SAPPHIRE was way cool – one of the most well-organized ones, and I enjoyed it very much, despite the extreme sleep deprivation that I had to endure. In general, I was quite excited with SAP’s messaging, and analyst commentary. But as soon as I left the convention center, I started thinking more about the messages I heard at SAPPHIRE, and I think I am not as excited as I was a few days ago. It was a mixed bag. Please check my blog I posted when I was on my way to Orlando. http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/scn/weblogs?blog=/pub/wlg/19247
Let me start with Sybase. For one – SAP paid a huge premium for Sybase. The only reason I can think of is that SAP fears some one else like ORACLE or HP might be ready to buy Sybase, and in the process put roadblocks to SAP’s way forward on enterprise mobility. SAP claims to have figured out in-memory data bases even before Sybase story came out – and Sybase is nowhere near the top-tier of enterprise DB market. Even in SAP ecosystem, I think Oracle and DB2 have the lion share. So this is not going to help SAP rule the DB market. On Analytics – SAP has BOBJ, which is top of the line. So it is hard to imagine that they need more from Sybase. So mobility is the only reason that is worth SAP paying this premium. But why pay that much when Sybase is already a big partner, and is committed to building SAP specific solutions?
Where this makes it confusing for me is that on one hand – SAP swears that they are committed to all the partners having an open level playing field. On the other hand – if a client gets a mobility pitch from a partner and Sybase tomorrow – which one will they choose? In today’s world – Sybase solutions are SAP CRM specific from what I know – and there are other partners that do other things. Post acquisition, I am pretty sure Sybase will become the de-facto standard. This looks like a repeat of BOBJ story in analytics world – it is true that other BI partners can still sell to SAP customers, but what is the long-term value proposition for non SAP BOBJ vendors any more when they sell BI to primarily SAP shops?
SAP cannot buy every company around – so of course they need partners to build things around their solutions. So I am not surprised that SAP reiterates its commitment to keeping it an open field for every one. But won’t partners now feel a constant fear that after they have invested in SAP solutions for a while, SAP will buy one of them – and leave others by the way side?
Now on to HANA and in-memory. I was super excited to hear that SAP is taking this route, and that they have something that customers can sign up for right away. On the flight back from Orlando, I posted these questions on my SAP blog and there has been some good discussion around it. http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/scn/weblogs?blog=/pub/wlg/19339 . Technical questions apart – SAP is a relative late entrant into this market. So calling it innovative is a stretch. Hasso had this idea a while ago. So what prevented this from getting productized for so long?
It was great to hear that Business By Design is finally ready for prime time. SAP also has a lot of side benefits due to this – they probably figured out how to scale with Agile, something that I am very keen to find out. Please check out the great discussion I had with Enterprise Geeks at http://enterprisegeeks.com/blog/2010/05/19/sapphire-agile-throwdown .Another plus is the use of Silverlight, a Microsoft technology that I think is superior to all the SAP UI tools currently available. I am fully bought in on Vishal Sikka’s position that SAP has way too many UIs to use just one common tool. but for all the good things – SAP leaders made a statement that sounded like “we do not have a firm target for growth of BBD “. Really? Would you just throw billion dollars at something that you have no real expectations for? Had to swallow that.
I just think it is plain funny when SAP talks about sustainability in these big events like SAPPHIRE. This is an event that makes such a lot of carbon emissions – high energy use for the many display gizmos, the jet setting executives, and many vendors and participants who fly to get there, and the massive air-conditioning that keeps participants alive in Orlando heat and humidity. Al Gore, Powell and the Virgin guy didn’t drive their hybrid cars to get to Orlando, did they? And did the SAP top guns fly commercial between Germany and US to appear at the concurrent events or did they fly in private jets? So yeah – it is very hard for me to buy into the whole sustainability pitch. It sounds hollow .
SAP is clearly in the top bracket of companies who have figured out how to use social media to its advantage. SCN has 2 million members and the SAP mentor program (of which I am a part) provides excellent input to SAP for free. SAP has a blogger program – which I think pays T&E for bloggers to come to these events, but in no way forces these bloggers to let go of their objectivity. And twitter helped several of us keep track of the massive event. That is extremely forward thinking and admirable. They are leading from the front – and other companies should watch and learn.
Finally, a couple of things on the leadership front. First and foremost – Hasso is still SAP’s superman. None of the others evoke the kind of passion he delivers. Bill and Jim are a perfect pairing – and I think SAP made a wise decision to do the Co-CEO thing again, especially with these two guys. And Vishal Sikka has all the qualities of a great tech visionary – and like the taste of good wine, his message gets more and more clear to people who follow SAP as time passes. I used to think John Schwarz was the next big leader at SAP – but I was wrong. he left, and probably took some of his trusted guys with him. Now with Sybase comes its CEO John Chen. He is an amazing leader – some one who successfully turned around Sybase and kept it growing despite a terrible economy. Will SAP manage to keep him and his team or will he too leave one day soon after the acquisition? I am very keen to see how that unfolds.