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layered_cloud.jpgThere are big schisms in the world of cloud computing.  As a marketer for SAP’s broad portfolio of cloud offerings, it’s actually quite a headache for me.  I’m not complaining about organizational nonsense at SAP in this case. Our organization is simply a manifestation of these schisms.


Cloud Layers Mirror Business - IT - Developer Gaps

Simplistic explanations about the layers of the cloud:  Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS), make it sound like it’s just a matter of building a cloud sandwich. But these layers represent fundamentally different technologies for solving different kinds of problems. Each layer has different buyers, and they are served by vendors with different business models.


The IaaS guys are helping your IT department build or upgrade your data center, and are talking to them about virtualizing and migrating on premise software into a public or private cloud.  They don’t get along very well with the SaaS guys who are selling point solutions to your departmental managers, blithely saying “do away with the IT department” and “don’t worry about the company as a whole!” And nobody likes the PaaS guys – they’re even more annoying than normal developers because they’re doing that agile development thing and are thus making demands on core IT for support a lot more often.



If you want to have some fun, ask your favorite IaaS, SaaS, or PaaS sales guy how they can help you work with that other IaaS, SaaS or PaaS initiative you have going and watch them squirm.  It’s a little better here at SAP since the center of gravity remains with SAP Business Suite, and everyone defines their relevance in relation to our customer’s massive adoption of this venerable solution.  So the IaaS conversation relates around migrating and managing the suite within the cloud. The SaaS guys are talking about “hybrid” architectures that are part cloud, part on premise, with SAP SaaS offerings integrating with on premise SAP Business Suite (didn’t we just migrate that to the cloud?). And the PaaS guys talk about enabling agile custom development around the suite, minimizing the amount of custom coding in the suite. But like planets orbiting the ERP sun, they barely acknowledge each other.


This matters because the combined value proposition to our customer for leveraging all the layers of the cloud together is significant. Getting core systems onto a faster enhancement cycle, like running an internal a SaaS operation means IT has more bandwidth for coordinating new SaaS applications with the departments, and can servicing more requests from PaaS developers faster for testing sandboxes and special access APIs.  This means everyone is delivering end-to-end business value a whole lot faster – the general implementation of business agility!


Is ASUG Focused Enough on Cloud for SAP Customers?

So why put this problem on ASUG? Shouldn’t the vendors, and SAP, sort this out themselves? Yes, but it seems to me that the economics of being a cloud supplier will only indirectly, at best, lead to this kind of coordination.  Consider these kind of customer issues which a single vendor should not be left to define:

  1. Standards for selection of private and public cloud vendors & defining SLA’s
  2. Integrating multi party cloud services  and what standards such as security & integration matter
  3. What are best practices for cloud-friendly IT governance
  4. Dealing with the many SI’s and consultancies for cloud
  5. How to orient the “cloud” and “new technologies” parts of your company’s IT organization to help focus on transitioning the SAP practice to the cloud
  6. Helping SAP define useful certifications related to cloud


Sure, SAP is definitely working on a number of these issues. We’ll try to do it to benefit our customers.  But I will tell you that it’ll probably be a whole lot better if you, the customer, are working with us to develop the best practices here based on your experience.  In my opinion, this kind of intellectual capital is best developed and owned in the customer commons. Certainly you can hire our crack consulting teams to help your company figure out these issues for yourself, but I would prefer to see this knowledge much more evenly distributed.  It wouldcertainly speed up transition of our industry niche to the cloud.

asug_virtualization_cloud_logo (5).jpg


ASUG’s activities do reflect the industries move to cloud computing.  There are a number of cloud-related product influence councils such as for SAP BusinessByDesign for subsidiaries, one for SAP Travel OnDemand, and I believe, one for SAP Sales OnDemand.  But these are just point solution focused, helping design features of these specific products. There is one ASUG influence council whose work I especially applaud: the ASUG Virtualization & Cloud Influence Council.  By necessity they’ve taken on a bigger piece of the pie – how to be able to migrate on premise SAP systems to the cloud, and helping co-design supporting management software. This ends up crossing over into some of the issues I mention above. However, the broad issues of transitioning to the cloud are even bigger than the scope that can be managed by the small number of passionate people this group.


Would a Cloud Special Interest Group be an offshoot of the Enterprise Architecture Community?  Perhaps. But an IT cloud computing strategy needs strong alignment with the business to be effective, and in many cases, involves a business decision to broker a third party service rather than implement the service internally.  My goal with this blog is to bring awareness of this issue to the SAP customer community and see if we can foster enough passionate people about cloud computing to organize such a group.


As you can see in the comments below from Karin Tillotson and Tammy Powlas , there is already a Special Interest Group covering cloud computing that I was unaware of.  I look forward to learning more about the BITI group's activities in the area of cloud computing at the ASUG 2012 conference!


Karin Tillotson:

The topic of Cloud Computing already has a place in the ASUG SIG's (Special Interest Group).  It is covered by the Systems Management SIG in BITI (Business Integration, Technology and Infrastructure).  I would be more than happy to introduce you to the ASUG Volunteers for that group next week in Orlando.


Tammy Powlas:

Hi Greg, I agree with Karin, have you reached out to the BITI team to see if Cloud is already covered by an existing special interest group within ASUG?


Karin, Jim Spath and Kristen Dennis are the ASUG Volunteer Community Facilitators for the BITI team and it would be good if you reached out to them.


Additionally, Atul Patankar, Discovery, is the ASUG Volunteer for the Systems Management SIG and is a long-time expert ASUG volunteer.  It would be good if you contacted him as well.



First two photos are creative commons, used with attribution:

Layered Cloud

Kepler solar systems




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