Evolution & Revolution

That’s how we can best define the shift towards Cloud deployment.

By Matthew Zenus

Data plays a pivotal role in the digital economy that we live in. Organizations need to be able to fully harness the power of data regardless of its physical location, size or format. By doing so, they can become data-driven businesses and produce actionable insights to make fact-based decisions.

There are organizations that have a strong hybrid data management strategy, which gives them a clear competitive advantage and differentiation. They are able to see more, understand more, do more and ultimately have more impact. They are also able to make the most of their existing on-premises investments, as well as make the transition to the Cloud. These organizations utilize their data to create business value, and so they treat data as they would treat an asset on their balance sheet.

Transformation is mandatory

Many organizations can gain speed, flexibility, and efficiency by Cloud deployments. The COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated the need for organizations to develop and deliver solutions at higher speeds to address challenges like contact tracing, outbreak detection or effective vaccine distribution. And across the world, we have seen a significant move towards new technologies in the Cloud, attributed to attractive and flexible business models, proving that the shift towards Cloud deployment is both an evolution and a revolution. It cannot just be a forced march to the Cloud. Every organization is under significant pressure to meet the needs of their customers, employees, and regulations. As a result, transformation is mandatory, especially since organizations need a platform that supports their existing investments and provides innovative technology. To enable this, they need an evolved environment to leverage their existing infrastructure investments, and at the same time drive revolution by introducing new customer experiences, using data as a strategic asset and applying intelligent technologies to support innovation.

Organizations today need to have confidence in their existing investments. They need to know that these investments will be supported while they leverage Cloud technologies to expand and drive their revolution. This revolution will support future state architectures and allow simplification, innovation, scalability and elasticity, which will ultimately lead to a consolidated data management and analytics platform that will allow organizations to gain visibility across environments.

Forward-looking Intelligent Enterprise

Data is the currency of an Intelligent Enterprise, which is an organization that can fully take advantage and harness all of its data in an effective and time-efficient way to enhance operations and improve people’s lives. However, there are some key trends and challenges that need to be understood and addressed. One of them is that data volume is exploding — there has been an exponential growth in data which is fueled by new data sources and alternate datasets, and they will only continue to evolve at a faster pace going forward. Another challenge is the fragmented organizational landscape led by multiple Cloud solutions manifesting themselves as Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, Software-as-a-Service, Database-as-a-Service and even Data-as-a-Service. This leads to complexity and loss of visibility and insight across the organization.

There are also new demands on data. It’s simply not good enough to ask anymore what happened last quarter or last month, or even what’s happening now; we need to know what is going to happen using predictive Machine Learning and automating business processes to take action. This is what we are doing at SAP. We are bridging that gap by building these intelligent technologies into our business solutions and leveraging foundational platforms like our SAP Business Technology Platform powered by SAP HANA and SAP HANA Cloud that have multi-model capabilities.

Several sectors, such as retail, logistics, real estate, as well as healthcare are very mature in terms of how they are leveraging data, and more importantly, the amount of data they are processing. On many occasions we see them at the forefront of some of the newer types of data and data management technologies that they can leverage, and it isn’t limited to just analyzing what’s happening in the store, but also forecasting. For instance, knowing about the real-time performance of stores or predicting disruptions in the supply chain.

Many organizations can gain speed, flexibility, and efficiency by Cloud deployments. The COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated the need for organizations to develop and deliver solutions at higher speeds to address challenges like contact tracing, outbreak detection or effective vaccine distribution

Connecting business with location

Location Intelligence is not just about dots on the map, there is a lot more to it. We work very closely with location services and GIS vendors and have them certified on our flagship database and data management platforms. For instance, SAP HANA Cloud was recently certified as an Esri ArcGIS geodatabase, so it can now be deployed in the Cloud or in a hybrid scenario. Esri’s solutions can experience the power and performance of SAP HANA with the flexibility of running in the Cloud. We have also included maps within our analytics solutions like SAP Analytics Cloud, where users have a base map that they can utilize for geo-aware analysis. We have integrated GIS solutions with our Enterprise Asset Management applications via the Geographical Enablement Framework, also referred to as SAP GEF. It allows you to interoperate with your GIS and business suite modules, so that you can see your assets on a map and make better decisions.

We are also working with location information providers on a common SAP location services framework called SAP HANA Spatial Services, which is a part of our SAP Business Technology Platform. It is a framework that numerous location providers can plug into, and our own line of business applications can consume these location services such as mapping, geocoding, reverse geocoding, and routing. SAP HANA Spatial Services enables business users to combine business and spatial data to realize innovative use cases that range from dispatching field personnel to an outage in real time, minimizing freight costs, enhancing customer service, and more.

SAP HANA Cloud is a fully managed multi-cloud, multi-tier Database-as-a-Service platform that runs on SAP applications, as well as third-party and custom solutions. It can connect with location services to provide maps, routing, geocoding, reverse geocoding, so that one can build solutions on SAP HANA Cloud. We are using SAP HANA Cloud as an underlying architecture that provides the gateway to all enterprise datasets. So, now we can literally connect your location information from GIS systems with your IT and business systems like SAP S/4HANA.

During the pandemic, we discovered that our customers and partners of all types leverage this openness and flexibility that we provide. We found that our strategy about connecting, not necessarily collecting data, is the key differentiator for our customers and partners, as it allows them to evolve from after-the-fact reporting to real-time and predictive analytics, as well as quickly integrate, develop and roll out solutions.

Democratization of data

The emergence of Amazon Location Service and Intel Geospatial adding the spatial dimension to their businesses is all about democratization of data. Democratization of location data and services is critical; we see it as another dataset that can be leveraged further. It is more than just displaying a base map or putting points on maps, it’s about business value and using location data to enhance that. These organizations, regardless of the technology they use, are going to be the ones that do more than roll out point solutions; they will embed that spatial dimension into business processes.

It’s not just about moving or storing data in one place, it’s about connecting data with a strong data management foundation. Intelligent technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are required to take advantage of that data and feed that into e business processes to make real-time decisions. In many cases, such decisions can in fact be automated, and those applications then feed your data management system, laying the foundation of a virtuous and continuous cycle. So, the more data, or fuel, you add to this cycle, the faster it starts to spin, and organizations that are able to take advantage of this will definitely have an edge in the future.

Vision for future

Our vision at SAP is to bring IT and GIS closer together, both on a technical and a process level, and this is already happening with our customers today. The exploration of location data has become a mainstream topic across all industries these days, and a future-proof data management strategy must include location data. Ignoring it is not an option anymore.

Matthew Zenus, Global Vice President — SAP HANA & Database, Product and Solution Management, SAP

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