Like a Bridge over Troubled Water: An Easier Cloud for Driving Digital Transformation

By Swen Conrad,CEO,Ocean9, Inc

Swen Conrad,CEO,Ocean9, Inc

When it comes to digital transformation, today’s companies face a dilemma. With open source solutions like Hadoop and Spark, effective and scalable cloud-based architectures, and innovative business models, new entrants can seize market share quickly. Just think Uber. The question for established companies is how to keep up?

The answer is to leapfrog quickly. To do this, companies need to bridge the gap between business objectives and company resources (such as IT infrastructure and applications) – in a labor market where technology skills are scarce;

Connecting the Enterprise to the Cloud

Public cloud offerings like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Azure can help–but they’re so powerful by now that they can be overwhelming. The same can be said for the sophisticated enterprise-class solutions that companies need to deploy to take advantage of technologies such as Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT). Take, for example, one of the popular alternatives to Hadoop and Spark: the in-memory Big Data platform SAP HANA. The simple fact is that connecting SAP HANA to the cloud can be a formidable challenge.

Evolving Role of IT

This is not good news for IT organizations who are becoming more like orchestrators of business services than the traditional design, build, deploy teams of yesterday. As Mike Pearl suggests in a recent CIO Review article, the most effective IT groups today are following more of an assemble-to-order role where speed of deployment and integration is key–along with all of the proper governance to ensure compliance, security, performance and availability.

The pressure is on, in other words, for IT groups to move faster. And while the cloud has promised–and delivered on–so much, we need to do better. To facilitate the speed and flexibility demanded by the market, what’s needed is a more turn-key approach.

The “as-a-Service” Revolution

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) can be seen as the response to this demand for more turn-key solutions with Salesforce and SAP SuccessFactors as popular examples. Unfortunately, SaaS doesn’t meet all the needs of a given business. Many times, companies need a more custom approach. In response, the market now offers Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and even Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offerings that provide public cloud resources for companies to do with as they wish. In practice, however, this means building something from scratch and deploying it in the cloud. But what if you want to leverage existing investments by moving current enterprise assets–such as your database–to the cloud? What then?

Big Data-as-a-Service (BDaaS)

For most companies, their database acts like the central nervous system of their business. And with big data at the heart of digital transformation, these rapidly evolving databases are becoming the linchpin of business transformation.

What if we could easily and securely move these databases to the cloud and make them more self-managing and elastic to meet changing business needs as well as seasonal business fluctuations? This would save a tremendous amount of effort. And IT staff, in turn, could then be leveraged to drive differentiation based on big data instead.

Which brings us to Big Data-as-a-Service (BDaaS); in a recent article, BernardMarr estimated the BDaaS market to be at $30 billion in 2021. This market is supported by a growing list of vendors and solutions–including MapR, Hortonworks and Cloudera, Amazon Elastic MapReduce, Qubole, and Treasure Data. But these offerings focus primarily on Hadoop and Spark. What about the growing number of companies that use enterprise class solutions such as SAP HANA?

SAP HANA-as-a-Service

Let’s address this question from two angles: the product and cloud infrastructure. From the product angle, SAP is investing heavily into SAP HANA Cloud Platform as a PaaS option next to its impressive list of standard offerings. This approach allows customers to extend their core SAP on-premise solutions to the cloud–making future releases for all SAP products easier.

From the cloud angle, both Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure have invested heavily in IaaS for SAP HANA. Unlike Hadoop and Spark, SAP HANA runs best on larger compute nodes with sizeable on-board memory for data storage in either a scale-up or scale-out architecture. To meet this need, Microsoft Azure now supports 3TB of RAM in a single node for SAP HANA while AWS now supports 2TB of RAM per node through its family of X1 instances.

A Bridge to the Cloud with Ocean9 for SAP HANA on AWS

While these are positive developments, guidance provided by both AWS and Azure on how to make their clouds and SAP HANA all play nicely together remains quite technical. This falls short of the “as-a-Service” potential for SAP HANA, keeping companies behind the eight ball when it comes to digital transformation. 

Diagram: Ocean9 for SAP HANA on AWS solution architecture

Ocean9, however, is providing a way forward. Ocean9 for SAP HANA on AWS is a true SAP HANA-as-a-Service offering that gets you up and running in an elastic, flexible, cloud-native way. Natively built on the AWS API, Ocean9 leverages a total of 10 AWS services as shown in the architecture diagram below. All Ocean9 operations are simplified in a management console that allows users to make the right decisions quickly—dramatically speeding the onboarding process. Users can:

  • Provision a certified SAP HANA system between 30 GB to 4 TB in 15 minutes
  • Backup and restore to any point in time
  • Scale out a system in less than 10 minutes
  • Select up to 99.99 percent uptime using leading SAP HANA and AWS Business Continuity concepts

Best of all, Ocean9 follows the same hourly or monthly reserved pricing model that makes the public cloud an attractive and affordable business option. – See the high level of abstraction and simplification in the Ocean9 screen.

All this combined, Ocean9 relieves customers and partners from managing the non-differentiating parts of SAP HANA and enables them to focus on the aspects that are truly exciting–such as business processes reinvention, expansion into new fields such as IoT and Big Data, powered by revolutionary application performance with SAP HANA.

Picture: Ocean9 for SAP HANA on AWS provisioning screen

The Pressure’s off – or is it?

With the public cloud now available as a workable business option for SAP customers seeking to leverage SAP HANA, IT can now pursue digital transformation with confidence. Acting as a bridge to the cloud, IT is freed to pursue the assemble-to-order model described earlier. Real world business needs are met by orchestrating turn-key solutions in a flexible manner. In this world, IT’s job becomes one of adding value by integrating all these solutions in innovative ways that improve performance. Companies, in other words, can use the Ocean9 bridge as a means toward continuous innovation. And in a market where the pressure is always on to do the new thing first, that’s a bridge worth taking.  

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