Interview: Irfan Khan, CTO, SAP GCO

Irfan Khan, CTO, SAP GCO, recently met with government CIOs in Dubai to discuss the role of Big Data analytics in transforming the public sector. He spoke to CNME on the sidelines of the event about digilatisation and the company’s HANA platform.

Irfan Khan, CTO, SAP GCO
Irfan Khan, CTO, SAP GCO

Tell us about your session during the event.
It concentrated on the digitalisation of the economy and the world around us. The essence of the points that I shared was that if we look back and think of the physical items and activities that we do, how are these things now turning from atoms into bytes.

A case in point is books – before we used to go to the library, borrow a book, take it home and read it. Now, we consume digital content more often than not. We now have these new engagements with technology and the way we do things before is just obsolete.

When talking about Big Data, what we need to understand is that we will be dealing with a lot of complexities. Some of these complexities are man-made, in terms of the environment that we’ve been creating, such as the various generations of IT. On top of that, we also need to understand that the way citizens are expecting to deal with data, has to be much more real time and intuitive.

Let’s talk about Hana. Going by the feedback from some of your user groups around the world, it appears that many of your customers still don’t really understand what HANA is, how it works and its benefits. How do you deal with this?

We work very closely with all of our user groups. Recently I have met with the CEO of Deutsche User Group (DSUG), and what I found out was that majority of its members, without exception, are all fully embracing SAP’s direction. The direction is to take a look at the entirety of SAP’s applications from end-to-end. If we’re really going to be successful in helping our customers, we felt that SAP should take on the ownership of a platform where the applications are running. HANA has been created and pioneered into the market to allow the creation of innovation. This is why SAP’s customers are now embracing HANA.

Regarding the feedback from the surveys, I think it’s safe to say that with SAP is working closely with these various user groups; we have now managed to solve some of the misconceptions that may have been out there. Some of those things are maybe regarding the types of hardware that HANA can support. Very recently, in terms of extending the support and the availability of HANA, we’ve introduced this notion of the tailored data centre initiative. Which means that SAP currently has more than 500 hardware vendors where it is supported to run on. On top of that, all of this hardware runs on Intel processors, which means you don’t need specialised hardware to run HANA. We have recently introduced the S/4 HANA initiative in order to help customers address their pain points. This has speciality extensions and new business value-adds on top of those existing applications and, in some instances, it has created completely new solutions, all residing natively on top of our HANA platform.

Tell me more about S/4 HANA, does it have a new database, new interface and so on?

S/4 HANA as the name suggests runs on HANA, it is a core business suite which has now been transformed to run more natively on HANA and the factors adding value to that include three things – first is the elimination of the complexity; second, through this we can provide you with a beautiful user experience like Fiori; and third, we can provide a much more guided configuration to help customers install and manage SAP environments in the future.

Can you have this on cloud as well?

Yes, we have the distribution opportunity of S/4 HANA to run natively on premise, on a managed cloud where SAP manages this, or SAP can run this as software-as-a-service type of model as well.

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