SAP is a German company which is developing a wide range of enterprise software. SAP was founded in 1972 from five former IBM employees.

Their product portfolio includes the well known business suite which consists of different applications, such as the core Enterprise Ressource planning system (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Supply chain management (SCM). SAP also offers a wide range of additional enterprise products, such as their own integration platform SAP Netweaver (which itself includes a Business Warehouse (BW), the middleware system Process Integration (PI) and others), Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) and their own in-memory database SAP HANA. In general SAP is offering a great variety of systems and solutions for all kind of business processes and industries.

The head office of SAP is located in Walldorf, Baden-Würtemberg, Germany. SAP has additional regional offices located around the world. One of the biggest development hubs is located in India.

Ranked by annual revenue, SAP currently is the 4th biggest software company in the world behind Microsoft, IBM and Oracle.1)

Software provided by SAP

The main pillar of SAPs business model has always been the development and distribution of enterprise software products. Since the first release of ERP software, SAP has added a lot of additional products to their portfolio. Nowadays a company can run their complete business processes including pre and post supply chain tasks within SAP software.

Major SAP software products include:

  • Core applications
    • SAP Business Suite
      • ERP
      • CRM
      • HCM
      • SCM
      • SRM
    • SAP Business one
  • Mobile
    • Business objects mobile
    • m365 applications
      • mCommerce
      • mBanking
    • SAP UI5 applications
      • Fiori
    • Sybase mobile platform
  • Analytics
    • SAP HANA
      • BW on HANA
      • HANA analytics
      • R-Algorithims for HANA
    • Business Objects
      • Web Intelligence
      • Visual intelligence
  • Cloud applications
    • Success factors
    • SAP business by design
    • SAP HANA cloud platform

Services provided by SAP

In addition to its software products and add ons SAP also has a large service catalogue which generates a lot of revenue for the company.

The services SAP offers can be categorized into three main areas:

  • Service offering area
  • Support offerings
  • Education offerings

The service offerings themselves are divided into the following sub areas:

  • Business application solutions
    • SAP Business objects
    • Logistics Value Chain
    • Finance and Corporate services
    • Customer Relationship Management
  • Platform & Technology solutions
    • SAP Netweaver
    • SAP HANA
    • SAP Cloud offerings
      • HANA cloud platform
      • HANA on demand
  • Industry solutions
    • Trading industries
    • Financial services
    • Services industries
    • Public services
    • Manufacturing: Process industries
    • Manufacturing: Discrete industries
    • Consumer industries
  • Cross solutions
    • Sustainability
    • Service offering Framework / SOA
    • Business Process Management (BPM)
    • Value Prototyping
    • Software Engineering
    • Software development
    • Business transformation services
    • Run services

SAP and the change of paradigms

Since its first version of their enterprise software in 1973, SAP has gone through a lot of technological changes. 1973 marks the first milestone with the release of SAP R/1. R stands for “real time data processing”. In 1979 R/2 was released which included major changes in the foundation of the software. R/2 especially changed the way that the data was processed by introducing abstraction of the database as well as the use of a global data dictionary. These fundamental developments ensured the success of SAPs data model over the years and are still visible in todays SAP releases.

SAP R/3 which came out in 1992 marked the biggest milestone so far for SAP. For the first time a client/server architecture was introduced, leaving the mainframe area behind. At the time it was ground breaking to be able to work with SAP on a thin client machine rather than on a large mainframe server.

In the second half of the 90s SAP began to roll out more and more additions to its ERP core system. Two of the biggest products released during this time were the SAP CRM (Customer relationship Management) and SAP BW (business warehouse) systems. The end of the 90s also introduced the topic of service oriented architecture (SOA) to the SAP portfolio. Using SAPs new technology stack SAP Netweaver, which at the time consisted of two different application servers - the so called dual stack (ABAP and Java), SAP launched a fully featured SOA platform and began to roll out business functionality in form of so called enterprise services.

In 2012 SAP announced a major overhaul of the technological basis of their systems. With mobile phones and tablets being strong on the market, offering new UI opportunities and the rising challenge of integrating big data, available to SAP customers through technological advances in areas of manufacturing, sensor data or social media, it was clear that SAP had to rethink their software. The old UI which had not really changed since the R/3 release was not modern enough and the databases and table structures which SAP relied on since R/2 had come to a technological boundary when facing big data challenges. The approach that SAP has taken to overcome these shortcomings can be seen as one of their most radical changes so far, only comparable to the switch from the mainframe to R/3. Not only did they change their whole front end approach by offering an up to date HTML5 framework called SAP UI5 which has started to replace the classic SAP GUI in several areas already, but also the foundation of SAPs success has gone through fundamental changes. The database layer was completely redesigned by using an own developed in-memory database called SAP HANA. With SAP HANA it is now possible to process large amounts of data on the fly, removing the necessity to duplicate data for asynchronous processing within a data warehouse application like SAP BW.

It remains to be seen how SAP customers can cope with all the changes which are being delivered with the latest revisions of SAPs software. Concerning the required infrastructure and hardware for these new products, SAP already began to put a lot more focus in the area of hosted appliances which are known as cloud computing today.

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