Mark Testoni serves as president of SAP National Security Services (SAP NS2), the independent U.S. subsidiary of SAP that offers solutions in enterprise applications, analytics, database, cloud computing and mobile software.
The 20-year Air Force veteran and former VP of Oracle’s defense operations melded SAP’s former Government Support and Services unit with elements of Sybase, a 2011 SAP acquisition, to form SAP NS2 in 2011.
SAP NS2 says it offers specialized levels of security and support according to the mission requirements of U.S. national security and critical infrastructure customers.
Testoni has continued to build the firm with a distinct eye on the future, recently hiring retired Vice Admiral Joe Kernan, former deputy commander of the U.S. Southern Command, and Ron Police, who was a VP for Oracle and Apple Government prior to starting his own advisory practice in 2011.
SAP NS2 will delve further into its efforts to advance national security missions through IT innovation at its October 29 Solutions Summit, which will feature a keynote address by General Stan McChrystal, former Commander of U.S. and International Forces in Afghanistan.
Driving innovation was a focal topic of Testoni’s recent conversation with ExecutiveBiz, where he covered the effects of the “big data” explosion, the revolution of in-memory computing, and the need to focus on the national security challenges of tomorrow.
ExecutiveBiz: Where is SAP NS2 pushing the envelope in next-gen technologies, and what are your strengths as a partner with the national security and critical infrastructure communities?
Mark Testoni: There have been a number of transitions in the I.T. industry over the last decade, which have been helpful for our growth and development. If you looked at SAP and some of the other players five to seven years ago, they were kind of isolated in their own major spheres.
And now they’re all getting into businesses that are converging more. Seven years ago, SAP was a leader in ERP solutions – technologies that helped companies pay bills, manage HR and supply chains, and the like.
Now, through acquisitions and smart organic growth, we offer a much broader portfolio. Our focus now is to help customers transform the new information realities into strategic assets. For example, seven years ago, this whole area of social media really didn’t exist; now we’re helping clients tackle national security challenges that have social media aspects.
This is a huge inflection point for change. So, we create value by helping our customers grapple not only with today’s challenges, but tomorrow’s as well.
If you take a look at our customers in defense and related areas, they’re really most concerned about two or three things. One is leveraging existing environments that have worked well in the past but now are faced with an overwhelming amount of new information, and the need to integrate and draw insights from the combination of new sources and old.
And that’s the focus of our message; we have new technologies and capacities that can help manage this new information environment. SAP HANA – a flexible, multipurpose, in-memory data platform that processes huge amounts of data in real time – is central to that strategy.
It’s going to be the platform for all of our products, and will make that flood of information more manageable and actionable.
Also, security is paramount and offers more challenges in this environment. The broad term ‘cybersecurity’ is really a catch-all for everything in the websphere. Ubiquitous access to data drives geometric growth in potential vulnerabilities. Any solution set must account for these cyber threats.
NS2’s value proposition is right in the center of all that – providing solutions that help organizations get the most insight in the shortest amount of time from their oceans of data – and doing it in the most secure environments.
Let me spend another moment on SAP HANA, because it is truly transformative. The biggest computing projects in the world have historically been about databases and memory. Companies and governments store an enormous amount of information in databases and on discs, for example, and they utilize this information – or pull it into memory – when they need access to it.
Designing analytical routines can be complex and time consuming. But now in-memory computing allows customers to bring a lot more data into one place, compress it, analyze it, and run the business routines there as well, at speeds up to 100,000 times faster. And why is that so important?
Well, suffice it to say that the amount of information in the history of man has doubled in the last few years, and it will probably double again in another year and a half. This new information age demands speed in analysis and action.
We can’t use the same outdated database technologies to deal with this onslaught of information. SAP HANA is the product of many years of investment by SAP and is well‑used by many Fortune 500 companies, but was not available in the most secure environments until now. So that’s where NS2 is focusing our efforts.
ExecutiveBiz: What are the challenges that you enable your customers to overcome that they otherwise have not been able to?
Mark Testoni: One area of concern is this explosion of information – not only the amount of it, but also the proliferation of sources, much of it openly available on the Internet. Another big concern is the cost of dealing with all that data. Our customers are feeling a tremendous amount of pain in having to deal with legacy cost models from our competitors.
These models are being applied to the new world but clearly aren’t cost effective – nor do they utilize the most innovative technologies.
So, we help our customers on both sides of that equation. If you look at geospatial information – mapping, for example – that kind of data is being collected by a growing number of sensors and systems. And that’s growing exponentially. A significant amount of processing power is required to collect it, analyze it, make it work, and render it properly for others.
This is an area where companies like Esri really shine. However, the sheer amount of information today makes it difficult to analyze and deliver meaningful insights. Working together, SAP and Esri solutions give our customers the ability to do real-time analysis of geospatial data so they can do considerably more than they’ve done in the past.
Another area where we are providing new solutions is in collecting and analyzing open source information. Traditionally, we would build a data warehouse to collect information; we’d build OLAP cubes to analyze it; and we’d employ a lot of contractors for a long time to build something. And maybe two years later, we’d get something that we could use.
SAP HANA dramatically changes that scenario. As all of this open source information comes in, we can help customers analyze this information much faster and identify trends and other invaluable information.
One of the most interesting examples of this solution at work is our collaboration with the gaming industry. In the world of online gaming, there’s a massive amount of input going back and forth between thousands of players in an online system, and it is immensely challenging to keep them all motivated to stick with the game.
We’re helping the gaming industry analyze and influence that behavior, and that same capability can be used in other ways in the national security space, for example to monitor the behavior of thousands of people in open forums and spot patterns of behavior that may indicate the emergence of new threats and adversaries. So we’re perfecting SAP HANA as a set of solutions that will provide huge advantages for our customers.
On the business side, SAP is not the legacy player in many areas of U.S. national and homeland security. We don’t have the largest business, so, as I like to say, we’re unencumbered by the business models of the past. As a result, we offer new and different kinds of business models and cost-effective terms that are more attractive to customers who are in search of cost savings. These options include demand-based licensing models that are similar to a cloud offering or the Software as a Service (SaaS) model.
It’s these innovative, cost-effective options that we are offering now, and it’s this flexibility and innovation that are resonating with our customers.
ExecutiveBiz: What was it initially like for you joining the private sector from the military? And how have you been able to use that experience to help your public sector customers?
Mark Testoni: I retired from the Air Force in 1997, and if you look back at what this industry and its customers were looking for, it was all about, ‘How do we clean up our internal mess?’ ‘How do I run my business better?’ ‘How do I take out some of the costs from the back‑office operations?’ ‘How do I get better insight into my organization?’
Fast forward nearly 17 years later, and these internal barriers are no longer the only focus. We’re looking outside, and that’s a vast improvement. The Internet has allowed for interesting relationships between companies, often between competitors and providers and customers. So, the walls have broken down.
We all recall the book, The World is Flat from a few years ago, and Thomas Friedman’s description of how the world is being tied together ever more closely from a business perspective. Everything is run now via business relationships, and often, things are done by partners, not internally.
So, organizations have to be open and able to deal with the new way of doing business. That’s created tremendous opportunities for even more savings, but more importantly, more effective results — not just on the business-side or back‑office operations, but in the actual conduct of national security missions.
The key thing that I’ve learned from my experience in the private sector is the importance of the relationship between the private sector and this customer base. There are so many people in the contractor community that are integral to the execution of defense and intelligence. And together, we have to rise up to meet these challenges. And I’m humbled and happy to be part of that.
Another thing that’s amazing to me is that I have the opportunity to work with some of the brightest and smartest young people, who help keep this 58‑year‑old thinking like he’s 18. What’s important about that opportunity is that it motivates me every day, and it helps me drive the organization to be thinking about new ways to solve a customer’s problem. But we need solutions not only for today; we need them for the future as well.
As a result, it’s just an exciting industry to be in. Seventeen years ago, I never thought I’d be in this industry for this long.