SAP launched its HANA in-memory computing platform in 2010. HANA is a converged analytics appliance. Three years later, SAP has officially launched Business Suite on HANA: globally in January and in China on March 19. SAP clients can now run mission-critical applications on the converged infrastructure for optimized performance. Personally, I would suggest calling this an example of converged applications, which in short refers to the business applications that are architected around the converged infrastructure for performance and simplicity.

I had several conversations with architects from the retail, logistics, and manufacturing industries, as well as Tom Kindermans, SAP’s senior vice president of applications for APJ, about these converged applications. I tend to believe that this is the next wave of application architecture, after mainframe, client/server, and browser/server. With the deployment of these converged infrastructure offerings and the evolution of the applications that run on top of them, it might change technical architectures across infrastructure, information, and applications, as well as the organizational structure of IT, the architecture, and the partner ecosystems. My assessment:

  • The definition of converged applications is blurry. The meaning of incorporating converged applications can vary quite a bit. Sometimes it means migrating an application from one server to the other; sometimes it means refactoring your networking and storage design for load balancing and disaster recovery; and sometimes eliminating an original performance bottleneck means that business challenges that had been lurking under the surface might emerge for you to resolve. It totally depends on your business goals.
  • Speed and simplicity are why this architecture will predominate. The adoption of applications over converged infrastructure is neither reinventing the wheel nor chasing the footprint of the latest technology development. Forrester believes that during the transition from systems of records to systems of engagement, IT professionals, especially enterprise architects, should shift their focus from operating and maintaining slow and complex IT infrastructure and applications to freeing up resources to address more strategic business requirements by engaging with clients, partners, internal stakeholders, and even employees. Business applications refactored over converged infrastructure obviously have the key elements required by this challenge: speed and simplicity.
  • This is a play by the major business app and platform vendors. Looking into the vendors currently providing solutions around converged infrastructure, Oracle supports (and requires) Business Intelligence Foundation on Exalytics for enterprise performance management; similarly, IBM supports BI-related applications on its PureData, such as BigSheets, Cognos and SPSS; while from the core business perspective, SAP’s HANA-powered business suite spans from enterprise resource planning (ERP) to customer relationship management (CRM) to supply chain management (SCM) and product lifecycle management (PLM).
  • Converged applications aren’t a solution for everyone. Even if you achieve IT architecture nirvana, never expect that it will resolve the critical issues that keep you up at night. Embracing converged infrastructure requires clear understanding of your major business challenges and your existing IT infrastructure — and you probably don’t have IT professionals available with the skill sets and experience necessary to fulfill the transformation, whether it’s from your external partners or internal employees. Your first step: technical analysis in detail over the workloads around online transaction processing (OLTP) and online analysis processing (OLAP) and how they connect to your business strategy.

What do you think about these converged applications? Have you observed similar trend in the industry, and what do you think about the future of these kinds of applications?