SAP HANA and the Modern Data Platform

Meeting Big Data Requirements for the Digital Enterprise with a Bimodal IT Framework

A proliferation of new data is having a profound effect on enterprise business. Companies in all industries are being inundated with new data sources stemming from Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 technologies, and there is a race to use sensor data, sentiment data, text analysis data, and geospatial data to innovate ahead of their competitors. A challenge for many SAP customers has been figuring out how to marry these newfound data sources with enterprise transactional data, where traditionally only a very small percentage of available data is used to generate actionable insight.

As this period of data hyper-growth continues, companies are under increasing pressure to find an economical way to store and leverage unstructured data from disparate data sources with legacy transactional data. The risks of inaction are real — if a proliferation of data overwhelms compute and storage capacity, companies may well miss out on an opportunity to innovate.

The need to solve big data challenges has helped shape SAP’s development and go-to-market strategy for the modern data platform, SAP Universal Data Management powered by SAP HANA. Falling under the purview of our organization, Database and Data Management, SAP Universal Data Management powered by SAP HANA is a grouping of big data and analytics products — with SAP HANA as the foundational core — that allows for the separation of storage and computational capabilities, and the ability to store data in the most economical way possible while simultaneously allowing for unfettered data access.

The Bimodal IT Approach

SAP Universal Data Management powered by SAP HANA helps SAP customers meet big data challenges by enabling them to build an extended bimodal IT framework. Bimodal IT is a concept that has emerged in the wake of the demands placed on companies by the explosion of new data sources. At a high level, it means separating stable transactional systems and tried-and-true core systems of record (Mode 1) from leveraging analytical data (Mode 2). With a bimodal IT model that features SAP HANA as the foundation, companies can leave transactional systems untouched while they take a “fail fast” approach to spinning up new use cases for data to create something better for tomorrow than they have today.

The fruits of a bimodal IT approach are producing business results today and can be found almost anywhere you look. Retailers are leveraging sentiment data in real time to predict brand impact. Companies are bringing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning into their supply chains to provide customized goods and services. Mode 2 speaks to a scale-up, scale-down flexible model that is often supported by software-as-a-service (SaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solutions on SAP Cloud Platform for edge innovations.

Mode 2 in no way diminishes the importance of innovation to a company’s Mode 1 digital core. One of the goals of the SAP Universal Data Management strategy is to simplify the legacy infrastructure that is required to run systems of record. The mass adoption of SAP S/4HANA is validation of the inclusion of SAP HANA as the common denominator of the overall modern data platform. With support for both Mode 1 and Mode 2 in an extended bimodal framework, customers can keep mission-critical transactional data as the core of SAP Universal Data Management powered by SAP HANA and blend that with new data sources to quickly put data at the fingertips of business users at the exact moment they need it.

Taming Big Data Challenges

A bimodal IT framework that includes SAP Cloud Platform Big Data Services helps mitigate two of the main challenges facing SAP customers that work with big data, which increasingly involves use of the open source processing framework Hadoop. First is the challenge stemming from Hadoop being open source; the skills and talent required to manage a Hadoop environment and infrastructure can be complex and hard to find. Second, some customers have been concerned about the viability of a long-term partnership with Hadoop distributors.

SAP Cloud Platform Big Data Services outsources this complexity to provide companies with an economical approach to Mode 2 edge innovation without taking valuable resources away from the digital core. And, with SAP Vora as an extraction layer on top of the Apache Spark Hadoop framework, companies can more intelligently extract Hadoop data into a logical data structure for use in Mode 2 with SAP HANA as the engine.

Together, SAP HANA, SAP Cloud Platform Big Data Services, and SAP Vora serve as three pillars of SAP Universal Data Management powered by SAP HANA that can meet pressing big data needs. This also means that many customers will need to think of SAP HANA in a new light. While many have traditionally understood SAP HANA to be the engine that drives the SAP digital core — with SAP S/4HANA as the embodiment — a full embrace of a bimodal IT framework with SAP HANA at the foundation requires an understanding that SAP HANA is not just an SAP-only platform or SAP-only database for SAP applications.

As shown with the Hadoop data scenario, SAP Universal Data Management powered by SAP HANA can pull data from outside SAP transactional systems and leverage this data for any number of use cases in concert with SAP and non-SAP applications. The true value proposition, then, is to leverage the IoT and Industry 4.0 data trends that sit outside of an SAP platform while simultaneously using transactional systems of record; it is the marriage of structured and unstructured data from any source that leaves the core, mission-critical systems of record untouched.

The New Digital Currency

There is widespread agreement in business that data is the new digital currency. While the full impact of the current hyper-growth in data won’t be known for years, as many companies are still in the early stages of making important decisions about what it means to trade in this new currency, there is increasing pressure to make some of these decisions quickly. We have already seen a blurring of traditional industry lines and rapid innovation from digital leaders who realize the worth of new and nontraditional sources of data and have put a plan into action to improve the business.

Companies in high-data-volume industries such as telecommunications, utilities, and heavy manufacturing are in the middle of the storm for leveraging sensor data and connecting people, processes, and assets to drive a digital transformation. But the data storm will not leave any industry untouched. Healthcare is an example of an industry that likely will be completely transformed by the onslaught of data, as hospitals, providers, and researchers transition to an extended bimodal IT framework to effectively leverage data with the goal of improving lives.  

As the cloud company powered by SAP HANA, SAP’s traditional role as the developer and distributor of business process automation software has expanded in recent years. The development and go-to-market strategy surrounding SAP Universal Data Management powered by SAP HANA is yet more evidence of a change in positioning — support for an extended bimodal IT environment by necessity includes an acknowledgement that non-SAP data is a vital part of such an environment.

By providing complete support and a full range of tools needed to build out an extended bimodal framework, we look forward to working with customers and partners to help them tame their big data challenges and become digital leaders.