Reading all of the branded hype around unusual and unprecedented times, the new normal and having to adjust? Whatever your opinion, we all know what has occurred and the dramatic impact it has had around the world, not only on economies and businesses, but also the people and the mindsets we all find ourselves in.

Businesses are having to make hard decisions, forced to adjust to the new world we find ourselves in and to pivot quickly again – and again – to make changes that affect processes, technology, and people. We all find ourselves having to accelerate change, to embrace transformation and appropriate necessary spend to meet the new demands of our customers, staff and suppliers. This may involve adopting a shorter term buying profile where need surpasses logic, to a degree, and the CFO mindset has to balance the potential panic buy whilst mitigating risks and managing expenditure profiles at a time where revenues and their predictability are in unknown territory.

Buying some extra laptops, quickly spinning up Zoom or the like are small palatable decisions; selecting infrastructure, architecture or application changes are more robust longer term investments that typically have been slow to make buying decisions with a prolonged process. So here is the dichotomy; we are in a time where businesses need to pivot, change and adjust quickly and to do this decisions cannot be over a longer period as the positive gain and impact from them is needed far more quickly.

There is a tendency to associate these decisions and the complexity and time needed to make them with the larger brands and perceived complex areas of systems and architecture. I have however witnessed what were previously high brick walls to knock down for transformation and cloud projects have become lower wooden fences, with the need to rapidly solve business pain outweighing the longer-term visionary plans. Now is the time for businesses and business leaders to step up and make harder decisions quicker, to accept that rapid change and an element of risk betting on decisions has to happen in order to move forwards and transform at a faster pace. What was perhaps once a five to seven year transformational gain plan needs to become a one to two year survival plan.

We can all take as read that data is the lifeblood of today’s business. We live in a data economy: data not for data’s sake but for the insights derived and business decisions gleaned from them. Right now, executives are having to make some of the most challenging decisions of their careers driven by a disruption and threat no one expected. We are seeing long time successful brands massively put at risk of survival and decisions made now need to be smart, fast, and empowered.

Business data flows come across all areas from business applications, website visitor data, transactional data, historical data sets, behavioural data, IoT sensors/devices and – with a massive recent increase – mobile data. The key is being able to handle this volume and diversity both quickly, smartly and robustly to enable insight to be delivered.

This is where it is interesting to focus on what two big names have delivered in a smart way that can be executed upon smoothly to quickly deliver business ROI and value; IBM and SAP, and the powerful combined opportunity they are delivering right now to businesses needing to transform. I think often solutions such as these are overlooked, being immediately boxed into the longer term strategic, too complex and expensive to consider bucket. However, there are other aspects to consider.

SAP: SAP HANA offers a powerful in-memory, column-oriented, relational database management system developed to store and retrieve data for your applications quickly, securely and robustly. SAP HANA (High-performance ANalytica Appliance) offers applications wrapped around this including ERP, CRM and SRM and Netweaver allowing other applications to talk to this high performant underlaying data engine seamlessly.

Underpinning this is the compute power required to deliver an integrated solution with scalability and security from IBM POWER which has specifically been designed to optimise the SAP HANA workloads. This combination is growing fast right now through both new installations, but also due to a growing number of IT refreshes, customers transforming their operations to better serve their clients and users experience with speedier performance and more agility.

IBM: IBM POWER, and in fact IBM, has traditionally been the on-premise compute powerhouse for a breadth of global and UK leading brands, but in recent years has extensively been providing and powering the cloud requirements of customers from small to large across the globe. Mostly known for hybrid cloud, IBM has driven a firm mark on the cloud market through its acquisition of Red Hat and its delivery of OpenShift to a broadening heterogeneous cloud customer base. ‘POWER’ is no exception being available as a cloud and on premise model and importantly for many as a fully managed service from IBM in its IBM POWER for SAP HANA offering.

It was particularly interesting to discover was why this combination is so powerful, as it were. IBM is not only a certified Cloud SAP Partner, but the only one holding this accolade to be certified to provider SAP cloud for customers. This is nothing new as IBM POWER has been ‘powering’ SAP customers since it was certified for SAP HANA in 2015. This combination time and time again shown to be delivering a database experience that is an order of magnitude faster than others available and has greater scale-up capability due to the firmware based virtualisation the IBM POWER platform brings. SAP HANA is designed for speed at its core, add to this IBM POWER and you have a hyper efficient engine fronted by what has been described as a ‘beautiful’ experience if the interface to such a platform can be described as such.

As I indicated, first impressions are that the two goliath names give perception of complex, costly and not a quick resolution to a now problem. To dispel this myth, step back and listen to what customers are reporting and you find that whilst not as simple as a laptop with Zoom switched on, it is by no means as complex and costly a decision as would have been expected from these names a few years prior.

Through a reduction of licenses, operational and maintenance costs, savings of up to 50% can be achieved with additional savings coming from a reduction in virtualisation licenses, power and more flexible scale up/down as required options. Cloud and transformation speeds have driven changes in delivery and approach from vendors and certainly the analysis from Forrester on the IBM POWER and SAP HANA combination validates this as a worthy consideration to drive faster change and time to value in these challenging times.

Forrester found that IBM POWER systems underpinning SAP Hana delivered a 60% productivity gain for system administrators due to reduced management and maintenance burdens. Forrester also found that from customer data it surveyed that IBM POWER delivered a 7 month payback for SAP Hana customers.

This offering allows businesses to take a speedy simplified approach to deployment, attain the opportunity to quickly cut some cost from the business, reduce people efforts and gain seamless integration with varying cloud software management stacks including of course IBM’s own Red Hat OpenShift abstraction layer.

The business continuity landscape changed in 2020 where for many thought to be ‘haves’ they found they were the ‘have not’s’ when distributed working became the norm and continuity took on a new flavour. Moving to new more resilient database engines and powering platforms now is a consideration that a mater of months ago was for most not on their agenda or required.

I would suggest that we now find everything is up for consideration. That a smart leader will revisit every system in use, how it operates, its costs and its value of delivery to the new needs; need of a new customer demand and the fresh requirement for employees to work remotely with as much efficacy and robustness as was possible in the office.

‘Aryzta a speciality food producer through use of SAP HANA and IBM POWER reported a 75% faster drill-down in reporting for executives and a 30% reduction in TCO’

Getting a roadmap in place

A smart plan to consider is to spend onw day a week dedicated to having an internal SWOT team review varying areas, systems and processes across the business. A weekly instigator for ideas and decisions, half a day reflecting the prior week’s pursuit and half a day identifying and agreeing the actions for the week ahead’s sprint.

Spending a matter of hours understanding new value propositions such as that from IBM POWER with SAP HANA at worst validates that there is no gain to be made, at best uncovers the opportunity to make decisions that can drive business change and gain value rapidly in a time when this is needed. Every business today needs to identify where changes could, can and must be made and move fast to address these. For many ‘too little too late ‘will appear as a mantra in 2021 and making bold, yes educated, but making decisions to do something, to make change happen is key in the business ‘disrupt-economy’ we now exist within.

For more resources on how you evaluate if IBM-powering SAP HANA on premise, in the cloud or in a hybrid model can contribute to the health of your business at this time and the years ahead a great starting place can be found here.

Photo by Mike Lewinski on Unsplash

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.



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