From mobile apps, to SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA, to virtualization in the data center: New technology at SAP is first tested and used by internal users.

The practice goes by many names: eating your own dog food, drinking your own champagne, or in the case of the Walldorf-based software company, “SAP Runs SAP.” Companies in the software business are notoriously loyal users of their own products. This custom certainly helps inspire confidence in the brand, but it’s not just a marketing gimmick.

By using software internally both before and after making it available to customers, employees are not only able to alert developers to potential problems in an application and make suggestions for improvement, they are also the first to enjoy the benefits too.

Employee-driven development

SAP takes it one step further – its Global IT team works directly with the lines of business to actively seek out innovative technologies and initiate internal proof of concept projects in those areas. It was this process that drove the deployment of 1,000 iPads to SAP employees in 2010 and made e-mail, analytics, and reporting available anywhere and anytime. Thanks to a secure mobile platform, this first group of mobile workers was more connected to SAP data than ever before. Today SAP deploys 25,000 iPads and 27,000 iPhones and addition, there are more than 14,000 Blackberry and 7,000 Android devices.

But when it came to store said reports and save e-mail attachments on their mobile devices, employees turned to external, publicly available apps for sharing files in the cloud. Convenient certainly, but lacking the security standards most businesses require when transmitting data.

What happened next embodies the core spirit of “SAP Runs SAP”: Global IT recognized the business need behind the bad habit and responded by developing its own version of the service: an internal file sharing application.

Now, employees are able to securely store, access, and share files containing internal information on their mobile devices, and after the successful internal release of the SAP Mobile Documents app, it is also available for customers.

SAP runs SAP HANA in the cloud

Continuous improvements to existing offerings, like in the example mentioned above, are the bread and butter of “SAP Runs SAP.” But the program also plays an important role in the development of large-scale, strategic innovations, such as the SAP HANA platform. The first company in the world to use the in-memory technology, back in 2010, was none other than the global software enterprise that created it.

SAP HANA was initially deployed at SAP in a so-called “side-by-side” implementation, in which data is replicated from an existing database to the SAP HANA database, where it is stored in main memory. This configuration drastically reduces the time it takes to analyze and create reports on huge volumes of data, such as the sales pipeline for an entire company. Due to data compression and using the SAP HANA database, SAP has been able to reduce their data volume from 7.1 TB to just 1.8 TB.

In fact, SAP Sales Pipeline Analysis analytic content was one of the first real-time applications made available internally. Rather than taking six hours to analyze current sales figures, executives and sales managers were able to do so in a matter of seconds. And since the solution became generally available, customers have been able to do the same.

In the meantime, employees have seen three further developments of SAP HANA: as the primary data store for the SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW) application, as the underlying platform for new applications, and now, finally, as the integrated, in-memory platform powering core applications in SAP Business Suite. For each of these implementations, SAP employees acted as guinea pigs, testing functionality in real business scenarios and identifying new use cases.

While nowadays cloud computing becomes an even more important topic, SAP recognized this trend and reacted early by moving their core applications into their own cloud environment powered by SAP HANA. Customers now have the opportunity to accelerate the deployment of their SAP HANA projects within the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (SAP HEC), where infrastructure is combined with managed services tailored for the customers’ individual needs. This enables the customers– including SAP as its own and first customer – to access further advantages by getting access and benefit from SAP’s latest innovation and application technologies as well as having a huge increase of implementation speed, and with this reach a better time-to-value. Due to this given benefits and better flexibility SAP is now able to improve their products and applications even faster while reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO).

As of 2014, SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud operates the largest SAP HANA systems worldwide, including SAP’s own single global SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (SAP ERP), SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM), and SAP NetWeaver BW applications. The ERP on HANA has currently over 67,000 business users and 15,000 CRM users now benefit from an improved search performance – it is 250 times faster within the HANA Enterprise Cloud – and more than 4,500 BW users gain advantage from the reduced implementation time of only 5 months.

So now “SAP Runs SAP” in the HANA Cloud Platform and – of course – all experiences from SAP’s own implementations also benefit their customers.

Stories like these show the constant fine-tuning of SAP software that occurs both before it is made available to customers and after it’s on the market. But in order to use innovations like mobile apps and in-memory technology in the business in the first place, the technical foundation has to be sound.

1 ERP for 67,000 users

Less flashy than the iPad, perhaps, but just as important to the “SAP Runs SAP” campaign, is the fact that the company runs a single instance of the SAP ERP application for 67,000 employees, in 220 locations, and in 70 countries. It also has single instances for many other applications, including SAP Supplier Relationship Management (SAP SRM), SAP CRM, and SAP NetWeaver BW applications. This means that every region, line of business, and acquired company within SAP uses one version of the software.

Having only one version of data within any given application is the most convincing argument for single instance installations. It increases transparency in financial reports, eliminates duplicate information and errors, makes it easier to spot new revenue opportunities, and speeds up the implementation of innovations. Still, the approach isn’t without its detractors. Some fear a never-ending, large-scale implementation. Others are wary of the downtime that an upgrade could cause when applied on a company-wide level. So how does SAP manage to maintain its single instance installations?

In large part, it comes down to excellence in the data center. SAP has one of the highest virtualization rates among its peer group.

At the end of 2011, 66% of its servers were running virtual machines. By early 2014 SAP has reached over 80% of virtualization on the SAP servers.

This allows the company to carry out software upgrades without disrupting users and to flexibly manage the changes in business need that occur at different times of the day, quarter, or year.

Scalability is another aspect; and nothing can match the virtually infinite scalability of applications operated in the cloud. Since its acquisitions of SuccessFactors in February 2012 and Ariba in May 2012, the software company from Walldorf has rapidly expanded its use of cloud-based applications internally. SAP employees started using the SAP Cloud for Travel and Expense solution and SuccessFactors human capital management suite. Meanwhile, the acquired cloud company is putting SAP Cloud for Travel and expense as well as the SAP Cloud for Sales, SAP Cloud for Service, and SAP Business ByDesign solutions – all of which are run exclusively in SAP’s own data center – to work.

And who ensures that the SAP data center meets the highest standards for security, availability, and scalability, so that the company has a solid foundation for implementing innovative technologies quickly? You guessed it: SAP Runs SAP.

SAP Runs SAP is active in five categories

  1. Cloud: Global IT will grow in these four areas: HR, FI, CRM, SRM

  2. Mobility: Employees are enabled to connect anytime, from anywhere

  3. Database: SAP HANA - Employees have access to powerful features

  4. Applications: Drive lower TCO, higher performance and more flexibility

  5. Analytics: Real-time information – SAP employees can perform better