Earlier this year, SAP announced it was working with third-party hyperscalers as part of RISE with SAP. This effort will bring the contracting for hyperscaler services under the same umbrella as SAP S/4HANA Cloud and the SAP Business Network. This is just the latest example of the partnership SAP has cultivated with Google. The two companies have worked together for the last four years to integrate technologies and deliver solutions to joint customers.
ASUG sat down with Snehanshu Shah, managing director for SAP at Google Cloud, to get an update on this partnership. He walked us through how SAP customers are using Google Cloud, how the cloud platform is helping SAP customers become intelligent enterprises, and what the future holds for Google Cloud and SAP.
ASUG: You have a diverse background working at Oracle, SAP, and now Google Cloud. How have your experiences prepared you for your current role?
Snehanshu: I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to work for Oracle, SAP, and Google Cloud. Oracle is where I learned a lot about enterprise customers and how you help customers scale. I worked on Oracle Data Mining and the Oracle database. I was working on very large enterprise projects, many of which were related to genealogy. But one thing led to another. If you remember back in those days, about 17 years ago, graph databases were really big. I was doing projects for a bunch of different life sciences companies in Utah. What was cool was they were using these databases, as they started building them, for things like cancer research. A lot of breakthroughs in breast cancer research came out of those databases funded by those companies.
Many of those customers also ran SAP and so I learned about integrating with SAP. But one thing led to another, and a lot of the people I worked with at Oracle ended up at SAP. So, I followed. It was also a great experience. I had a 12-year career at SAP. It was a fantastic time, and I moved from pre-sales to go-to-market. When I left, I was leading go-to-market for SAP HANA across the world. I had the opportunity to work with Google Cloud and other hyperscalers when I was at SAP. When I decided to leave SAP, I said I would go do something completely different, so I went into e-learning. That experience lasted for about a year. I ended up working on a partnership with SAP before I got recruited by Google Cloud. You are always part of the large SAP family. That’s a great thing.
ASUG: How has the partnership between SAP and Google Cloud resulted in increased business momentum in recent months?
Snehanshu: There's been a massive acceleration with the partnership with SAP over the last 18 months. The partnership began three and a half years ago. In the last 18 months, both sides have invested heavily to enable solutions. This includes certification of Google Cloud systems to run SAP applications and the enablement of SAP solutions on Google Cloud. I believe part of the reason SAP chose Google Cloud is because of our scale and our technological innovations such as large virtual machines with live migration capability. Uptime is critical for SAP applications and, with live migration, we eliminate downtime related to routine infrastructure maintenance activities.
Over the last 18 months, we have invested to support large SAP HANA systems as well as other databases that SAP supports. We have also delivered machines that enable customers to optimize cost, performance, and throughput. This gives SAP customers choice and simplifies their move to the cloud.
Additionally, we created a data center for SAP in Frankfurt, Germany. This data center is powered by Google Cloud, but is an SAP data center. The company uses it for a lot of its development, as well as supporting mission-critical customers who have to be in Germany.
The other thing we ended up doing as part of the partnership was pushing the limits of scalability and performance we can achieve with SAP HANA on Google Cloud. I'll give you an example. Just recently, SAP and Google Cloud published a paper demonstrating the phenomenal scalability and performance of a 96TB scale-out financial subledger workload. Based on a payment scenario similar to those run by specialized payment providers such as PayPal, we were able to demonstrate a 40x acceleration in query runtime speed through parallelization.
This is a deep partnership between SAP and Google Cloud. The way I look at it, the partnership has two sides. One is enabling SAP service-as-a-software (SaaS) applications on Google Cloud. That includes things like running SAP S/4HANA public cloud, SAP Ariba, SAP SuccessFactors, and SAP Business Technology Platform on Google Cloud.
Second, we also work jointly with SAP and partners on migration strategies to SAP S/4HANA. In the last 18 months, we have migrated hundreds of SAP on-premise customers to Google Cloud. Customers include Cardinal Health, Rodan + Fields, Kaeser Compressors, Decathlon, Generali, and The Home Depot. It's a massive acceleration. Any time you have customers who are looking at increasing security, agility, and uptime, we have a solution that we built with SAP to do that.
ASUG: SAP is taking strides to turn its customers into “intelligent enterprises.” What are some of the new things that Google Cloud is currently doing to help SAP customers reach that stage?
Snehanshu: We work with SAP and SAP customers in two dimensions. First, we partnered with SAP to enable our analytics capabilities within some of their applications. For example, we worked with SAP to embed Google Cloud’s visual inspection AI and ML capabilities within the SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud solutions to enable visual predictive maintenance scenarios. This was prototyped with Kaeser Compressor to provide visual inspection of spare parts to quickly detect quality issues.
We also work with SAP and SAP partners to enable innovative industry scenarios. As the pandemic progressed, customers began looking for ways to forecast demand. This was a new scenario for customers. Nobody has any statistical history of planning in a pandemic. We worked with customers to incorporate information from search trends, traffic patterns, and their marketing platforms, combined with data from their SAP systems such as inventory and sales, to improve their forecasts and optimize their supply chains. We believe this is a great opportunity for SAP to leverage new types of data to enable the next generation of Intelligent Enterprises.
ASUG: One of the questions SAP customers migrating to SAP S/4HANA are asking themselves is if they should move to the cloud. What do you think the main benefit is for a customer who’s going to move into a cloud solution from an on-premises solution?
Snehanshu: There are a couple of things. First, with the new SAP offering, RISE with SAP, customers get the best of the private cloud world, as well as the hyperscaler world, put together. We're working closely with SAP on that. If you'd asked me this question in 2019, I’d say the jury was still out. You had SAP customers and CIOs who would say, “I'm not sure I'm ready for the cloud.” That mentality has gone out the window. I haven’t encountered any CIO who doesn't talk about the cloud. What we are seeing is that there are a couple of big technical and business advantages. One of the big technical advantages is that you're outsourcing something that you don't need to do. For example, running data centers and servers is not a differentiator. For a lot of these customers, Google Cloud—or other hyperscalers—are coming in and providing a service that gives them better security, more agility, and a lot of flexibility.
At Google Cloud, one of the unique things we do is every 12 to 18 months, we refresh our infrastructure. One of the first customers that implemented with us was Smyths Toys in the UK. Smyths Toys actually talks about how one day they came in and their SAP systems were running faster. Basically, they went from an old chipset to the latest SAP HANA chipset. We have this capability I mentioned earlier called live migration. With this, you don't even have to shut down your SAP system. We just move you—a running SAP system—from one server to another. This is a big benefit for customers.
COVID-19 has shown us that networking is super important. You look at Google, and we have a global network. We built this network for our solutions like YouTube and Google Search. SAP customers piggyback off of that. In an SAP S/4HANA environment, the other thing a lot of customers are thinking about is how they can reduce the number of SAP ERP instances they have. You can do that if you basically can reduce the latency for your users who are distributed across the globe. Southwire is a great example of a single-instance SAP environment. They can do that and not worry because they are running in an environment where you have people that can log in from anywhere in the world and still have low latency.
ASUG: What is a specific SAP and Google Cloud customer that has leveraging Google Cloud’s ML and AI capabilities? How did it use the solution and what sort of business value did it bring?
Snehanshu: On the AI side, we see two classes of use cases. One of them is what I would call “core SAP use cases.” A good example of this is Cardinal Health who runs multiple SAP systems on Google Cloud. Since they are in the distribution business, they get a lot of inquiries and people asking questions. So, they had a whole team of employees who scan emails and respond to their business partners. This is labor-intensive work and there’s also a time constraint. Let's say one of their customers contacts them to ask about a shipment. You need to respond pretty quickly. They worked with us and SAP to build out a set of models where these email inquiries that are coming in are prioritized and routed to the right person via SAP CRM. The staff that was doing routine processing could now actually focus on prioritization and problem-solving.
Alphabet runs SAP S/4HANA. One of the things we do is we look at our receivables. Based on past payment patterns, we're applying some very simple AI and ML approaches to forecast what our cash position is going to look like in the future based on what we've seen in the past.
The other class is when you're merging SAP and other data together and building out something interesting. For example, AES is a power company. One of the things they have is large wind turbines generating wind power. Part of what they're doing is they're working with a company called Measure that flies fleets of drones. The drones take pictures of the turbines. They get those photos and analyze them. Then they're cross-correlating that information with the internet of things (IoT) data coming off of these turbines and prioritizing where they send their tech. Imagine having a wind turbine in the middle of West Texas. You’re going to see some sort of erratic behavior. You can diagnose what the root cause of a problem is—be it a lightning strike, a bird, hail, or rust damage. You have an electrical signature. Now you're applying a real visual signature and bringing it all together.
We're seeing a lot of those kinds of use cases where customers are bringing together data that they have from an SAP system and data that they're collecting otherwise to take proactive action. This could save companies millions of dollars.
ASUG: One of the key Google Cloud offerings for SAP customers is top-of-the-line security. What are some of the main security updates to Google Cloud that you think SAP customers should know about right now? And how will these functionalities assist SAP customers in the current business climate?
Snehanshu: There are two things on the security side. First are security capabilities that we provide naturally to all customers, including SAP customers. For example, because we build our own servers, we build our own data centers. Every piece of hardware has either been designed by Google or thoroughly vetted by Google. And in most cases, even if we buy something commercial, we end up changing it. Each of these networking boards, as well as the core CPU boards, have a chip called the Titan chip. What it's looking for is any sort of irregularity and network traffic processing patterns. If it sees anything random, it'll just basically shut down everything.
The other piece is that all data in Google is encrypted by default. You have no option. We encrypt it, but you hold the keys. Nobody at Google can decrypt the data unless an SAP customer decides to give us the keys to look at it. Google also has its own network. When you look at traffic, even between your servers or between different locations, it's a lot more secure than anything else because the traffic in most cases never gets routed onto the public internet. You're going from whatever you are to your point of presence, into Google Cloud, and then coming out the other side into another point of presence. You can be very secure in that sense.
Industry certifications are critical in certain industries. One of the things Google Cloud has done over the last 18 months is to expand our support for industry certifications to certifications. Let's say you're a federal customer and you need FedRAMP high. The way Google Cloud does it is that you don't have a dedicated FedRAMP high data center because all of our data centers support FedRAMP clients. At Google Cloud, everything is done at scale, the same everywhere. Once we introduce a solution, all of the cloud has the same capabilities.
ASUG: What does the future hold for the partnership between SAP and Google Cloud?
Snehanshu: There will be a lot more technological innovations. I can't go into too much detail, but there's a lot of very exciting things around intelligent enterprises and industry cloud with AI and ML, especially in the consumer products, retail, manufacturing, and financial services areas. We're jointly creating solutions that you'll start seeing. The other thing you'll also see is a lot of SAP solutions—like the SAP Business Transformation Platform—have integration into native Google Cloud products. I'll give you an example. Just recently, we worked with SAP to get this done. SAP announced if you are using SAP HANA Data Warehouse Cloud, it has native connectivity into Google BigQuery.
We are also working on something with SAP and its partners like Accenture, Deloitte, TCS, SNP Group, and Gekkobrain on migration accelerators for SAP S/4HANA. How do you make an implementation faster and easier for a customer, whether they’re using a brownfield or greenfield implementation? A lot of what we're focusing on is partners who have selective transformation technology. Can I take a larger SAP system and selectively migrate the data I need into a greenfield SAP S/4HANA implementation and make that simple? Deloitte and SNP Group have built something very unique in this area.
Want more insight into what other organizations' perceptions of cloud and RISE with SAP are? Be sure to check out the on-demand breakdown of the research ASUG conducted in collaboration with DSAG, examining the thoughts of the two user groups on these topics. Watch the session on-demand.