From System R to the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud

When SAP was founded in 1972 nobody would have known what cloud-computing would mean. One might have guessed it was related to space travel, as mankind had been visiting the moon for some years with huge rockets.

Since its beginnings SAP has helped businesses run better through world-class software solutions that solve complex problems to help invent, commercialize, and mainstream the products and services of the global economy. Today SAP is the world’s largest provider of business software. As a result of customer-inspired innovation SAP’s portfolio of solutions is currently used by more than 248,000 of the world’s best-run businesses, touches more than 74% of the world’s financial transaction revenue, and impacts more than 500 million people.

In 1972 nobody would have imagined to which extent computers would affect the lives of most people four decades later. Estimates at that time predicted only some hundred computers worldwide to exist in future. The understanding was that only large companies and governments would be able to afford such costly technology.

Today we know it turned out otherwise and since its beginnings SAP stood to benefit from the technological advance in computer science.

Real-time and Standardization

The first programs that were written from 1972 onwards emphasized the aspect of real-time. “System R” used data entry via screen and keyboard rather than punch-cards. Thus data was immediately available to support business processes and their evaluation.

The aspect of real-time was kept in focus since then whenever new software was developed by SAP.

“System R,” later called R/1, was developed on customer-owned hardware, but thanks to the ongoing miniaturization of computers the quickly growing company SAP could soon invest in its first own hardware. The next evolution of real-time software, the mainframe software SAP R/2, became a huge success during the 1980s. It supported not only instant availability of data but provided an integrated view of all relevant business areas.

A second important attribute of SAP’s software is standardization. Standard software addresses many customers’ needs with a basically identically coding using a standard set of customizing options. This has many benefits: software development can be streamlined, upgrades can be better planned, customer support can be more efficient and it facilitates forming a stable network of partners.

Evolution

Keeping the core features of real-time and standardization SAP profited from the newly emerged personal computers and invented a client-server version of its established SAP R/2: SAP R/3 which was released in 1992 and became not only an even bigger success but an industry standard in its own.

SAP enhanced SAP R/3 with various standard industry variations and closely attached additional software packages until SAP R/3 was incorporated in the SAP ERP Business Suite in 2004.

With real-time enabled standard software SAP was also entering the next steps in software evolution: mobile, big data and cloud.

  • Big data requires efficient ways to deal with data volumes, SAP’s answer to this is its home bred in-memory computing: SAP HANA. SAP HANA will become an integral part of SAP ERP.
  • For the cloud market SAP developed a comprehensive portfolio of various line-of-business solutions and a cloud-ERP (Business ByDesign) and acquired important cloud-players like SuccessFactors and Ariba.

Revolution

“HANA redefines the market for enterprise software – it’s only logical to take it to the cloud,”

said Hasso Plattner during the announcement of SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) in May 2013. The goal is combining the power of real time with the simplicity of the cloud while leveraging SAP’s 40 years of application experience with mission critical data centers. HEC will make in-memory computing quickly available for a large customer base in a managed cloud environment that includes a wide range of flexible options.

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