December 8, 2009
SAP executives at their annual Influencer Summit in Boston on Tuesday laid out a broad outline of the company's five-year product and technology vision. They emphasized integrated business analytics, software packages, and on-demand, cloud-based extensions to applications, to enable customers to avoid difficult upgrades while tapping new capabilities.
Several trends are behind SAP's strategic thrust, including the evolution of in-memory computing and analytics, the pervasiveness of mobile users, and the overall desire of customers to deploy applications quickly, SAP chief technology officer Vishal Sikka said.
With the cost of memory dropping and speed increasing, in-memory computing and analytics will allow for complex "real, real time" analytics of business data, Sikka said. "Limitless amounts of data can be analyzed, with the ability for users to ask any questions," he said.
Business analytics will continue to be integrated into SAP's product suite. For example, financial applications will be packaged with the templates and tools for financial services users to do on the fly calculation and analysis regardless of where structured or unstructured data resides.
The pervasiveness of mobile computing and social networking also have SAP developing applications and extensions, which will allow wireless users to collaborate and utilize SAP and non-SAP related data for on the fly computing.
"Sixty to seventy percent of the population have mobile devices" said Don Bulmer SAP VP industry relations, adding that mobile gear is the preferred communications and computing platform. "There are lots of opportunities for SAP," he said.
SAP users want to be able to use social networking sites such as Facebook to collaborate, said SAP executive board member Jim Hagemann Snabe. "Companies want to take advantage of these technologies without disrupting business," he said. Much of SAP's innovation focus will revolve around flexible extensions to core applications and processes, which can be developed and deployed quickly, via an on-demand or on-premise model, said Hegemann Snabe.
Some of the on-demand products SAP is now working on include travel expense applications, supply chain, and human capital management.
SAP is also increasingly focused on packaged solutions for various industries, including high growth or rebounding sectors like financial services. Those apps will come with integrated best practices, content, and analytics.
Pay as you go models will also be available for customers as they grow with their SAP applications, said John Schwarz, a member of SAP's board. "We've already switched some customers to a term-based, subscription-based license," he added.
As for the cloud, SAP plans to let customers take a stepwise-migration approach to cloud computing. Most customers, especially large ones, don't want to make a jump to the cloud or replace all their current applications. "Customers can decide what pace they want to move into a new world," said Hegemann Snabe.
While smaller customers often lean towards public clouds, most larger customers moving to the cloud are doing that on private cloud platforms, said Sikka. "We have test systems in public clouds, but more take towards private clouds," he noted. SAP is also working to bridge clouds, private and public, bring data seamlessly between both environments, he added.
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