Category Archives: cloud

#SConnect15 – SuccessConnect 2015 Sydney Day 1

I think perhaps my photo taken on the way to the airport this morning sums up today pretty well.

An empty road with a whole bunch of speed bumps. I’m afraid that’s what today felt like. It’s kinda weird starting off a conference without hearing the keynote to set the tone. Even with SAP conferences like TechEd we have “pre-conference” days – thanks ASUG! But today was part of the conference, and it didn’t really feel like it.

An example of the bumpy road was having a session today on the new support model for SuccessFactors, but without mentioning the SFXpert program. It was kinda weird – but apparently Mike Ettling will talk about that in the keynote tomorrow, it’s a little confusing.

Moreover, there weren’t an awful lot of people here. Which in someways is pretty good, it means that we’re able to have comfortable conversations, no running around with microphones to ask questions. But it certainly seems that running a SuccessConnect in Singapore may have reduced the number of Sydney attendees. I’m not sure, perhaps tomorrow will bring more people? It was a big ask to get people to come for a whole day for 3 sessions.

But it was a glorious evening in Sydney:

 

and we’re keeping on going with the saving of Elephants and Rhinos with the corporate social responsibility thing

Would love to know where we’re at with that total – hopefully we’ve got above a few thousand dollars by now.

So a few bumps, a fairly empty road, but the way ahead looks clear, and the weather is glorious. I look forward to tomorrow. I just hope that the panel session with David Ludlow goes well. 🙂

we shall see.

 

Herding cats, or managing GitHub issues – Waffle and HuBoard considered

Today I needed to decide on a tool to use to manage GitHub issues. I’ve got so many of these now-a-days that it has become quite hard to decide which one to work on and also to communicate to others which ones I am working on.

So I turned to some of the simple Kanban board visualisations of GitHub issue tools that I’ve seen. There may well have been others (I’m pretty sure that it’s possible to get Trello to work with GitHub) but I wanted something that was simple.

I ended up comparing waffle.io and huboard.com .

HuBoard

I found that HuBoard had in many areas some cool functionality that could well be something I wanted. In particular it has the ability to mark a task/issue as “ready for next stage” and “blocked”. Blocked issues are particularly important to me – so having this clearly visible is important. Additionally HuBoard claims to have existing integration into Slack – that would be pretty cool, but given I already have GitHub integration into Slack, I’m not sure it’s needed. Would have been nice if the web-site had shown what that integration actually was, as that is something that could really decide me one way or other.

HuBoard has a nicely minimalistic view – more inline with newer design patterns like Android material design, SAP Fiori. Labels on issues are small colour coded lines that appear when you hover over them.

huboard design

It’s quite neat and tidy. It also has a cool “fade away” filter option that just fades out un-selected items rather than removing them (two clicks removes them). However, clicking the same button multiple times to get different affects, I’m not sure that’s really a great idea. I’ve definitely been slapped over the wrist for bad (and not very accessible) UX when I’ve done similar things in the past. But technically and from a usefulness stake (if you understand what you’re doing) that’s a pretty cool feature.

However, I there were some concerns – when I loaded the HuBoard site on my phone it was good to see that it adapted responsively to the space available and listed the items rather than displaying a grid (well, I’m still debating if that was good, but at least it was responsive.) However, when I then clicked on a issue:

mobile huboard issue small

Yuck! that’s not usable.

Edit: NB see note following stuff documented in following section about privacy has been changed.

I then looked at the site to understand what the privacy policy was:

privacy policy from HuBoard missing

The only info on the site was “This Application collects some Personal Data from its Users”.

I’m pretty sure this is because of HuBoard not paying someone for their generated policy:

huboard policy issue

 

However, I tweeted at HuBoard:

And as at time of writing this post, haven’t had a reply. To me, if I’m going to trust a cloud service, I need to be able to understand what it will and won’t do with my data. A non-working privacy policy page on the main site is a BIG #fail. Then not to respond to someone @ mentioning your twitter handle is a mark of the kind of service that I might expect if I was a customer. Not great.

Edit: so none other than the founder of HuBoard reached out to me. Privacy policy is fixed. It looks pretty good too, most of it is in plain English not legalese. Guess timezones for USA meant they were sleeping. The founder reaching out, that’s pretty good customer service. These guys will hopefully do some great things!

 

Waffle

I looked at Waffle.io. Now bizarrely the thing that most scares me about that product is its price – $0. I’ve learnt, if I’m not paying $ for something, then I am the product. I’m not sure if Waffle.io is still in beta/investor funding and is happy running without making any money but perhaps just piling up the company valuation? This whole SaaS valuation model sometime confuses the crap out of me. When you consider that companies the size Workday have profit margins of -24% (I mean WTF ?) It’s quite conceivable that charging money right now doesn’t boost the value of the company as much as having more subscribed users. Still paying nothing for something just makes me want to look for the catch. But I couldn’t really find a catch (I imagine it won’t be free forever and that payment will be required soon, but if it’s in same sort of price point as HuBoard then this shouldn’t be an issue $24 a month to be productive is not that bad!)

Waffle has some feature that I thought were pretty good, but specifically I liked the “size” attribute for an issue. By using this I can ensure that for each stage of the Kanban there aren’t too many issues being dealt with. So it can be fine to have quite a few small issues, but having the same number of large issues could cause a problem.

waffle

 

at the top of each column was a counter showing the number of issues and the total size. Next to my lovely picture was a number showing what I thought the size of this issue was.

This functionality I like, it will help manage all the issues and ensure we’re not going crazy pushing so much to into testing without actually testing it.

It was also nice in Waffle to be able to see the number of comments an issue has – it’s often worth drilling into those issue that have a lot of comments, even if it’s not yet my issue.

However, compared to HuBoard the amount of information shown can result in a quite busy screen – for example from Waffle’s own GitHub repo…

waffle2

 

Personally, I didn’t mind the “noise” but others I spoke to thought perhaps the minimal style of HuBoard better. Since I often have so many labels that colour alone is going to be an issue, I think I prefer this layout.

In contrast to HuBoard the mobile interface is not at all responsive, you see the same site but just zoomed out so you can’t read anything. That said, pinch zooming and scrolling around on the phone isn’t hard, and it does give you a better perspective of how the lanes compare. I’m pretty sure that there is probably a better responsive layout that could be adopted. But compared to the rendering mess that happened in HuBoard when accessing from mobile, it was much easier to use the Waffle site.

Conclusion

You can probably see where I’m heading! I decided to go with Waffle for the moment, but I’ll keep an eye out for HuBoard. As with all these SaaS apps, iteration is the name of the game, and I’m sure that feature parity won’t be far off. Neither tool has an Android mobile app, but neither tool is very usable on a phone – so perhaps when one of them makes that leap it will differentiate itself. We shall see.

After I’ve been using Waffle for a while, I’ll perhaps write another post about “real life” experience.

Cheers!

 

 

Multitenant Spring Data JPA with EclipseLink on SAP HANA Cloud Platform

Just a quick post here today, and hopefully I flesh out a more detailed post on SCN later:

OEM model

There are probably two ways to make money developing apps on the HANA Cloud Platform:

1) be incredibly good at it, such that you can build truly awesome stuff that customers aren’t going to care about platform costs and still pay you bucket-loads

2) use the OEM model and build very efficient apps that solve a little problem for lots of people. Keep costs low, and sell to lots and lots of people.

3) be big consult, wine & dine the people with the money, put loadsa people on simple projects bill lots.

I’m aiming for a mix of 1 and 2 to just get into the sweet spot, of course that’s hard work. But this evening I made a step in the right direction by enabling multi-tenant access to one of my apps that auto-magically put the tenant key in all DB accesses in my app – without me having to do any work to specifically write that into the queries.

for reference the magic happens with a custom implementation/extension of JpaRepositoryFactory, JpaRepositoryFactoryBean and SimpleJpaRepository and one line in my Spring xml:

<jpa:repositories base-package=”com.wombling.blah.blah.dao ”
factory-class=”com.wombling.blah.blah.multitenancy.MultiTenantJpaRepositoryFactoryBean” />

my custom tenancy resolver:

public class CurrentTenantResolverImpl implements CurrentTenantResolver<String> {

	@Override
	public String getCurrentTenantId() {

		InitialContext ctx;
		try {
			ctx = new InitialContext();

			Context envCtx = (Context) ctx.lookup("java:comp/env");
			TenantContext tenantContext = (TenantContext) envCtx.lookup("TenantContext");

			return tenantContext.getTenantId();
		} catch (NamingException e) {
			return "NOT_CURRENTLY_RUNNING_MULTI_-_TENANT"; // 36 chars as per real tenant id
		}
	}

}

is called each time a DB query is made (which is already pretty invisible due to “magic” of Spring data and JPA.)

I have to give a huge shout out to   from Slovakia who posted up most of the code I reused. Thanks dude!

http://codecrafters.blogspot.sk/2013/03/multi-tenant-cloud-applications-with.html

I’ll get back to you with some more HR type stuff later.

 

iOS – not quite the Enterprise developers’ best choice

I was recently at a conference where there was a big cheer from the audience when the vendor announced that they were moving away from a model of updating all the customer’s development/test and production systems 4 times a year, to a model of still doing quarterly updates, but updating the dev/test environment one month earlier. The crowd cheered. Wow! (The conference was SuccessConnect, the product SuccessFactors and the vendor SAP, but that is irrelevant for this particular post).

So why on earth would people want to get their software updated later? And why would such a change cause them to cheer? It’s quite simple really! Risk reduction.

risk reducer

 

Reducing Risk

To quote Donald Rumsfeld “there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know”. Whilst it’s blinking difficult to deal with the third category of “unknown, unknowns”, it’s much easier to deal with the known unknowns. In our case of software upgrades, we know that there are likely to be changes, but we aren’t sure exactly what. So having a early release in a system that isn’t critical for the running of our business, means we have the possibility to make those known unknowns into known knowns and deal with them. (hmm perhaps I shouldn’t have quoted Donald, this is getting a bit confusing! – but hopefully you get the point!)

Basically what was being offered was a risk mitigation strategy, and the enterprise just LOOOOOOVES that.

Back to Mobile apps

OK, so what’s this got to do with mobile applications? We’ll basically for mobile applications in the enterprise space we should be able to offer the same thing. I’m not talking here about applications that companies develop internally and deploy to all their staff, but applications found in application marketplaces (app stores if you will) that are used by enterprises.

Say there is this great app out there that allows you to track the driving speed and location of all your delivery truck drivers. It’s great because the same functionality just a few years ago cost thousands of dollars per truck and had to be downloaded manually each night. Now, you have it instantly and at a subscription cost of $20 per user per year, with awesome real-time reporting and everything! Great! But the reason it is so cheap is the developer is selling this software in a SaaS model. They have a multi-tenant architecture and when they make an update they update all customers at once. Now what happens if they push out an “improvement” in the user interface of the solution? Well 90% of your users will probably adjust, but 10% (or more) are suddenly going to be referring back to that print-out of the training material that you sent them getting very confused, phoning the help desk and generally finding an excuse for not doing work. Bad!

But had you known that a change was coming, what could you have done? Well, you could have updated the training material, sent comms explaining the wonderful new feature, etc.

So how could you have know this change was coming? Well the company that you’re subscribing to could have sent you some details about the change. But what if they thought that the change was so insignificant it didn’t need any comms? And  what if it’s just the particular way that your workforce use the app that means that it might need explaining? Then you are going to need another plan.

Another plan

chrome beta

In the Android application marketplace (Google Play) there is allowed the concept of a Beta version of application. Many popular applications (for example Chrome and Firefox) have beta versions of their software that showcase and test out new versions of UI and functionality.

This allows companies to test out new versions of software before their major install base start using it. And because the software is flagged BETA people know that there might be things different. It is a risk reduction strategy for not only the consumers of the software but also the developers. Win-Win!

Apple however in their app store submission guidelines: https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/#functionality

2.9  Apps that are “demo”, “trial”, or “test” versions will be rejected. Beta Apps may only be submitted through TestFlight and must follow the TestFlight guidelines

and from the TestFlight guidelines: https://developer.apple.com/app-store/Testflight/

External Testers (Coming Soon)

Once you’re ready, you can invite up to 1,000 users who are not part of your development organization to beta test an app that you intend for public release on the App Store.

So instead of making a publicly available Beta version they are going to restrict to a maximum of 1000 Beta testers. Not so good for that SaaS developer with over 1000 customers is it? And even then – that functionality isn’t even release to the market yet! The whole TestFlight thing was only announced a few days ago!

In summary

So back to my title – if you’re a SaaS developer and you want to help your customers by reducing your risk and theirs in the mobile application deployment space, build for Android, not Apple. If you care about enterprise, then be aware that risk mitigation is a big thing. The reality is that as an enterprise developer we need to deliver for both Android and Apple devices, but one of them is clearly more enterprise friendly in one particular respect.

Would be great for Apple to take this on-board and offer a unrestricted “TestFlight” program for enterprise software developers… We can cross our fingers and hope!

Continuous Integration vs Phased Deployment in a SaaS world

I was very interested to read some links that Naomi Bloom posted about how Workday have moved to a continuous integration deployment model rather than a phased release.

As  developer, I love the idea of continuous integration, having a set of tests that can automatically check whether the code I have built will cause an issue in production and then allow me to move it up to prod immediately. It fits with TDD and all the other cool things I want to do. Awesome!

If I were writing code in the internal development teams of Workday or SuccessFactors, I’d want the software to be CI.

However! As a developer of extensions to one of those platforms, I couldn’t think of a worse option! If you look at the “disadvantages” section in the linked Wikipedia article on CI, you’ll notice that one very important thing is to have lots of good automatic test scripts. The problem is, a vendor can only possibly run their own test scripts, they can’t run mine. (Perhaps they could run mine if such an API was built, but could they justify not deploying to prod because a little used partner extension failed a script?) So what if some change that the vendor does breaks a behaviour in my code? Well, that’s bad for me. I’d better hurry up and fix it, because all my customers are now with broken code, and the first I found out about it – when it broke. And likely I’m not going to find out until I have one of my customers complain – unless I have proactively set my test scripts to run every hour and send me a message when something breaks, in which case I’d better be ready to do emergency support 24/7. Yeah, just what I want. NOT!

This would be a huge burden on a extension provider, you wouldn’t have a stable platform to build on.

With SuccessFactors being on a phased release rather than continuously integrated to production, it is much easier for me to join in with the testing of my solution before it hits the market. I know that my customers aren’t going to get a nasty shock because something suddenly breaks/changes behaviour, because I have a window to test that before it impacts them. I also know when that window is going to be, so I can plan around it and allocate my resources. Whilst the solution might be wonderfully cloudy and elastic, my skilled pool of extension developers is definitely less cloudy and more finite and fixed.

Now it might be possible to allow partners to have an early access box, and perhaps delay CI deploys to production by a week or so to allow partners to test their code. But that is one hell of an effort that you’re demanding of your partners to do that. And as one of those potential partners, I can say I’d be thinking very long and hard about the risk you as the vendor are putting me at, and probably would decide not to go there.

I think, that in a world where purchasing 3rd party add-ons for your cloud platform will become the norm (allow me my dreams please). And where the power of the platform is driven by these add-ons/apps, having a phased release makes sense. How cool would an iPhone be without any apps from the AppStore, how good would an S5 be without apps from Google Play? They are both great devices, but they are awesome when enhanced by external developer partners. These mobile solutions have phased releases. It’s not because they couldn’t have constant updates, the tech is easily there for that to happen, but because in order to sustain the applications/application developers that make them so cool they need to provide a stable platform.

I’m really glad that SuccessFactors provides a stable environment for me to build on, as I am convinced that HCM SaaS has a huge potential to be enhanced and extended to the better use and consumption of businesses. It’s a real strength of the solution, and I am very happy to be play a part this story, and that SAP and SuccessFactors are carefully considering the needs of the development partner in this scenario.

All that said, it would be cool to be developing in a continuous integration solution, but just not for the partners building on your solution.

If all I hear are benefits, either you aren’t thinking or you are in sales

I just read

http://scn.sap.com/community/cloud/blog/2014/08/04/moving-to-the-cloud–what-the-hell-is-cloud-computing by @Kunal_Pandya

It’s a good piece about the benefits of cloud. And it does a great job of explaining some terminology. However, I came across one bit that I just couldn’t let go.

“What % of your customers are on the latest version of your software?”

If the answer is less than 100%, it is not multi-tenant.

Four times a year SuccessFactors would answer less than 100%. Why? Because some companies have paid to be upgraded slightly later than others so as to ensure that if they are any issues, they are less likely to see them.

Also within SuccessFactors customers, many would not be using the latest tools. Why? Because they have opted not to run those areas, as change management is costly and they don’t see the need, yet. Are they running the latest version – arguably yes and no, they have access to it, but certainly they are multi-tenant within the data centre.

Within the HANA Cloud Platform, one has the option to run an application/database without downtime for 6 months – it will continue to run on the version of the software that was released at the time the application was started. However, the platform is updated every 2 weeks. Bounce your application and it will pick up the newest runtime. Clearly not every customer is using the latest version of the solution. Is the solution multi-tenant? This is perhaps a harder one to answer as even within the same data centre there are different versions. However, all these versions are running within containers that are provided by the same software. So perhaps it is multi-tenant? I’d suggest that it is, but it fails the 100% on one version test.

My points here are 1) it is dangerous to make sweeping generalisations and 2) that whilst there are large benefits to moving to multi-tenant solutions, there is also a real business demand expressed in $$$ to ensure stability of solution, which is a real risk of a “true” multi-tenant solution.

The diagrams of Sven in SaaS and PaaS: a symbiotic relationship delivering enterprise value do well to show the immense value of cloud solutions over traditional onPremise model but don’t hide the downsides either.

I think it’s worth while to show two sides of an argument. When trying to convince someone to buy an apple rather than an orange, point out that the orange is juicier, but perhaps the apple has less risk of spilling juice down your shirt front when biting in to it.

I think it is imperative that if we are to be trusted as advisers to those that claim that they don’t understand #cloud (and probably those that do too) we should probably discuss the downsides too.

Perhaps that’s bad practise in sales, to point out the bad sides of your product? Perhaps why sales people are consistently rated untrustworthy? Me I’d rather not have someone accuse me of being in sales. 😉

Reader’s Digest Poll – Trusted People 2014

Gallop Poll – Honesty/Ethics in Professions

 

Elasticity

 or   or 

(Hooke’s Law for expressing elasticity of an object in various degrees of complexity)

The equations above get pretty complex pretty quickly! And that’s when we deal with equations that have been known about for hundreds of years. When we start using elasticity to describe cloud computing, it gets even worse.

The topic was brought up the other day when I was looking at purchasing some space on the SAP HANA Cloud to run an application that we’re developing in-house. I was checking the price for this.

http://scn.sap.com/thread/3350483

I got quite confused.

Then the conversation moved to twitter and we started discussing not just the price of going to the cloud but also how it should be priced. And then even onto how it could be made multi-tenant (which is a bit beyond the scope of this post, but it was interesting nevertheless.

I think the conversation is worth preserving so I’ve made a copy of it with a little help from Aaron’s Twitter Viewer and a lot of cutting and pasting so I could do without the CSS (if anyone knows how to add custom CSS to a single WordPress post, I’d be interested.)

Have a read, it’s not a bad collection of thoughts, and interjections (by the one and only Dennis H) and I’ll recap on my thoughts at the end:

wombling
Chris Paine
Feeling slightly confused by SAPStore pricing for #saphanacloud if you understand it pls help me scn.sap.com/thread/3350483

2 days ago
1 retweets
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rhirsch
Dick Hirsch
@wombling compare price to other #saphanacloud packages in #sapstore – all have similar structure

2 days ago
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wombling
Chris Paine
@rhirsch I understand the free ones but still confused what calculation is for rest, why show pm price when only pa purchase possible?

2 days ago
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rhirsch
Dick Hirsch
@wombling a good question for #sapstore and #saphanacloud team – another reason to always read the small print

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@rhirsch @wombling it will get rationalized soon . @aiazkazi has plans for it

2 days ago
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rhirsch
Dick Hirsch
“@vijayasankarv: @rhirsch @wombling it will get rationalized soon . @aiazkazi has plans for it” >> hope you guys are working on cloning him

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@rhirsch @wombling hehehe @aiazkazi is one of a kind – but he has a team behind him too to help with scale 🙂

2 days ago
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vlvl
Yariv Zur
@vijayasankarv @rhirsch @wombling @aiazkazi Pricing is presented as PM because this is how it was defined in official price list (cont)

2 days ago
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vlvl
Yariv Zur
@vijayasankarv @rhirsch @wombling @aiazkazi (cont) however min. Contract length for all cloud subscriptions is 1 yr. hence the mess.

2 days ago
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wombling
Chris Paine
@vlvl @vijayasankarv @rhirsch @aiazkazi certainly not the clearest situation. But then again probably simple than onPrem pricing

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@wombling @vlvl @vijayasankarv @rhirsch @aiazkazi Minimum 1-year subscriptions are not very cloudy. Are add-on resources more flexible?

2 days ago
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wombling
Chris Paine
@esjewett @vlvl @vijayasankarv @rhirsch @aiazkazi had one potential customer only needed 3-4 months every yr. They didn’t sign up 🙁

2 days ago
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wombling
Chris Paine
@esjewett @vlvl @vijayasankarv @rhirsch @aiazkazi cloud ideal for flexibility, but not so much in this case

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@wombling @vlvl @vijayasankarv @rhirsch @aiazkazi Really, I’d argue that it’s not even cloud if it requires a 1-year commitment. Hosting.

2 days ago
1 retweets
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wombling
Chris Paine
@esjewett @vlvl @vijayasankarv @rhirsch @aiazkazi different times for use-cases SuccessFactors 3yr contract. But wld like more flexible PaaS

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@wombling @vlvl @vijayasankarv @rhirsch @aiazkazi Indeed, but for IaaS and PaaS I’d argue “cloud” involves elasticity. The NIST agrees 🙂

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@esjewett @wombling @vlvl @rhirsch @aiazkazi other than on iaaS (rhymes with aiaz) , I doubt perfect elasticity will happen for any vendor

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@vijayasankarv @wombling @vlvl @rhirsch @aiazkazi Every PaaS I’m aware of provides it. Elastic Beanstalk, Heroku, CloudBees come to mind.

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@esjewett @wombling @vlvl @rhirsch @aiazkazi maybe PaaS will get there too at some point , but seriously doubt SaaS will

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@vijayasankarv @wombling @vlvl @rhirsch @aiazkazi Agree though that it’s not as key for applications. But we’re talking about PaaS, I think?

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@esjewett @wombling @vlvl @rhirsch @aiazkazi PaaS ideally should have no lock in – just a question of how much scale justifies it

2 days ago
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wombling
Chris Paine
@vijayasankarv @esjewett @vlvl @rhirsch @aiazkazi GApps, Azure, CloudBees PaaS are monthly, why not #saphanacloud?

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@wombling @esjewett @vlvl @rhirsch @aiazkazi elasticity is definitely something on top of the agenda . Question – is monthly good enough?

2 days ago
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wombling
Chris Paine
@vijayasankarv @esjewett @vlvl @rhirsch @aiazkazi Simple fixed CPU/data monthly makes sense, more elastic, then GApps style usage payment

2 days ago
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dahowlett
Dennis Howlett
@wombling Isn’t the fundamental qu something like: ‘Why does #SAP find it necessary to invent new ways to confuse?

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@vijayasankarv @wombling @vlvl @rhirsch @aiazkazi Daily or hourly would be better, but one step at a time.

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@vijayasankarv @wombling @vlvl @rhirsch @aiazkazi Each decrease in granularity enables different scenarios. E.g. daily helps w/ month-end.

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@esjewett @wombling @vlvl @rhirsch @aiazkazi what is your absolute best case granularity ? And is monthly a good enough alternative ?

2 days ago
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wombling
Chris Paine
@vijayasankarv @esjewett best case is on demand pay as you use eg cloud.google.com/pricing/ low base price (monthly) then as needed – elastic

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@vijayasankarv @wombling @vlvl @rhirsch @aiazkazi Hourly is kind of industry standard, though monthly is fairly common for PaaS.

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@vijayasankarv @wombling @vlvl @rhirsch @aiazkazi With PaaS, the case could be made for value in even more granular metering than hr.

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@vijayasankarv @wombling @vlvl @rhirsch @aiazkazi But I’d say if you can get it to hourly that’d be great.

2 days ago
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vlvl
Yariv Zur
@esjewett @vijayasankarv @wombling @rhirsch @aiazkazi one more point – full elasticity is good for techies but hard on the CFO. (Cont)

2 days ago
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vlvl
Yariv Zur
@esjewett @vijayasankarv @wombling @rhirsch @aiazkazi they need the ability to forecast expenses. So for DEV we have full elasticity (free!)

2 days ago
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vlvl
Yariv Zur
@esjewett @vijayasankarv @wombling @rhirsch @aiazkazi for PROD you pay in advance for 1 yr, becoming acceptable for CFO #hanacloudportal

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@vlvl @vijayasankarv @wombling @rhirsch @aiazkazi Good point, and I think makes sense for apps but not for the PaaS itself.

2 days ago
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vlvl
Yariv Zur
@esjewett @vijayasankarv @wombling @rhirsch @aiazkazi PaaS is for running apps. “How much is the new supplier portal gonna cost me?”

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@vlvl @vijayasankarv @wombling @rhirsch @aiazkazi But usually PaaS is for dev to run apps. SAP’s take seems to be that cust manages PaaS.

2 days ago
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vlvl
Yariv Zur
@esjewett @vijayasankarv @wombling @rhirsch @aiazkazi IT manages PaaS, but the app is for the cust. Not for the DEV guy 🙂

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@esjewett @vlvl @wombling @rhirsch @aiazkazi there are 2 broad uses – 1. custom development by a customer for their use and ..

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@esjewett @vlvl @wombling @rhirsch @aiazkazi ..and 2. An ISV or developer building something for selling to others. different needs for them

2 days ago
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wombling
Chris Paine
@vijayasankarv @esjewett @vlvl @rhirsch @aiazkazi and don’t forget customers with seasonal/fluctuating demand. (Repeating myself, sorry)

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@wombling @esjewett @vlvl @rhirsch @aiazkazi yes agreed – needs to be solved absolutely, either at IaaS level and/or at PaaS level

2 days ago
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rhirsch
Dick Hirsch
@vijayasankarv @wombling @esjewett @vlvl @aiazkazi 2 sides to consider — shop & platform – both need to support diff models

2 days ago
#

esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@vijayasankarv @vlvl @wombling @rhirsch @aiazkazi Exactly. Much clearer than me :-). I hope SAP covers both. Right now, focus seems on #1.

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@esjewett @vlvl @wombling @rhirsch @aiazkazi which brings up multi tenancy topic . Do u expect it as platform feature or leave it to apps?

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@vijayasankarv @vlvl @wombling @rhirsch @aiazkazi Yeah, very good point. Too complicated for twitter, and I need to sleep 🙂

2 days ago
#

wombling
Chris Paine
@vijayasankarv whilst @esjewett is sleeping 😉 how do you think from a PaaS viewpoint multi-tenancy could be delivered as a feature? (cont)

2 days ago
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wombling
Chris Paine
@vijayasankarv @esjewett (cont) by building into the security/roles/authorisations of standard IDM solution? Extend to social login?

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@wombling that could be a solution. but fundamentally a principle need to be agreed whether platform needs to even support multitenancy

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@wombling it could also be that apps might want control of how to implement multitenancy without platform dictating it

2 days ago
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wombling
Chris Paine
@vijayasankarv The worry is leaving it to app developers means potential embarrassment < but at least app developers fault not SAP!

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@wombling it is like C++ and Java 🙂 I didnt like java for a long time thinking it took away my ability to fully control what I am building

2 days ago
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wombling
Chris Paine
@vijayasankarv Be glad you never had to code Web Dynpro Java then 😉 Or if you did, then I can see yr point very well

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@wombling I was already out of full time dev role by the time WD was widely used – but yes, did a little bit when it came out

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@wombling @vijayasankarv If SAP is going to certify apps as multi-tenant, it’s going to require a manual audit. No pure tech solution.

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@esjewett @wombling rather left field question – do u think a model where apps are not certified by platform provider is feasible ?

2 days ago
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wombling
Chris Paine
@vijayasankarv @esjewett feasible yes, q: is the value to partner to have SAP logo stamped onto app worth the investment? probably yes

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@vijayasankarv @wombling Sure, but then customer has to trust app dev. You can provide tools, but no way to guarantee data isn’t mixed.

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@esjewett @wombling not a lot a platform provider can really certify beyond some minimum things like ” won’t crash, meets usability reqs” 🙂

1 day ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@vijayasankarv @wombling Yup. Multi-tenancy is not offered by any PaaSes as far as I know.

1 day ago
#

wombling
Chris Paine
@vijayasankarv partners will build multi-tenancy solutions (I’m trying now) but social login means can’t leverage IDM solution anyway

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@wombling yes – but do you think a hybrid of social login and traditional MDM can solve it elegantly?

2 days ago
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wombling
Chris Paine
@vijayasankarv personally I find that too many frameworks complicate solutions rather than making them easier. Eg what happened to SOAP

2 days ago
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vijayasankarv
Vijay Vijayasankar
@wombling 100% agree – and that is at least partly because very few developers think highly of other developers IMO. Too quick to dismiss 🙂

2 days ago
#

wombling
Chris Paine
@vijayasankarv still, would not be surprised if logic to allow multi-tenancy was delivered as is natural extension of current user mgt

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@vlvl @vijayasankarv @wombling @rhirsch @aiazkazi That’s what I mean by different. Bot sure if it’ll work, or the implications. Interesting.

2 days ago
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esjewett
Ethan Jewett
@vlvl @vijayasankarv @wombling @rhirsch @aiazkazi Though, SAP seems to take a diff approach to PaaS than other PaaSes. Need to think on it.

2 days ago
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rhirsch
Dick Hirsch
@wombling related question would be if whether all the plumbing is there to deal with subscriptions #saphanacloud

2 days ago
#

 My thoughts

A couple of days later and my question has be answered on SCN, but I’ve also had a few moments to think about this.

Drinking your own Champagne

Firstly, to my own need for a productive license to some very minimal use of the SAP HANA Cloud.

With the reasonably low price point that SAP is putting on Cloud Partner status, it certainly seems that they are trying to attract small companies to develop content for them. If you add to this, the “we drink our own champagne” marketing message that has been broadcast very well by the ex-CIO there is a obvious marketing proposition.

If companies that signed on as partners for SAP then submitted an application to the SAP Store for resale, they could be allowed to use it productively themselves, they would have an excellent sales pitch “we drink our own champagne”. A limit on the sizing of the used solution might be in order (but probably wouldn’t be an issue with small companies), but it would be very cool for small companies to do this. It would certainly encourage companies like the one I work for to go the extra step of putting the application into the SAP Store. A win for both the developers and SAP.

Annual fixed storage/cpu isn’t elastic, isn’t cloudy for a PaaS

Probably the clearest idea in the thread above is that PaaS shouldn’t be billed annually. Where we are talking SaaS (like Yariv Zur’s SAP HANA Cloud Portal (which is kinda SaaS and PaaS, but I’d argue definitely both)) then there is a different view, but for a PaaS, the beauty of the solution is in its ability to scale up as demand dictates.

I was talking to BCO6181 – Tony de Thomasis’ uni course this evening about the use case where you have a wonderfully capable server that has 10 CPUs running at 1-2% utilisation all year. And you have a policy that no-one gets a pay rise unless they complete their annual performance review. Guess what, on the afternoon before the cut-off, the system is running at 100% capacity and people are complaining about how slow and poor performing it is. In the cloud you shouldn’t have to deal with that. But if you have to buy your cloud compute units annually, you are going to be in exactly the same space.

On the plus side, it looks as if this might be addressed soon. I really hope so, as I see a big potential for SAP HANA Cloud to be the next big thing in enhancing SAP’s cloud SaaS solutions, but if it’s just a glorified hosting arrangement, then it starts to loose some of that PaaS shine.

Thanks to all those who posted their thoughts publicly for me to capture in this blog. I hope you don’t mind me reposting, let me know if you’d like anything redacted.

 

 

 

 

Oh and time management

Can’t believe I forgot…

I completely forgot something in my BS post yesterday!

SuccessFactors cloud based time entry and time management

As I told the SuccessFactors team when I met with them in Las Vegas last year, “So when are you announcing the purchase of a time entry suite?”.

To me it’s seems crazy that SuccessFactors cloud payroll still relies on third party time entry and evaluation software. The cloud payroll solution (as it is SAP Payroll) is more than capable of doing time evaluation, it’s just that there isn’t any way of getting the time data into the solution (short of custom builds mimicking a CATS data entry ALE.)

So my prediction: SAP or someone else will, before the end of the year (2013) build out a simple time sheet entry and approval process that connects to the SAP cloud payroll system to allow time entries to be processed within the cloud based SAP payroll engine. My guess is that Employee Central will be extended to store this information as part of the solution to allow for reporting on it.

In the first iteration the solution will not be tightly integrated to Employee Central. By mid 2014 I’d guess that administrator and employee entry screens will be part of EC with a set of mobile applications (provided free of charge) to enable time data entry and approval. The final icing on the cake will be an iFlow which takes that information back into any onPremise or Cloud Finance system for use in billing/project costing and whatever else you might want to use CATS data for.

Please note, that although I have chatted to the SuccessFactors teams about these dreams of mine, I’ve not been given any official feedback that they might or might not be a reality! So these are still safely in the realms of predictions that I’m going to be totally wrong about!

I wonder which prediction I’ll be proved wrong about first!

 

 

blue sky

Blue sky thinking

The other day I was chatting with someone in 140 character snippets about some of my thoughts on the things that may come to pass. I’d also alluded to my thoughts in much the same space at the “cloud” panel at the SAP Inside Track day at Melbourne (kindly hosted by the nice folks running the Mastering SAP Technologies conference.)

So I thought that rather than just let those words vanish into the air, I’d instead write them down so that sometime in the future someone would have the possibility to point out how wrong I was with absolute certainty.

SaaS solutions and enhancement

I am a strong believer that companies have, and will continue to have a need to build system based processes that are different from company to company. The idea that they will all adopt the same solution because it is “best practice” and the cheapest to use and manage is, to me, very unlikely. Companies will continue to change, vary and improve those processes that they believe bring special value to their business. In many businesses (but certainly not all) I believe that the area that they will need to innovate on is “people”. As repeated by Mark Souter at the recent Mastering SAP HR & Payroll conference and potentially originally by Eddie Barrett from Deloitte (I can’t find any earlier references than 2008!) “The war for talent is over, talent won.” Companies that don’t innovate above and beyond the offerings that SaaS providers give them will lose a competitive edge.

Right now, I’d say that adopting a “vanilla” SaaS HR product (especially one that is currently rated as “market leader” – if you haven’t seen the tweets or don’t get the references then the SuccessFactors team not been doing its job properly 😉 ) would probably give most companies an edge over their competitors, but this will not endure long term.

The thing that has made SAP so well loved by enterprise, has been its ability to allow for enhancement to the vanilla “best of breed” model. Now we all know of cases where the addition to the vanilla was more cod-liver oil than raspberry jam flavoured and the resulting mess has been a support nightmare, but this is not always the case.

Cloud SaaS solutions will naturally evolve (as they aim to replace the on premise models that we have been so used to using and enhancing) such that we will be able to write our own business logic into them. In many cases this will be more configuration than code. And I’m sure that we will see much more care taken with the underlying core of the solution so that it can’t be broken as badly as many on premise solutions have. (After all, one hopes that we’ve learnt something from all these years of wasted effort.) But unless the cloud solutions offered by SAP allow for enhancement, then someone else will build cloud solutions that can be enhanced (natively) and SAP will be either forced to purchase them or lose the enterprise market.

I see SAP HANA Cloud PaaS as the first real step on this journey of SAP SaaS enhancement. I’m fully onboard this train, and I see it accelerating pretty darn quickly.

Running a hosted legacy enterprise solution and offering it as “cloud” is pandering to the uneducated or at best a stop-gap solution.

Ok so this isn’t so much a prediction as a rant. I think any software vendor that offers both a standalone on-premise install of software and a cloud version that are identical in function do not have true cloud software on their hands. The agility of cloud based software should be in its ability to scale, be elastic and to take advantage of the capability to spike to big resources to do amazing things. That sort of agility can’t be used by software that must work within defined hardware limits. If the software is supposed to function equally well in both scenarios, it clearly hasn’t been built to take advantage of the cloud (and never will be able to!)

Current batch process based time and payroll processing is an anachronism and will be replaced.

If SAP aren’t busy building a HANA based payroll with a skunkworks team somewhere, someone else ought to. (If anyone reading this wants me to help form such a team…) With the power of HANA to close to instantly calculate the impacts of any change in circumstances of an employee and resolve their payments for the next n-years, there should be no need for a “pay-run”. Pay would already have been run! Payroll processing would instead be a consolidation/audit process where data entry was checked and variations explained (part of current processing) but the bit where the system was offline for hours to enable the processing would no longer be required. No-SQL has offered this tantalising possibility several years earlier, but the idea of having an eventually consistent payroll by using a map-reduce type approach would have been enough to make most auditors suffer cardiac arrest (much as both ideas might be appealing, you can see why this hasn’t been adopted.) With HANA offering a fully consistent SQL model and the possibility of near real-time evaluation of results there is a new option. Add into this mix the ability to scale up to a cloud sized resources with the ability to elastically scale as demand requires and the possibilities start adding up. Imaging being able to model people movements in your enterprise and have the exact dollar amounts that this would mean. Rostering optimisation would become much less of an art and much more of science.  The space that SAP ceded to third party time management and rostering solutions (such as workbrain) would be ripe for competition, if the payroll and time management functions that currently are batch based became either on-change calculated or close to real-time available.

SAP’s current payroll system is “world-class” I don’t think anything else can do payroll in so many countries. (At least this is what I’ve been told and I haven’t seen convincing arguments otherwise.) But it is based on an architecture that was designed for systems that had less computing power than the desktop computer that I’m writing this blog on (sorry not using my tablet today 😉  ). If SAP want to retain their world class ranking then they need to innovate and rebuild. I’m pretty sure that there is a little team at the very least throwing ideas around on how to achieve that. I predict that by 2017 we will see a HANA based cloud payroll and time management solution(whether built by SAP or a partner, I’m not sure) that will put the current SAP on premise based solutions to shame.

Cloud ERP – same, same but different.

With the possibility to “enhance” the cloud, will come the wider desire for ERPs to be fully cloud based. It doesn’t make sense for any organisation to have to worry about IT infrastructure when cloud offerings are available. I’m just waiting for an analytics firm to write some software which figures out which organisations are still using their own email servers and then starts discounting their share values due to their inherent technical stagnation. (Am I being too harsh here? I’m not sure.) I predict that a HANA based cloud ERP solution will be available for SAP customers by 2020 which will have more functionality than the on-premise solution. In the run up to this, each LOB solution will have a SAP HANA cloud based solution built or purchased and adapted that offers as much functionality as the current on premise model. The work will be in the integration of all the LOB cloud solutions so that they can work as a cohesive ERP.

It is on the work towards a cohesive solution where I believe that SAP spent worthwhile money on SuccessFactors. The SuccessFactors BizX suite including SAP Jam and Employee Central aren’t in anyway built in a homogeneous manner by the same team using the same data model. Rather they are a collection of heterogeneous best-of-breed solutions sewn together to make an even better whole. It is the experience and ability of the SuccessFactors team to take heterogeneous solutions and make them appear as a homogeneous whole to a user that is valuable. (You could argue that they could do a better job, but like Einstein famously said, kissing and driving fast cars at the same time ain’t that easy. As far as I’m concerned it’s a lot nicer than other stuff I’ve had to work with recently.)

Now, I’ve heard some fairly vocal people argue that having a good object based data model that allows for easy cross-component use is essential for any to-be successful SaaS solution. I disagree. It’s how it works for the end user that counts. And the thing is, no matter how beautifully you design your solution, there is always going to be someone that build a little part of it better. If you can’t purchase/partner with that amazing start-up and bring them into your system, well, someone else will. A couple of amazing start-ups later and the most amazing system (from the end user point of view, which is the only one that counts) isn’t the beautifully designed one, it’s the one that can bring all the best bits together, no matter who built them or how they built them or what data model they used.

Blue Sky thinking – starts with BS.

I may be completely wrong with my thoughts. I’ve never considered myself to be a futurist – sounds far too wanky for me. So I’m certainly not very scientific about how I’ve formulated these ideas. But I do think we are on the point where the enterprise software market is turning. And it’s turning towards the cloud.

Or these thoughts could be just a load of wishful BS.