November 30, 2021
When Julia White left Microsoft as corporate VP for Azure, server and developer tools marketing in January to become CMO and an executive board member at SAP, Microsoft tapped John “JG” Chirapurath to fill her role.
Chirapurath was a logical choice, given he led one of the group’s fastest growing businesses: Azure Data and AI. But six months later, Chirapurath followed White to SAP, which recruited him to become chief marketing and solutions officer for its Business Technology Platform (BTP).
At this month’s SAP TechEd conference, held as a virtual event, Chirapurath made his first major appearance in his new role. SAP holds TechEd events each year, to outline new products and technology in the pipeline. During this year’s event, SAP expanded the free tier of BTP to include support for the SAP HANA Cloud and SAP Integration Suite. The company also opened the free tier to individual developers.
In an interview with Channel Futures, Chirapurath explained his decision to leave Microsoft to join SAP and he explained the behind BTP’s free tier. Here’s an excerpt of that interview, edited slightly for clarity.
Channel Futures: Having just been promoted into Julia White’s role leading all Azure marketing, what compelled you to leave Microsoft for SAP?
SAP’s JG Chirapurath
John “JG” Chirapurath: SAP is the middle of a fantastic transformation. The way you have to transform is with cloud, and cloud growth is really coming from the application end. And that’s what SAP does. It literally is the world’s largest business software company. And I just thought that the opportunity to really participate and continue my love for the space was at SAP.
CF: Can you elaborate on the opportunity you see at SAP?
JC: If you think about the app stack and apps in general, the world’s largest companies maintain their system of record in SAP applications. Whether it’s an ERP system, an HR system like SuccessFactors, spend management, things like customer experience, all of that is held in an SAP system. And to help move these customers along on their digital transformation journeys, you need these applications to work in conjunction with a platform that can help them do interesting things.
CF: What is the focus your role at SAP?
JC: I’m responsible for our business technology platform, as we call it, “BTP.” And BTP effectively underlies our line of business applications. It provides things like runtimes, ways for applications to integrate with each other, integrate processes and it provides the ability to extend through things like low-code or no-code development tools, or pro-code code-first development tools to extend these applications and the processes contained within them. And then finally, it’s a place where you can essentially collect data, where we have the SAP HANA Cloud, SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, SAP Analytics Cloud, so effectively. Customers can basically unlock outcomes on all their data.
CF: As you know, CEO Christian Klein announced last year that SAP plans to accelerate customer and partner migrations to the cloud. And, based on the TechEd announcements, it appears SAP is making strides in delivering on that. Is that a fair assessment?
JC: If you watched the TechEd keynote (below), I could put it into three key buckets. The first is there’s a ton of developer goodness. What [CTO] Juergen [Mueller] talked about, is really an expanded view of how we think about low-code, no-code, and how it stands in partnership with our tools around code-first, which we’ve always had. We’ve added a set of low code, no code development environments to stand in battle that.
CF: Why did SAP do that?
JC: We found when customers adopt apps, oftentimes, they want to …
… extend them. Maybe they want to add a chief human resources officer (CHRO) by SuccessFactors and want to extend it with feature x, y, and z, maybe an employee recognition module. You want to empower the CHRO, or somebody in that function, so the business user is increasingly becoming a software developer, where they can essentially develop it quickly. This is not to take away from the code-first environment, because the other thing that you heard us do was take some of this low-code, no-code functionality and add it into things like SAP Business Application Studio, where code-first developers can also utilize it to quickly and easily get things done.
CF: How important is the expansion of the free tier? Is that just a promotional move?
JC: I happen to think that SAP’s free tier is the most generous and the most comprehensive today in the industry. What we’re really saying is it’s open to anyone, as in it’s open to you, it’s open to me, it’s open to a larger enterprise and a smaller enterprise.
CF: What is available with the free tier?
JC: You can build things in the free tier and use anything that’s available today as part of the platform, BTP. You can play with extensions, integration, AI and data analytics. And if it’s just an experimentation, you can tear it down. But if you want to graduate it into production, you can also easily do that; it’s extremely flexible. And we want to make learning as easy as possible, so we made all of the learning journeys related to BTP completely free.
CF: Besides the free tier for developers, what are the other key TechEd announcements?
JC: We emphasized AI-centricity. I learned in my past life that AI is certainly a high art. And the power of AI is when you can flow it into applications and embed it inside applications. There are all these complicated machine learning models and documented extraction techniques that are difficult to make any use of. We are making that as easy as possible. Anchoring that is our SAP Process Automation story, which brings together workflow and robotic process automation to automate some of the most common paths that an enterprise might face.
CF: Could you describe a practical example?
JC: My favorite example is invoice processing. In most enterprises, sometimes invoices come as a screenshot. Sometimes it’s a picture taken on a phone. Sometimes it is a Word document, sometimes a PDF. You can use SAP Process Automation to scan something and have it know that this is actually an invoice, turn that into a consistent format and send it over to the invoice management system. We are making it easier to automate tasks using AI in the back end.
CF: What did SAP announce along the lines of accelerating cloud migration?
JC: We announced a set of use cases and technologies that allow our customers to …
… move to the cloud at their own pace. My favorite announcements from that is the fact that we’re making SAP HANA Cloud now available on Google Cloud. It runs on Azure, it runs on AWS, Alibaba. Now, it also runs on the Google Cloud. The same thing with our integration offering — it now runs on Google in addition to these other clouds.
CF: Can you provide context on what all your TechEd announcements mean to your partner ecosystem?
JC: SAP has always been a partner-first company. What this really means is, everything that is goodness for our customers is just as equally goodness for our partners. So free tier, they can utilize it. If you’re a partner and you want to essentially run through a couple of envisioning exercises, and what is possible with the platform, how you might extend an app, integrate it, maybe turn on some data analytics, you can effectively do that at no cost, walk into a customer site, use the free tier, and demonstrate all of that.
CF: Presumably, the new learning programming is also geared toward your partners?
JC: If you are a consulting organization and want to get your consultants skilled on BTP and SAP tools and technologies, you can send them to learning.sap.com and it’s completely free. It’s self-guided, you can learn. Whatever we’ve done, we don’t do it just with the customer in mind, though, the customer is our prime directive. Our partners and our partner community are just as important to us, and our ecosystem is vital to us. And we recognize that this is really a three-way partnership that allows us to help our customers with outcomes.
CF: Where are you seeing most of the opportunities for partners? Is it around enabling migration of legacy solutions or is its greenfield implementations?
JC: We see both. There are cases where our customers come to us who have SAP Business Warehouse sitting on premises and need to make sure that it runs in the cloud. In fact, one of those announcements at TechEd is Business Warehouse Bridge. If your SAP Business Warehouse runs or premises, you can adopt the SAP Data Warehouse Cloud using this bridge technology. The bridge understands exactly what sitting on premises, it understands exactly what the target environment is and helps you get there.
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