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SAP: We Love Linux

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Posted June 27, 2012 By Sean Michael Kerner     Feedback

SAP and open source have a cozier relationship than many may realize.

BOSTON – With its large portfolio of proprietary applications, SAP is a software company few folks would associate with open source. SAP Sybase CTO Ifran Khan would like to change that perception, however.  Khan took the stage at the Red Hat Summit in Boston today, detailing SAP’s take on Linux, open source and Big Data.

Khan began his keynote with a staggering statistic. He noted that 65 percent of the world’s GDP will touch an SAP back-end system at some point. Like other long-established companies with large portfolios of on-premise software, SAP is now moving its applications to mobile and cloud environments. The key, Khan stressed, is doing so in a way as non-disruptive as possible for customers.

At the core of being non-disruptive is the issue of customer choice. “We don’t assume that we will cart in a box that has the prefix Exa on it to solve all problems,” Khan said.

Khan’s comment was a shot at Oracle’s Exa-class systems, including the Exalogic, Exadata and Exalytics all-in-one hardware, software, storage and networking boxes.

True Believers in Open Source

While SAP cannot be considered an open source company in the same sense as Red Hat, SAP has made strides in open source involvement and adoption.

“We have gone from preserving everything in house to voluntarily going open source,” Khan said. “We truly believe in open now.”

Khan noted that SAP is making open source contributions in lots of areas including the Eclipse development community. The overall direction of SAP’s open source involvement has been progressing on a hockey stick growth curve, which Khan exhibited during his presentation.

SAP wants to be much more open for the developer community, according to Khan. He highlighted the SAP Netweaver Gateway as a common and consistent way to build applications. That gateway now has a Red Hat JBoss extension so developers can consume data in a consistent and transparent way.

“Red Hat is a pivotal partner for us,” Khan said. “At Sybase, we do all our development on Red Hat.”

What Khan did not mention to the Red Hat crowd, however, was SAP’s partnership with Red Hat’s rival SUSE Linux. SUSE updated its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP earlier this month, providing an enhanced installation process for SAP applications.

Dealing with Big Data

Khan also used his keynote as an opportunity to deflate the hype around Big Data. He downplayed the idea of information Armageddon, noting that IT organizations have ways of dealing with information overload. That said, he added that managing data efficiently is the key to enterprise success now and in the future.

When it comes to dealing with data, enterprises need to be aware of a number of latency hot-spots including analysis latency and decision latency. “The longer the latency the more diminished the value of information,” Khan said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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