HEC vs HCP vs sERP - SAP's cloud strategy all kinda works out

Dick Hirsch Profile picture for user rhirsch November 9, 2014
As SAP TechED && d-code Berlin looms,  Dick Hirsch attempts to untangle the web of SAP HEC and HCP acronyms in the context of SAP's cloud strategy.

In both keynotes (Steve Lucas, Björn Goerke) at the recent d-Code in Las Vegas, SAP’s HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) finally got the love / attention that it rightly deserved. It seemed that HCP was everywhere at the event – mentioned at almost every SAP press conference. In Goerke’s keynote, a long demo that used various HCP technologies (RDE, API management, etc) provided a perfect conclusion to his presentation.

After the keynotes, I leaned back in my chair and contemplated all those examples of HCP-based coolness – considering how each feature demonstrated another important facet of the platform (Enterprise Jungle with its HCP-based SuccessFactors extension, Edyn and EarlySense with their use of the HANA Cloud Portal, etc). When I came to Birst’s CEO Brad Peters participation in Lucas’s keynote, however, I lowered my chair slowly to the ground – I was perplexed. Here was a piece that didn’t fit into the puzzle. From an older press release on the subject, I knew that HCP was involved.

SAP today announced a partnership with Birst, a global leader in cloud business intelligence (BI) and analytics, intended to provide customers with instant analytics in the cloud on the revolutionary SAP HANA Cloud Platform. With this new partnership, it is anticipated organizations will be able to leverage one cloud platform that can deliver instant analytics and the ability to more quickly turn insight into action on data, which is the key to enabling data-driven organizations.

Yet, I was unsure about the relationship of Birst to the platform that I knew so well.  A quote from Steve Lucas in the same press release reinforced my irritation.

“SAP HANA Cloud platform is an innovation platform open for customers and partners to develop and deliver cloud applications, extensions and solutions,” said Steve Lucas, president, Platform Solutions Group.

I saw the magic word “extensions” and immediately associated it with the existing HCP SuccessFactors extensions. Was Birst a SaaS application running in the PaaS – exploiting HANA? Birst’s architecture made things a bit more confusing.

How was HCP involved in this two-tier architecture? I found HANA but I didn’t find the HCP. The description of HCP in the SAP press release was used incorrectly I thought – I marked it down as another example of SAP’s many Cloud messaging problems to which I have often referred.

I was reminded of a recent announcement concerning the completion of the transition of Business ByDesign to HANA where I had tweeted only to be later corrected by Andreas Eißmann

There was confusion about the term ‘HCP’ – for some (I’ll raise my hand here), it was tightly associated with the PaaS. For SAP, it appeared that the term had a different broader meaning.

Taking a step back

Early this year, the brand “HCP” expanded beyond the traditional PaaS to include other offers as well.



Three different scenarios were introduced at the time and were distinct offers on the HANA Marketplace.  Although interrelated, the offers (especially SAP HANA DB Services vs. SAP HANA App Services) reflected different layers / types of functionality. The DB Services were basically the HANA Platform in the Cloud while App-Services offer contained a variety of other services (identity, document, etc) as well those included by the DB-Services.  The use of App-Services was restricted to the public PaaS while the offer of DB-Services was available in the public PaaS as well as in a private cloud (usually associated with SAP-hosted infrastructure).

In the following discussion, I’d like to focus on the use of DB-Services / HANA Platform outside of the public PaaS.  HANA native apps (for example, those that use HANA XS) run in the existing public PaaS environment and are very popular. In the SDN forums for HCP, questions related to this scenario are quite prevalent. There are also a variety of classes that focus on this topic at the upcoming d-code in Berlin.  Yet, no one really considers that HCP also covers other scenarios as well.

Note: My usage of “DB Services” does not imply that the applications / scenarios mentioned are using the concrete DB-Services offer from the HANA Marketplace but rather are using DB Services / HANA Platform in their cloud architectures.

With this new understanding, I once again looked at the Birst architecture and the associated press material.

The partnership allows Birst customers to use the cloud version of SAP HANA database management within the product, while customers of SAP’s various offerings can layer Birst onto what they’re doing to better analyze their data. [SOURCE]

My assumption is that Birst is an example of a company using HCP’s DB Services rather than the App Services in the public PaaS – it is exploiting the features of the HANA Platform to create the user-data that is the foundation for its visualization functionality.

NoteI don’t know if Birst’s HCP DB Services-based architecture is based on SAP’s data centers which currently host HCP.  The last information (12/2013) that I found revealed that Birst was using Internap (Primary) and Rackspace (Backup) as its data centers.  Birst is also available on AWS – I don’t know which database is used in that configuration but I wonder if it would still be considered running on HCP if it used HANA in that environment (Don’t forget that HANA already runs in AWS although a license is required in that scenario).

To be honest, I usually ignore scenarios based only on DB Services and running outside of the PaaS –– I considered  a throwback to the old idea of the “HANA Application Cloud” from 2012.

Broader implications

Some might consider this discussion academic and irrelevant for customers / users. Yet, the critical issue is the definition of “Platform” in relation to SAP’s cloud activities.  SAP has pushed the idea of HANA as a platform rather than just a database for a few years. Things become confusing when the pure HANA platform is used but the public PaaS is not used.

How often does this scenario really occur and how relevant is it for SAP’s broader Cloud strategy?

Birst is not the only application using the HANA Platform in the Cloud in this form – the transition of the existing SAP SaaS applications (Ariba, Success Factors, etc) to HANA are also examples of this scenario. Their migration to HANA is often connected with a migration to HCP.

Sikka said that by its Sapphire user conference in June the SuccessFactors.com staff management suite and Ariba supply chain network will be running on the HANA Cloud Platform. [SOURCE]

The Simple Apps, as well as SaaS apps like Ariba, SuccessFactors, Hybris, Concur, etc., will all be on the multi-tenant Hana Cloud Platform, according to SAP. [SOURCE]

Because HCP is usually only associated with the use of the App Services and the public PaaS, the assumption is that these applications are being totally rewritten to fit the architectural model of that environment.  If you associate these applications just with the DB Services, however, you get a different perspective that more accurately depicts the different HCP scenarios.

HCP scenarios associated with the use of DB Services without the public PaaS might be more relevant for SAP’s own cloud products rather than those of customers.  The potential of the HANA Platform for such cloud applications is also the focus of a long blog from Hasso Plattner:

...all current cloud applications run on one stack of technology (operating system, ,database system, data center management, etc). sap has to do the same in order to remain competitive. the HANA capabilities are absolutely essential for this and by no means minor technical details.

With the new multi-tenancy functionality that is now part of HANA SP9, existing SaaS applications can better exploit the features of the HANA platform without having to immediately transition to the use of the App Services.

sERP and the HANA Enterprise Cloud

In Hasso Plattner’s recent blog about HANA and Cloud , the new HANA-based simple ERP (sERP) is featured prominently and  Plattner provides ample examples describing how sERP will exploit the HANA Platform.

Where would sERP fit into my model?

Some might disagree with this depiction – I’ve dropped the “HCP” from the DB Services layer.

sERP is tightly associated  with the HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC). What am I doing mixing HEC with HCP? As CEO Bill McDermott  describes, the two are quite distinct:

Distinguishing Hana Cloud Platform from the Hana Enterprise Cloud, McDermott explained that the former is a platform-as-a service offering for extending and customizing SAP apps in the cloud whereas the latter is for hosting conventional on-premises software as a managed service. [SOURCE]

Two recent announcements from SAP, however, demonstrate that this difference is not quite as straightforward as might be expected.

Mitsui Knowledge Industry has just created a SaaS application on the HEC:

SAP SE today announced that Mitsui Knowledge Industry Co. Ltd. (MKI) started a new forecasting and analysis service using SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, a managed cloud service provided by SAP. MKI will utilize the service as an opportunity for all-round promotion of services using the capabilities of SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud and the SAP HANA platform, an in-memory data management and application platform.

The new service will be provided in a service-as-a-solution format, based on the high availability and performance of SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud and the extensive range of forecasting and predictive analytic capabilities natively available in SAP HANA. It will enable high-precision forecasting of market conditions and other situations, by importing data from the SAP ERP application and other systems within businesses, together with external data such as macroeconomic indices, into SAP HANA on SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud. [SOURCE]

Hitachi Consulting Launches Subscription-Based SAP Industry Cloud Services for the Chemical Industry

Hitachi Consulting, a subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd (TSE: 6501), and leading provider of IT consulting and managed services, today announced it has launched  "Industry Cloud for SAP: Chemicals". The offering is a subscription-based service that provides Chemical companies with access to SAP's market-leading applications for the Chemicals industry.


The Hitachi Consulting Industry Cloud for SAP platform is scheduled to be HANA Enterprise Cloud certified by SAP this Fall and supports the latest SAP application environment.  [SOURCE]

These are SaaS applications that are running in the HEC not in HCP. They are not the “conventional on-premises” applications described by McDermott. These two applications might be the exception rather than the rule but they are perfect examples of subscription-based applications which are exploiting the DB Services layer / HANA Platform - yet they are running in the HEC.

The distinction between HEC and HCP is not as important as might be expected and I expect the brand “HEC” to disappear at some point. The idea that HEC = private cloud and HCP = public cloud as a primary distinguishing attribute will also become less relevant as the movement of HCP towards the private cloud comes with the tighter association with Cloud Foundry. The recent deal with IBM regarding the out-sourcing of the HEC IaaS  also demonstrates that the HEC, its architecture and the role of ecosystem in this offer are still in flux. Furthermore, a tight association between HEC and SAP hosting is also no longer valid since partners can already host HEC-based applications.


SAP can’t ignore its OnPremise heritage and the traditional ERP business – this legacy (no pun intended) can be seen in the current focus in the HEC on OnPremise applications (running on HANA) being hosted by SAP and its partners .   The next stage of this evolution will be the emergence of sERP in the Cloud. Besides the fact that the use of HANA greatly simplifies the database schema, little is known about the architecture of the sERP suite.  Will HANA XS be used? Is RDL involved?

At the moment, HCP with its public PaaS and App Services illustrates a modern dev-ops focus (as seen in the planned use of Docker, etc). It is the main game in town for cloud developers in the SAP ecosystem and it rightly deserves the focus of the developer community at this year’s d-codes. Because of their relative immaturity, I don’t expect sERP and the associated products to be mentioned much at the upcoming event in Berlin – primarily because developers can’t use these products yet.

It is fantastic that HCP headlines the d-code keynotes  - yet it must also viewed in terms of SAP’s entire product portfolio. As the sERP product line starts to mature - the first customer (“Australia’s La Trobe University) is soon going live with the HEC-based Simple Finance application-, it will be interesting to watch how  SAP responds. HCP with the use of App-Services is currently primarily positioned as an extension platform for Cloud and OnPremise applications. This scenario is not threatened by the emergence of sERP but it will be interesting to see how the experience of developers working with HCP (for example, the emergence of dev-ops) influences their demands on the new sERP product suite.

At the upcoming d-code conference in Berlin, Bernd Leukert will present the keynote.  At the recent DSAG annual meeting, he also presented the keynote and discussed in great detail the future of the HANA Platform in Cloud.



The wide variety of applications in this slide represent a single “world vision” and demonstrate that all these applications are indeed related to one another – they represent a continuum with a common foundation.

We started this journey with a discussion of Birst and how its use of HANA in the Cloud demonstrates that the areas covered by HCP are much broader than usually considered. Although I thought Birst was a piece that didn’t fit into the puzzle – I discovered that the puzzle just had a shape that I hadn’t realized.

As you follow the contours of this puzzle, it is evident that it is broader still and the boundaries between the HEC and HCP are porous. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in that it allows us to see the underlying vision of SAP’s Cloud strategy.

Disclosure: SAP is a premier partner at time of writing

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