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The SAP intelligent enterprise is seen as a way for companies to use next-generation technologies like machine...
learning or AI to transform business processes.
SAP Cloud Platform (SCP) plays a key role in making the SAP intelligent enterprise a reality for customers by bringing all of SAP's cloud products together into one product suite that customers can use to run all their business processes, according to the company.
SCP, an open PaaS tool, is "the glue between those individual solutions," the company said.
Additionally, the platform lets customers' development teams build new products from the ground up, which will help them with their digital transformation efforts.
Integrating new apps into the SAP intelligent enterprise
Developers can integrate these new apps into SAP or non-SAP products because SCP works with public cloud providers -- including Amazon, Google and Microsoft -- has open APIs, and supports open source coding languages.
"In the big architecture picture, at the top, there is our portfolio of applications," said Dan Lahl, global vice president of SAP Cloud Platform product marketing. That portfolio consists of:
- S/4HANA, SAP's classic ERP system;
- SuccessFactors for human resource management;
- C/4HANA for CRM and customer experience management;
- Ariba for procurement;
- Concur for travel and expense management; and
- Fieldglass for workforce management.
Then, at the bottom, there's SAP's digital platform, which comprises the company's data management and data orchestration products, including SAP HANA and the SAP HANA Data Management Suite. This suite includes SAP Data Hub, SAP Cloud Platform Big Data Services and SAP Enterprise Architecture Designer.
SAP's digital platform enables organizations to manage data from any source, in any format -- and rapidly develop, integrate and extend business applications. The digital platform lays a data-driven foundation for all those applications, Lahl said.
SCP is the second part of the digital platform, as it provides more of a developer environment to extend and enrich any of the applications at the top and integrate those together, Lahl said.
"The Cloud Platform piece is how you enrich, how you integrate, how you extend and pull those application suites together," he said.
SAP Cloud Platform can complement SAP cloud apps
John Rymer, an analyst with Forrester Research, described SCP as a complement to the SaaS and enterprise applications that SAP provides.
It is also a platform for building wholly new custom applications. That means customers can turn to SCP if they need to integrate those SaaS apps with something else or if they need to change them by, for example, customizing the user interface.
"Maybe I have SAP applications that I haven't yet integrated, like Fiori," Rymer said. "And I'm going to do Fiori interfaces or reskin my apps or I'm going to build a Fiori portal or something [similar] that provides access to data that's stored in the apps. I would do that work in the SAP Cloud Platform."
SAP customers can also use the platform to build integrations to non-SAP sources, Rymer said.
"I want to integrate with an additional data source or I want to incorporate a service, such as DocuSign, into a workflow, so I use SCP to do that complementary work."
Expanding the SAP developer tool set
Within the SAP ecosystem, SCP fits in as an application development enabler or application development tool, according to Larry Carvalho, an analyst at IDC. For a lot of customers that use SaaS applications, it's no longer enough to innovate using just those platforms.
SCP has all the capabilities that developers are looking for to abstract the whole application development lifecycle, meaning all the connectivity, development and code changes, Carvalho said.
To that end, SAP has embraced Kubernetes and created function-based computing with Knative -- Kubernetes-based building blocks for serverless workloads -- that enables developers to build the SAP intelligent enterprise with SCP.
That's in addition to adding all the new capabilities that developers require but don't always have the skills for, such as machine learning, blockchain and IoT, as well as connecting to all the other SAP systems, such as SuccessFactors, Concur and C/4HANA, Carvalho said.
"You have to build capabilities on top of applications -- which could be SAP or non-SAP apps -- and create new capabilities that connect to those back-end applications, [such as] traditional ERP, CRM, HCM applications," Carvalho said.
SCP provides a path for companies to package those applications, connect them and deliver the SAP intelligent enterprise on top of the existing investments they have made in IT, he said.
Seth Lippincott, an analyst at Nucleus Research, explained that SCP is not that different from other PaaS offerings from other vendors.
Most of the time, companies that use SCP implement it themselves and need a platform layer on which to build their applications, house them or build connectors between them, he said.
"If it's an implementation partner or an ISV [independent software vendor], they can build on [SCP] to be more of a value-add to their end customers," Lippincott said. "So if they need some extensibility to whatever [product] they're working on -- whether it's an SAP [product] or one that is working off the SAP infrastructure that they have in the cloud -- [SCP] would come into play there."
Kurt Marko, an independent technology analyst with MarkoInsights in Boise, Idaho, described SCP as a development system that's based on the open source PaaS tool Cloud Foundry.
"The idea is that SAP has its applications available as SaaS. But a lot of times, organizations need more customizations or integrations that they can get just by customizing the apps themselves," he said. "[SCP] serves that role. You can target web clients and mobile clients. If you want to build customer enterprise applications, ideally ones that are going to use SAP back-end services, [SCP] is a really good way to bootstrap into that."