SAP Hana Cloud Portal Is a Front End for SAP Innovation
SAP's new Hana Cloud Portal proposes to address the wave of demand deriving from cloud, mobile and information trends. We examine the offering and how portal strategy leaders can ensure that it contributes to, rather than distracts from, a unified portal strategy.
- SAP Hana Cloud Portal will help organizations meet the next wave of portal demands.
- Hana Cloud Portal puts SAP back on a path toward portal innovation.
- Hana Cloud Portal's lean, agile, evolving quality will require customers to define its scope and role clearly.
- Hana Cloud Portal will play an important role in the transition to the cloud and the broader Hana platform.
- Use Hana Cloud Portal, but only with a governance plan, defining its role and coordinating it with other systems to unify and improve the user experience (UX).
- SAP customers should pilot Hana Cloud Portal as a proving ground for the portal platform as a service (pPaaS) model, new portal standards and mobile scenarios.
- All organizations — SAP customers or not — must examine how their portals will exploit and interact with cloud-based services.
- Current NetWeaver Portal customers should define Hana Cloud Portal's relative role and determine the optimal means of integration between the two.
This document was revised on 23 April 2013. The document you are viewing is the corrected version. For more information, see the Corrections page on gartner.com.
One fairly understated, but potentially momentous, development at SAP's most recent Sapphire Now and TechEd events involved the introduction of SAP Hana Cloud Portal. It's an early instance of a much-sought-after, but rarely realized, pPaaS (see "The Rise of Portal Platform as a Service: The Vendor View"). While SAP has treated it modestly and quietly thus far, NetWeaver Cloud Portal will have significant impacts for customers trying to improve portal agility, performance, relevance and access to business applications.
Source: Gartner (January 2013)
Hana Cloud Portal is different from what one might expect from a cloud portal; it's not simply the vendor's other product — NetWeaver Portal — sitting on infrastructure as a service (IaaS), as has been the approach taken by several other established portal providers. Rather, Hana Cloud Portal constitutes new technology employing updated Web standards, it is built for mobile scenarios at the outset, and it uses SAP's highly touted Hana in-memory database and middleware as its basis. Also, it is offered as an SAP-hosted, multitenant service.
The new offering targets two scenarios:
- pPaaS: For IT architects who want to build customized Web and mobile applications. SAP's expectation for this audience is that it will employ the portal as a framework bringing together role management, personalization, integration and presentation services, while building its own user interfaces.
- On-demand sites: For nondevelopers to easily build and manage their own portal sites, presumably for personal, team or other smaller-scale scenarios. The design goal is to make it a zero-training experience, employing simple content authoring and aggregation capabilities, drag-and-drop configuration, and simple interfaces for managing user rights and privileges.
Note: SAP changed the name of the offering from SAP NetWeaver Cloud Portal to SAP Hana Cloud Portal after the initial publication of this research.
Hana Cloud Portal also offers a library to store and distribute portal components. This portlet catalog concept and enabling technology have existed for almost as long as the portal market itself, but now consumer awareness and comfort with apps and app stores — largely based on mobile experiences — may push them toward widespread use. The component library will allow SAP, its partners or IT groups to institute Hana Cloud Portal as a flexible framework on which business users can create and manage their own departmental, personal and team sites.
Organizations seem to be on a perpetual quest for portal offerings that can serve three broad constituencies: IT organizations, business leaders and end users. The perfect portal offering would serve at once as a development and delivery platform for IT; as a means to engage employees, customers and partners for business influencers; and as a flexible environment for knowledge management and collaboration for end users. While most early portal products were tools for IT, organizations are under increasing pressure to provide more autonomy — albeit under the continued aegis of corporate security and governance — to business and end users. Hana Cloud Portal is an attempt to address these needs.
Hana Cloud Portal is also paving a path toward emerging cloud, and more specifically, pPaaS, trends (see "The Rise of Portal Platform as a Service: The Vendor View"). These cloud-based portal platforms promise to bring scalability, performance, elasticity and value in line with cost to portal initiatives. The ideal pPaaS would also make it easier for organizations to keep up with evolving standards, which will appeal to the many organizations scrambling to address multichannel and mobile urgencies.
Furthermore, SAP contends that the highly touted Hana platform will bring several benefits and differentiators to its portal offering. Hana's in-memory capability will improve portal performance, a problem that has plagued many portal customers trying to aggregate and deliver information and services that exist in many places. Later, Hana's embedded real-time data analysis may help organizations filter and contextualize a wider variety of structured and unstructured data. It also could ultimately power dynamic portals that automatically optimize themselves to meet users' needs, preferences, intentions and behaviors.
- SAP customers should pilot Hana Cloud Portal as a proving ground for the pPaaS model, new portal standards and mobile scenarios.
SAP has had an unsteady recent history in the portal market. The company's 2001 acquisition of TopTier Software, and its subsequent introduction of NetWeaver by TopTier founder Shai Agassi, boded well for its ability to innovate and play prominently in the horizontal portal space. However, since Agassi's departure, SAP has exhibited highs and lows in the portal market, even at one point suffering through rumors that it was abandoning the market entirely.
Hana Cloud Portal is an attempt on the part of SAP to regain recognition as an innovator in the portal space, while helping organizations manage the transition to the cloud. The offering puts SAP on a shortlist of providers with an entry into the pPaaS market (see "Platform as a Service: Definition, Taxonomy and Vendor Landscape, 2012"):
- Microsoft SharePoint Online is the most prevalent competition. Part of Microsoft's Office 365 online productivity and collaboration suite, SharePoint Online has, thus far, focused on supporting relatively simple collaboration scenarios, rather than acting as a platform on which IT can integrate or create applications and composites. As with SAP's portal offerings, Microsoft's SharePoint Online is built, in part, on a different architecture than the SharePoint on-premises version, and the vendor has limited some of the on-premises functionality to accommodate the cloud scenario. The 2013 SharePoint wave, however, is a more cohesive offering, intended to appeal to IT architects and developers as well enterprise information workers.
- Covisint calls its pPaaS "Cloud Engagement Platform." The vendor initially geared itself toward complex, multipartner B2B scenarios in the automotive industry, but is quickly making an impact in the broader manufacturing and healthcare markets, whether for B2B or business-to-employee scenarios.
- Salesforce.com is taking a decidedly more social approach to pPaaS. It positions its social platform, Chatter, along with Site.com (a Web content management service) and Force.com, as a combination that powers cloud-based portals.
- A lesser-known, but ambitious company, eXo brings eXo Platform to market in part as a user experience platform as a service (uxPaaS). The Paris- and San Francisco-based company has partnered with open-source middleware and portal provider Red Hat (JBoss) on a joint project called GateIn.
SAP's Hana Cloud Portal accounts for some of the vendor's progress on the Completeness of Vision axis in "Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals." SAP has also shown progress in related areas, particularly regarding developments such as support for OData and NetWeaver Gateway, to enable interoperability with a wide range of user interfaces (UIs). In the meantime, SAP's firm and expansive roots in big enterprise applications, processes and information sources make it hard to deny it a portal role.
- Customers must understand SAP's UX and portal vision, and decide whether and where it will enable their own visions.
- All organizations — SAP customers or not — must examine how their portals will exploit and interact with cloud-based services.
Hana Cloud Portal's lean, agile, evolving quality will require customers to define its scope and role clearly
SAP has, thus far, been modest about Hana Cloud Portal's significance and prudent about its recommended use among customers. The vendor says that the offering is not to be considered a replacement for NetWeaver Portal, which has seen separate enhancements in its latest 7.3 version. Rather, SAP recommends using Hana Cloud Portal as a supplement for NetWeaver Portal. The differences go beyond on-premises versus cloud, and include features/functions, scenarios and, perhaps most significantly, development cycles.
Upon request, SAP provided Gartner with the following, high-level functional comparison between SAP NetWeaver Portal and Hana Cloud Portal.
Essentially, Hana Cloud Portal gives SAP a lean offering to complement its more established, sophisticated, and complex NetWeaver Portal (see "The Great Portal Divide: How a Rift in the Portal Market Will Impact Your Web Strategy"). Hana Cloud Portal is a lightweight, simple and noninvasive portal, employing modern Web standards and architectures, while relying less than NetWeaver Portal on a heavy-duty, proprietary portal server.
For now, Hana Cloud Portal's current release is peppered with limitations. For example, while it supports the OpenSocial widget standard and SAP's iViews, the platform doesn't support established standards like JSR 286 and WSRP. Also, while Hana Cloud Portal comes with built-in support for rendering and use on mobile devices, its initial out-of-the-box capability targets the tablet experience only.
SAP plans to close some, but not all, of the gaps between NetWeaver Portal and Hana Cloud Portal. The vendor doesn't intend to re-create all the features of NetWeaver Portal in NetWeaver Cloud Portal, both because emulating NetWeaver Portal's capabilities in a PaaS is difficult, and because Hana Cloud Portal is meant to be lean, providing only the most needed features without the bulk or complexity of NetWeaver Portal. Over time, in fact, Hana Cloud Portal will gain some features and capabilities that are unavailable in on-premises NetWeaver Portal.
SAP's goal is to make the distinction between NetWeaver Portal and Hana Cloud Portal a matter of scenarios, rather than a matter of features/functions. SAP lists 10 "speculative" use cases, both internal and external, where it has detected customer interest and where Hana Cloud Portal may have a unique advantage or appeal:
- Web-based mobile apps
- User productivity tools at the team and department level
- Customer care, support and sites
- Employee benefits and perks (accessible externally)
- Career and recruiting sites
- Supplier onboarding
- Marketing campaigns
- Procurement scenarios
- Prototyping Web-based apps and sites
- Supporting the partner ecosystem
More significant than the feature/function or scenario comparisons is the stark difference in the release cycle time between NetWeaver Portal and Hana Cloud Portal. SAP expects to update Hana Cloud Portal on a monthly basis, continually adding capabilities, features, fixes and support for scenarios as demand arises among customers. NetWeaver Portal will remain on a typical release cycle, receiving major new features or functions on a far longer-term basis.
SAP is doing well to exploit a critical advantage in cloud computing: the ability to use the platform to understand, adapt to and anticipate customer demand. In laying out this lean, cloud-based portal framework, SAP can use it to identify and address problems, gather common usage patterns to help develop more out-of-the-box solutions, and optimize the UX by employing usage analytics and techniques like split A/B testing.
Moreover, SAP sees Hana Cloud Portal as an opportunity to distinguish itself from its portal competitors, by employing Hana's embedded analytics, along with agile methodologies, to continually sense and respond to customer demand, to recognize patterns, and to gather new ideas.
This "fail fast" approach will be unnerving to SAP traditionalists, many of whom are accustomed to an SAP that is precisely the opposite of the opaque, capricious, mostly consumer-focused providers like Google and Facebook, which have succeeded with fail-fast approaches. On the other hand, SAP will have to succeed quickly to thrive amid the Nexus of Forces (see "Portals Unbound: How the Nexus of Forces Is Reshaping Enterprise Portals").
So, SAP is not committing to a specific long-term road map for Hana Cloud Portal. At this stage, the vendor says that NetWeaver Cloud Portal will be its lean offering, while NetWeaver Portal evolves toward a user experience platform. However, with development on NetWeaver Portal occurring at a slower pace, and with many customers frustrated with NetWeaver Portal on-premises, Hana Cloud Portal will likely represent SAP's premier, strategic portal platform over time.
Meanwhile, customers will be challenged to delineate and coordinate Hana Cloud Portal's role as it evolves. This only exacerbates a situation requiring coordination among content management systems, collaboration, search and social platforms offered by other enterprise software heavyweights (such as Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and Google) seeking to dominate these highly active, converging and churning technology spaces.
- Current NetWeaver Portal customers should define Hana Cloud Portal's relative role and determine the optimal means of integration between the two (see Note 1).
- The evolving nature of Hana Cloud Portal urges participation with the SAP community. Customers must stay abreast of SAP, partner and customer developments, and contribute insight and feedback.
Hana Cloud Portal will play an important role in the transition to the cloud and the broader Hana platform
Hana Cloud Portal holds far broader implications than its impact on the portal market. Modern portals must provide reliable access, uniformity and context across wide-ranging and disparate information, business processes, people and devices. Therefore, the cloud-portal relationship isn't simply a portal deployment question — that is, a question of where you will put your server. Rather, SAP — or any chosen portal — will be crucial in ensuring a unified, engaging experience across many applications and services that sit in many places, cloud or on-premises. Hana Cloud Portal proposes to bring the benefits of cloud and in-memory computing, while insulating users from disruptive changes, which is a worthy endeavor.
During the next few years, Hana Cloud Portal will also represent a convenient, relatively low-risk way for SAP, its partners and its customer-champions to demonstrate the value of Hana to IT and business leaders. It can be monumentally difficult, costly and time-consuming to replace data services and infrastructure sitting behind applications, and it's especially daunting when the value isn't certain or clear. Thus, Hana Cloud Portal is intended to be attractive and readily consumable for business users attempting to generate viral growth. At the same time, it will put Hana more readily into the hands of SAP architects and developers.
SAP's early reticence about Hana Cloud Portal's potential importance is due mostly to the vendor's uncertainty about the range of business cases the offering can satisfy at this point. NetWeaver Portal remains the go-to platform for more-strategic portal initiatives. NetWeaver Portal 7.3 claims several improvements over earlier versions, including more flexible UI customization, better performance, and improved content and site management capability offered through a partnership with OpenText. On the other hand, NetWeaver Portal doesn't currently exhibit the aforementioned attributes that make pPaaSs attractive, and leverage and support for Hana is scheduled for a future release.
While SAP's two-pronged portal strategy matches Gartner's assessment of the portal market's bifurcation between lean platforms and user experience platforms, single customers shouldn't split their portal strategies in two. Customers should not allow Hana Cloud Portal to introduce more redundancy and conflict in an already-confusing universe of portal and UX choices.
- Use Hana Cloud Portal, but only with a governance plan, defining its role and coordinating it with other systems to unify and improve the UX.
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- Neither NetWeaver Portal nor NetWeaver is a prerequisite for Hana Cloud Portal. Hana Cloud Portal leverages on-premises NetWeaver Portal if it exists in the environment, but it can operate on its own.
- NetWeaver Cloud Portal integrates with on-premises NetWeaver Portal on three levels:
- Content. NetWeaver Cloud Portal can consume iViews and Web Dynpro applications.
- User management. NetWeaver Cloud Portal customers can leverage existing roles and authentication mechanisms.
- Data. Although it's not specific to Hana Cloud Portal, the broader Hana Cloud platform will allow the consumption of on-premises data through SAP NetWeaver Gateway's REST and OData-based services.
- Hana Cloud Portal is generally available to customers, either through direct sales (via technology or cloud sales teams) or online via the SAP Store.
- Pricing for Hana Cloud Portal is based on consumption — either the number of users logging into a site or the number of site visits (including anonymous visits). Pricing is based on a subscription and comes in addition to the general Hana Cloud pricing considerations, involving bandwidth, storage and processor/virtual machines used.
- SAP says that, since launching Hana Cloud Portal in October 2012, about 900 customers have established active trial portal accounts (out of more than 2,000 that have used the platform trial). SAP expects customers and partners to go live with solutions based on Hana Cloud Portal during the course of 2013.