SAP TechEd 2018: Gardening in the Cloud (with a serving of DevOps for SAP)

“I’m convinced that this is bigger than SAP have ever thought.”

Those aren’t my words.

That was the opening chosen by Bernd Leukert in his keynote speech at SAP TechEd 2018 Las Vegas last week. It’s a pretty bold statement – perhaps even more so given that SAP is already one of the world’s leading software companies – but Bernd ought to know what he’s talking about. After all, he is a member of the SAP Executive Board who’s been with the company for nearly 25 years.

OK, no doubt some of you will be calling ‘marketing’ on me already for taking an SAP keynote at face value, and yes, it’s true that SAP can be more enthusiastic than most when it comes to shouting from the rooftops about their own greatness.

But that being said, there was certainly a sense at this year’s TechEd that we’re starting to move beyond some of the buzzwords of recent times. Digital transformations all round!

Boxing Clever

SAP’s big pitch this year was all about the ‘Intelligent Enterprise’ – a concept introduced at Sapphire 2018 as the latest wrap-around for all things Leonardo and cloud, and the benefits they can bring to businesses (taking in lots of things like AI, IoT, Big Data, S/4HANA, etc, etc on the way).

So far, so strapline. Essentially the message was that successful digital businesses need to be running in the cloud in order to leverage SAP’s many new Leonardo offerings and make the most of the huge amount of data that they will generate. That was pretty much my takeaway from one hour and eight minutes, anyway.

The nice thing about TechEd though, vs, say, SAP Sapphire, is that some of the announcements are a bit more tangible and there were certainly a couple of interesting highlights in this year’s keynote.

Head in the (SAP) Clouds (Platform)

Cloud-related announcements were definitely a big part of TechEd 2018.

First of all, SAP have finally made good on one of last year’s key announcements and delivered the GA version of ‘SAP Cloud Platform, ABAP environment’. If last year’s event passed you by there are more details in this 2017 blog. Essentially SAP Cloud Platform, ABAP environment seems designed to allow businesses to continue utilising the wealth of ABAP knowledge and experience that’s out there as they are moving to the cloud. This excellent blog explains it all in much more detail. ABAP PaaS is an interesting – and perhaps easier to understand – way of describing SCPABAPE (as literally no-one is calling it).

The use of Git for versioning as part of this is certainly intriguing for us here at Basis Technologies, since we are already working with customers who combine Git-related technology with our ActiveControl solution to deliver SAP change more quickly and effectively. For example, Ericsson presented with us in Las Vegas to explain how an ActiveControl/GitLab integration has enabled them to fully integrate SAP into a multi-application CI/CD pipeline. It’s impressive stuff.

A Spot of Horticulture

Also cloud-related, SAP’s open-source ‘Project Gardener’ was brought into the spotlight during the TechEd keynote. I suspect this one will have been something really new for a lot of attendees, as I’m not sure how many old-school ABAPers are aware of the challenges around management of Kubernetes clusters!

To be fair, I’m not going to pretend I’m any kind of expert either. There’s a lot more info on the project website (link above), and this SAP blog series gives a pretty good introduction.

The key point is that while virtualization of SAP systems has been a very current topic for some time – how many businesses have already migrated to AWS, Azure or even GCP? – it’s interesting to see that SAP are now also looking at containerization as a way to make cloud-based solutions more effective.

Again, this is something that forward-thinking Basis Technologies’ customers are already implementing. Referring back to the Ericsson case, containerization is what allows them to efficiently run up to 9 parallel development systems, matching the set-up of their SAP environment to that of other applications. It also means they can run a very flexible landscape, re-purposing SAP systems or spinning up new ones as required. ActiveControl provides the means to manage and move SAP change automatically across such a dynamic landscape.

Shifting Everything Left

This idea of quickly and easily creating or updating new systems also connects really strongly to the concept of ‘shifting left’ – a key part of the DevOps approach enabled by Basis Technologies automation platform.

For example, Testimony, our revolutionary regression testing tool, removes the need for creation and maintenance of test scripts, and does not rely on up-to-date test data or extensive test landscapes featuring multiple systems. That means there’s no reason why your developers can’t start regression testing code before it even reaches QA. All they need is a suitable copy of the production system, which a containerized approach can easily supply.

CI/CD and DevOps for SAP

So cloud was the underlying support of SAP’s story at TechEd 2018, but very often trade show announcements tend to build to the future without directly impacting business today. That being the case, what were the more current topics of conversation, I hear you ask.

Well – as proven by the packed house for the Ericsson presentation that I mentioned earlier – interest in DevOps and CI/CD for SAP continues to grow. One reason is simply that more SAP professionals are independently appreciating the benefits that DevOps automation can deliver (after all, who wouldn’t want the kind of outcomes that our customers have seen, like 50x faster change delivery, or a 70% reduction in production outages?).

We are also seeing an upsurge in interest from partners (consultants, system integrators, etc.) who are being challenged to deliver more value to their customers and recognize that DevOps can do just that.

Probably the biggest group, however, were those from organizations who are already seeing success from a DevOps approach outside of SAP. Many of those people are now under pressure to explain why the same can’t be done in an SAP environment (tip: it can – you just need the right tooling and approach). In more extreme cases, a slow pace of SAP change is actually holding up the whole business as updates to other DevOps-led applications have to wait because of SAP dependencies.

Migrating to S/4HANA

No clever subtitle here. Perhaps unsurprisingly, although S/4HANA wasn’t a massive part of SAP’s messaging push it is becoming an increasingly hot topic as the 2025 support deadline looms.

To that end, when not talking about DevOps we had many conversations about how Basis Technologies’ automation platform supports the transition to S/4. There’s a bit more on that in this blog, but if you’re lucky enough to be going to TechEd Barcelona in a couple of weeks you’ll also have the opportunity to join a presentation with Procter & Gamble as they explain how co-innovation with Basis Technologies has supported them during their transition to S/4HANA. It’s at 2pm on Wednesday the 24th of October so don’t miss out!

Time Well Spent

At Basis Technologies we see SAP TechEd as a very valuable experience. It’s a chance for our tech team to learn what’s new in SAP but more importantly it’s an opportunity to engage with a different part of the SAP community (beyond those we met at Sapphire). Once again, we were both humbled and delighted by the positivity and enthusiasm with which our products were greeted (so thanks to everyone who came to our booth and said nice things).

We’re now looking forward to meeting many more new people at TechEd in Barcelona.

In the meantime – or if you’re reading this at a later date – if you’d like to know more about how our DevOps and test automation platform can help to transform software delivery in your business, request a demo now.

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