What is SAP Cloud Platform?

In this blog post, we’ll define the core capabilities of SAP Cloud Platform (as of Jan 27 2021, rebranded as SAP Business Technology Platform), and explore why it might be a good fit for businesses looking to move their applications or their development environments into the cloud. First, here’s a summary of the most important things you need to know:

• SAP BTP is a collection of pre-integrated services that enable enterprises to build, test, deploy and manage cloud-native apps, rapidly and cost-effectively.

• These services are built around a container framework based on the open-source Cloud Foundry platform.

• SAP BTP is not a direct competitor to Amazon, Microsoft or Google; businesses can implement SAP BTP on any public or private cloud platform, and even move platforms after deployment.

• Businesses that don’t use any SAP solutions—or even businesses that don’t use ERP solutions at all—still stand to gain from using SAP BTP to develop cloud-native services.

So what were the business and technology drivers that led SAP to create this offering? Across practically all industries, digital disruption is transforming the commercial landscape. As more businesses harness their digital channels to build innovative offerings, target new customers and sharpen their competitive advantage, the ability to deploy data-driven services quickly, securely, and cost-effectively is becoming the key differentiator that distinguishes leaders from laggards.

SAP knows that building this next generation of digital services requires a wide variety of tools and data sources. While some of these systems reside in traditional on-premises or private-cloud data centres, future-facing enterprises are increasingly looking to the public cloud.

Cloud is the destination
Cloud is the preferred destination for most businesses aiming to build new, data-driven solutions and services. And when a company selects a cloud-first or cloud-only strategy, one of its first priorities should be to enable effective cloud-native development.

This is where SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP) enters the frame. SAP BTP is a collection of SAP services and solutions in four key areas:

1) database and data management
2) analytics
3) intelligent technologies
4) application development and integration.

The application development and integration area of SAP BTP includes all the solutions and services that were previously branded as SAP Cloud Platform. Today, SAP further subdivides these application development and integration solutions into two product suites: SAP Integration Suite and SAP Extension Suite. We’ll examine these in a little more detail at the end of this blog post.

What is SAP BTP?
From now on, when we talk about SAP BTP, we’ll be referring to the application development and integration solutions of SAP BTP (previously known as SAP Cloud Platform). But what do these solutions do, and why might they be beneficial for businesses looking to embrace cloud-native development?

Simply put, SAP BTP includes a collection of pre-integrated services that allow businesses to build, test, deploy and manage cloud-native apps, rapidly and cost-effectively. These services are built around a container framework that is based on a lightly modified version of the open-source Cloud Foundry platform. This open platform means that SAP BTP is equally suitable for businesses that rely on solutions like SAP ERP and SAP S/4HANA, those that collaborate with companies who use SAP solutions, and even companies that are completely outside of the SAP ecosystem. Crucially, all SAP BTP services are fully integrated with one another, which can dramatically reduce the cost and complexity of developing new digital services.

Comprehensive platform, available anywhere
It is important to note that SAP BTP isn’t just a container platform, although Graz believes that its container capabilities will be its main selling-point for most enterprises. Although the majority of businesses will have no need for the capability, SAP BTP even offers full support for more traditional virtual machine (VM) deployments—instantly familiar to developers who have used popular hyperscale public cloud platforms such as AWS, Azure or Google Cloud Platform.

This brings us to another important question: is SAP BTP a direct competitor to Amazon, Microsoft or Google? For the most part, the answer is no. Because SAP BTP is fully abstracted from its underlying cloud infrastructure, it can be deployed on a wide range of hyperscale public cloud platforms with no loss of functionality. This includes AWS, Azure and Google Cloud, as well as SAP’s own public cloud.

In fact, SAP BTP includes built-in support for the OAuth 2.0 protocol and OpenID Connect identity layer, which means it’s also fast and straightforward for businesses to incorporate SAP BTP deployments into a hybrid- or multi-cloud architecture without costly changes to the existing identity and access management regime.

Fully portable for maximum flexibility
What does this flexibility mean in practice? One consequence is that businesses can implement SAP BTP on any public or private cloud platform of their choosing, and switch between platforms later as needed. For example, if a business initially deploys SAP BTP on Azure and later decides to adopt AWS as its primary cloud platform, SAP could theoretically lift and shift the entire SAP BTP deployment in a way that is completely transparent to business users and developers, and with no loss of technical functionality.
As we mentioned earlier, businesses that don’t use SAP solutions—or even any ERP solutions at all—still stand to gain from using SAP BTP. That’s because the platform includes all the pre-integrated building blocks you need to build cloud-native apps quickly: databases, big-data platforms, cloud storage technologies, messaging, authentication and identity management services, and more.

Cutting-edge analytics built in
One of these building blocks in SAP BTP is the powerful SAP HANA data platform. Although at first glance SAP HANA might seem intimidating, its approach to queries is extremely similar to traditional platforms such as Oracle Database and Microsoft SQL Server. As a result, development teams and business users alike will be able to get started with minimal training.

Even though SAP HANA is sometimes described as an in-memory technology, it’s actually far more versatile. Businesses can run SAP HANA in memory, on disk, or on a mixture of the two. Whichever option you choose, the architecture is fully transparent to the developer.

Proving the concept
To wrap up, let’s unpack the two solution suites of SAP BTP. One is SAP Integration Suite: the integration layer of SAP BTP, which offers capabilities and services that connect applications, processes, people, and devices. The other is SAP Extension Suite, which delivers services that empower businesses to quickly build and refine applications, business processes, and customer experiences.

Graz has first-hand experience of these suites because we’ve made SAP BTP the foundation for our own business. For example, we run our custom-developed data integration solutions on SAP HANA Extended Application Services (SAP HANA XS Advanced), a comprehensive microservices platform that takes advantage of the in-memory architecture and parallel execution capabilities of SAP HANA.

By using SAP Enterprise Messaging, a service within SAP BTP, Graz can connect its applications and systems across multiple cloud landscapes. And because the SAP offering is vendor-agnostic and fully portable, we gain all the advantages of using AWS S3 for object storage without the risks of vendor lock-in.

Whether you’re planning your first steps into the public cloud or already well underway on your cloud journey, Graz is here to help with any questions you may have about SAP BTP. Click here to arrange a consultation with a Graz expert today.

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