SAP Advances Microservices Strategy

SAP, at its SAPPHIRE NOW Converge online conference, announced it has further unified its Business Technology Platform around a set of curated microservices from SAP and third-party partners that IT organizations can mix and match to their needs.

Gunther Rothermel, president of the SAP Cloud Platform, says SAP is on a journey toward migrating away from monolithic applications in favor of microservices-based applications based mainly on Kubernetes that are more flexible, resilient and easier to maintain.

The SAP strategy revolves around microservices that are deployed on top of the SAP HANA database. That approach enables SAP to provide organizations with access to a large portfolio of microservices that all share a common data model along with a common set of security, identity and access management frameworks, says Rothermel. In the case of SAP, those frameworks are shared by a broad portfolio of application software that is being re-engineered to be deployed as a set of microservices.

Via the SAP Cloud platform based on the Cloud Foundry platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment running on Kubernetes, additional microservices can be constructed by third-parties or internal IT organizations, he says. At the core of that capability is Kyma, an open source runtime for extending applications using microservices and serverless computing frameworks developed by SAP.

Each of those microservices then can be accessed via Discovery Center, which SAP has added to its Business Technology Platform. Those microservices are grouped logically together by business function, so Rothermel says one module is likely to be made of several microservices that collectively deliver a specific business value. In fact, he notes, one of the dangers with microservices is making them too fine-grained, which only serves to make them more challenging to consume and manage.

Of course, microservices are not a new idea. The concept of managing and delivering applications as a service stretches back to service-oriented architectures (SOAs) that gained popularity more than 20 years ago. What has changed is technologies such as REST application programming interfaces (APIs) have made it more feasible to achieve that goal, notes Rothermel.

Most SAP customers still rely on monolithic SAP applications. However, SAP is making progress on transitioning customers to the cloud. There are now more than 32,400 customers who have deployed the SAP HANA platform. SAP also now makes it easier to consume application software as a microservice via subscription-based pricing plans.

It’s too early to say to what degree or even rate organizations will embrace microservices. While there is clearly a massive amount of interest, many IT organizations are still trying to determine how best to build, deploy, manage and secure them. As such, microservices in many cases are being employed as a way to more easily extend the functionality of existing legacy monolithic applications.

Regardless of the rate at which microservices are being embraced, however, application modernization initiatives are well underway. The challenge is, nobody is quite sure where those efforts are likely to lead beyond providing an alternative to monolithic applications that have already shown themselves to be too inflexible to meet the current needs of most businesses.

Mike Vizard

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.

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