December 15, 2017

At its recent Capital Markets Day SAP executives told industry analysts that microservices will soon emerge as a core technology that will enable the company to leapfrog competitors in implementing a multi-cloud strategy.

Bernd Leukert, a member of the executive board who oversees product development across the company, says SAP expects IT organizations to deploy a newly rechristened SAP Cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS) on multiple clouds, including Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. Those instances of SAP software complement the implementations of SAP HANA in-memory computing platform that SAP manages on the IBM Cloud platform or deployed on-premises by an internal IT organization. SAP makes use of containers it developed as well as containers created by the Cloud Foundry Foundation for the open-source PaaS environment it incorporates into SAP Cloud. At the same time, however, the rest of the company’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) application portfolio in the main employs Docker containers.

SAP, he says, has not decided what orchestration framework it will employ to unify the management of all those containers, but the microservices SAP creates will serve as a foundation for a new approach to delivering intelligent applications. Those applications will be built around customer profiles that will allow organizations to employ a more holistic approach to digital business spanning everything from a customer relationship management (CRM) application to the supply chain, Leukert notes.

In addition, he adds, IT organizations should expect the company to make it simpler to apply machine learning algorithms across the customer profiles.

Leukert says IT organizations should be wary of incurring technical debt by employing microservices to build new versions of functions that already exist in a packaged application. SAP plans to expose most of those functions as a microservice, and expects IT organizations will use those to build custom applications that can be deployed on any cloud using SAP Cloud.

At the base of all those applications will be a HANA database platform that integrates disparate functions using a mix of application programming interfaces and processing of data in memory. The result is an ability to create applications capable of processing transaction and advanced analytics based on statistical models and machine-learning algorithms simultaneously.

As microservices continue to evolve, it’s become apparent the ability to move application workloads packaged in a container has the potential to inject an unprecedented amount of flexibility into IT environments. IT’s next big challenge is figuring out how to manage microservices based on multiple types of containers that are deployed across an extended enterprise.

In the meantime, the physical location of an application in the cloud is becoming less relevant—IT organizations will be able to deploy applications based on containers anywhere they see fit. That capability might have a profound impact on SaaS application providers that today insist on maintaining control over their own application software in the cloud. The full impact of microservices on the way software gets consumed is only now being recognized.

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.