SAP doubled down on HANA as its future technology platform for running all of its own applications, plus integrating with partners and customers as it announced a major update to its in-memory database at its Sapphire Now conference in Orlando on Wednesday.

The newly released service pack 8 (SP8) pushes HANA further into SAP’s own applications, giving it new capabilities to run more predictive algorithms and new tie-ins to SAP products. For example users can now run searches for attachments within SAP Business Suite, scour the time-dependent hierarchy of SAP Human Capital Management, apply business rules to SAP Fraud Management and offload graph engine capabilities for SAP Medical Insight. But the update goes beyond that and includes new integration with some key enterprise IT partners as well as opening up HANA for use by custom enterprise applications and third-party plugins.

The SP8 release adds support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux as an operating system, integration with business intelligence software vendor SAS Institute, added support for IBM’s smart data access, and connectivity with Microsoft ADO.Net clients. In addition to its HANA revisions, SAP is making other efforts to work with a wide ecosystem of partners. It’s running a test evaluation program of HANA running on IBM’s Power Systems servers, it has certified an HP box that was codenamed “Project Kraken” and is designed to pool up to 12 terabytes of data into memory, and it has released SAP HANA on VMware’s vSphere 5.5 to general availability.

Today’s announcements build on other partnerships SAP announced last week, including one with Waterloo, Ont.-based enterprise content management firm OpenText. The two firms have long worked together (on Tuesday, OpenText won its seventh consecutive Pinnacle award as a top SAP partner), but now are even more tightly integrated. OpenText will run its SAP Archiving software on the HANA platform, and offer SAP customers access to Tempo Box, its version of Dropbox suited for enterprise use.

OpenText strengthens long-held SAP partnership

“We made the decision with SAP to deliver our Tempo Box as a sort of secure file share solution for free,” says Hans-Gerd Schaal, the leading director of SAP solutions group at OpenText. “It’s not only a kind of secure Dropbox to share file… they also get the ability to link the content into the backend system of SAP.”

That means end-users will see files in the context of a workflow process they normally carry out through SAP, he adds. It’s just the latest integration between the 20-year partners, following seven years of reselling each other’s software. The union works because of OpenText’s ability to organize unstructured data for the enterprise and SAP’s ability to make sense of that data and tie it back to decision making processes for different industry verticals.

“Our contribution to the ERP world is to bring all of the unstructured content into the SAP process,” Schaal explains. “It’s a great opportunity to expand our market share and sell together with SAP.”

Working with OpenText allows SAP to offer content management without having to acquire a firm or build a new product, says Nigel Wallis, a research director at IDC Canada. That helps it compete against other software vendors that do offer that capability alongside CRM and ERP products, namely Oracle Corp. and Salesforce.com.

For OpenText, it can tap into SAP’s platform and offer a better user experience at no cost, he says. “They’ll be able to accelerate the speed of that content that you can get at with HANA’s in-memory technology. They’ll be able to access things very quickly.”

It should perhaps be no surprise SAP is spending so much time focusing on partnerships during its busiest week of the year. At the beginning of May it announced that Rodolph Cardenuto, the former director of SAP’s Americas division, would helm a new global partners operations unit and report directly to the CEO. Not only did it inherit responsibility for existing eco-systems and channel partnerships, but it had a mandate to handle strategic partnerships around the world.

SAP is elevating the importance of its partner group, says Bob Elliott, country manager for SAP Canada. He acknowledges that as the person reasonable for revenue from Canada, he’s often focused on quarter-to-quarter results and could use some help building out the partnerships that might not deliver results immediately but are important long term. He says it’s common knowledge within SAP that for every $1 in revenue made by SAP, there’s $8 to $10 to be had in the wider ecosystem.

“Our focus on partnerships continues to increase as the world becomes open source and other cloud-based companies gain more traction,” Elliott says. “It’s the most efficient way to manage the complexities.”

If there’s one over-arching theme linking all of SAP’s new partnerships and integration capability announcements, it’s the message that customers can benefit by migrating to the cloud. Ask any SAP spokesperson at Sapphire, or their new partners about the cloud and they’ll tell you how they’re ready to help your organization make the move there. And when the move is made, it’s celebrated – Elliott took a moment to sip champagne passed around at a booth of a client that had just finished a cloud migration project for its ERP system.

“Every type of partnership we’re looking at now has some cloud aspect to it,” he says. “Customers expect SAP to lead them to do the cloud and to do it in either an aggressive overhaul or a more gradual way. They know they can count on SAP to keep their enterprise apps running.”

SAP’s in-house benefit of HANA upgrade

One SAP product benefitting from the new raft of updates is Lumira, an analytics visualization technology that offers a free version for download. Enterprise users can now deploy Lumira on the HANA cloud to tie in to their data sets and can also plug-in to MongoDB, an open source data base technology that’s widely used. The updates are good, says Nick Smith, the director of analytics for SAP, because it demonstrates his employer’s openness and flexibility.

“As data continues to grow and different ways of consumption along with it, we need relevant information quickly and wherever we are,” he says. “The ability to get the data I need to do my job is critical.”

Lumira also integrates into SAP BusinessObjects data and any corporate business intelligence platform you happen to use. Lumira is in a sense the face of HANA because any time you see a visualization of HANA data, it’s likely been generated by Lumira, Smith says. SAP’s focus is on using it as a way to communicate data insights to any user (yes, even non-technical line of business managers) through any channel – whether it’s served up by a mobile app or in a web page.

“There’s a pretty big investment in making sure Lumira is open and can be embedded anywhere,” he says. “It’s these types of serving up visual discoveries and adding advanced capabilities we’ll see more of in the future.”

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