Oil IT Journal Interview, Ken Evans, SAP

The head of SAP’s oil and gas industry business unit comments on various client strategies for the downturn. He compares 'interoperability’ with ‘winner takes all’ IT solutions, the changes brought by the cloud and SAP’s asset intelligence platform and discusses the elusive goal of a ’single source of the truth.'

Last year you said, ‘longer term projects are not what’s happening.’ Are they now?

I see a bifurcation in the industry. Those who are too highly leveraged are going out of business. Others are just cutting everything. For some, this is an opportunity to benefit from the cycle, to consolidate and simplify operations. This is where SAP comes as a safe choice. 2014 was a record year for us in oil and gas and our cloud numbers are up.

These sales are mostly to larger shops?

We have over 300 new customers last year bringing us to 2,200 oil and gas clients. So no, we have a lot of smaller shops. There are 95 companies here in The Hague. We ourselves have 800 people in oil and gas.

What is the situation now regarding interoperability. Are companies still interested? Or is SAP’s strategy that the winner takes all?

Interoperability is something we have been talking about for 30 years or so. For network-focused companies like Google and Facebook it is definitely winner takes all. Today, interoperability issues stem from on-premises, independent, disaggregated systems. But with the cloud you can provide access to any object or service that you like. So yes, we are open, we are a platform company. But the truth is that there is less and less demand for this as apps provide and consume directly from the cloud. For us this means the asset intelligence network.

You still have to program your way into the platform. How does a developer work to integrate the SAP cloud? Do you have to roll up your sleeves and learn some esoteric language (I’m thinking ABAP)?

At the SAP TechEd we had high schoolers develop apps. To fully leverage the stack you may need some modern programming skills like Java. But we are trying to lose end user programming and replace it with self-service analytics etc.

Having listened in to a few presentations, it seems that your clients are still having to cope with multiple information silos…

The original promise of the ERP was and remains a single source of the truth for the enterprise. This is now being consolidated into the cloud.

But that is not the case for ExxonMobil and BP which have multiple SAP instances and seem to consider the single source of the truth as a stretch goal! Do any majors deploy a single global SAP instance?

Most do indeed have several SAP sources. Maybe only ConocoPhillips has a single global instance. Again the cloud should help here.

Which cloud are we talking about in general, Amazon, Azure?

All of the above are options but we do have our own, the Hana enterprise cloud. We also partner with IBM in fact we made an announcement last week.

Last year we noted that one major client was specifying Rest/Odata endpoints for data integration. What’s the thinking on this issue now?

The idea now is that data is not getting moved. In our hookup with OSIsoft, we are not moving bulk PI data into Hana. Hana manages the metadata and the data stays in situ.

Hadoop seems to be downplayed compared with last year...

There was probably more attention to Hadoop in previous years. This is mostly because our data science offering works across any data store.

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