Reinventing business with SAP’s HANA Cloud Platform

In a recent post, my colleague Philippe-Emmanuel summed up how the HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) helps SAP customers achieve “agility”, while protecting their core business systems.

Agility is the common thread, but what I’d like to talk about here is how HCP delivers a wealth of transformative digital capabilities, such as mobility, IoT services and advanced analytics. Let’s take a quick look at how they translate into concrete benefits for business.

Transforming user experiences in the mobile world

The ubiquity of smart phones and tablets, not to mention social networking, is the most visible sign of the digitalization of the consumer sphere. Over the last few years, business users have demanded the same type of user experience, and companies have begun building mobility into business processes and customer relationships.

While HCP has a lot to offer in terms of mobility, SAP’s alliance with Apple on HCP is emblematic. In deployment, the iOS front-end runs on the iPhone, while the back-end runs on HCP, leveraging “backing services” (such as access to core business systems) and supported by the HCP Mobile Service for functions needed by most mobile applications.

When we work with clients to deploy mobile HCP applications, there are three main options, ranked here by speed of execution:

  1. Choose a ready-to-use application from the HANA App Store (from SAP, Atos or an “Atos vetted” provider such as Innovapptive)
  2. Extend an existing application to mobile, with SAP Fiori in HCP
  3. Develop a new app leveraging the HCP Mobile Service and development toolkits

Today agility rhymes with mobility, and I’ve yet to meet a customer who doesn’t want both.

Harnessing the power of “smart objects” on the IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is made up of “smart” devices – from miniscule chips to mammoth machines – that communicate with each other and with applications. It’s growing fast, from 2 billion objects in 2006 to a projected 200 billion by 2020. Most IoT devices are not in the consumer sphere but in business, especially in manufacturing and healthcare.

HCP IoT services enable customers and partners (such as Atos) to develop and operate IoT applications in the cloud. Businesses leverage two major IoT services:

  • Remote Device Management (delivered as SaaS) to “onboard” smart objects and
  • Message Management (embedded in IoT applications) for receiving data from devices and sending messages to them.

Under the hood, the HANA in-memory database is the best in the industry for handling massive volumes of IoT data.

Here again, HCP simplifies the delivery of new digital capabilities, in this case smart objects over the IoT, and brings agility to the organization’s business.

Delivering analytical insights and intelligent applications

Today’s “analytics landscape” is rapidly evolving, moving from the slow, rear-view mirror of traditional BI to a new era of “agile insights”, to make analytics more actionable and integrated in business processes. Predictive analytics is particularly crucial – companies need to go beyond “what happened?” to “what will happen?” and even “how can we prevent/ensure it happens again?”

HCP offers many capabilities for sophisticated, real-time analytics. Once again, the keystone is the HANA in-memory database, which was designed with analytics in mind. In addition to a rich choice of in-database predictive algorithms, HANA can process huge volumes of Big Data in “hot memory”. With HCP Advanced Analytics, businesses can embed analytical capabilities into “intelligent” applications and innovative business processes.

To make things more concrete, I’ll mention just two examples:

    • Spatial analytics: Studies show that 80% of all data contains some reference to geography and that 90% of all mobile devices are location-aware. Businesses can embed spatial analytics capabilities to geo-enable data, transforming consumer engagements from basic transactions into individualized experiences.
    • Predictive maintenance: IoT applications developed with manufacturing clients use embedded HCP analytics to handle incoming data about maintenance needs from smart machines. The “intelligent” application determines the response message and immediately informs a maintenance engineer via a mobile app.

In short, HCP Advanced Analytics – together with mobility and IoT capabilities – is a powerful force for businesses who want to build “agile intelligence” into their organizations and processes and, of course,  their relationships with their own customers.

Getting started with co-innovation

HCP delivers a wealth of transformative digital capabilities for business innovation. Here, I’ve highlighted just a few but there are many more and, frankly, SAP customers just discovering HCP are sometimes almost overwhelmed. They want and need the capabilities of the platform but don’t know where and how to get started.

In my experience, it’s best to start small but fast, going after the “’low hanging fruit”. That’s why we often work with customers using a unique, co-innovative approach combining Design Thinking and Innovation management on HCP. It helps clients get started at a modest but meaningful scale, jointly defining, building and running a Proof of Concept pilot that provides a real-world baseline for deciding the best way forward.

Time is short. Industry 4.0 is just around the corner.

About Akshay Mathur

Akshay is product manager for SAP HANA Cloud Platform in the Atos Global Center of Excellence organization, with a specific focus on strategy, innovation and IP development. An alumnus of IIM Lucknow, he is continuously active on cutting edge technologies with several publications to his name. His professional experience includes roles ranging from developer, project manager to pre-sales and product management across start-ups and large global organizations. Akshay is experienced in various technologies including robotics and automation, embedded systems, mobile devices and application development. He believes in living agile - learn, unlearn and relearn – to stay current and get ahead.