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Ten years ago, the technology in the cloud was almost a dream of the future. On premise have been the backbone of the Enterprise systems and it created a foundation of reliability, security and data governance. A lot has changed in the last 10 years - the amount of data, type of data, velocity of data etc. Digitalization, faster network speeds, cloud computing etc., all have led to an increased amount of data, referred as “Big Data”. Whether it is used to run operations or engage with customers, data is coming from all different sources and directions, creating data lakes. However, these data lakes are turned into data swamps. In this competitive market, the usage of data will differentiate a company from others. Every company has data but usage of data is the differentiator.

Organizations now experiment with data in different ways to give more to the customers. Some companies, trying to harness Big Data, use new technologies like IoT (Internet of Things) that have completely transformed their business. Leveraging their data helps them with all aspects of their business such as improving customer experience and making logistics more efficient or streamlining services.

This blog post will discuss where we are with Big Data today as compared to the past and how organizations can unlock the power of Big Data. One of the tools that facilitate the big data revolution is SAP HANA, which just turned 10 years old. We will talk about the history of this disruptive solution and its successor, SAP HANA Cloud.

What was the mind-set a decade ago?

Back then operational CIOs were looking to leverage data but not in the same way as you look at it today. They were looking at data like how to store it, how to make it accessible but it was not much focused about how to get it out of the silos and start to think about integration apart from fundamental integration. For example, how to think about customer experience & dynamics. Now a days, companies are looking at data as an asset which is a differentiator for them. It has been said that data is a new oil; I would sort of not agree with that because oil is an unrefined asset. However, with data you really have to refine it, you have to find ways to make it meaningful for your specific situation or business. That is ultimately what makes it valuable and that is where companies need to focus on. They have to get beyond the fundamentals of the basics of storing data and integrating data. They have to find ways to leverage it either to benefit their business operations or the way they engage with their customers.

Are there any customers who are still focusing on storing data?

No, everyone is viewing how to serve the business. They may not have the language to understand that they are now in real-time business. They need to use real time data whether to give specific customer experience by using some statistical methods or need to serve business units by having real-time data to make better decisions i.e. how to deploy capital or other resources. Business leaders are asking for an increased amount of dynamic information. They are not satisfied with a report. They want to go in and analyze the data themselves as they are competing with this data and know that data is their advantage.

In sap terminology, “Data Value Chain” shows how to get most out of the good quality, consumable collected data. Check Data Management Portfolio of SAP - it has a comprehensive solution covering Data Value Chain.

How are companies successful in managing their data?

Over the years we have seen incredible innovations from customers using SAP HANA and many are continually looking ways to improve their data management. In the latest Big Data and AI executive survey, nearly all companies surveyed reported that they are investing in Big Data but less than half of those organizations say that they are managing data as business as is. This shows that there is still a gap between what companies want to accomplish and what they can actually accomplish. That is one of the reasons why SAP HANA solved the capacity limitations of in-memory storage. So as powerful as in-memory is, storing large amounts of data can be expensive so the tools like native storage extension give companies the choice between reduced cost and cutting edge performance.

Challenges that lead to success

One of the biggest challenges for most organizations is to understand how their business operates. The important part is to identify the core pieces of the business and define the right strategy to fit relevant data into each of those processes. Management has to understand the business intermittently and drive what architecture to use to manage the data. Reality is, companies are still trying to figure out how to get legacy on premise based resources to cloud based resources? How to start leveraging things like Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence? These are relatively new concepts for many enterprises today. They are not well down this path and I think there is a massive opportunity coming because they (the board, the executive team) also know that they have to leverage data to engage with their customers and stakeholders. The challenge is how to engage IT in the right way and bring those two entities together to be able to drive success. It is not as simple as storing the data and bits. They have to tear apart some of those complications because the reality is - it’s going to get more complicated with time and it’s important to simplify the engagement to create that straight line to success.

How companies can make the most of their data by moving from on premise to cloud

In general, moving to the cloud can help companies easily and cost effective scale to meet their needs. But the path to the cloud for many organizations is less clear. Some customers want to go to the cloud right now, some still or will need to stay on premise. Some are extending their on premise solution by creating a hybrid scenario and moving incrementally to the cloud. HANA cloud has the same performance, speed & power, customers expect from SAP HANA but in cloud native database, fully managed multi cloud and also supporting seamless hybrid scenario. That means HANA cloud is delivering scalability, flexibility and can also connect to data everywhere without need to replicate those data and there are also many other features in HANA cloud that helps customers to go through this incremental journey. For example, advance data tiering features which can help customers to easily manage performance, cost and storage for any volatility. All these features combined, enable companies to use their data to its full effectiveness.

What is the driving decision to move to cloud? - It is a big change in the company. It requires a totally different skill set than what the traditional IT people may have. Companies may have to re-train them and look at ways to make implantation successful. Do they simply want economics of Cloud, flexibility or do they want scalability?

The benefit companies get out is - data tiering, data annotation feature and built in flexibility. Customers can try new things quickly is one of the key things of cloud. It doesn’t require an infrastructure chain to build up a rack of servers. They can just make some API calls and build a new test environment. Tools like Data Intelligence, DWC and SAC are coupled with HANA cloud. It is like a set of Legos where you think and experiment new things and not just the initial intended purpose of having these. It helps companies to transform the way they can analyze their data and do business.

Most of the companies have an innovation department at some level that is trying these sorts of experiments particularly that marries technology to its organization. That is the critical thing to be able to answer these questions and to try business experiments. These aren’t IT experiments to check if something can be done in a particular way. It is business asking questions how they can leverage data to answer the questions, preferably in real time. With SAP HANA Cloud, businesses can do quick experiments and make better decisions. If these experiments work, the path to success is quick. If they don’t work, it can be turned off and the cost is minimal. This is another big promise of the cloud.

What companies can do to address the future of Big Data?

Organizations have the data but they don’t have the answer to the questions asked. By using HANA Cloud and new statistical models, companies can get new insights from the pile of unstructured, high frequency data. The problem with previous structured data systems was, you kind of get to know what questions will be asked before you put the data in the system. Now, HANA cloud and other analytical tools enable you to put that data in a way that you can ask new questions later without fear of having to re-invent the entire data lake. With this, organizations will be ready to find out the answer of every question.

There are two terms to ponder upon - 1) Flexibility and 2) Speed. You are going to have to remain flexible whether it is around customer engagement or business operations. Both of those will have to be flexible and you have to be able to move, shift and change at a moments’ notice. In today’s world, we have just seen that especially in the last 1 year alone, companies across all industries have had to re-think their business models. They have to rethink how they are engaging with their customers and in the core of that is the data. So flexibility” at “speed is really important. We know that there is going to be more complexity coming down the path so how do we build that flexibility in such a way that it can accommodate those changes.

Companies need to plan how to architect and build not just their systems and data repositories but also their culture, processes and relationships to be able to accommodate over time. They think about technology, data in its own silos but they don’t think about the relationship piece, about the processes and that is just as important to consider.

Over time, data will get bigger, complex and more distributed, residing in different data centers of different cloud infrastructure providers. For organizations to be prepared for the future they need a solution which can cope with all those challenges. So HANA cloud including the integrated data lake is able to process the data of any size. HANA cloud can connect to data everywhere without need of data replication. HANA cloud follows a multi cloud provider strategy so you can get HANA cloud on AWS, Azure, Aliyun cloud etc. In order to leverage the data assets, customers can easily consume the data or enrich the data with additional business semantic built on top of HANA cloud like Data Intelligence, DWC which enable customers to cleanse and consolidate the data and report it via SAC.

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