June 27, 2017

SAP is now starting to use of multiple types of containers to make external applications available as a microservice that provide access to live data.

When it comes to containers, SAP currently has a bifurcated strategy. The core of the SAP software platform consists of two distinct layers. The foundational layer is an SAP in-memory database that employs proprietary containers developed by SAP. Above the database is an implementation of the open source Cloud Foundry platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment dubbed HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) that features two types of containers k known as Garden and Wall.

At its TechEd Barcelona 2016 conference this month, SAP revealed it is collaborating with insurance company Munich RE and using Garden and Wall to create an earth observation analysis service that will be delivered via the SAP Hybris e-commerce application service running on top of HCP. The data driving that microservice is being provided by the European Space Agency. Munich RE, meanwhile, is using that data to track the locations of outbreaks of wildfires as part of an effort to eliminate insurance fraud.

In addition to exposing Cloud Foundry containers on HCP to developers, the company is making available software development kits that will give developers the option to invoke containers on HANA.

Bobby Vetter, senior vice president for Global Channel and General Business Partner Solution Management for SAP S/4HANA and platform solutions, says the decision concerning which containers and layers of the HANA stack to invoke will mainly be driven by performance and portability concerns. Developers who want to exploit the maximum performance of HANA will tend to favor the core HANA database. Developers who need to develop applications that can run on multiple platforms favor the containers provided via a Cloud Foundry platform that is highly portable, Vetter says.

As for Docker containers, SAP has yet to make any commitments other than being able to run Docker images on top of the containers being made available via Cloud Foundry—which is a capability available to any vendor or IT organization that implements the open-source PaaS.

Longer term, SAP is wrestling with what functions it plans to make available as a microservice. To a certain degree, microservices will lead to the decomposition of monolithic applications. In some instances, however, a microservice will need access to an underlying engine that is capable of processing massive amounts of data, such as HANA. In other instances, the function could run on top of a PaaS. SAP, for example, has opted to deploy its BusinessObjects business intelligence suite of software on top of HCP to make it simpler to deploy those applications in multiple environments.

It may take a while for SAP to completely sort out its container and microservices strategy. But it’s clear the company has come to recognize that containers in multiple form will play an increasingly larger role in how it goes about making live data available across both its own applications as well as third-party applications. The challenge developers now face is trying to figure out what container to choose from to accomplish that goal.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.