The apps vendor announces multiple mobile, in-memory, and on-demand platforms, products, and partnerships at its user conference.

Doug Henschen, Executive Editor, Enterprise Apps

May 18, 2011

5 Min Read

You can't fault SAP for a lack of vision. Since taking charge of the company 15 months ago, co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe have consistently hammered away on the themes of mobile, in-memory, and on-demand innovation. The hard sell at this week's Sapphire user conference was not so much about products as it was about what customers can do to transform their businesses.

That's not to say there weren't plenty of platform, product, and partnership announcements at Sapphire. On the mobile front, the company introduced the 2.0 version of the Sybase Unwired mobile platform, newly integrated with SAP application infrastructure and complemented by a software development kit for custom mobile app development. SAP announced 19 new SAP and Sybase mobility applications, set to debut in September. Dozens of partners on the show floor demoed mobile apps--invariably shown on tablet computers--built on SAP apps and infrastructure.

On the in-memory computing front, SAP chairman Hasso Plattner announced that the Hana appliance will be available in general release at the end of June, and he claimed 20X performance gains and big hardware cost savings tied to data compression and elimination of redundant storage and management layers.

CTO Vishal Sikka presented, by way of video testimonials, more than a dozen Hana pilot deployments by customers including BSH Bosch and Siemens, Caterpillar, Colgate Palmolive, Nestle, and Procter & Gamble.

The in-memory appliance delivers speedy analysis of both large-scale data and "real, real-time" data, meaning up-to-second data from transactional systems. Sikka noted "renewed and reimagined" capabilities such as instant profitability, customer, and workforce analysis, what-if simulation and planning, and real-time reporting.

Among several "completely new, never-before-possible" applications, Sikka shared a video testimonial from Canoe, a cable company joint venture that has a pilot application running on Hana that customizes delivery of ads to millions of individual cable subscribers in real time based on what they're viewing at the moment--which programs they’re watching, while they’re watching them, and which commercials they view and which ones they skipped and changed channels.

SAP also announced Hana Cloud, an Internet-delivered version of Hana. Customer Glen De Vries, president of Medidata Solutions, offered a live, iPad-based demo of the company's on-demand drug-clinical-trial platform with a new Hana-Cloud-based reporting and analysis application. De Vreis said embedded Hana Cloud services will enable Medidata's drug-company customers to quickly analyze billions of rows of patient data to monitor the progress, and cost, of clinical trials. By most accounts, cloud computing has been the weakest of SAP's innovation thrusts. The on-demand Business ByDesign (BBD) suite is SAP's poster child for its cloud computing initiatives, and reporters and analysts at Sapphire peppered co-CEOs McDermott and Hagemann-Snabe with plenty of questions about the seemingly conservative goal of bringing just 1,000 customers onto the platform by year's end.

Looking beyond BBD, there were a number of notable cloud-related announcements at Sapphire. For starters, Sales OnDemand, a new sales-force automation application built on BBD, will hit general release by the end of June. This was expected.

More notable, though not prominently highlighted during Sapphire, was a deal with Amazon Web Services. SAP said it has certified the SAP BusinessObjects release and more than a dozen Rapid Deployment Solution (RDS) applications to run in Amazon's cloud. RDS apps are slimmed-down, pre-configured versions of standard SAP applications. The RDS list covers sales and marketing, supply chain, product development, manufacturing, and finance apps.

Third-party partners will provide application deployment and management services to run SAP apps in Amazon's cloud, and SAP says it's working on licensing and subscription schemes that will support expected cloud-computing capabilities, including quickly scalable capacity, both up and down, and paying only for the resources used. SAP said the combined cost of licensing, management services, and Amazon Web services for the RDS customer relationship management app would be lower than the cost of subscribing to

SAP also announced private-cloud and public-cloud services with Dell and Verizon, expanding on existing hosted service capabilities. In total, SAP actually announced quite a bit related to cloud computing, but it all took a backseat to the in-memory and mobile developments.

In an interview with InformationWeek, co-CEO Hagemann-Snabe acknowledged that SAP needs to articulate its cloud message more strongly. He noted that SAP is going after cloud computing in multiple markets. Not just BBD, but extension applications, such as Sales OnDemand, and business intelligence in the cloud, with BusinessObjects on Amazon and the new Hana Cloud service. A deal with Verizon will put the Sybase Unwired Mobile application infrastructure and the Afaria device management capabilities in the cloud so companies can subscribe to services rather than deploying infrastructure.

"We're conservative in talking about the cloud because we went to market too early with Business ByDesign, and we burned our fingers by talking about something without having it," Hagemann-Snabe said, referring to the original introduction of BBD in late 2007. "I would rather have it and show it than talk about it."

With this week's announcements, SAP has clearly delivered big progress on the mobile and in-memory fronts. The company let customers do most of the talking about how the technology is transforming their businesses. Some of the general-release products are still just over the horizon--Hana and Sales OnDemand in June, 19 new mobile applications in September, with more to come by year's end.

Having largely delivered on what they promised, McDermott, Hagemann-Snabe, Sikka, and Plattner returned again and again to the imperative for companies to reimagine and reinvent their businesses. It's a challenge and a plea for customers to take the technology and become one of those best-run businesses SAP features in its ad campaigns.

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About the Author(s)

Doug Henschen

Executive Editor, Enterprise Apps

Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of Transform Magazine, and Executive Editor at DM News. He has covered IT and data-driven marketing for more than 15 years.

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