As the cloud continues to gather steam as the go-to model for many companies, platform-as-a-service offerings are also gaining credence. PaaS allows companies greater flexibility once they are in the cloud.
Platform as a service (PaaS) enables customers to develop new applications and services on their existing portfolios of technology to enable new capabilities. With PaaS, companies can develop new mobile applications quickly, automate processes or streamline operations. For companies like SAP, PaaS can unlock new doorways of modernization as well.
While historically SAP hasn't been first to the cloud, it is trying to reposition its major offerings for cloud-first and PaaS-ready capabilities. SAP recognizes the strategic importance of offering a robust PaaS to existing customers and partners to enable new customer experiences on the SAP platform, such as the development of new mobile applications. It is also banking on the idea that its new capabilities will attract other organizations that will help it broaden its base, especially in the rapidly growing cloud marketplace.
At the SAP TechEd conference in Barcelona, SAP repositioned some core products to reflect its PaaS-oriented strategy. For example, one of its flagship offerings, SAP HANA, its big data platform, has been repositioned from an initial focus on in-memory analytics to a wider array of software development capabilities among its front- and back-office applications.
At TechEd, the company announced HANA 2.0, which recasts the original analytics engine into a more full-featured application development environment that includes data and database management capabilities, along with added business intelligence (BI) functionality. SAP also placed great emphasis on its new HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) which offers a microservices marketplace on a subscription basis via the SAP hybris as a service ("YaaS"), which is a platform to develop and extend applications.
The premise behind SAP's new platform play is that enterprise customers -- both large-scale and medium-sized organizations -- want better ways to bridge the gap between front- and back-end systems. HANA 2.0 promises to exploit SAP's common data management architecture across its portfolio of enterprise solutions -- both on-premises and in the cloud. So, the company says HANA 2.0 will support SAP's existing ERP and other back-office applications, as well as the various cloud-based applications it has acquired via Concur, Fieldglass, SuccessFactors and SAP Hybris CRM.
The new platform will enable SAP customers and partners to extend the functional capabilities of their existing applications, build new applications, and more easily integrate the applications together.
The company also extended Fiori, its platform to develop mobile application, with a new focus on enhancing the user experience for customers and partners. And the YaaS marketplace provides a one-stop shop to develop, integrate and manage microservices that enhance SAP Hybris applications.
The new PaaS capabilities are built and delivered on Cloud Foundry, an increasingly popular open source platform. This makes SAP hybris as a service an open and extensible platform that allows developers to create microservices independent of SAP applications. They can also connect them through standardized application programming interfaces (APIs).
Putting all these benefits together, SAP hopes HANA 2.0 -- and HCP in particular -- will make its existing applications more responsive to rapidly changing customer and partner requirements and foster greater innovation within its developer ecosystem.
The timing of SAP's announcement is no accident. Zion Market Research recently published a study that estimated the global PaaS market equaled $2.11 billion in 2015 and will jump to $9.12 billion by the end of 2021.
SAP isn't alone in pursuing a PaaS path. Instead, it's playing catch-up to its primary CRM competitors: Salesforce.com and Microsoft. But SAP hopes it can leapfrog the competition by offering a development platform that not only enhances its SAP Hybris CRM capabilities, but also ties customer-facing apps more closely with its ERP and other back-office technologies. Bridging this gap would give SAP a competitive advantage in the enterprise marketplace by reducing the need for SAP shops to integrate systems or migrate to other platforms that better integrate customer-facing and back-office apps.
SAP has a long way to go to achieve its objectives to unify the front and back office. It not only has to convince its customers and partners that its new capabilities are real, but also package and price the new development platform in a compelling fashion to make it worthwhile for them to adopt it.
However, the HANA 2.0 and HCP capabilities received an enthusiastic response from the SAP customers and partners who attended TechEd in Barcelona, which should give it positive momentum in the market in the coming year.
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