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vishal.sikka

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Earlier this week, Time magazine picked “The Protester” as its person of the year, recognition of individuals who spoke up around the world -- from the Arab countries to Wall Street, from India to Greece – individuals whose voices were amplified and aggregated by modern technology and its unprecedented power to connect and empower us. Twitter and Facebook, now approaching 800 million users (more than 10% of humanity), are often viewed as the harbinger of social networking. But social networking is not new. A recent issue of the Economist described Martin Luther’s use of social networking, especially the Gutenberg press, to start the Reformation. During the American Revolution, Thomas Paine published his Commonsense Manifesto on a derivation of the Gutenberg press. Within a single year, it reached almost a million of the 1.5 million residents of the 13 American colonies – about two-thirds of the populace, and helped seed democracy and America's birth.

I believe that information technologies, especially well-designed, purposeful ones, empower and renew us and serve to amplify our reach and our abilities. The ensuing connectedness dissolves away intermediary layers of inefficiency and indirection. Some of the most visible recent examples of this dissolving of layers are the transformations we have seen in music, movies and books. Physical books and bookstores they inhabited have been rapidly disappearing, as have physical compact discs, phonograph records, video tapes and the stores that housed them. Yet there is more music than ever before, more books and more movies. Their content got separated from their containers and got housed in more convenient, more modular vessels, which better tie into our lives, in more consumable ways. In the process, layers of inefficiency got dissolved. By putting 3000 songs in our pockets, the iPod liberated our music from the housings that confined it. The recent iPhone 4S has a great 8 megapixel camera within it, along with a bunch of services for sharing, distributing and publishing pictures, even editing them -- services that used to be inside darkrooms and studios. 3D printing is an even more dramatic example of this transformation. The capabilities and services provided by workshops and factories are now embodied within a printer that can print things like tools and accessories, food and musical instruments. A remarkable musical flute was printed recently at MIT, its sound indistinguishable from that produced by factory-built flutes of yesterday.

I see layers of inefficiency dissolving all around us. An empowered populace gets more connected, and uses this connectivity to bypass the intermediaries and get straight at the things it seeks, connecting and acting in real-time -- whether it is to stage uprisings or rent apartments, plan travel or author books, edit pictures or consume apps by the millions.

And yet enterprises have been far too slow to benefit from such renewal and simplification that is pervading other parts of our lives. The IT industry has focused on too much repackaging and reassembly of existing layers into new bundles, ostensibly to lower the costs of integrated systems. In reality, this rebundling increases the clutter that already exists in enterprise landscapes. It is time for a rethink.

At SAP, we have been engaged in such rethinking, or intellectual renewal, as our chairman and co-founder Hasso challenged me, for the last several years, and our customers are starting to see its results. This renewal of SAP’s architecture, and consequently that of our customers, is driven by an in-memory product called SAP HANA (or HANA as I fondly call it) which, together with mobility, cloud computing, and our principle of delivering innovation without disruption, is helping to radically simplify enterprise computing and dramatically improve the performance of businesses without disruption.

HANA achieves this simplification by taking advantage of tremendous advances in hardware over the last two decades. Today’s machines can bring large amounts of main-memory, and lots of multi-core CPUs to bear on massively parallel processing of information very inexpensively. HANA was designed from the ground-up to leverage this, and the business consequences are radical. At Yodobashi, a large Japanese retailer, the calculation of incentives for loyalty customers used to take 3 days of data processing, once a month. With HANA, this happens now in 2 seconds -- a performance improvement of over 100,000 times. But even more important is the opportunity to rethink the business process. The incentive for a customer can be calculated on the fly, while the customer is in a store, based on the purchases she is about to make. The empowered store-manager can determine these at the point of sale, as the transaction unfolds. With HANA, batch processing is converting to real time, and business processes are being rethought. Customers like Colgate-Palmolive, the Essar Group, Provimi, Charmer Sunbelt, Nongfu Spring, our own SAP IT and many others, have seen performance improvements of thousands to tens of thousands times. HANA brings these benefits non-disruptively, without forcing a modification of existing systems. And last month, we delivered SAP Business Warehouse on HANA, a complete removal of the traditional database underneath, delivering fundamental improvements in performance and simplification, without disruption.

HANA provides a single in-memory database foundation for managing transactional as well as analytical data processing. Thus a complex question can be posed to real-time operational data, instead of asking pre-fabricated questions on pre-aggregated or summarized data. HANA also integrates text processing with managing structured data, in a single system. And it scales simply with addition of more processors or more blades. Thus various types of applications, across a company’s lines of businesses, and across application types, can all be run off a single, elastically-scalable hardware infrastructure: a grand dissolving of the layers of complexity in enterprise landscapes. HANA hardware is built by various leading hardware vendors from industry standard commodity components, and can be delivered as appliances, private or public clouds. While this architecture is vastly disruptive to a traditional relational database architecture, to our customers it brings fundamental innovation without disruption.

Looking ahead, I expect that we will see lots of amazing improvements similar to Yodobashi’s. Even more exciting, are the unprecedented applications that are now within our reach. By my estimate, a cloud of approximately 1000 servers of 80-cores and 2 terabytes of memory each, can enable more than 1 billion people on the planet to interactively explore their energy consumption based on real-time information from their energy meters and appliances, and take control of their energy management. The management and optimization of their finances, healthcare, insurance, communications, entertainment and other activities, can similarly be made truly dynamic. Banks can manage risks in real-time, oil companies can better explore energy sources, mining vast amounts of data as needed. Airlines and heavy machinery makers can do predictive maintenance on their machines, and healthcare companies can analyze vast amounts of genome data in real time. One of our customers in Japan is working on using HANA to analyze genome data for hundreds of patients each day, something that was impossible before HANA. Another customer is using HANA to determine optimal routes for taxicabs. The possibilities are endless.

Just as the iPod put our entire music libraries in our pockets, HANA, combined with mobility and cloud-based delivery, enables us to take our entire business with us in our pocket. Empowering us to take actions in real time, based on our instincts as well as our analysis. To re-think our solutions to solving existing problems – and to help businesses imagine and deliver solutions for previously unsolved problems. And it is this empowerment and renewal, driven by purposeful technologies, that continually brings us all forward.

Vishal Sikka

Living in the Layers

Posted by Vishal Sikka Oct 4, 2011

In his moving poem "The Layers", the great American poet Stan Kunitz wrote, "Live in the layers, not on the litter".  A wise sentiment to help drive the renewal of enterprise landscapes, especially at a time when we keep seeing re-assembly and re-packaging of existing layers into new bundles, that seem to promise lower-cost integrated systems, but in fact add to the clutter that already exists in enterprise landscapes, at a time when we must, and we can, help enterprises achieve massive simplification, renewal, and true real-time performance and scale, without disruption.

Over the last 24 hours, many many of you have asked me to comment on Exalytics.  Then earlier today, some colleagues came by looking for my candid perspective on all this.  The impromptu video that resulted from this conversation, and my off-the-cuff, candid thoughts, are here.

I must admit, I didn't put too much thought into my answers.  My more comprehensive position, of course, is to be found in my and Hasso's Sapphire keynote earlier this year, as well as in my TechEd keynote last month.

The key is: the new real-time is fundamentally about dissolving the layers of complexity that enterprises see today.  We can take advantage of hardware innovations to rethink the layers that sit inside enterprises, for straight forward analytics but also operational reporting as well as planning and forecasting, plus transactional and other forms of applications.  In doing this, we can completely transform the way companies run their businesses and enable people to think and work and interact with one another in entirely new ways.  It’s about simultaneously enabling new horizons, and simplification of the existing layers of complexity, without disruption.

I look forward to sharing more news with you, especially with regard to our cloud endeavors, at TechEd India in 2 weeks.  Incidentally, more than 10k attendees are coming to see us in Bangalore; a great sign of our customers' and our ecosystem's trust in our open innovation.

Best,
Vishal

Vishal Sikka

An Ongoing Renewal

Posted by Vishal Sikka Aug 25, 2011

With the end of summer upon us, and the TechEds around the corner, I've been putting my thoughts together.  Then the events of this last week happened.  And I believe they signal, simultaneously, both the great shifts that are presently underway, as well as the beautiful permanence of change, of life's ephemerality.  First, Motorola's mobility business was acquired by Google.  Signaling, in my view, Google's adoption of an "Open+1" strategy: open hardware for any device maker that adopts the android platform, and a +1, Google's own device, wherein the entire end-user experience can be defined and delivered.  As my friend Padma, who used to run Motorola’s R&D, told me one evening over dinner, getting the end-user’s experience right is the necessary counterpoint to a great mobile OS platform.  Yesterday, Steve Jobs, arguably the leading designer and innovator of our times, announced his resignation as Apple's CEO.  A long-standing strategic customer and partner of ours, and a friend of my boss and SAP's chairman, Hasso Plattner, Steve has done more to bring beauty and design and purpose to products that we use, than perhaps anyone else in recent times.  Under Steve’s leadership, Apple has singularly redefined our product experience, and moved us several strides forward on empowering end-users and bringing soul to our work.  And also this week, HP, long an icon of our industry, announced fundamental changes to its strategy: intending to divest its touchpad and other mobile devices and operating systems, its personal systems business, known mostly for its PCs, notebooks, etc., but also the division that still makes the legendary calculators and other electronic devices, that HP long symbolized, and that became the basis of the electronic era and silicon valley, that HP heralded as much as perhaps any other company in our industry, and  is instead acquiring its way into enterprise software with platform technologies such as vertica and now autonomy.

It has been an amazing week.  But what is really going on here?  Well, of course there is the inevitability of change.  Change is as permanent as any other thing or notion we know.  As I've argued in timeless software, every entity, whether in the real world, or the digital one, has a timestamp, a life expectancy, and everything must change and evolve, more or less in accordance with these.

But this isn't all there is to it.  We are in the midst of a very significant shift.  A massive simplification is underway, and the signs we see all around us are of a fundamental renewal and reshaping: of the world of IT, of business and indeed our world.

It is clear to me that this renewal is being driven by technology.  Some people would argue that consumer expectations have driven the change, but I would argue that consumers didn’t know what was possible until companies like Apple and Google opened their eyes to the possibilities.  User expectations skyrocketed from there, at home and in the office.  Expectations for how technology can help businesses run better, have also increased: whether for the CEO or the end-user in a line of business.  The big data challenge is not a data problem for the IT department to solve.  The big data challenge is everyone, from the CEO to the end-user, wishing to understand, analyze and manipulate the fine grained details of his / her company and then do something about it.  The layers for him or her to get there are dissolving.  The interaction with data is direct and real-time, with easy and seamless interaction paradigms.  The ways people connect have also changed: direct, immediate, virtual, as groups, and without the traditional structures that slow things down, and this has in turn enabled people to organize themselves, debate and form their common views, however radical, and to mobilize around shared beliefs – mobilizing in numbers that overwhelm governments.  End-users are taking more and more control of their destiny, fueled by a virtuous cycle of connectedness that leads to disintermediation of layers, which drives end-users to become more empowered, demand better user-experience challenging us to create more connectedness.  In many ways this cycle has been underway for a very long time, from the industrial revolution, or even further back, Guttenberg’s printer, but it is becoming starkly evident now.  We are being better empowered than ever before in our history, with products that combine beauty and scale.

This change is forcing a renewal of the IT industry.  Starting with a renewal in the hardware business.  Fundamental advances in hardware, both technological, as well as economic ones, are becoming evident.  I believe this is why many business strategies of leading hardware vendors are changing.  A single machine of 80-cores, 2TB of memory and enough SSDs can serve massive data needs of enterprises; a cloud of these, a RAM cloud, can connect the whole world in a web of real-time trade.  And this hardware renewal, is renewing software’s layers.  Especially the relational database, the present incarnation of which was designed more than 20 years ago.  You’ve seen me argue this before and I think this is now quite evident.  Our own HANA, helps radically rethink the database.  Just yesterday I learnt that on a cluster of 4 machines of 32-cores each, we can run 200 parallel users, running a complex SQL query, on 800M records, with average response times of 450ms.  Each!  But beyond the database, this technology helps rethink the entire information management paradigm.  While autonomy (and verity, which autonomy acquired a few years ago) pioneered text search in the 90s, and vertica, which looked into a disk-based column store, are inherently different paradigms for managing structured and unstructured information, search and database technology is evolving in precisely the opposite direction.  HANA intrinsically combines a massively parallel in-memory column store with various data processing engines, that process sql, text and nosql style access uniformly, within the same SQL expression, and with breathtaking speed, as our customer Medtronic demonstrated at Sapphire in May.  Similarly, the so-called nosql approaches (e.g. The hadoop or map-reduce style programming models on distributed file systems and key-value stores first built by modern text engines such as Google) combine text and structured data processing on one foundation.  I believe this is the right direction, even though I fundamentally disagree on the NoSQL part; SQL is a great, declarative, timeless way of expressing a user’s query intent, independent of the optimizations of any wave of technology, and is thence used by 10s of millions of programmers around the world, but I digress.  So unlike past approaches, where structured and unstructured data was treated differently, as were the OLTP and OLAP worlds, redesigned software on modern hardware, can converge these two paradigms, in a way that is fundamentally simplifying, that continues to evolve with improving technology, and empowers end-users to interact and engage with data, whether structured or unstructured in a uniform, coherent way.

Closer to home at SAP, we see renewal in the software industry as well.  The good news from SAP’s perspective is that we have been focusing on this renewal, in my case for around 2 years, since Hasso laid down a profound yet inspiring personal challenge.  HANA is driving change in the enterprise and enabling companies to do things that were previously unimaginable.  HANA removes the inefficiencies that have developed over time but also finally delivers the unbelievable user experience that meets the skyrocketing expectations I talked about earlier.  For example, machines can now talk to each other and to the back end systems, help do their own maintenance, and help companies better schedule service runs.  Retail forecasts and customer incentive calculations can be done 1000s of times faster.  CPG companies can plan, and allocate, in real-time, products can be traced, across 10s of billions of entries, immediately, and companies can close their books whenever they want, dynamically, shaving off days from these cumbersome processes, and becoming vastly more agile in the process.  Services companies can now calculate and predict the margin on short and long term implementation projects.  A utility company can analyze smart meter data in real-time.  And these are just the beginning.  In all of these scenarios, HANA creates direct connections between people, businesses, data, machines, and causes disintermediation of unnecessary layers or steps and delivers ease-of-use.  Simultaneously enabling new horizons, and simplification of the existing layers of complexity, without disruption.

Lastly, there is a renewal happening that I am personally passionate about, and that’s the one taking place inside SAP.  This has also been driven by HANA, which has opened up new ways of working, new ways of thinking and new ways of developing software inside SAP.  All this has led to some truly exciting set of product innovations that we’ve been working on and strategies that we’ve been reflecting on.  All of SAP’s products will transform over time, whether our technology products, our existing applications, which we can now piecewise and non-disruptively renew, or totally new applications, which weren’t possible before.  And with this renewal of our products, our company is renewing as well.

So it will be an important series of TechEds this year.  Two and a half weeks until Las Vegas.  There is much to be discussed and news of innovation to be shared and I’m looking forward to seeing you there.

To close, in the words of Steve Jobs, quoting Stewart Brand (who was one of the inspirations for my work on Timeless Software): Stay hungry, stay foolish.

Best,

Vishal

Wow!  What an amazing week.  SAPPHIRE NOW 2011 is now behind us, but the work we described last week is just beginning.  Last year, we talked about a transformation happening in three areas: in-memory, cloud, mobility.  This year, I wanted to focus the keynote on HANA, not because it’s the only innovation we are delivering but because it is at the heart of SAP’s renewal and is core to everything we are working on.  We had a very simple goal in mind: to show the business value of HANA through the customers that have seen the value firsthand.  We’ve talked about speed and performance, and now we wanted to show the value.  The best way to do this was through the customers voice.  The response has been truly incredible.

If you have a few minutes to look through the replays of customer testimonials, it is definitely worth it.  One of the amazing things we saw at SAPPHIRE was the power of customers hearing from their peers directly.  The use cases were so varied and global, representing all types of industries, there wasn’t a single customer in the audience that couldn’t identify with what they were hearing from other CIOs, CEOs and LoB execs.  I am sure you will recognize some of these faces but I am also sure you will recognize the challenges they face and how HANA can help.

But while my keynote focused on the customer stories, there is still a huge amount of work going on around the product.  HANA is already in or is coming to every SAP product.  We really have a whole flood coming.  We’ve talked over the last few months about breakthrough analytics, new and renewed applications and overall IT simplification.  And at SAPPHIRE, I previewed the HANA AppCloud, designed for customers who want to experience the power of HANA in native on-demand apps, starting with SAP BIOD, Carbon Impact OD, sales & ops planning, smart meter analytics. There is so much more we are doing and will do.

  • HANA itself, for SAP and non-SAP oriented analytics and using a wide variety of clients especially Business Objects BI tools
  • HANA as a db replacement for BW (and more -- a *lot* of BW calculations actually move inside HANA for the rocket effect)
  • HANA with integrated text search, leveraging its TREX roots
  • HANA in our application platform, both NGAP and River, and in all our technology products
  • HANA for planning apps, especially EPM, S+OP and all our planning apps.  With live cache integration on its way, we can start the refactoring train towards APO, rethought ATP (that Hasso showed in his speech), etc
  • HANA for refactoring existing apps (CO-PA and cash flow+liquidity mgmt)
  • HANA for full existing apps (B1, ByDesign, Business Suite – bringing immediate value to as well as incrementally refactoring everything)
  • HANA for new apps (SWP, S+OP, Charitra, RecallGenie, Smart Meter Analytics, personal energy mgmt, and the entire area of personal applications)
  • HANA on-demand for BIOD, CI, and others

We have barely scratched the surface.  It is really something.  And perhaps the best part is, customers don't have to worry about when to bring their preferred scenarios to HANA. They can start anywhere, and incrementally move onwards and upwards from there. HANA's timelessness ensures unlimited scaling of the infrastructure with increased usage, and also that each new capability, and the scenarios it supports, brings value non-disruptively. So customers can start where it makes most sense, and grow from there. 

It’s about empowering the end users.  We are limited only by our imaginations.  My friend and mentor Alan Kay put it best in a video message he recorded for my SAPPHIRE keynote.  We didn’t get to it in the keynote, but I hope you will find his comments re the future as inspirational as I have.

And on one final note before I close .. I’d like to mention a heartfelt thanks to the team at SAP that brought the customers’ voices to life.  Aiaz Kazi, Amit Sinha, Jason Wolf, Ritika Suri, Sam Yen, Sanjay Rajagopalan, Shabana Khan, Kaustav Mitra and many others.   They worked tirelessly, especially the last 7 weeks before Sapphire, to put all the customer experiences together.  A deep and heartfelt thanks to them, for their tireless efforts, passion and world-class competence.  Looking forward to scaling the next mountaintop!

Vishal Sikka

The New Reality

Posted by Vishal Sikka Mar 10, 2011

I'm excited to tell you about the New Reality of In-Memory Computing and a new class of applications we have just announced

Flying back to Palo Alto the long way gave me time to realize that I had spoken about SAP HANA in a video, in my SAP TechEd keynote, and then with the press, analysts, customers, etc, but I had neglected to talk to you, the SDN community!

One of the things I like most about SDN, is that I can talk to a technology savvy group without holding back. So, no flowery phrases, here are the SAP HANA numbers:
•    460B Rows Aggregated 20x Faster
•    200x Price Performance
•    Scan 2B, Aggr 10M records /second /core
•    Dunning  -- 1200x Faster
•    Settlement – 50x Faster
•    Ageing – No Aggregates
•    Linear Scaling

These numbers were so phenomenal that SAP issued a separate press release with further technical details about SAP HANA, so please take a look.

All of the numbers prove one thing: SAP HANA provides a foundation on which a new generation of applications can be built, enabling customers to analyze large quantities of data from virtually any source in real time. (That is a line from the press release, but it is not flowery phase, it is a fact.)

In-memory computing reduces complexity by many factors – layering, orchestration, reading, writing, parsing, intermediary formatting, etc, -- so we can unwind the complex layers that were put in place to take application logic processing out of the database. The simplicity of this design – and the lack of layers – creates the ability to develop applications extremely quickly while writing only the minimal amount of code necessary.

With SAP BusinessObjects Strategic Workforce Planning, which was built in only 70 days, we are delivering the first application built on SAP HANA. This is a portent of great things to come, and I cannot wait see what the SDN members do with SAP HANA!

The best place to get started learning about SAP HANA is right here, on SDN.

After two weeks of back-to-back events, I was thinking about the key message from SAP TechEd so far.

As a technologist and innovator, of course I’ve talked about our technology platform direction and our innovations in in-memory computing, cloud architecture, and mobility. But the key message is really about a new perspective, a new reality, a new SAP.  As the new Run Better campaign demonstrates, we enable an entire foundation of business around the planet. And we do so with trust, with responsibility and with an ecosystem around us.  It is a great feeling, of pride and satisfaction and joy that comes from creating something great together.  Perhaps nowhere was this feeling more exemplified than in the innovation weekend at TechEd.  A great team, led by Kaj van de Loo, Anne Hardy, our GEPG colleagues and many others, organized a fantastic event of co-innovation using our new technologies, that led to some amazing, fun and creative outcomes, and even more importantly, demonstrated our ecosystem values in action.

Standing in front of over 9000 customers, partners, and employees at my keynotes I got the same feeling.  The conference was full of people who have trusted their business, and their livelihood with SAP. That is a huge responsibility. At the same time, these people want more: They want and need to do more with the software they have and innovate as well, so their customers continue to enjoy their products. Meeting the customers, partners, analysts, mentors and the media, reinforced this.  And their feedback has also reflected an increasing recognition of our return to our roots of technology and innovation, with our ecosystem, and without disruption.

So, the key message from TechEd is very simple: we are in this together.

The announcements from Las Vegas are the culmination of work that SAP has done with over 40 customers and partners. These are customers that have been willing to share their data with us to test-drive HANA in real-life scenarios. And partners like Dell, Cisco, EMC, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, VMWare have been working on providing the infrastructure for cloud computing and virtualization management and Hana.  Capgemini and Microsoft showed how Gateway made it possible to build a hiring portal 6 times faster. Walking the exhibition floor, you saw the power of collaboration and co-innovation.

Money can’t buy an ecosystem like this, and the experience and expertise they have and share with the ecosystem is invaluable.  At the next TechEd event in Bangalore, I will show just how fast innovation can happen when you bring together the best in the industry real partnerships.

Sent from a mobile device

We are living in a time of a lot of change and a lot of choices. But we need to make sure that we do not get trapped into decisions that take us down one-way streets that hinder future options. It is possible to be collaborative, AND yet differentiate; to be smart AND yet coherent and in-a-process.  In other words, it is possible to keep what you have AND yet do more. SAP is committed to allowing customers who want to keep what works AND leverage all the fantastic new technologies, so they can run their businesses better faster, and smarter.

This is what I call the era of “AND”. The Era of AND is not about simply including everything – but it is really about leveraging the Best, making Intelligent choices not compromises, and purposeful inclusion to address specific needs.

To pave the way for future innovation without disruption, SAP today announced the release of SAP NetWeaver 7.3.  From the beginning, SAP NetWeaver has always been about bringing “people, data, and processes” together. The release of SAP NetWeaver 7.3 highlights these changes: it is a synchronized release that provides coherence across the diverse landscapes with heterogeneous applications and deployment models.

Over the last few years, mobile devices have changed how people access enterprise solutions, and technology changes have made it possible for people to access and interact with more data in more ways than ever before.  Similarly with respect to data, the technology horizons and the solutions that are now possible have fundamentally changed since 2002. Therefore, we have added the BusinessObjects and Sybase dimensions to our SAP NetWeaver technology platform.

In Berlin, I described how this ongoing evolution of our core technology platform is complemented by three new horizons of innovation. (1) In-memory where we can bring a breakthrough new real time to customers without disruption, (2) cloud – where we are complementing our existing on-premise systems with easy to consume LOB apps (built on the SAP Business ByDesign platform) and simple extension applications (such as Carbon Impact that is built on project "River") all without compromising either the simplicity or the ease of consumption of these on-demand solutions nor their integration into existing systems and (3) with mobility, where with the Sybase Unwired Platform and project Gateway we will unwire and unlock existing systems as well as enable break thru new mobile applications.

What a great way to start TechEd 2010! I will build upon our direction in Las Vegas, and in Bangalore I will layout the evolution road map for our technology platform. The blogs and exciting news will continue, so stay tuned!

Along with everybody else in the Java Community, SAP has been looking forward to this year’s Java One event, taking place right now at the Moscone conference center in San Francisco. We were particularly excited about plans to reinvigorate the Java language with topics that are important to many in the Java Community, such as closures and a more modular Java platform.

At his keynote yesterday, Thomas Kurian showed a demo how the Java virtual machine will support customers who are managing Java applications with enterprise-class requirements. This demo showed how IT staff can do better failure analysis or find performance issues in Java applications. The fact that Thomas specifically pointed out that the Java VM will in the future better support dynamic languages is really important. Java is a great language, but domain-specific languages are often more productive to address certain application areas. For example, SAP Streamwork, is built in the Ruby language on top of the JRuby runtime.

We welcome these investments in the Java platform, as they will help the entire Java community to support their customers better. However, there were a couple of things that were less welcome, in light of Oracle’s promise to build their solutions on open standards that allow others to innovate.

There are many great innovations in the Java Community. In his keynote, Thomas however made a reference to “proprietary 3rd party dependency-injection frameworks”. This made me pause. Did he mean the Spring Framework? Does a community-driven, widely used innovation such as Spring suddenly become irrelevant because Oracle does not include it into the Java platform? At another point in his speech, Thomas said that nobody will need another tool other than NetBeans for developing JavaFX applications. If NetBeans is Oracle’s choice of development tool, that is their prerogative. However, I did not hear the word “Eclipse” mentioned once in his keynote. Did I miss it? We hope that Oracle will stay committed to equally support Java developers using Eclipse.

The Java ecosystem needs open solutions. It is terrific that Oracle has reiterated its commitment for OpenJDK, but in the end, the ultimate goal is that Java must become an open standard. That way, independent implementations of the Java platform are possible, even in open source. For that to happen, the best way forward is for the JCP to become an open, independently managed organization.

Bloggers last year have criticized me for saying that Oracle needs to open up. I believe Oracle has every right to build solutions that are tightly integrated with Java, but through the support of open standards also needs to allow others to do so. Java is bigger than Sun and it is bigger than Oracle. We are all the future of Java!

Recently, I blogged about Java's role in the IT landscape of the 21st century. Java is a remarkable programming language; however, the ability of software vendors, like SAP, to develop their own implementations of Java standards and to integrate Java into their respective technology stacks has been a major criteria for its adoption.

I want to thank the community for responding to my blog, and deeply appreciate that many experts have taken the time to write thoughtful articles on this topic. I felt it important to address your questions and comments in the spirit of a real dialogue with the community.

One important theme that has come up and had been pointedly articulated in a blog by Matt Asay and an article by Bob Evans was: How can SAP unilaterally demand more openness without reciprocating accordingly ?

We completely agree that Sun has made significant investments to Java. However, our perspective is that Java has become successful largely because of the underlying promise of a fair and open ecosystem that permits any company to implement Java standards with their own engineers, and define the standards within a community that is built on the premise of shared intellectual property of its participants. Access to the intellectual property of other community members under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms is only required to the extent that is necessary to implement a Java standard.  This assumption of openness has not been there in other commercial ecosystems, which are nonetheless thriving, but are not built on the same assumptions as Java.  Therefore the same expectation of SAP is an unfair one.

At the same time, I also want to acknowledge that we hear the community's feedback loud and clear regarding our track record for adoption of standards, and our attitude towards open source. We have already increased our commitment, for example in several Eclipse and Apache projects like Maven, VXQuery, Tomcat, OpenEJB and ActiveMQ and you will see us working hard to do much more.

The Java ecosystem has thrived for more than a decade because of the trust in Sun Microsystems as the steward of the Java language and platform. The control points that Sun has built into their community process, such as their responsibility for Java platform JSRs and the associated right to determine the license terms of the compatibility test were seen as Sun ensuring the health of the Java ecosystem.

However, these control points have now been used to accomplish objectives that do not seem to be in the best interests of the Java ecosystem. For example, in our view the certification process is supposed to provide proof of the compatible implementation of Java standards, but instead the license terms of the compatibility test kit appear to be used to restrict access to Java standards and thus limit a company's ability to compete in the marketplace.

Yes, SAP is a commercial software company and sells software licenses. If we utilize another company's implementation of a Java standard, we will equally purchase licenses based on fair and reasonable terms. If we utilize an open source implementation of a Java standard, we pledge to contribute our knowledge and make it better.

We are very concerned that the ability to provide compatible open source implementation of Java standards has been restricted, as widely documented in the Apache Foundation's Open Letter to the Sun Microsystems. If encumbrances are already in place for open source implementations of Java standards, we are very concerned that the Java platform's specification lead may use similar licensing approaches to restrict SAP's ability to utilize Java standards in highly competitive areas such as enterprise-class business applications. There does not appear to be any structural remedy within the Java Community Process to completely mitigate those concern.

Java is at a critical juncture in its evolution. We believe that an independent Java Foundation is eventually the best, perhaps the only way to adequately address our structural concerns with the management of Java standards through the Java Community Process. We believe that an open dialogue is required in order to work out a fair business value proposition for all stakeholders of the Java ecosystem: The Java developer community, Java ISVs and of course Sun.

Vishal Sikka

Freedom for Java

Posted by Vishal Sikka Nov 9, 2009

In a flat world whose economy is dependent on global relationships, IT has an essential enabling role to power the global business network. SAP systems are at the core of large parts of global IT, and are powering more than 65% of the transactions that make up the world's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). SAP bears a great responsibility to provide a stable core.

At the same time, SAP software also needs to be open and adaptable in order to allow customers and partners to be nimble and benefit from the speed of innovation within the SAP ecosystem.

The Role of Java in Global IT

There are few inventions that exemplify our aspirations and have captured our imagination the same way as the Java programming language, and we commend Sun Microsystems as its owner and steward for the ecosystem it has been able to build.

For 15 years, Java has been a programming language that brought about significant innovation. Java is everywhere, from large scale enterprise applications to mobile devices and payment cards.  Java is also the language of the community, enabling a whole generation of developers to collaborate and co-innovate within open source communities like Apache and Eclipse.

While remarkable new programming languages are invented frequently, on average roughly every ten years, the many software systems built using these languages have extensive lifespans. It is safe to say that systems developed with Java will be around for long long periods of time.

For SAP, it was an important decision when in 2001 we incorporated Java into our core products and made it an essential part of our technology platform SAP NetWeaver.

Change is Coming

The Java industry is currently going through important changes, and there are many discussions around the openness of Java and the Java Community Process (JCP). To date, the JCP is heavily dominated by Sun Microsystems which was not always to the benefit of all parties interested in Java. Java is the lifeblood of the IT industry, and IT is a fundamental underpinning of the way business is conducted in the 21st century. The technical interfaces that are jointly developed by the community should be immune from bias, and the community should be able to work even closer together in the spirit of cooperation to continue the Java success story.

Independence and Freedom

To ensure the continued role of Java in driving economic growth, we believe it is essential to transition the stewardship of the language and platform into an authentically open body that is not dominated by an individual corporation. Java should be free of any encumbrances to permit fair competition between compatible implementations for the benefit of customers. By preserving the integrity of Java, the IT industry can ensure a vibrant developer community and continued innovation for enterprise software customers. This ensures the continued global economic success brought about through open innovation.

Eclipse is an excellent example where a brilliant technology has enjoyed dramatic adoption after it was set free and subsequently managed by a team not employed by a particular company. With the acquisition of Sun, Oracle has now the unique opportunity to open the Java Community Process, which manages the Java specifications, and transition it to an equally independent body. The Java Virtual Machine should become open source and be managed by an independent Board, including its license terms that are currently restricted to free software and thus not adaptable to the commercial terms required in the global IT marketplace.

 

In fact, Oracle itself had already proposed such transition and the Java Executive Committee has subsequently made the following decision:

 

 "It is the sense of the Executive Committee that the JCP become an open independent vendor-neutral Standards Organization where all members participate on a level playing field ..."

JCP EC meeting summary - December 7th 2007, Resolution 1 (proposed by Oracle, seconded by BEA)

 

If such new Java Foundation will be proposed by the owner of the Java programming language, SAP is committing to make significant investments in form of engineering and financial resources into Java technology and its new governance structure.

History Repeats Itself ...

Erich Honecker and Mikhail Gorbachev at the GDR's 40th Anniversary Celebration (October 7, 1989)   (c) picture-alliance / Sven Simon

History has always been the best judge for what a man has accomplished in life. In October 1989, visiting the country's leadership for the 40th anniversary of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Mikhail Gorbachev told hardliner Erich Honecker a sentence which is credited for setting in motion the Gentle Revolution of the GDR that effectively ended the Cold War: "Wer zu spät kommt, den bestraft das Leben" - "Those who are late are punished by life."

Photograph of President Reagan giving a speech at the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate, Federal Republic of Germany, 06/12/1987 - 06/12/1987  

The German people will be forever grateful to their "Gorby" because on November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall came down. But let us not forget that it took an equally great man and politician, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, to have the vision to directly address Mr. Gorbachev in a historical speech in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate on June 12, 1987.

There are some striking similarities between the final days of the GDR and the fate of Java. In both cases, there has been a dangerous erosion of confidence because the ruling party has not been living up to the long awaited promise of reform to its people and community.

I believe that today, during these important times for Java, President Reagan's words can again provide us with that much needed vision. And so it is with great respect for him when I say:

"Mr. Ellison and Mr. Schwartz, open this gate! Gentlemen, tear down this wall! Let Java be free!"

 The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989

In 2006 I visited South Korea.  I was doing a keynote at the VLDB conference in Korea that year, and also visiting a small innovative company we had just acquired.  My host took me and several guests to a nice mountainside retreat/restaurant for dinner.  This place was not far from the border with North Korea, and I remember one of the people there saying, if only they were trading with each other, these fences would not exist.


This got me thinking.  Trade, or business, is a fundamental need of humanity.  It is a serving of a very basic aspect of the human condition.  It is also a great pacifier.  And we at SAP, are at the heart of our world's trade.  We are a unique and distinguished enabler of trade.


It is in this fundamental sense that I see our purpose.  We serve a very basic human need, and we do so reliably, innovatively, in trusted relationships that span generations.  Generations of technology, of people, of change.  And we are very good at it and we have all seen example after example of our fundamental role in enabling the world to trade.


We have a unique ability to create value that is durable and leads to a sustainable society.  One example of this is the work we do enabling the poor, the bottom billion as Paul Collier so eloquently put it.  Our work in our research lab in south africa is a perfect example of this.  Under the leadership of Danie Kok and Lutz Heuser, we have a very inspiring initiative called C@r -- collaboration at rural areas -- that Financial Times recently wrote about.  And there are many more examples like this.


So when I think of the future of business, and of our role in helping shape this, I invariably think of all the new comers into this world: whether they are young people entering the workforce with new experiences and new expectations, or new economies coming on line flattening and changing the rules of the game, or the underprivileged societies within us, finding their place into a world of trade and prosperity.


Whether it is an excited entrepreneur, riding the coattails of a microfinance loan to set up a mobile payment business, or a budding artist who just received a royalty check off the first sale of their songs on the internet, we enable many of the complex transactions around royalties and payment distribution, and the promise that underlies them.  It is the privilege of building software for all of them, and the enduring peace and prosperity that this software can enable, that makes it worthwhile for me to come to work every day.  So think about this the next time you write a line of code, or make a sale, or book an order or take a service call.  The piece of software you touch, that we deliver, may just have helped change the life of someone.  And that, my friends, is our unique purpose and our unique privilege in our company.


Best,
Vishal

Vishal Sikka

The Open Cloud Manifesto

Posted by Vishal Sikka Mar 29, 2009

Today, SAP and other companies initiated a conversation about how cloud computing can best provide value to our customers.  The Open Cloud Manifesto describes principles that will help customers who choose cloud-based solutions to achieve expected benefits, while still receiving enterprise qualities, protecting existing investments and permitting cloud provider choice.

 

Cloud computing enables flexible on-demand scaling of some applications, with significant aspects of development, deployment and management handled using cloud services.  Having IT infrastructure grow with the business simplifies planning and lowers costs, which is particularly valuable for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).  The Open Cloud Manifesto recognizes the importance of broadly-accepted cloud standards without compromising technical innovations such as those in RESERVOIR.  Availability of Open Clouds should support interoperability and portability across different cloud providers, using cloud services for infrastructure and management. 


SAP has always been committed to delivering industry-leading businesses solutions that meet enterprise customer requirements. The Open Cloud Manifesto initiates an open dialogue among cloud vendors, enterprise application companies and customers that could help achieve this for cloud computing.

 

I want to personally invite the SAP Community to share your thoughts about the Open Cloud Manifesto. You can do so by editing the document on the Cloud Computing Wiki, or simply by responding to this blog. I am looking forward to hearing from you !

Many of you have seen the news SAP has acquired the intellectual property rights of Coghead, Inc., a Silicon Valley company that provides a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) web development technology.

I've received a lot of questions about what this acquisition means to SAP, so I wanted to take a few moments to share my thoughts with you.

In addition to acquiring the IP rights to this cutting-edge technology, nine Coghead employees have joined my team, the Office of the CTO.

Although Coghead was a small company, it was well known in the marketplace for its engineering expertise and outstanding technology. Coghead was a true pioneer in platform-as-a-service and cloud computing in general. Coghead's IP and expertise will help SAP in various aspects of our Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technology and application initiatives. I have always seen delivery of application capabilities from cloud as a key component of the total capability we need to deliver to our customers.

Integration of cloud-based and on-premise applications is an important challenge that we must also address. The team from Coghead bring with them considerable expertise in the area of integration. I have had the pleasure of working with the Coghead team before and I’m happy to have them join us to help shape the future of SAP product direction.

Vishal

Vishal Sikka

The Future of SOA

Posted by Vishal Sikka Feb 5, 2009

Recent musings in the blogosphere on the demise of service-oriented architecture (SOA) have prompted many of you to ask me for my views on this topic. While I don’t want to address any specific article, I do want share a few of my thoughts on the future of SOA.

In the early days, a joke that made rounds in the tech community was that SOA is a way to finally explain to management what an API is. While good for a few laughs, I think it makes light of a real divide between business and technology. More than just an architectural concept, SOA has helped to bridge the business-IT chasm. And in this role I see SOA going forward and addressing several fundamental issues that businesses face and that IT must resolve.

I recently articulated a notion that I call “timeless software.” In solving the fundamental problems that businesses face everyday, enterprise software must continuously evolve in cycles of renovation by bringing in new functionality and overriding existing capabilities – but doing so in nondisruptive ways. Timeless software is about architecting system landscapes that are always modern and always reliable, and it builds on and extends SOA in three fundamental ways:

 

  • Going beyond application/process integration. We traditionally think of SOA in the sense of making system landscapes more flexible. But it turns out that artifacts within a complex system landscape – an enterprise application, for example – need to be consumed in a variety of ways. For example, the UI requires fine-grained and often stateful communication, and we need to provision these out of the applications. Integrating master data requires transactionally safe communication. Analytics and mass data require transferring and transforming data in bulk. And identity – managing the security and access of applications and exposing this to the consumers outside – is yet another type of service exposure. The SOA world is addressing some of these requirements with, for example, service data objects, but we need to go much further with provisioning applications for the multiple forms of connectivity that an enterprise needs.
  • Flexibility versus optimization. With SOA’s first wave, we took it as a maxim that abstraction comes at the price of optimization. That when we layer software pieces, the additional layer of indirection costs us in performance, that this is a given, and that somehow hardware advances would magically take care of this. Well, it doesn’t quite work that way. Process switches are expensive. Crossing system boundaries and switching across memory hierarchies both consume time and resources, but this is independent of SOA.
    The next wave that “timeless software” advances is to flexibly combine content running over multiple containers that can be merged when possible and when necessary, so that principles of locality and performance optimization are maintained. As Alan Kay reminds, this is best achieved by separating meaning from optimization. Again, within the UI domain, we have shown how building UI projections on business objects on the outside, but running these projections within the address space of an application, enables both the flexibility of abstraction, without losing on performance.

    The Blue Ruby project (SAP Research project examining the potential of dynamic language-driven ABAP™ program extensions) and several ongoing projects involving JavaScript demonstrate this, as does our work on LiveCache applications, where we run application code and in-memory data management closely together when needed for performance-intensive supply-chain applications. We are taking this work further with executing language runtimes within the TREX engine that powers our next-generation data management capabilities for analytics.

    The broader SOA world is also working on this ability to elastically combine runtimes, with work on OSGi containering and on service-component architectures. The OSI network stack got there much earlier, with work on enabling optimization across layers of abstraction. And the work on service-oriented infrastructure (SOI) embodied many of these concepts. Again, we can go much further as an industry with optimizing our runtimes, and SAP can lead the way, using the knowledge we’ve gained about application patterns over the past 35+ years and optimizing the underlying platforms for these applications.

  • Life-cycle management. The early work on SOA in the industry did not substantially address change management in complex applications and complex landscapes over generations; that is, managing application content, application containers, and their coexistence, modification, upgrades, fixes, and other aspects over long periods of time. We have this knowledge built into our support processes – and they can be made more efficient with technology. But long-lived change management and optimization need to be better defined and explored, and I think this is a key aspect of SOA’s evolution. Within our industry, teams that build operating systems and other infrastructure software (as well as outside our industry in building and construction, aerospace and defense, and in similar domains) have worked for decades on stable interfaces, forward compatibility, nondisruptive system management, and so on. It just hasn’t been addressed yet for the applications  I believe defining interfaces for the long run, and creating precise, even machine-readable documentation and software specifications, are key steps in SOA’s evolution.

 

I’m not planning to write the SOA obituary anytime soon. It’s true that more work needs to be done – and sooner rather than later. SOA is an important and unexploited piece of a very large puzzle, and we still have a long way to go. So let’s do just that.

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