“Facebook did not invent social networking” says Vishal Sikka, SAP executive board member for technology and innovation.
But who did it ?
“At the time,” Sikka said in his keynote speech at the TechEd Las Vegas event, “there were 1.5 million colonists, and out of that 1.5 million, 900,000 got a copy of Paine’s ‘Common Sense’ manifesto.
“Imagine: 900,000 people out of 1.5 million! So with all due respect, you know—of course we are all heavy users of Facebook and Twitter and so on—but social computing was not invented by Facebook; it happened a long, long time ago.”
The engine behind Paine’s first-generation social network—and even those not fond of Paine’s work must admit that reaching 60% of the total universe is pretty good penetration, particularly via a first-gen approach—was the printing press rather than today’s great connector of Facebook, Sikka contended.
“Johannes Guttenberg invented the printer to make it easier for people, originally, to print Bibles,” Sikka said early in a keynote talk entitled ‘A Simplifying Renewal.’
“And really what ended up happening with the invention of printing was that it became possible for people to become empowered to articulate their own thoughts in precise ways and typographers were not at liberty to change what people had written, and so you had control of your own destiny.
“So people think about this and you wonder: connectedness is not something that just happened recently. People today talk a lot about connectivity, but connectedness has been going on for a long time.”
The core message behind Sikka’s commingling of Facebook, the ‘Common Sense’ manifesto, and Guttenberg’s printing press is that the age-old concept of content being the prisoner of the container in which it is held is unraveling today—and that software in particular will benefit enormously from the acclerated separation of content from container.
The results include more power to individual users, more specificity and beauty in applications, and fewer layers of low-value containers getting in the way of and ensnaring the high-value content.
In SAP’s case, the modern-day Guttenberg printing press is the HANA in-memory technology that is becoming the platform and foundation for all of the company’s future products. Here’s how Sikka laid out the strategy:
“And closer to our own home, we have been seeing some unmistakable signs of this: today we see the enterprise landscape littered with systems, capabilities and services in software that are trapped inside hardware containers, and within other types of software containers, and in services of all different sorts. Transactional systems, data warehouses, data marts, etc.
“The former CEO of one of our customers once told me something similar to this idea of the factory inside the 3D printer. She told me, ‘Vishal, the only reason I have a warehouse’—she was not talking about a data warehouse, she was talking about a physical warehouse—‘is because I don’t have real-time information on what my suppliers have. If I had real-time information on my suppliers that I could make decisions on, then I don’t need this warehouse.’
“So we are seeing the first signs of this already. In the case of Hana, for instance, data marts are already disappearing: many of our customers have already turned off their traditional data marts and replaced them with Hana. We are seeing increasingly signs of data warehouses being replaced with HANA.”
Then Sikka offered his most expansive vision for SAP and HANA, proclaiming that “we intend to replace and unify the entire data-processing layer in all of our applications.” And put the emphasis on all.
“From HANA Analytics, to planning, to new transactional applications, to traditional applications—everything,” Sikka said, “And it is not that we are replacing all the litter that was there with more litter, or with a different kind of litter; we believe that a grand unification of all these layers is possible. That, in fact, we have the ability to separate the capabilities that are in our software, from the scaling and delivering of those capabilities.
“And we can separate these layers, and one single, modern infrastructure is capable of delivering the entire essential content: whether it is the traditional content that you have painstakingly built over the last 20 years, or new content that you want to build. It can all be served off the same infrastructure. And the entirely new infrastructure actually can be delivered in the way that you choose,” he added, with options for traditional approaches, or the cloud, or both.
“This unifying software, we believe, can be delivered on the next generation of modern hardware built out of commodity—high-end, but commodity—x86 processors, large amounts of memory, massively multicore processing, delivered either in integrated appliances built by the community of the best appliance builders, or delivered as an app in the enterprise cloud that you manage, that you scale up and down, no matter how many applications run in that infrastructure, no matter what kinds of workloads run in that infrastructure, whether it is one user doing a single query that is distributed to thousands of cores, or a thousand applications with millions of users running on those cores,” Sikka said.
“All the way from small to medium to large, the entire provisioning of the infrastructure can be done on the inside of an enterprise cloud. We have been working with many of our customers on this already, and, of course, delivering these new capabilities—mobility, in-memory computing—in our own cloud.”
It was social networking before Facebook. I’m convinced now.