IBM, SAP Strike Deeper Cloud Partnership

Building on their existing alliance, the two tech giants aim to collaborate and integrate IBM's cloud and cognitive computing platform with SAP's flagship S/4HANA business software suite.
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IBM and SAP are ramping up their cloud partnership, moving beyond a situation where the two companies have their technologies running side-by-side to one where they collaborate on offerings from the get-go, the companies announced Wednesday.

Under this expanded partnership, the companies plan to collaborate on new solutions and establish colocations in Walldorf, Germany, and Palo Alto, Calif.

"We're formalizing a complementary set of capabilities to simplify and speed outcomes for clients evolving to become cognitive enterprises," Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president of IBM Global Business Services, said in a statement.

The enterprise tech titans have six areas that that they expect to focus on as part of this collaboration.  One area is building on its cloud partnership that it formed in 2014, in which SAP's HANA Enterprise Cloud platform and applications run as a private-cloud service on IBM's infrastructure and software.

Under this new arrangement, the two companies will collaborate on cloud solutions for specific industries. SAP will now offer its HANA Enterprise Cloud customers running on IBM's IaaS the ability to pick up application maintenance and support services.

IBM, known for its artificial intelligence computing system Watson, plans to develop cognitive solutions for SAP S/4HANA as part of the expanded partnership.

On-premises cloud services will be another area where Big Blue and SAP will collaborate. Customers will have the option of choosing a hybrid or an on-premises cloud service via SAP HANA running on IBM Power systems. Support for this service will come from the new IBM Power Systems Center of Excellence for SAP HANA in Austin.

The companies plan to also collaborate on developing industry-specific road maps together and create collaborative consulting models.

Additionally, the collaboration is aimed at customer and user experiences. This effort will take the form of the IBM Interactive Experience, an operation that Big Blue touts as the world's largest digital agency, and SAP Global Design. The collaboration between these entities calls for working on predesigned experiences together. The result will allow customers to further customize the designs.

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"This new effort aims to align the companies' respective efforts in developing (and) promoting 'digital transformation' solutions among their clients. The aim here is to inspire enterprises to expand their adoption of evolving and next-generation technologies, including analytics and big data, cognitive computing, hybrid cloud, and mobile solutions," said Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT Inc., in an interview with InformationWeek.

He added that both companies stand to gain significantly, if the partnership succeeds. In IBM's case, the benefit includes sales of its various cloud, cognitive, and analytics services and solutions. SAP, meanwhile, would gain a similar benefit, though revenue will accrue through its own enterprise applications, cloud services, and HANA in-memory solutions.

"One interesting point of the deal regards collaborations between the companies' design groups," King said. "That could pay off significantly, especially relating to the vertical industry focus of the pair's planned solutions and how they leverage IBM's mobile efforts around Apple's iOS and hardware solutions."

While the companies stand to capture a number of benefits from the expanded partnership, it's more difficult to predict the benefits to customers, he noted.

"In the best possible outcomes, enterprise customers will gain access to increasingly powerful, easy-to-use services and solutions that will help their organizations adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and exploit new market opportunities. Even if IBM and SAP deliver on just part of their expected goals, their individual and shared customers should gain significant benefits."