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While researching a blog on the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP), I was exploring the Sybase site and I followed a link to Sybase’s new “SQL Anywhere OnDemand Edition: ‘Fuji’ Beta”.  I was intrigued, because I had never heard of it before and I closely follow developments regarding SAP’s OnDemand strategy.   My first reaction was ‘Oops – another sign that the integration of Sybase and SAP is still definitely a work in progress. SUP plays a central role in SAP’s mobile strategy but other Sybase assets languish in the shadows.” As I started to read the description in more detail, I looked for the “H” word.  It appeared that that HANA didn’t play a role in this offering – sacrilege – a cloud-related offering from a SAP company involving data that doesn’t use HANA.   

Even worse, there were critical comments about multi-tenancy – the basis for ByDesign and other SAP OnDemand offerings.

With the move to the cloud, ISVs are suddenly finding themselves responsible for hosting and securing data for hundreds of customers. Traditional database technology makes it infeasible to treat each customer’s data individually due to the huge administrative overhead associated with managing many isolated systems. The usual solution to this problem is to co-mingle all of the customer’s data and implement application-level security to prevent unwanted data exposure. The problem with this solution is that programming errors (both accidental and malicious) can create data leaks, and allow unauthorized access of other customer’s data. [SOURCE]

Inasmuch as I am also working a blog about the newly announced Oracle Cloud, I was reminded of Larry Ellison’s comments on the subject:

That's a very bad security model. It's called multi-tenancy and it was state of the art 15 years ago. This is 2011. All the modern compute clouds use virtualisation as part of their security model. You get a separate virtual machine, your data's in a separate database because it's virtualised. They put your data at risk by commingling it with others." [SOURCE]

Heresy – plain and simple - even more so since HANA also supports multi-tenancy: 

To achieve the highest level of operational efficiency, the data of multiple customers can be consolidated onto a single HANA server. Such consolidation is key when HANA is provisioned in an on-demand setting, a service which SAP plans to provide in the future. Multi-tenancy allows making HANA accessible for smaller customers at lower cost, as a benefit from the consolidation. [SOURCE]

However, I didn’t trust my first gut reaction and decided to do some more digging.

Archeology 101 

Before we continue, let’s take a closer look at the SQL Anywhere OnDemand Edition.

Here is a description from the press release

SQL Anywhere OnDemand Edition is the only cloud data management offering that allows an ISV to manage and scale an application's underlying databases, while still providing the critical data security and governance that the ISVs' customers demand. Sybase is able to meet both needs by providing a pragmatic approach that allows an ISV to maintain both tenant isolation and ease of management. As a result, SQL Anywhere OnDemand Edition allows vendors to build, deploy, and manage cloud applications without compromise, letting ISVs take advantage of the cloud's economies of scale while ensuring their customers' data is isolated from all other tenants.

There are two things that I found interesting in this press release: 1) the focus on ISVs and 2) the focus on data. 

The importance of ISVs

The requirements of ISVs are the main motivation behind this Sybase product. This audience is different from that of other current SAP OnDemand offerings which are usually aimed at larger SAP partners / consulting houses as well as directly to customers. The typical SAP Marketing effort in this area is often directed towards business end-users who might use these products.  The Sybase offering is directed at the creators of software rather than those end-users.

Note: I’m not suggesting one market is better than they other – I’m just emphasizing that these segments are different and have different requirements.

Critical to understand is that the Sybase product is hosted by the ISV themselves rather than SAP and can span public, private and hybrid clouds.  This is one distinction between this product and other data-related OnDemand offerings such as Database.com.  This is functionality that a particular ISV uses for his/her own applications that are then provided to the ISV’s customers.

The importance of data

 I kept on seeing the word “data” everywhere – in the press release – on the website, etc.  OK – I got the picture – data was important – the question was: “Why was data more important for this offering than for other OnDemand offerings?”  A podcast from Eric Farrar (SQL Anywhere product manager) describes the motivations behind the product and depicts the emphasis on “data” in this offering. The obvious reason was linked to the heritage of this offering in the SQL Anywhere database.  Highlights from this podcast include - Fuji is “big distributed engine that runs many individual databases” and “abstracts the actual location of database from the connecting application”.     

The data-related use cases for the offering are best demonstrated by this following video:  

 

Since most SAP OnDemand offerings (ByDesign, River, etc) are hosted directly by SAP, these data-centric functions are never seen by consultants or power-users. These functions are closer to those offered by other IaaS providers or perhaps SAP’s landscape management software for virtualization and cloud management. 

Conclusion 

After reading the material about Fuji, I came to a few realizations:

  1. There were other use cases in the market beyond those that were being met by SAP OnDemand offerings on which I usually concentrate (OnDemand Core, OnDemand Edge, SAP NetWeaver OnDemand, etc).
  2. The SaaS market is varied / more complicated than many assume. 
  3. SQL Anywhere OnDemand Edition can be seen as complementary to existing SAP OnDemand offerings.  The challenge is to figure out how Sybase’s and SAP OnDemand offerings could fit together in one common strategy. Here is one suggestion: Use SQL Anywhere OnDemand Edition as a data source for SAP’s PaaS environment.  Fuji is just the database (regardless of how distributed it is) – the ISV must still host their applications somewhere else. What about working with the PaaS team to also be able support Fuji? That way ISVs could get the best of both worlds.

 

Further HANA-related possibilities

Currently, SQL Anywhere OnDemand Edition is based on SQL Anywhere. If HANA became cheap enough for more ISVs to afford and was available as a separate database offering, it would be interesting to see if the same administrative functions might be applicable to HANA databases - for example, to deal with the legal requirements in some countries that data must remain in those countries.  

Another idea is associated with migration paths to the HANA AppCloud. In some cases, real-time performance with larger datasets might be required and ISVs using Fuji could be provided the option to easily move to the HANA AppCloud. 

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