SAP headquarters in Walldorf, Germany, 2013 Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images
SAP headquarters in Walldorf, Germany, 2013

SAP Backs Kubernetes, Boasts Commitment to Open Source

Buys Cloud Native Computing Foundation board seat; gets praise from Linux Foundation director

SAP has joined Cloud Native Computing Foundation's (CNCF) platinum club, the business software giant announced at its SAP TechEd 2017 conference in Las Vegas last week.

CNCF, the Linux Foundation project behind Kubernetes and other container-related open source applications, has been busy signing up platinum members lately. In the last few months they've taken on a spate of new top-tier members, including the likes of Microsoft, Oracle, Amazon Web Services, and now SAP.

Actually, SAP seems to be on something of an open source tear. At TechEd the company also revealed that on September 24 it joined another Linux Foundation project, the Open API Initiative, a standards body advocating vendor-neutral REST APIs.

"In recent years, we at The Linux Foundation have seen SAP invest more and more resources in open source software," Linux Foundation director Jim Zemlin said in a blog after the announcement. "They were early members of the Cloud Foundry Foundation and have worked with that group and with Pivotal Labs to build open source tooling for that cloud application platform.

"SAP also uses many innovative OSS tools in various offerings. For example, their HANA Vora Big Data program incorporates a number of components of the Apache Hadoop stack. And in Europe, SAP has become a leading advocate for open source technologies."

Considering that CNCF platinum members pay $370,000 yearly, that's a deep commitment indeed.

You might wonder why a company whose products are released under proprietary licenses would be investing so heavily in open source. The answer is easy: once you move away from "copyleft" licenses such as the GPL into the realm of "permissive" licenses, what starts out as open source doesn't have to stay open source. That's why big business loves licenses such as MIT, Apache, and BSD, all of which allow their open source code to be freely rolled into proprietary products for binary distribution, with no requirement to make the source code available.

Having a platinum seat at the CNCF table will give SAP considerable input into how the likes of Kubernetes, Prometheus, and containers are developed. For its money, it will have a representative on the CNCF governing board as well as voting representatives on any subcommittees or activities of the board. There are a couple of other perks, but these two are the primary reasons for joining, as they offer members considerable sway in the direction future development takes.

SAP's announcements at the TechEd event weren't all about open source, however. Notably, the company stressed its commitment to the cloud with the announcement that its SAP Cloud Platform is coming to Google Cloud Platform, where it's now available in beta.

"Google has provided us with the necessary hardware. So, we have certified SAP HANA and S/4HANA and additional products like the SAP analytics portfolio to run on that infrastructure, and we released SAP Cloud Platform on Google Cloud Platform," Bjorn Goerke, SAP's CTO and president of SAP Cloud Platform, said in a keynote address.

"With that, we have taken the last steps in completing our picture toward a real multicloud platform. It gives our customers a choice to run their digital transformation workloads in the future -- whether they want to run them in an SAP cloud, or whether they want to run it through us on an AWS, Azure or Google Cloud Platform."

The company also unveiled SAP Data Hub for managing data from from several sources residing in separate silos.

"The challenge that companies face is that there are various data silos, ERP data, data warehouses [and] big data sitting in data lakes," Goerke said. "The question is, how do you put a consistent layer on top of it so you can make sense out of all those different data sets and correlate them and process them so that you can develop new applications on top of it, do analytics, do data science and drive insights?

"You need to manage the whole pipeline of data flowing through your different data sets, and this is what SAP Data Hub does."

In addition, the company has plans to increase its data center footprint by adding new data centers in Toronto and Moscow and by making SAP Cloud Platform available in AWS's Sao Paolo, Brazil, data center.

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