Google announces significant partnership with SAP at Google Cloud Next Conference

Google announced onstage today at Google Cloud Next a partnership with SAP to deliver SAP HANA, the company’s in-memory database on Google Cloud Platform.

It’s a big deal for a number of reasons. First of all, it gives Google a major enterprise customer for its cloud platform, something that it’s trying to promote in big way. Secondly, it gives them an established enterprise software partner inside large organizations, which it could potentially use to leverage other enterprise business as it tries to expand GCP’s business.

SAP is the world’s leading ERP company, which helps companies manage back-end services related to technology, human resources and finance. Traditionally, it has been delivered as on-premises software, but over the last several years it has started delivering it in the cloud for customers who don’t want to manage all of the complexity related to running software like this.

It’s important to keep in mind that SAP is so large that it also has its own cloud data centers, but this gives customers another option, and the fact that it chose GCP has to be welcome news to Google, which finds itself far behind AWS and Azure in the Infrastructure-as-a-Service market. SAP has had deals in place with both Microsoft and AWS since 2014.

An interesting twist in this deal is that it allows SAP to remain custodian of the data in the cloud, meaning that SAP remains responsible for this data, regardless of the fact that it’s running on GCP. This could remove a significant barrier to entry for customers, who might be reluctant to move to the cloud because of governance and compliance concern — and it’s a pretty unusual approach.

But Google isn’t the only party who benefits from this arrangement. As Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research pointed out, SAP needs to get the HANA database distributed on as many platforms as it can. That means AWS, Microsoft, IBM, Google and Oracle.

“The last one is not an option (because they are competitors), but the idea over time is to get HANA on GCP as well as evaluate whether or not they should build out their own [additional] datacenters or run on GCP [or other infrastructure providers],” he explained.

He adds that by moving part of the business to GCP, it will help SAP decide where and how to invest next because even though it has a presence in the cloud, it’s not hyper scale like the large cloud infrastructure vendors. “This is the first step,” he said.