SAP Teched 2012, Las Vegas – It’s All Good In The Hood


I reached back home few hours ago from SAP Teched Vegas. As always, it was a terrific event that magically gets better every year. Huge congratulations to SAP, and especially to Chip Rodgers for excellent execution. SAP paid for my flights and hotel (thank you very much) since I went there as a blogger . A big thanks to Mike Prosceno (herder for bloggers) and Mark Finnern (herder for mentors) for being such great hosts. Surprisingly, the food at lunch time was quite good this time unlike many previous events.

Unfortunately, I did not get to spend much time at innojam this time due to conflicts in schedule. Its probably the first time I have not competed or judged. I hope it is the last time – it is a terrific event, and I am looking forward to Madrid. I am always amazed at how much effort goes into it from Anne Hardy and gang. SAP is lucky to have them.

Congratulations to my colleague and friend Tomas Krozjl for being named Hana Distinguished Engineer , and to fellow mentor Martin Gillet for taking this photo of us http://twitpic.com/b54jpd

The blogger and mentor meetings were more manageable this time compared to prior events. So I used most of that time to network – and caught up with several fellow SAP tribe members (and chiefs). And since the information is now more continuous in its flow to influencer community, I did not have to worry about running from session to session trying to find latest information . Admittedly, the excitement part of Teched was low for me – but satisfaction level was higher. It was a lot of fun doing the daily wraps with Dennis, John, Jon and Harald for JD-OD. And we even tried live streaming.

Of course HANA was the big theme of Vishal Sikka’s keynote. It was probably Vishal’s best key note till date. If there is one thing SAP needs to get better at – it is the length of the key notes . It is now a common thing for these sessions to go over time. While the content was quite good – I would have loved to see some customers, developers and the new batch of Hana Distinguished Engineers on the stage. In my opinion, it would have made the event 3 times more effective and enjoyable. Hopefully this will change by Madrid. I loved it that Vishal got several members of his senior leadership team on stage to share the spot light.

I was not sure how Oracle would respond after the infamous #OOW hash tag hijack by SAP when Openworld was going on. I give full credit to Oracle for not responding in kind at teched. They took the high road , and I hope ORACLE and SAP don’t resort to doing anything silly on social media during Madrid SAPPHIRE, and dare I say “ever after” .

The messaging on HANA is getting better. I was happy to see less emphasis on speed, and more on transformation, and a move towards HANA as a platform. A few announcements got my attention.

1. Netweaver Cloud (despite the Netweaver tag, which I wish SAP loses quickly) is now GA. http://www.sap.com/solutions/technology/cloud/netweaver/index.epx . Go here to get dev licenses – http://scn.sap.com/community/developer-center/  – and they are free and indefinite, As Anne Hardy tweeted.

2. HANA One is available for productive use (AWS version of HANA). http://www.experiencesaphana.com/community/solutions/cloud-info . It is about 64GB in size, which in effect can only hold about 30 GB data, making it near impossible to use it for a real production use case. Once bigger images are a reality, this should become a great model for using Hana . There is no SAP support you can expect for this deployment now. You need to depend on “community” support. Actually not too bad, since community support for HANA has in general been terrific in my experience.

3. MRP on HANA is now available, which should speed up MRP runs quite a bit in ECC, and at least some customers should find that relieving . I am waiting to see the business benefits pilot customers got.

4. Ariba and SFSF will run on HANA in future. This will give serious street cred to Hana when it happens. Replatforming is never easy – and I know this from running a huge replatforming program for a customer for a mission critical non-SAP business application. SAP has a lot of great talent – I am sure they won’t replatform, just for the sake of replatforming.

By Madrid, I expect this to get even better, with a lot of customer stories available. There are only 603 HANA customers now – so SAP has some ways to go. SAP also should weave all these into “we have only one platform” story in Madrid.

I also wanted to point out that I was rather confused that SAP chose to hold a SAP HANA Council at New York, the same week as Teched was happening. Why would they do that at all? This is one week where all the SAP technology executives should be at Teched and addressing customers, developers and partners at their largest technology conference. From the outside, it did look to me like two parts of SAP went in their parallel ways with holding two events the same week, with more or less similar agenda.

I was thrilled to see SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott at Teched, and had a chance to engage him in conversation. This is very important for SAP to do at Techeds. Bill was of course on his A game as always, and gave an excellent and lively Q&A session. When he said “Not everything is about making money”, I could totally visualize him debating someone in a future presidential election 🙂

Mobility and Cloud did not get as much attention in keynotes as they deserve, but I will give SAP a pass till Madrid.

There were a half dozen  things that stood out for me this time, and let me spend a couple of sentences on each

1. Hana Startup Program

By far, this was the best meeting at a Teched that I have attended, and SAP should be shouting these start up stories from rooftops. What was very greatifying to hear was some start ups clearly saying they could not have done this in any other technology. Kaustav is definitely doing a bang up job running this program.

2. Usability

I was quite impressed with Sam Yen’s vision of how he intends to make usability discussions go away when talking about SAP. It is a tall order given the history of hundreds of thousands of ugly screens (by today’s standards). Persona’s – which lets a non-technical user to make their screens look better very quickly – are a great idea. No points for guessing Dennis Browne and team made this possible. They are rock stars. What I liked the most about the hour spent with Sam is the idea of getting better usability without boiling the ocean. It is a targeted approach of identifying the right screens for each customer. It is fairly easy technically, since Kernel upgrades are all it needs . No enhancement packs are needed. Now – not all is well. It is built using Silverlight technology, and it will take time to move it to HTML5. And it costs money to buy the repeatable custom solution . The big competition is from good old GUIXT. But all things said, this is a great move by SAP. And good luck to SAP for taking this role.

3. SAP Store

Dan Maloney explained his vision of how all the SAP stores – things like ecohub that SAP built, and things like eShops that came to SAP via acquisitions – will all merge into one store. I was skeptical that SAP AEs will not like it, but was pleasantly surprised to hear AEs will be compensated even if customers buy from stores. This will take a couple of years to see light of day in full fledged form, but is definitely the right thing to do. Dennis Howlett would be happy to hear that the store will also list prices in public. I am looking forward to seeing more in Madrid

4. Juniors @ SAP

If there is only one video that you watch about Teched , watch this https://www.sapvirtualevents.com/teched/embed.aspx?sid=3460 . Very few things make me emotional at tech conferences. Seeing these kids in action definitely made me very emotional . A big shout out to my friend John Astill.

5. Business Intelligence

I also had an opportunity to chat with Michael Reh a couple of times . He manages engineering for BI clients. I was genuinely impressed by the hanalytics product he showed us mentors. I also appreciated how candid he was of the bumpy road that BI 4.0 had to take, and steps he is taking to make it less bumpy going forward. And I loved his Jaein ( Ja and Nein) answers . I asked Michael if he felt bad about BI products being discounted heavily to aid non discounted Hana sales . His answer was upbeat – he did not see any issue as SAP will get paid either way, and it doesn’t matter to him whether it is Hana or BI that brings in the money . I admire that answer – I would have felt terrible if I was in his shoes . If Vishal ever need a good solid use case for his “timeless software”, “non disruptive innovation” and “kill the layers” principles, BI is a perfect candidate.

6. Dogfooding @ SAP

I swung by the “SAP runs SAP” booth to catchup with my pal Nathan Oyler . It was exciting to hear SAP’s own adventures with BW , CRM and ECC on Hana. I hope Nathan will blog about it soon . I will be honored to host his post as a guest blog any day . He is a great addition to Oliver Bussman’s team – along with Martin Lang et al.

I will close out this post with mentioning something that was greatly gratifying for me this week. I have not been a blogger for long. And many of you know that I have conflicts in my mind on how my readers, especially those who work for SAP, will interpret what I say on my blogs. I was put at ease considerably after discussing this topic with several people at Teched. A lot of SAP employees expressed their thanks for expressing my opinion in public domain, and some of them showed me long email threads discussing questions I raised in blogs at great length. A couple of people did point out that some of my criticism of SAP was off base, and unfair . But all things considered, I am a lot more at peace now about blogging than ever before.

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21 thoughts on “SAP Teched 2012, Las Vegas – It’s All Good In The Hood

  1. Vijay,

    great summary. would have been happy if you had mentioned anything about BPC or EPM in the Analytics section, given you have a deep BPS background, or did you not see anything significant.

    if you will make to sap teched in bangalore, it would be great to meet and catch up

    regards
    Muthu

  2. Hi Vijay

    Just a quick question about SAP HANA – do you think sap hana in memory computing is too volatile ?
    for example what is the power goes out and a backup generator fails and all the data is lost?

    how do companies overcome this problem?

  3. I am not yet convinced about SAP approaches on Usability. SAP has a tendency to come every 6 months with a new solution. Sometimes Less is more !
    My strong point of view is SAP left hand is not always discussing with right hand.
    I have seen recent products delivered by SAP which do not meet some basic usability requirement. With the current SAP Usability focus it should not happen anymore.
    Usability is not only about beauty.
    I know it will take time but I will urge SAP to think twice and not to enter into a marketing race around Usability.
    I prefer to wait 2 years to have a “Usability Step change” than to have every 3 or 6 months something which a partial step change which can not be introduced as the Customer Change management could justify this step change.

    If “Usability” was easy SAP will have solved it for a while (look at the history the number of tools introduced by SAP which have died).

  4. Enjoyed this blog as I like your model of providing information with your spin on what SAP is doing well and what they could be doing better. Most of all I like that you make a point to call out some of the people behind the scenes that dont always get the public credit they deserve.

    A few questions I had:

    1. Do you think customers will be able to make a business case around Persona’s as my understanding is it will be a separately licensed product. Usability has always been a valid concern for SAP customers and I would hate to see any barriers (ie licensing) on this being improved for them. On a side note there has been some real progress in the SAP HCM module called the HR Renewal, which has started to be released earlier this year. Here is a blog I recently wrote on it http://scn.sap.com/community/erp/hcm/blog/2012/10/10/sap-new-hr-renewal-functionality-and-roadmap

    2. Did you get any impressions on if SuccessFactors/Ariba on HANA would cost customers extra meaning there would be two deployment options (ie SF on HANA, SF “Normal”)?

    Great to see you give Oracle well deserved Kudos for staying away from escalating the “HANA war of words” but hopefully we are not giving them to much credit as well know Industry Analyst Vinnie Mirchandani recent tweeted “Cleary Oracle Fans have more client work to do than SAP Fans who seem to be on social media all the time!!!” so they may have just been to “busy” to respond in force 🙂

    As to the “Objective Perspective” comment above it is common enterprise software practice for the major vendors (ie Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, Workday) to pay for Airfare/Hotel to major events for analysts, press and folks they consider influencers of which Vijay has a well deserved standing. I would have a different opinion if Vijay had SAP sponsoring his blog as we all know industry folks who seem to let that cloud and influence their judgment/blogs.

    • Thanks Jarret !

      1. Personas will cost extra $$ . It is a repeatable custom solution as sap calls it . I don’t like charging more for a UI they already have

      2. No I did not get an idea that there will be 2 models. I doubt sap has decided that amount of detail yet 😉

      3. It’s funny Vinnie thinks sap ecosystem is less busy , considering he is an active social media dude too 😉

  5. Hmmmm…sounds like kind words that have been purchased. I don’t like the inherent conflict of paid bloggers.

  6. Dear Vijay,
    Great blog as always ..I watched the key note by Vishal and was totally surprised to see the 3 kids who built an application in neo in netweaver platform.. Great going..

  7. Hi Vijay,

    First of the TechEd finished and with the summary which you have written i can’t wait more for TechEd in India. Like you mentioned already, whenever there is a new product line offered from SAP it should also be talked about from the perspective of Engineers from SAP or from Partners, this is something even i missed during the last TechEd’s that i have been part of. With a Platform like HANA, it would have made the event all the more interesting for Customers and Partners to hear it from the Engineers.

    And last but not the least, I hope that we meet sometime, somewhere:)

    Regards,
    Harshit

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