SAP big data chief: 'IBM, Oracle and Microsoft all carry technology debt'

Some of the IT industry's largest vendors, including IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft, all carry technology debt and aren't innovating their core software platforms, SAP has claimed.

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Some of the IT industry's largest vendors, including IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft, all carry technology debt and aren't innovating their core software platforms, SAP has claimed. 

SAP's SVP of Big Data, Irfan Khan, was talking down the competition at the company's Database & Technology Partner Summit in Barcelona this week, where he said that SAP is different because of its innovation around its flagship in-memory platform, HANA.

HANA allows SAP customers to run their core transactional applications in-memory, allowing for lower costs and real-time results.

Khan argues that other technology vendors have relied on efficiencies and benefits derived from innovation in hardware, but have not attempted to re-architect their core platforms.

“I was the CTO of Sybase and spent more than two decades within company. Back in the day when Sybase was originally brought into the market, we spent a substantial amount of time focusing on certain markets and making a very credible offer in terms of the functionality that would be required for that market,” explained Khan.

“The core of what we had built, the kernel, was built with a good degree of functional elegance – it was built for OLTP, transaction processing. That's the core of what we were building. But over the years, [at] Sybase, along with everybody else, the foundations of what we had put together, the kernel, had begun to start ageing.

Khan said that for most companies it is not practical to go back to the kernel and rewrite it, because this equates to 'open heart surgery'. He explained that this is what has happened to IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle, where he believes each and every one of them is carrying 'technology debt'.

SAP believes it has escaped this pitfall thanks to the benefits of HANA.

“Technology debt, in a simplified way, is if you end up building a product that is 25 years old – on top of which you start layering all of the innovations that you think are necessary for your customers, but you don't address the core,” said Khan.

“All you end up doing is creating efficiency that is reliant on hardware innovation alone. Not through software innovation. We cannot assume because of the increases in performance that we have been able to see that that's going to be sustainable – it won't.”

He added: “You have to start addressing the core. That's precisely what SAP has been doing, going back to the core and essentially relating the foundations of that core. What you see in HANA today is fundamentally different to what is out there in the market. This is not driven by technology debt, this is driven by innovation."

However, innovation does not mean that companies "have to throw out the baby with the bath water".

"You can converge towards this real-time platform and play to the strength of your existing landscape," said Khan.

Meanwhile, SAP is also calling on its partners and channel eco-system to help it fulfil its ambitions of becoming the number two database company in the world by 2015, with ambitions for high-double digit growth in the EMEA region.