Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Building the Software Defined Data Center

How SDDCs will improve business efficiency: SAP

SAP believes that as businesses rely on big data to improve customer experience, they will benefit from moving to a software defined architecture.

With machine learning and artificial intelligence set to become an increasingly important business priority over the next five to ten years, now is a great time to adopt a software-defined architecture, according to enterprise software giant SAP.

"The future is definitely in software defined data centers," Bernd Leukert, a member of the SAP executive board, told ZDNet recently at the 2016 SAP Sapphire Now event.

Leukert explained that businesses have an increasing desire to deliver personal products to customers in order to gain a competitive advantage. He said they are turning to big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning for those insights in order to improve their understanding of customers.

Leukert added that, unlike individuals who require education, upskilling, and "a hell of a lot of discipline", implementing software to automate the process of translating customer information in a Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) has its benefits, including improved efficiency and fewer mistakes.

At the same time, he said that relying on software defined infrastructure simplifies the implementation of new disciplines across the entire organisation -- particularly if it's a global operation.

"Knowing we are not operating just in the local market, this means we have to have the same process, the same skills across the global operation -- whether we are here in the US, whether we are in Europe, whether we are in Asia, whether we are down in Australia: everything repetitive is the same," he said.

"While I'd love my organisation to have creativity and entrepreneurial skills in managing systems, I want to have discipline. Now, the more we can manage this via software -- and if the software runs, it runs 24 hours, 7 days a week -- that's the beauty. The automation, the reliability, the quality comes to a completely new level."

Meanwhile, from a data privacy and security point of view, Leukert believes an SDDC can improve how businesses detect anomalies, especially if the problem is occurring within the company.

"For example, if someone in your HR system is changing my salary on Saturday evening, then the payroll runs on Sunday morning, and it is then changed back, then this is clear fraud. But if nobody looks at statistics, which human beings should identify that somebody was logged into the system and changed my salary, the payment runs?" he said.

"This is just a little example where software can identify unusual application usage, and articulate and alert that abnormal usage, and you can react to these changes to say we informed the customer ... therefore managing behaviour with big data via software is absolutely the future."

The use of big data and artificial intelligence by businesses is not news, Leukert said -- it's just now more accessible.

"When I was going to university 30 years ago I was attending lectures on artificial intelligence in operation research; however, at that point in time, the computers, the hardware, and the related memory was far too expensive in order to provide business advantage at scale," he said.

Leukert believes a large part of the adoption of SDDC by business will rely on change management.

"We are all human beings, and there needs to be professional change management, and in many cases executive top-down board decisions. If you call people into a room and say you would only execute if everybody says yes, you'll probably end up in debates, which go on endlessly," he said.

Disclosure: Aimee Chanthadavong travelled to 2016 SAP Sapphire Now as a guest of SAP.