability and usability issues.

Given that the cloud is at the center of SAP’s strategy of growth for its overall business model, cloud technologies will continue to be an important focus area in 2016.

Are you thinking about moving some or all of your business systems to the cloud this year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to check back for the final article in the SAP top technology trend series.

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