VCE announcing “Unleash Simplicity” (…for SAP)

Yesterday VCE Company announced a complete refresh of their converged infrastructure systems family; purpose-built solution for virtualized workloads (called Vblock). With this announcement VCE continues to display their clear leadership around innovation for their existing and potential future customers. The theme of this announcement was “Unleash Simplicity”, which embodies the fundamental value proposition of VCE’s solution to drive acceleration of time-to-value (rapid deployments) while reducing complexity and TCO of IT infrastructure. For those of you who are not aware: VCE is a joint venture between Cisco & EMC with investments from VMware and Intel which has achieved great success over the last 3 years as discussed in the announcement from EMC this past Wednesday: VCE Vblock demand hits Billion dollar run rate three years after launch with over 1,000 Vblock systems shipped. I was fortunate to be in the Santa Clara area for a few days this week, at the hotel where the VCE Customer Advisory Board was taking place prior to the announcement. Had some great conversations with VCE executives and customers about the accomplishments that been achieved over the last few years with Vblock for SAP as well as what this new announcement means to SAP customers.
VCE

The Vblock platform has proven to be a great choice for SAP customers which I have pointed out in previous blog posts. This Vblock product refresh will enable SAP customers to gain even better metrics when deploying a purpose-built integrated infrastructure stack to optimize SAP workloads. For SAP use cases the new Vblock320 and Vblock720 is enhanced with greater configuration flexibility for compute, network and storage. These two platforms now have twice the capacity and performance capabilities, allowing SAP customers to scale-out to the highest levels of SLA requirements.

VCE also announced Vision Intelligent Operations Software to simplify management of Vblocks’ with capabilities around improved intelligent discovery, comprehensive awareness and open API integration with third party management tools. VCE executives described VCE Vision as a next generation dashboard that a customer would expect to have in a new car.

In addition, as part of the announcement yesterday, VCE released what they call a “specialized system” certified for SAP HANA which is a purpose-built Vblock for HANA workloads “enabling rapid and efficient deployment of this powerful in-memory computing and database platform with unsurpassed scale and performance”. This is intriguing for a couple of reasons…
SAP HANA potential customers and partners often tell us they want to make the technology (appliance) decision a “check box”. We also continuously hear that customers want a HANA appliance solution that can be trusted, simple, and flexible.
At this point SAP requires hardware vendors to come up with certified Pre-packaged “HANA appliance” (based on the current HANA PAM). In my opinion there is nobody better equipped to execute on these principles than VCE’s HANA appliance since VCE has a 3-year track record of building converged infrastructure solutions (for SAP ERP and other workloads) that is a purpose-built, pre-architected, pre-integrated, pre-tested and standardized solution. A perfect fit for SAP HANA 🙂

So what are the analysts saying about VCE’s ability to build converged infrastructure solutions:
Gartner names VCE market share leader for integrated infrastructure systems
IDC study from 2012 says VCE Vblock Systems enable 5X faster deployment, 4X less staff resource time, 83X better availability and 3X lower cost

With this VCE announcement yesterday I am truly inspired to “Unleash Simplicity” with over 30 different SAP customers next week in our Santa Clara EBC for SAP Week. Not only do we have powerful customer success stories to share around Private Cloud for SAP and SAP HANA…but now we also have a refreshed solution set from VCE to hopefully allow us an opportunity to do an even better job of helping customers reduce TCO, improve SLAs, reduce Risk and ultimately improve their end user’s experiences in their SAP journeys in 2013!
Unleash Simplicity

Getting Inspired at SAP FKOM in Las Vegas last week

Not only did SAP finish 2012 with a big bang, last week at FKOM they also walked through a 2013 strategy, updated solutions portfolio and sales energy going into 2013 which was beyond anything I have seen in the past. I was inspired by the positive energy at the event…and of course by catching up with some good friends in the SAP ecosystem with whom I very much hanging out.
It’s incredible to watch how fast SAP moves and strives to drive innovation for their customers to transform their organizations. Of course there is the desire to sell more software licensing, however, it is crystal clear that an SAP account team is measured on delivering customer value. In my opinion the only way to do this is to first invest in understanding their customers businesses in various industry verticals and then leverage vehicles like Design Thinking and Value Engineering to help customers transform. SAP sales leaders urged their sales teams to find ways to use “Co-Innovation to help customers meet their aspirations”.

The overall GTM strategy is also crystal clear: HANA (…and HANA & HANA :)), Cloud and Mobile

Rob Enslin and Vishal Sikka walked through very large HANA customer wins and unique use cases that are changing the way companies do business. The Jan 10th Business Suite on HANA announcement was also a massive step forward in SAP’s HANA strategy which many of us are still trying to wrap our arms around to understand how In-Memory computing will transform how customers run both OLAP and OLTP on the same platform. It’s very interesting to see SAP offer SAP ASE included in a purchase of business suite…like John Appleby states “2013 – the year of the SAP Database”. Vishal also said that seeing Business Suite on HANA announced was in his mind compared to “Walt Disney one day in the past drawing a mouse and then seeing a $100B company being built”.
My light bulb moment during FKOM was when Vishal spoke about the speed of Intel’s innovation and the co-innovation SAP is doing with Intel. He walked through the use case where his 100 node HANA cluster, with a per node cost of $40K, added additional nodes within 6 months of the initial deployment, and the new per node cost went down from $40K to $32K while per server performance increase based on a new chip set. That’s close to a 20% price reduction with improved performance within a 6 month period…with this being a fact: Can someone tell me why anyone would ever deploy UNIX platforms for SAP going forward? You may hear me use this story in presentations and conversations going forward 🙂

SAP states that Cloud is revolutionizing how to manage People, Suppliers and Money. It has become very clear for us at EMC that when SAP speaks about Cloud they are not talking about the Private Cloud, Public Cloud or Hybrid Cloud for SAP solutions we evangelize for our SAP customers. SAP is speaking about their ability to host business application and processes in a Public cloud using their offerings from their SuccessFactor and Ariba portfolio. It will be interesting to see how the private cloud for SAP journey that many SAP customers are making in 2013 will impact their decisions to move application workloads to the SAP Public Cloud model.

It’s also clear that SAP is committed to their Mobile strategy. The number of mobile users keeps increasing and the opportunity to provide value to those end users based on having them connected to the central “Crown Jewel” SAP system is clear.

SAP made a big point of communicating that they are embracing the Partner community, which has been said many times before, the difference this time from an infrastructure vendors perspective, is that I believe the SAP sales teams are starting to understand the value of working together on HANA campaigns and Cloud/Virtualization projects…which was very refreshing. With close to 20,000 EMC platforms for SAP customer bases, together we can make “wine out of water” transforming our joint customer’s businesses!

There are a few key people in the SAP ecosystem that I am fortune to know and got a chance to catch up with at FKOM as well. Some of these people are extraordinary technologists, visionaries, innovators, thinkers… They challenge the status quo in everything they do. Some of them apparently have a shining light on them at all times.
FKOM
To quote one of them from last week saying: “let’s go for big bold ideas to change the game”…I was of course smiling ear-to-ear and reminded myself that the only limits that exists are based on my own ability to imagine what the future can be like!
Next off to drive massive change in 2013. Game on!…Who is in?!!

The “glue” between the Business side and the Technology side of SAP ERP deployments

18-24 months ago I had some ideas about figuring out how to be more relevant to the functional and business side in our SAP ERP customer deployments. I distinctly recall some feedback saying “don’t bother…they don’t care about the infrastructure side”. I went on with my passionate arguments on how we can make a difference in the overall time-to-value equation transformation our customer business and IT operations, but was told that most people will not listen since it’s coming from an “Infrastructure vendor”. I decided to Challenge the Status Quo
Today, 2 years later we have a great number of success stories showcasing how we have directly impacted overall SAP on-premise projects (Greenfield deployment, upgrade, re-platform, etc.) by taking processes that use to take weeks down to days, and processes that use to take days down to hours. We have achieved great proof points with demonstrated business value:
A customer being able to finish a major SAP project involving a ton of changes (application changes/upgrades, data center move, OS/DB, infrastructure refresh, cloud architecture deployment) which normally would have taken 12-14 months, only took 7 months;
Another large customer ($20B +) that now has the ability to rebuild their entire SAP production environment in 3 days, this is something that use to take 8-10 weeks at a minimum;
and a third example with a customer being able to react 10X faster than their business when it comes to support the roll-out of new functionality in their SAP environment;
another large SAP customer is able to provision new individual SAP systems in 30 minutes, something that use to take them days;
And lastly, a customer that re-platformed their SAP environment to a Private Cloud for SAP environment (compared to a UNIX environment) and achieved overall cost savings of 35% and performance improvement of nearly 60% enabling them to focus on other areas to provide better business value.

How do we accomplish this? What’s different now compared to 2-3 years ago in our customers’ SAP ERP environments? Welcome to the era of Private Cloud for SAP ERP deployments. We believe Cloud transforms IT and can have a large impact on the business in a positive way. We are enabling customers to lead their own transformation.
So, what do I believe the steps are to build out a Private Cloud for SAP environment? What is the strategy that we at EMC communicate to SAP customers around Private Cloud?…it’s very simple:
First, we believe that SAP ERP customers should standardize on an x86 platform for SAP (if they are not already there) to reduce costs and take advantage of virtualization. There are many proof points on why this makes sense including what I believe SAP’s overall vision is…look at for example, SAP HANA: there is a reason that SUSE Linux (x86) is the only platform option. Another great proof point is the important co-innovation SAP is having with Intel which Vishal speaks about in his keynotes. In my opinion the discussion of x86 scaling, performing and providing rock solid availability for SAP ended in 2011/2012. A SAP architects in a Fortune 50 SAP customers of ours recently told us “We would be going back 5-7 years in innovation if we refreshed our current Unix platforms with anything other than x86 platforms in our SAP environments”.
Second, we believe in order to drive the best TCO, utilization, agility, elasticity, and flexibility, customers should continue to embrace VMware virtualization for SAP. We use to have to explain to our customers, why this makes sense, but this is not the case anymore. The advantages and adoption rate (since VMware 5.0 performance and scalability capabilities) is incredible. The conversation is not about “if” it’s a good idea to virtualize (with VMWare) a SAP environment, it’s “when” and “how” do I virtualize my SAP environment without impacting risk to my business.
Third, we believe in order to deploy a true Private Cloud for SAP deployment, customers will need to “architect-in” Automation for SAP from the ground up. In order to achieve the benefits described earlier, of massively improving time-to-value (weeks to days and days to hours), SAP customers will need to take advantage of tools sets like SAP’s Landscape Virtualization Manager, VMware’s suite of tools sets such as vCloud Director, Cisco’s Intelligent Automation.

If you follow these three principles to build out your Private Cloud for SAP deployment, your next logical questions should be: what are my options in architecting my infrastructure (Server, Network, and Storage). We believe there are three ways to building out a Private Cloud for SAP deployment:
1. Deploy a “Build your own” architecture for SAP, picking your favorite x86 server vendor, your favorite storage network vendor and your favorite storage vendor (which hopefully is EMC).
2. Deploy a “reference architecture” for SAP. There are several options here such as what we call V+C+E architecture for SAP (VMware, Cisco and EMC) or our VSPEX offering. We recently announced our SAP Virtual Stack which fits great in this example. Some of our competitors such as NetApp’s FlexPod, HP’s Matrix also fit this category.
3. Deploy a true converged infrastructure for SAP such as the VCE Company’s Vblock. Meaning built as an appliance, single support, single management tools and so on.

There are pros and cons for each of these infrastructure architecture paths, and being an EMC employee I would of course suggest a V+C+E, VSPEX or Vblock for SAP path depending upon your current state and ability to embrace change and innovation to drive better time-to-value and overall cost models. Just to give a hint…some of the customer success described earlier in the post, built out the Private Cloud for SAP environments with Vblock for the best automation capabilities and most impressive metrics across the board.
It is also great to see that SAP themselves are validating this approach to transform SAP environments through virtualizations with the announcements made at Sapphire Madrid 2011: Preferred Three-Way Strategic Collaboration With EMC and VMware to Deliver Greater IT Efficiency and Business AgilityAnother great advantage of deploying a Private Cloud for SAP deployment on-premise, is that it will give you more flexibility to take advantage of off-premise Public Cloud for SAP models. Creating a true hybrid cloud for SAP environments enables you to move workloads from a private cloud for SAP deployment to a Public Cloud for SAP offering depending of changing business requirements. More to come on EMC’s off-premise offerings in this space through the Velocity Service Provider Program.
The most important item we have learned over the last few years is that it is completely different for an SAP customer to build out a Private Cloud for SAP environment depending upon if they are currently on Unix platforms, already on x86 platforms or are an SAP customer deploying a new project using SAP’s ASAP methodology (Greenfield deployment). Clearly risk has to be managed through a transformation and larger current Unix for SAP customer are not going to move to a 100% virtual x86 for SAP architecture over night. More to come on this topic in future blogs…

In a short period at the end of 2012 we got a chance to discuss these strategies as well as have some of our customers communicate their successes around their Private Cloud for SAP deployments at 3 events on the West coast.
At the Gartner AADI conference in Las Vegas at the end of November, we were fortunate to be able to co-present with SAP and one of our Private Cloud for SAP customers spoke about their SAP transformation, impressive agility and ability to react faster than their business thought was possible. Very large SAP customers walked up to our Private Cloud for SAP customer presenter and said “tell me more…we are trying to move fast down this same path as well”…which was very cool to see and hear!
At the SAP Road Show in San Jose at Cisco’s briefing center 1st week of December, we had Cisco, EMC, IDC, SAP and VMware, as well as SAP customers presenting their use cases and success stories on this topic. In the middle of the event I ran into EMC’s CEO Joe Tucci and Cisco’s CEO John Chambers who had a meeting next to us at the EBC. We couldn’t resist the temptation of asking Joe and John to walk in to our customer event to introduce themselves to the 40+ SAP customers in the room and briefly discuss their partnership and their commitment to the SAP marketplace. Guess the customers in the room were surprised to see EMC’s and Cisco’s CEO come into to say hello 
At the SAP Technology Innovation Forum at SAP Labs also during the 1st week of December, we got a chance to present our Private Cloud for SAP and SAP HANA strategy and success story to a large group of SAP customers. We got great feedback on our strategy from partners and customers who communicated that they were on a Private Cloud for SAP path as well.

The interesting piece is that a great number of SAP customers have taken advantage of these Private Cloud for SAP capabilities…then there are the ones that insist on staying with their legacy architectures which keeps them in slow provisioning and time-to-value equation, and who will continue to fall behind in their innovation cycle within their organizations. I believe that eventually the board members of those organizations that run their business on SAP, will realize that IT is NOT currently a competitive advantage, and they can’t keep up with the ever changing business requirements…will push for rapid transformation.
We still run into a few customers that have excuses of why they can’t move to an x86 and VMware architecture for SAP (some valid…but mostly not IMHO). The best advice I have heard for this category of SAP customers is from one of our existing Private Cloud for SAP customers who said “Just do it” (he must be a Nike fan)…”pick a path and apply some governance”…”What you will find out is all your vendors will step up to help you achieve your goals…since they want to keep selling you more stuff to run your SAP environment”. I love these comments and couldn’t agree more.

So have we really found the glue between the Business side and the Technology side around SAP ERP deployments…I certainly think so. One interesting validation on this that I have seen in the last few month is new SAP customers sending out Functional RFP requirements to System Integrators, which use to be scoped only to the functional requirements (non Infrastructure mentioned), are now sending out RFP’s for their functional SAP deployment requirements and also asking those System Integrators for a Point of View and infrastructure architecture recommendations to be aligned for an overall best SAP implementation. This to me is an example which shows that the Business and the SAP functional folks now understand the value of a Private Cloud for SAP deployment!
I believe this Private Cloud for SAP adoption will accelerate in 2013 which is going to make this year another exciting year for everyone in the SAP ecosystem. Customers will be able to focus more on business functionality that provides value to their businesses vs “tinkering” with technologies in their data centers.

I also just came back from Chicago with EMC’s Americas pre-sales technical leaders this week, discussing and reviewing our 2013 SAP Strategy…and I can tell you that we are in for a fun ride this year!!!

If you are interested in learning more on this topic from SAP, EMC and VMWare and hear from other customers that have embraced this approach to transform their organizations, please join us at SAP Week at EMC’s west coast EBC in Santa Clara Feb 26th, 27th and 28th.
We will also host a SAP Week event in Boston in March/April time frame. Stay tuned on this

Innovation above and beyond what’s possible…

SAP’s HANA on Business Suite announcement today was an incredible powerful statement on driving innovation to new levels. SAP also set a new benchmark for other database vendors in the market place. It is going to be fun to see how the folks that pushes Oracle, DB2 and SQL responds.
Many of us at EMC have made the statements in the last 9-12 months that the HANA platform is an opportunity to do something new by taking your existing data sets, using them as a competitive advantage through analytics. Doing something you are already doing faster could be valuable depending on your use case, but it’s not innovation in my opinion.
I found myself in a discussion yesterday with a business partner discussing how we can jointly come up with new ideas, solve problems that most SAP customers are dealing with and bring better value to our customers. It made sense to divide the discussion into two sections:
How technologies we offer today enable SAP projects to reduced risk, achieved 30-40% faster and with substantially reduced cost model. We discussed various use cases where some of the success stories we have jointly delivered and the impact those capabilities could have in other customer scenarios
How technologies we offer in our portfolio today and in the near future can pave the way for new insights, new innovations and new markets opportunities. Finding game changing approaches that drive separation of value.
Pretty quickly we came to the realization that the first category is very valuable and we will continue to pursue these options, however, the second category of ideas is more appealing. We agreed to continue executing against the first category, but then get together to spend more focus on brainstorming on new market opportunities.
Even though we had an idea that this announcement was coming it didn’t seem real, especially after some recent conversations with engineers who said that it would be a major undertaking to make HANA fit in a transactional space and it will take months to a year to get that accomplished. There must have been a ton of engineers working on getting this done since, in my mind, this new platform capability was delivered to the market sooner than expected and obviously is putting competitors on the defense.
What SAP announced today with taking “Real-Time Transactions and Analytics on a Single In-Memory Platform” is doing something that has never been done before and I believe will get a ton of attention in coming months. Now clearly, our SAP customers have built out rock solid infrastructure architecture to support their current transactional databases, and they will expect the same or better capabilities when moving to SAP HANA for more of their mission critical applications. I believe that EMC is in a great position to help customers make this transition over time, since it’s in our DNA and very long history to provide many of the capabilities that those customer come to expect such as: data protection, high availability, performance, and disaster tolerance for the most demanding SAP ERP use cases.

I believe the Partner ecosystem will continue to play an important role of the success of HANA deployments especially now when OLAP and OLTP can run on a single platform. Both the Consulting firms with service capabilities that can help customers go from current state to a future in-memory computing state based on HANA as well as infrastructure providers such as Cisco/EMC with our HANA Appliance offering.

A new stake in the ground has been set and it will be very interesting to see real adoption rates of SAP HANA on business suits in coming months. Time to plan for #HANARace 2013!

Exciting start to 2013…can’t wait to learn more at FKOM in two weeks.

Finding the inspiration to write…after attending Sapphire Madrid

Around 2 years ago I came across Simon Sinek’s work (Ted video and book) which altered my approach to business in a positive way. Some of Simon’s core values that he discusses in his work and gives examples around are: “Challenging the status quo”, “Inspiring” and “Innovation”.

Every week now I tend to evaluate where my time is being spent and how to formulate my ideas. I find myself incorporating these core values more and more in my professional dealings with customers, partners and my peers…trying to be a “Change Agent”.

Challenging the status quo. Life is a ton more fun if you constantly look for ways to do a better job in solving the problem you are already solving today, or finding ideas to create new opportunities and markets.

Inspiring others (or being Inspired): I get drawn to people and ideas that inspire me. And there is nothing more rewarding than when people around you give you feedback that you have inspired them to do something that impacts their life.

Innovation is the reason I work in technology. The pace of innovation in the technology industry is incredibly fast and seems to have accelerated in the last few years. I have an opportunity to constantly learn something new and be a part of transformation around me. There are some top organizations that do an incredible job innovating technologies (such as Intel and SAP with HANA) and they tend to constantly stay a few steps ahead of their competitors.

This past week I was fortunate to attend Sapphire Madrid for the first time after attending SAP TechEd and Sapphire in the U.S for a few years now. Not only did I have a ton of fun (the laugh “meter” went off the scale many times during the week), but most importantly, I was inspired every day which is the reason I decided to finally start writing a blog. I want to share my thoughts and experiences with others that may be interested.

At Sapphire Madrid I was inspired:

To meet and talk to EMEA based SAP customers
To have conversations with key leaders in the SAP partner community
To meet more of my EMC peers based in EMEA
To finally see SAP announce that HANA supports running in a VMware environment (non-Prod)
To work together with Cisco, VMware and VCE folks to impact SAP Cloud and HANA strategies
To have the opportunity for a short conversation in Swedish with SAP’s Co-CEO Jim Hagemann-Snabe (can’t recall meeting a Dane who speaks Swedish that well)
To hear SAP’s CTO Vishal Sikka mention the SAP TechEd Las Vegas “HANA Real-Time Race” in his keynote on Thursday afternoon…even though the HANA Race in Madrid didn’t happen. (I will not mention the piece of me personally thanking Vishal for doing this 🙂 )
To eat and drink amazing Spanish favorites including some top Ribera’s and Rioja’s with some amazing Pata Negra and Steak Tartars. I also learned that it’s possible to get certified in cutting Pata Negra in a 5 day course.
To watch an authentic Flamenco show in downtown Madrid at Corral de la Moreria with incredible craftsmanship by the artists
To see SAP customer: McLaren showcase their cars on the show floor

From time to time I will continue to write to share some ideas and experiences around what I am fortunate to come into contact with at EMC around the SAP ecosystem community that makes me Challenge the Status Quo, be Inspired (or Inspire others) and be part of driving Innovation to make the world a better place…or at least the technology industry 🙂