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5/19/2009
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Interop: SAP Sheds Light On Cloud Computing Plans

Execs point to future systems powered by SAP Business Suite and Business Objects along with SAP's CRM On-Demand and Business ByDesign.

SAP is lifting the lid on its plans to integrate its software with the world of cloud computing.

SAP has been knocked as a laggard in cloud computing. Its CEO of global field operations, Bill McDermott, said earlier this year that companies would never trust their core business processes to software as a service, and its Business ByDesign on-demand ERP suite is beset by delays and unmet predictions. However, SAP CTO Vishal Sikka said observers are dead wrong if they think SAP doesn't care about the cloud.

In a keynote address and interview at the Interop Conference and Expo in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Sikka broadly outlined SAP's cloud computing strategy and discussed the technical and business challenges the company needs to solve before doing things like ramping up the number of customers served by Business ByDesign.

SAP sees its opportunities in the cloud -- which it seems to define very broadly as all Internet-based services -- as threefold for now: enabling "business network service clouds" like iTunes that are powered by SAP Business Suite and Business Objects, complementary and integrated cloud-based services from SAP like CRM On-Demand, and a mission-critical business application suite in Business ByDesign.

However, there's plenty of work left to do and customers shouldn't expect anything like an SAP Business Suite in the cloud for the "foreseeable future," Sikka said. "We still have a long, long way to go when it comes to the cloud. Not only us, but the industry doesn't know how to deliver mission-critical business applications yet in the cloud. It is one thing to deliver CRM that runs on a transactional database and then call it a platform. It is entirely different to do complex analytics on top of it."

Sikka said mainstream adoption of cloud computing across the enterprise will take several years, as vendors work to get things like reliability, stability, security, and integration with on premises software right. However, SAP isn't standing still.

Later this summer, the company plans to begin announcing a number of new SAP On-Demand services, an initiative that will be headed up by new VP John Wookey. Already, SAP offers a few Internet-based services, like CRM On-Demand, but will add more in areas like human resources (talent management, contractor management, etc.) and procurement, Sikka said in an interview.

The company also will work to integrate the services it offers with its core SAP Business Suite on-premises software, much like Microsoft is doing with its "software plus services" strategy. One of the things that will help SAP with that integration work is technology and expertise SAP acquired when it bought struggling cloud platform startup Coghead earlier this year, according to Sikka. "We need to make sure the services we offer are integrated into the rest of our services," Sikka said.

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