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SAP Adds Virtualization To Its Cloud Agenda

Application vendor partners with Cisco, EMC and VMware; plans more services-based apps and a July reintroduction of Business ByDesign.

Among the three pillars of the on-premise, on-demand and on-device product strategy SAP articulated at the SAPPHIRE conference this week, the on-demand pillar is currently more about plans than actual products. Nonetheless, SAP did announce progress by way of a partnership with the Cisco-EMC-VMware Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition. SAP also announced plans for more Software-as-a-Service applications and a more definitive date for the rerelease of the SMB-focused Business ByDesign ERP suite.

SAP announced today that it is testing app deployments on the VCE coalition's Vblock virtualization infrastructure. Introduced late last year, Vblock combines computing, network, storage, security, management and virtualization technologies from Cisco, EMC and VMWare. Vblock will help customers deliver shared services through private clouds, according to SAP. SAP customer Levi Strauss has tested enterprise apps running on Vblock in a lab environment, and it declared the pilot project a success.

"The results are significant and highly compelling, clearly showing how a private cloud could help us better manage our SAP landscape and contain costs," said Levi Strauss CIO Tom Peck in a statement issued today by SAP.

SAP said Vblock will help customers cut costs by lowering hardware and software expenditures, reducing planning and design requirements through replication, and reducing risk by reusing proven deployments. It could also be used by hosting partners to improve scalability and deployment density, raising efficiency by leveraging existing hardware and software through virtualization. Cincinnati Bell is expected to announce today that it will become an SAP hosting partner, and it will use Vblock as the foundation of its virtualized delivery approach.

SAP did not specify today when or how it will formally release Vblock-based virtualization options. It's a front on which SAP is lagging behind some of its competitors. Lawson Software, for example, has recently released an array of deployment-ready private-cloud, virtualized application and Amazon EC2-based app hosting options.

On the SaaS front, SAP announced at SAPPHIRE that it will replace it's SAP CRM On Demand offering later this year with an improved Sales On Demand application touted as offering Facebook- and Twitter-like collaboration capabilities. Incorporating elements of SAP's recently released StreamWork SaaS application, the planned Sales On Demand app seems to answer the Chatter collaboration capabilities Salesforce.com has been broadly beta testing in anticipation of release this summer.

In his keynote on Tuesday, SAP co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe also announced that SAP will add to its portfolio of targeted "extension" apps delivered SaaS style but designed to be integrated with on-premise ERP deployments. SAP already offers SaaS apps for e-sourcing and travel-and-expense management. A carbon-impact app is to be added in July, and Hagemann Snabe mentioned sales force automation and talent management as other areas for extension apps.

Of course, Business By Design has been SAP's primary SaaS offering-in-waiting for more than 18 months. Hagemann Snabe said SAP is now accepting new subscriptions for the small- and midsized-business ERP and CRM suite in anticipation of a volume-ready launch across multiple continents in late July.

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