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It's no secret that I'm a big science-fiction fan and fascinated by space travel. I became The Martian in 2015 and went Back to the Future in 2016, so in that tradition the team and I thought hard about which theme to pick for the SAP TechEd 2017 keynote.

It's tricky, as just picking a theme to geek out to is no option, you certainly want to go with something that helps to drive home your message, and resonates with the audience. Fortunately, we found the perfect setting to talk about digital transformation and its accompanying challenges this year: Star Trek and the adventures of the USS Enterprise. I couldn't be happier about this, as it brings back fond memories of the origins of SAP Cloud Platform. Back in the days, a small team at SAP decided to "boldly go where no man has gone before" and started building the next generation platform - and it was exactly that spirit of pioneering into unchartered territory (open-source, cloud, agile development and continuous delivery) that laid the foundation of what SAP Cloud Platform is today.

Digital transformation

Nothing illustrates this need for a new mindset better than the famous Kobayashi Maru test featured in Star Trek. In this test, the captain of a spaceship is put in an "no win" situation to see how they handle the situation. In the movie, after having failed the test twice Captain Kirk realised that he has to change the conditions of the test in order to win, because no matter how he hard he would try - standard procedures simply wouldn't cut it!

Same is true for every enterprise embarking on a digital transformation journey - "business as usual" won't do. Trying to fundamentally transform your business without embracing both technology and culture change is a lost cause - you can't win. In order to succeed, you need to change the conditions across your entire business - including people and processes, because technology (regardless of how advanced it may be) is only one part of the equation.

So, in today's blog post I will talk about the three main pillars to help you to boldly go where no enterprise has gone before to master the challenges of digital transformation: truth, agility and experience.

Beyond just data

Data is the foundation of it all. You need to be able to rely on the data you have in real-time to make smart decisions and steer your enterprise in the right direction.

As the sheer amount of data being generated and captured is steadily growing in magnitude we depend on modern technologies that help us convert big data to smart data: enter SAP Data Hub.
SAP Data Hub specifically addresses this problem space as it helps organisations to achieve greater simplicity and to reduce the landscape complexity, providing a single solution for data sharing, pipelining, and central governance across the landscape. In simple terms, it's the next evolutionary step after the divergence of OLAP and OLTP via SAP HANA, bringing together big data clusters (Hadoop) and enterprise data (SAP HANA) via SAP Vora.

For more information please refer to this blog post.

Beyond just Platform-as-a-Service

The ability to make smart decision based on enterprise-wide real-time data empowers you to set your course on the right direction. Yet, you also need the required agility to quickly react to the dynamics of changing environments and disrupted markets.

SAP Cloud Platform caters to this need by providing you with a comprehensive portfolio of both technical capabilities and business services to rapidly extend existing solutions or develop new innovation applications as needed. The benefit for you is that you can focus on addressing your business requirements while SAP takes care of all the nitty-gritty and very complex aspects of running a secure, reliable and robust cloud platform.

At SAPPHIRE NOW in May this year, we officially revealed our multi-cloud strategy and explained how our strategic partnerships with the leading cloud infrastructure providers help us to provide you with the free choice of the underlying IaaS provider and data centers on which to run SAP Cloud Platform.

Yet, don't be mistaken - that does not imply that SAP will slow down, or even discontinue its data center build out. True, SAP has no intentions to become a general-purpose IaaS provider, yet we will continue to invest in infrastructure and onboard new data centers to support our strategic business goals.

And while the market situation in Europe will benefit from the General Data Protection Regulation taking effect May 2018, other markets will remain restricted in regards to regulatory compliance requirements. Therefore, it's paramount for SAP to establish data centers in these regions.

In combination with our multi-cloud strategy, this approach ensures that SAP is uniquely positioned to meet the requirements and preferences of our customers and partners in all geographies and industries.

In that context, I'm happy to announce the availability of SAP Cloud Platform in two new SAP data centers: Toronto (Canada) and Moscow (Russia).

Furthermore, I'm thrilled to launch the public BETA of SAP Cloud Platform running on Google Cloud Platform (GCP). This marks an important milestone and first tangible result of our strategic partnership with Google, which aims to make SAP Cloud Platform available globally on GCP, as well as future collaboration and integration in machine learning, IoT, as well as the area of containerisation based on Kubernetes.

Speaking of Kubernetes - I'm similarly thrilled to announce that SAP has joined the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), an industry-wide effort to create and drive the adoption of a new computing paradigm that is optimised for modern distributed systems environments utilising containers and microservices. Besides our interest in incorporating Kubernetes into SAP Cloud Platform, we also have concrete plans to actively contribute projects and best practices from existing and new business scenarios for enterprises.

Beyond existing boundaries

Adoption is the most important KPI for a platform, and one of the best ways to drive adoption is by lowering the entry barrier and making it as simple as possible to use the platform and its capabilities. In terms of cloud platforms, that translates to enterprise APIs and microservices. Since SAPPHIRE NOW, the number of APIs offered via the SAP API Business Hub has grown significantly - including APIs for SAP Cloud Platform, machine learning, S/4 HANA Cloud, SAP Jam and many others - please read this blog post for more details.

I cannot stress the importance of APIs enough, in fact let me point you to an article recently published by a group of executives here at SAP including Bernd Leukert and myself that talks about how conventional companies have transformed themselves into software companies based on APIs: Unleash the Killer API

To support this movement and to enable developers across the globe to easily and conveniently use SAP APIs to build applications that leverage the business services and capabilities of our portfolio we have joined the OpenAPI initiative. Continuing on our open platform strategy and following up on similar contributions such as the Apache Olingo library for OData, we are contributing to the Open API Initiative based on our experience on building long-living enterprise APIs/Interfaces as well as our efforts on democratising API consumption.

In the same vein, we are now launching a duo of SDKs that facilitate the development of applications, microservices and APIs:

The SAP Cloud Platform SDK for service development provides generic development libraries and tools such as OData services provisioning and consumption, business events and so on to enable application developers to easily create extensions on SAP Cloud Platform.

The SAP S/4HANA Cloud SDK sits on top of the service development SDK and provides  end-to-end capabilities specific to SAP S/4HANA, tools and processes to enable application developers to easily create SAP S/4HANA extensions.

For more information please refer to these blog posts respectively: SDK for service development and S/4HANA Cloud SDK.

Beyond Developers

With software being the #1 differentiator and driver to streamline, optimise and redefine business processes, many companies will face difficulties in meeting the demand for new apps. Even with the improved agility and advanced productivity provided by cloud platforms, ready-to-use APIs and microservices, the need to meet the expectations of your business cannot be solely put on the shoulders of your IT department. Fortunately, you don't have to.

Today, we officially announce SAP Cloud Platform Rapid Application Development by Mendix, a low code and cross-platform development tool that greatly simplifies and accelerates the delivery of applications. This rapid application development tool empowers people without a software engineering background to build (departmental) apps and hereby easing the workload of professional developers. For more information on how this fits into and complements our existing development tool offerings please refer to these two blog posts:

Since mobile computing is ubiquitous today, we have also added two new tools to SAP Cloud Platform to create and deploy apps even more quickly and without significant coding effort.  The first is a mobile development kit that empowers developers to build and customize native mobile applications that leverages the SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS. The second is a mobile card development kit, which enables developers to quickly publish any SAP Fiori Launchpad tile and virtually any data via cards into a “wallet” style application on iOS devices.

Last, but far from being least I want to talk about something that will resonate with many of you. In fact, it’s something we have been asked many times throughout the last years: when will SAP Cloud Platform support ABAP?

The answer is: very soon! Yes, you heard that right. I'm excited to announce that we will be adding ABAP as the next environment to be incorporated into SAP Cloud Platform. One thing I want to explicitly point out here is that this is not your grandfather's ABAP, but a modern version optimised for cloud: it's very similar to the S/4HANA programming model and features a new RESTful architecture leveraging SAP Fiori and Core Data Services (CDS). For more information please refer to this FAQ document.


Coming back to our theme, sometimes you find yourself in what may seem to be a no-win situation, but by reframing your thinking you can turn it into a win-win situation. Having the best ship in the star fleet of the federation certainly played an important role in the success of Captain Kirk, yet in the end, the more important factor of his success was something completely different: a diverse crew and outstanding team work!

Same here at SAP - without the continuous and relentless efforts of the whole team, none of the above would have been possible. As such I want to conclude this blog post with a BIG shout-out to everybody who has been working hard the last couple of months to make it all happen. You rock!

If you happen to be at Vegas for SAP TechEd make sure to seize the opportunity to learn more about SAP Cloud Platform and SAP Leonardo to get ready for the road ahead.

Enjoy the conference - see you at the show floor!

<Captain's Log, date: 2017-09-26, final entry. Continuing our mission to make the world run better and improve people's lives.>

Fun fact: the splash screen of the early versions of the Eclipse IDE for the cloud platform featured an image of the USS Enterprise.