May The Bridges I Burn Light The Way – I am Joining SAP !


First things first – I am not really burning any bridges 🙂

“Burning bridges” is usually construed as a negative thing – but I mean this in the most positive way. To move forward, I need to let go of parts of my past career. I will also be reusing most of what I learned so far.

That being said, after seven years of working in the global SAP consulting practice at IBM – today I have submitted my resignation to my manager. I have accepted the role of Global Vice President at SAP Labs, and will be working in The Technology and Innovation Platform team (known to friends and family as TIP) , which is Vishal Sikka’s Board area. Words cannot adequately express how happy and excited I am to join this amazing team.

I have been thinking about a change in my career direction for a while now. I decided about 6 months ago that I wanted a change from a traditional consulting career, and move to a software company. SAP of course was a natural choice given I have worked in that field all my life. To my delight, Vishal offered to hire me with IBM’s concurrence. I owe a lot to John Leffler, my boss at IBM, who was totally supportive of me moving to SAP. I am extremely lucky to have a mentor like John. I decided to stay in IBM till end of 2012 to finish all my commitments here, and start the new year at SAP. January 7th, 2013 will be my first day at SAP.

IBM has been an awesome employer for me. I had a lot of diverse assignments, and worked in 3 continents in my tenure there. My last job as the head of forward engineering was probably the most rewarding. In this role – my team and I were able to take cutting edge innovations from SAP and IBM to our customers. I will miss working with Gagan and the gang, but I am sure I will have an opportunity to partner with them in my new job too. The three biggest lessons I take with me from IBM, as I step into SAP are
1. Talent only wins games, Teamwork wins championships .
2. One needs multiple mentors to have a rewarding professional life
3. Investing in ecosystem relationships is the smart thing to do

Details of my new job are still being worked out – but the general idea is to SAP scale its innovations, and reach a large number of customers and users. My dream is for SAP to be able to run a victory lap someday in foreseeable future with a slogan “Earth Runs SAP”. I strongly believe SAP has the potential to touch the life of majority of the world’s population every day in some form in a few years. Between its smart employees, loyal customers and its extensive ecosystem – I think this is a goal worth attempting ( and for my cynical friends – I’ll add, OR DIE TRYING 🙂 )

I do plan to continue to post on this blog as usual. As you probably know – I blog about pretty much anything that takes my fancy – software, music, food, sports, politics, economics – they are all fair game. Hey, I might even write something about IBM from time to time 🙂

Right out of college, till now, I have always worked for an SI. I have never worked for a software company before. So a part of me is worried whether I will add enough value to SAP. But then, this is an area I know well for many years, and I am still a hands on techie ( for the most part, that is . I am sure someone in my team might contest this notion ). And I know a lot of people at SAP, including several who work in TIP. So I know who to call for help, and I am never shy. So the other part of me thinks I can come up to speed reasonably quickly. I will keep you folks posted on how I manage.

I have been considered an SAP influencer and blogger for some time now. Obviously Mike Prosceno has to kick me out of his program now. It will be fun to see my blogger colleagues on the other side of the table going forward. Knowing them as well as I do, I don’t expect them to cut me a lot of slack with their questions 🙂

There are a large number of friends at SAP who gave me generous amounts of their time in the last couple of months, as I bombarded them with questions on how various things work at SAP. I can’t thank them enough. I am not going to take any names – but you know who you are, and please know that I am very grateful for all your help and guidance.

Last but not least – many thanks to my friends and mentors Vishal Sikka, Abdul Razack and Sanjay Poonen for the opportunity to work in their team. I truly appreciate that.

Wish me luck !

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If Innovation Doesn’t Scale, How Do Vendors Ensure Mass Adoption ?


Few weeks ago, I posted my thoughts on n whether enterprise software companies can scale innovation . I was thrilled to see the quality of debate that this post started – with Thorsten Franz, Michael Bechauf et al jumping in to offer their POVs.

So my next question is – if you cannot come up with innovation after innovation, how do you ensure that the few that have real potential have massive adoption ? Adoption is what makes or breaks software. This is especially true for larger SW companies because they have to make up for the big overheads to remain profitable, keep the lights on existing stuff, and invest in new things. In no particular order, here are a half dozen ideas that come to mind. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but just random thoughts that have been in my mind for some time. Please chime in with your thoughts

1. Evangelize – but more holistically than today

This is easier said than done. Not everyone makes a good evangelist. Evangelists for SW have to cater to different parts of the ecosystem – developers, customers, partners etc. SW evangelists can use some models that seem to work in the world of religion. Evangelists do not preach to the choir – that is just a waste of effort. They are constantly trying to go from place to place and spread the word to people who have not heard the message before. Once people show sufficient interest, the trick is to make sure they don’t change their mind. But the evangelist – who is used to taking extreme stances for good effect on people who need a big leap, are seldom the right people to preach to the already converted. Otherwise, they will run the risk of many of the newly converted ones being put off by their efforts. So there is a need for someone else to take over and keep a steady influence on people who have shown an interest. Compare this to religious groups who meet once a week, and a priest talks to them in a language toned down from the one that evangelists use.

This second part is by and large missing from software evangelism. And I think that is affecting the way adoption is happening, especially with developers. Developers need to be evangelized a few times to get them excited, but if there is no follow up – they will drift away to the messages of the next evangelist.

2. Limit POCs that cannot scale by definition, after the first few are done

When new software comes out, you of course needs a bunch of customers to use it for high impact use cases. And by definition, these POCs are way too specific to be reused elsewhere. There is no way around it – it is a necessary evil in the grand scheme of things. The trick here is to make sure customers don’t look at these as science projects that can shut down the moment vendor team walks out of the door with declarations of victory.

These projects need to be tried out in limited numbers with your most loyal customers. But – set up expectations clearly and for the long term. Agree on what the customer will reasonably need to see for calling the results a success. And then make sure it means – if it is successful, they will take it to production.

This needs some organizational adjustments on vendor side. The black belt warriors who do crazy good POCs seldom have time or inclination to make reference architectures, maintainable code etc. Forcing them to do these will only decrease their efficiency. So I would expect a follow on squad to take up the job of making the project “production quality”, and build as much reuse as possible.

3. Don’t be penny wise, pound foolish – use the ecosystem

Enterprise software companies thrive on ecosystem – so use that to your advantage. No one company can hire enough people to do everything by themselves. There is always a tendency to think that you can make more money by trying to do everything yourself, especially when large amounts of money has been sunk already into products. However, this comes with the risk that adoption will slow down quite a bit. If business is shared with ecosystem partners – you can grow the pie, instead of dividing a small pie into really small chunks. Again – easier said than done. It takes strong sales leadership to take that long term view.

4. Talk where the action is

Existing customers have only so much budget to go around. And existing developers are already fond of you – so they are not running away in a hurry. So – rather than try all the new innovations on the existing base and build up an echo chamber, try to grow the base. This is very very hard – since there is the fear of the unknown. Recruit from places you have never recruited before. Hire consultants from areas you have never hired before. Attract new customers – even if they are only a tiny part of the revenue stream.

5. Software is a game of needs, not a game of wants.

Get better at portfolio management. This is a big problem for enterprise companies – they cling on to everything they ever created. And on top of that – they try to be everything to everyone. When there is only limited budget to go around – why is it that companies try to spread it really thin?

6. If you have money lying around, try financing your customers

Economy is in bad shape. Very few companies want to spend money now – they would rather wait for things to turn for the better before they let go of their purse strings. But if vendors are cash rich – try offering some financing to your customers who have good credit ratings. Not only can you move more product, you will also make some money from interest. Some companies already do it well – but most do not.

On Business, IT And Artificial Distinctions


Whoever started the concept of IT treating Business as a customer did a big disservice to the world. Don’t get me wrong – I grew up thinking that Business is the dog, and IT is its tail, and the tail does not get to wag the dog. My thinking has evolved a lot recently, mostly because in the last few years – I got more exposure to some forward thinking CXOs.

IT is not the only cost center in a business, and neither is it usually the biggest in head count or budgets. Yet why is it that CIOs have to treat others – from both profit centers and cost centers – as customers? How many times have you heard the head of HR or Marketing refer to their fellow  leaders as customer? IT is as much a part of business as HR and Marketing, and hence should not be expected or forced to be subservient to rest of the organization.  How many organizations can even last a week in business these days if IT did not operate with great efficiency? That being the case – why not give IT its due place at the table for decision making?

There is only one customer – the end customer who pays the bills. IT, and everyone else like Sales, Marketing and HR have to work together to delight that one customer. Any change from that singular focus to create an artificial distinction between internal and external customers is just a waste of precious time, money and resources, and rarely results in anything good.

IT is a competitive differentiator – and rest of the organization needs to understand and appreciate that. If IT does not do a good job, it is virtually impossible for rest of the organization to do internal or external work efficiently. And those companies that have better IT capabilities typically have an edge over those that do not. That being said – not all CIOs do a good job in making a case for IT to be treated on par with other parts of the organization.

In most cases, CIO budgets have shrunk over time, or have remained flat. And the vast majority of the CIO budget is just spent on keeping the lights on.  The question is – how many CIOs can spend more time with other parts of business to impact top line and bottom line, compared to the time they spend on operations? If they spend most of their time on operations – obviously, their chance of earning the respect of their peers and leaders decreases. Don’t get me wrong – ops are very important, but that needs to get into a model that sustains itself with minimal supervision. Outsourcing might be a way for CIOs to get to spend less time on worrying about ops, but that is not to say it is a magic bullet. That is a whole another topic though.

The budget constraint is an artificial one in several cases. Budget is a constraint only when there is no way to prove that value obtained through the spend is greater than the cost involved.  Some of the smartest CIOs I know of don’t worry about budgets for the most part. They know that if they approach their peers with proposals that show value greater than cost, they have good chances of securing the budget. Sadly, not all CIOs operate this way. And these are the type of CIOs who are consulted by their peers in rest of the organization on how to take the company to the next level. They are a far cry from being order takers.

Several vendors have latched on to this distinction of IT and Business big time – especially software and SaaS vendors. Their mantra these days is that “We are all about the business, and not about IT” . In some cases this just translates into “CIO’s office will poke so many holes in our offering that we will never close a sale, so we try to circumvent them by going to other parts of business and say that IT is blocking them from earth shattering progress” . In other cases, these vendors have a genuine case to go to non IT buyers directly. But from the customer’s stand point – it makes perfect sense for rest of organization to involve the CIOs office in IT buying decisions. At the very least – this will make sure that non functional requirements like security, scalability, roadmap etc will get more thoroughly checked out before issuing the PO. It should also be not forgotten that IT will probably need to live with supporting the solution once it is implemented.

There are plenty of pundits – and CIOs – out there who say that for IT to be effective, the CIO needs to report to the CEO. I have not seen any real evidence in real life scenarios to support this claim. Reporting to the CEO usually will mean the CEO just becomes a bottleneck to making several IT decisions. This is not to say CIO should not have access to CEO – he or she should of course have access. But adding an additional layer or two should not hurt all that much. CIOs mostly report to CFOs or to head of procurement in several companies. I fully expect them to report to CMOs at some companies too. As CIOs do more and more to help in front line business, I think the conventional org chart will see the impact. But the converse that org chart is what drives CIO success lacks merit in my limited experience.

That was a lengthier rant than I thought I would go into. Many thanks to my buddies who debated this endlessly today with me . Lets keep the conversation going. And sincere thanks to the client CXOs who helped change my views on this matter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Appleby says , It’s Cloudy out there…


For the first time ever on my blog, I have a guest post by my dear friend, John Appleby – fellow SAP mentor, blogger and an executive at Bluefin, in London, UK.  So without further ado – Ladies and Gentlemen,  I present to you, John Appleby 🙂

 

When you go to a major conference, tributes to the blogging gods must be paid. Not because we have to, but because the creative energy that surrounds such an event makes you think. And in this case I’d like to thank my good friend Vijay for hosting my thoughts.

And it was so that a senior executive in SAP came over to me whilst I was stuffing my face at lunch and said “John, if I understand you correctly, you believe it is still Cloudy?”. He was referring to their cloud strategy but I realised that actually, I have no clue what an Enterprise Cloud Strategy looks like.

It is true that there are two broad cloud business models that indisputably work.

Small and Medium Enterprises – the suite

I know that if I were starting a new business, I wouldn’t invest in IT assets. I would let each employee expense a laptop and provide then access to some cloud services. And it is so that Netsuite has grown to a $236m revenue over 12000 customers which means an average of $1600 per customer per month. Margins are low but customers are buying.

So as a small business, organisations may buy from a single vendor or from a collection – depending on what suits the needs best. Either way there is no desire to have expensive IT assets in an office somewhere.

Large Enterprises – innovation in LoB

Large Enterprise ERPs are inflexible and as a result, organisations like Salesforce, Workday and so on have poached customers from the large ERP vendors like SAP or Oracle. There are a small number of such potential solutions that are horizontal (i.e. apply to all industry verticals) and a very large number that are industry-specific.

Salesforce Automation, Procurement, Cash Management, Credit Management, Talent Management – all of these and more are relevant such areas.

Is there a demand for a Large Enterprise Cloud Suite?

I’ve spent several late nights discussing this with all manner of people, including good friend Dennis Howlett who claims “the suite always wins”. He might be right but I think that it is in conflict with the current cloud market dynamic.

The reason for this is because right now, it is a number of niche players that have thrown together an app, integration and have created massive demand. But the operating margins are very slim. For Salesforce it is 6%. For Success Factors, there is a small loss. The same for Ariba.

Most of those companies survive as far as they have by trying to grab land as fast as possible and by creating platforms that move quickly but are not carefully architected. So suppose you want some of this market – would you rather try and build something, or acquire?

The problem in building a platform

The challenge is simple: those organisations throwing together a platform can barely make the economics work. But if you build a full cloud platform then you lose agility and add cost. This makes no sense at all economically, and nor could you compete with the niche LoB players like Salesforce, that are normally bought directly by the business.

How do you convince Sales and HR that they should buy a common platform? What is the benefit of that? What’s more there is very limited benefit in doing Financials at all – it’s just a means for posting.

Is land grab the only strategy?

This leads us to what SAP have been doing so far. They acquired Successfactors for $3.3B and Ariba for $4.3B. Given that Salesforce and Workday are not for sale, there are not many horizontal vendors left. The major area is that of areas of Finance – cash management and credit management. Are there others? Other than that there are a bunch of LoB apps focussed on Industry Verticals.

But in the end, I suspect that grabbing users and apps is the only relevant strategy right now. What happens next is the interesting part. Common sense dictates that Dennis is right and the suite will win in time, and therefore the only sensible strategy has to be to build out a suite to underpin land grab.

Final Thoughts

One thing is for sure – I wouldn’t want to have Lars Dalgaard’s job. Getting this part right is near impossible. It’s cloudy out there.

SAP SAPPHIRENOW 2012 – some expectations


The annual pilgrimage to SAPPHIRENOW is only a couple of weeks away from now.  SAP CEOs have announced a five pronged strategy that includes mobility, analytics, database, cloud and apps.

Right off the bat – I am not a fan of this “5 market” strategy, given the “kitchen sink” approach. SAP just comes off as trying hard to be everything to everybody, and does not give the impression of having a value proposition that differentiates them. SAP has clear leadership in Apps and Analytics, and has a fair shot at databases. Cloud and Mobility are not in that league yet. Consequently, I am just looking for SAP to clarify its plans for mobility, cloud and database.

Nearly every time I have asked such questions, SAP has kindly responded to me with answers – usually GREAT answers. Sad to say, it was always under NDA and usually that did not get lifted in a useful time frame, and sometimes – like with HANA questions I asked in my blog – the NDA was NEVER lifted. So I hope this time around, SAP does the needful on that front so that I can share with you folks what I learn.

Database

Yes we know HANA is the next best thing to …well, everything 🙂 . We know it is fast for sure. So what more should SAP say and do?

1. Can SAP show during the keynote that it has great DR/HA features? As in –  can Hasso/Vishal pull the plug on the box while keynoting and show us nothing will happen to the data?

2. Now that BPC etc runs on HANA – can Bill and Jim come on stage and show how they run their business on HANA? May be simulate an ops review with their team for 5 minutes on stage?

3. Has SAP figured out more business apps on HANA that make sense for broad customer base?

4. What is the current thinking of going after “we will be the number 2 DB vendor by 2015” ? Is that still the goal? or like how Vishal explained in the San Francisco meeting few weeks ago – will SAP shift messaging to become the fastest growing DB vendor?

5. How will all the DB offerings work together – like IQ, ASE, HANA etc? Why should customers take SAP seriously in DB?

6. How many start up companies have come forward to use of the multi million dollar fund SAP announced in San Francisco event last month?

Cloud

All eyes will be on cloud, especially with the SFSF acquisition. I saw Lars Dalgaard presenting at DKOM in Santa Clara, and he is full of energy, and is very different in approach from what I have typically seen of SAP executives. I am looking forward to how SAP makes use of his talent in the big stage. OK, so on to questions

1. What is SAP’s differentiating message for cloud? For being a relatively late entrant to the business – what does SAP tell customers to convey that they are not just a “me too” player in this space?

2. What does SFSF acquisition mean for SAP customers and SFSF customers?  What changes for them?

3. Since we know Lars Dalgaard is the new leader for cloud, what does that mean organizationally? How does SAP ensure architecture and product consistency across all its offerings if Cloud has its own separate team?

4. What is coming up in near term as SaaS offerings from SAP that customers can buy?

5. As an outside coming in to SAP leadership team, what does Lars think of SAP’s cloud performance so far? What is his vision of how SAP should move forward in cloud, and with increased speed?

6. What is in it for partners and developers in the cloud business?

7. Will SAP’s cloud offerings on mobility be made free?

8. What is SAP’s strategy for collaboration with multiple products now in portfolio?

Mobility

With Sanjay Poonen in charge, I do think mobility will be a great area for SAP going forward. SAP made some good partnership announcements with phonegap,Sencha etc which is all good. And now on to questions

1. What is SAP’s message to mobile developers? I think that message is best delivered by Sanjay Poonen, and I hope Sanjay does a keynote on this topic.

2. Having announced the storefront last year, how is SAP doing on that topic? How many apps are there ? how many have been sold ? How many are working on all devices?

3. Last year we heard developers have to make use of SUP if their wares have to be sold via SAP store. But with newly announced partnerships with Sencha etc – obviously that does not make sense anymore. So what is the story now?

4. HANA had a big VC fund announced by SAP. Will Mobility also have a similar fund?

5. Will mobility be a platform play or an apps play? or will SAP do both?

6. I know I am not the only one with this question – what is John Chen’s role at SAP now? I have hardly heard anything from him in public while SAP made announcements on DB and mobility.  With the emerging focus on Asia, John is probably best used to grow the business there. But all the same – I am very curious on what is his role now.

If you have additional questions for SAP, pls leave a comment and I will try my best to find answers while I am in Orlando.

Will SAP get a second chance to create a good first impression with mobile developers?


I was part of the judging panel on Thursday for SAP’s HANA innojam at Palo Alto. And I had a chance to think about it some more on my plane ride back home Friday morning. Thanks to turbulence, I did not get a chance to write this during the plane ride as I usually do, so I am doing it now – cuddling with my little daughter and our 2 dogs on the sofa.

At least 3 senior guys at SAP – Jim Snabe, Vishal Sikka and Sanjay Poonen – have me convinced over the last year that they will do something about making the developer ecosystem whole. I have a ton of respect for all three, and I am sure they will do the needful. But as I think more about this – it does feel like quite a steep climb for SAP.

First things first – how do you get a developer started?

As Tobias Hoffman mentions in his awesome SCN blog scn.sap.com/community/portal/blog/2012/03/09/why-makes-sap-this-so-complicated , SAP has a lot of road to cover to even get developers access to all of its software. SAP are not just waking up to these issues – they have been aware of this at least since Sybase acquisition.  And a lot of analysts and bloggers have been harping on this for a while.  Granted SAP is a big company, and have legal challenges as we are often reminded- but if IBM, ORACLE and MS can all do it, it is hard to make a case that SAP has to do something that has never been done before in the industry.

SAP can do the developer outreach incrementally or in an all-out fashion. I am not holding my breath on SAP going all-out since it has a nice annuity from maintenance, and a large corporate inertia to over come. But they have made a bold statement  that their vision is to have millions of mobile developers. Other than partnering with Adobe and Sencha and others who have millions of developers ( majority of whom probably have no interest in the enterprise world SAP operates in) – I cannot see how SAP is going to get to that number, and in what time.

Who should SAP target ?

Some time ago, I had already outlined my thoughts on how SIs fit into this picture.  https://andvijaysays.wordpress.com/2011/12/21/sap-mobility-solutions-should-sis-play-or-stay-on-sidelines/ . My thoughts have not changed much on that front.

There are 2 constituencies of developers in my mind, of course with some overlap, that SAP needs to cater to.

First Group – the bird in hand

This is the traditional community that plays primarily with netweaver and business suite. For this group – their major concern is to see if all the cool new stuff that comes out of SAP will solve some problem they already have in their projects. Generally, I expect majority of them to do consulting/enhancements type work – and less of product development with SAP.

At the moment, SAP is only trying to attract the first group in my opinion. It is probably the right first step for SAP. The good thing with this group is that they are already very passionate about SAP, and they provide a path of least resistance for SAP to get to a large number of developers. There are exceptional independent consultant types in this group who would appreciate better access to systems to keep up to date with skills. The rest are customers and SI/ISV types who generally have some way of downloading software and playing in their company sandbox via . They participate eagerly in innojams/demojams and generally will try out anything SAP throws at them on technology front. I count myself squarely in this group.

Generally this is not a group I would bet big on to create a large number of “products” based on SAP’s technology. They will mostly contribute to incremental addition to existing license revenue. More over, this is a group that already knows many work arounds in SAP – and might not need Gateway or SUP to make mobile applications.  They are also generally weary of SAP’s existing licensing model, and the speed at which SAP moves on these topics – so their instinct might be to not even try commercializing mobile apps. But they are still a viable group for SAP to target as a first step. If SAP makes access to software easy for them – via downloads or a hosted environment, or a combo of both – this group will do all they can to keep the old SAP flag flying high. With this group, it is SAP’s game to lose, unlike the next one below.

Second Group – tempted to say two in the bush, but may be not…yet 🙂

This is the zillion other developers who mostly don’t know much about SAP, but are up to speed on a variety of non SAP technologies. These people typically have a product mindset – and not a project mindset.

If SAP needs to make it big – they need to make it worth the trouble for the second group of developers to jump into the ring. This group needs a subset of everything that the first group needs for access to software, but in addition they will need to see a rapid path to monetization. From mobility side, Apple has set the bar high with their development ecosystem. It has an easy-to-understand way of how to build an app and make money off it. Any model more complicated will make it near impossible to attract this group to SAP.

While we are on the topic – I wonder if SAP’s mobile store is the way to go for selling mobile apps. If I have a smart phone – my instinct is to check the app store I have for SAP mobility apps. I might not even be aware of SAP having its own app store.  May be it is enough to have a free SAP shopping app on things like itunes which points to what all SAP has to sell.  But then, Apple might not like that at all.  I have to think through this some more – but curious on your thoughts on how you see people buying SAP apps in future.

Innojams/demojams – can they help?

SAP has a neat idea to generate developer interest with innojams and demojams. At the moment, only the first group of developers takes part in jams.  However, jams in its current form have limited utility in the bigger picture. Innojams definitely stir up the pride and technical curiosity in developers . But then what? once you present on the big stage, or you win the prize – there is not really a real second step, that I know of, to take it forward. Also, the world outside the first group hardly knows about innojams today. It will be good to expand the reach of innojam to a larger target audience in near future.

What is in it for developers any way?

I cannot stress enough on the licensing and monetization model to be figured out upfront – without that, access to software is practically meaningless. Developers have a lot of choice today, including many OSS choices. SAP needs a compelling story for them to use SAP technology. With the announcement of the VC fund for HANA – SAP has shown that it is serious about this. But I could not understand why they would want to restrict such a fund to just HANA as opposed to all SAP technologies for DB, mobility and cloud. End of the day – isn’t the value of DB+Cloud+Mobile together better than just DB alone?

But not all developers will want to get into the start up business. So SAP will need an additional model to attract the majority who just care about building and selling  many small apps. In this regard, I really liked what they did with the partnerships it announced with Sencha, Adobe etc.  Their model is simple – a free SDK for HTML 5, an MVC paradigm for development, flexible licensing and some paid options, and OData connection with SAP backends.  Like my daughter says – easy piecy lemon squeezy 🙂

Except, we are not sure how SAP handles the licensing/pricing in this scenario . And without that clarity coming real quick – I doubt if scores of developers will jump in and start developing cool apps.  Sanjay Poonen responded on twitter few days ago than SAP will get it right quickly, and I totally  trust him to do so – hopefully by SAPPHIRE in Orlando.

 

SAP’s announcements on April 10,2012 – and Vijay says…


SAP very kindly let me participate in their analyst day on April 10th, and a dinner the night before in San Francisco Westin. I particularly enjoyed spending some time with Irfan Khan, who is the CTO of Sybase, and an SVP at SAP. SAP paid for my flights and hotel too. Here are my thoughts coming out of the meeting. As always, these are just my personal opinions and not that of my employer.

GA announcements were made for BW on HANA and BPC 10 (also works on HANA). SAP said they have 80 live customers – although I have not seen a number of how many have switched off their old disk based BW systems, if any. Vishal also showed impressive performance stats on a 100TB 16 node IBM system running HANA. https://twitter.com/#!/vijayasankarv/status/189764752694722561/photo/1
It was also impressive seeing how much performance improvement has been attained on the new Sandy-bridge processors . All of that is commendable – and something SAP should be proud of.

There are a few things I would like SAP to address at the field level. Customers want benchmarks – and SAP should give them some benchmark as part of certifying the hardware. SAP should also prove out the data center readiness of HANA – things like DR/HA, power consumption etc. I told Vishal Sikka that it will be awesome if he can pull the plug literally on HANA system during his SAPPHIRE keynote and show on stage that nothing will happen to data, and that fail over works. He seemed to be in agreement. Same with concurrent users – it is a common question on how performance will vary as concurrent users work on HANA. If these questions are quickly answered, SAP has a good chance of capitalizing on the momentum.
I was also pretty psyched to hear that Vishal had designed some parts of HANA himself – hats off to him. That is true technical leadership.

Steve Lucas explained SAP’s vision on being a database company – and reminded us that it is not just HANA, but also EIM products, ASE, IQ etc. First off – SAP could not have found a better guy than Steve to lead the charge on DB. He is terrific and has a great team behind him. I was not a big fan of SAP’s original message of trying to be the number 2 DB vendor on the planet by revenue. That is not only a rather unrealistic goal given ORACLE, IBM and MS will go all out and protect their turf, it will also weaken important partnerships SAP has with IBM and MS. Vishal played down the number 2 DB vendor message, and instead put this idea forward that SAP just wants to be the fastest growing DB vendor out there. Now that is a credible message, and I am sure the partners will not feel so bad about it. Nevertheless – it will be naive to think that the three other DB vendors will stand still. It will be an interesting play off.

SAP also announced a fund to subsidize HANA implementations which is worth 250 million Euros. The idea is that if a customer buys HANA, SAP will throw in free consulting up to some % of their license fees. I seriously think this is a terrible idea on many levels. Of course I don’t deny that I work for a big SI, and hence I have a serious bias.
1. It will shut off SI partners from HANA for next couple of years. And if they have nothing to gain from HANA, why would they help SAP sell it to clients where they have relationships?
2. If HANA is truly easy and simple – why does it need SAP to implement it? And after SAP walks out of the implementation – who will support HANA ?
3. If SI partners are kept out of HANA work, what will be their confidence in investing in training and IP generation for HANA and everything else SAP comes up with?

Obviously, SAP needs to capitalize on HANA momentum now before ORACLE and IBM come out with something that makes it less of an attraction. So I get why SAP has to go all out now. But I truly believe that taking SI partners along with them would have been a superior strategy. In any case, there is a chance that SAP might in turn “outsource” some of the free consulting work they give to clients to partners. I will be watching this action closely.

SAP has also come up with a VC fund for HANA based start up companies for $155M . This is a brilliant idea – and I hope many people will make good use of it.

Sanjay Poonen spent some time explaining the mobility vision. They are not going to use SUP any more – and stick more to SAP Mobility Platform as the branding. They also announced partnerships on mobility with 3 companies. I got a chance to talk to the CEO of one of these companies called Sencha. I readily admit I like the Sencha partnership more than everything else I heard during the event. If anything, SAP missed a chance to showcase them more prominently. They have a free opensource SDK for HTML5 based mobile and desktop app development. They have an OData connector too for accessing SAP systems. They have a flexible licensing model, and have millions of developers. Now – that does not mean those millions should be claimed as part of SAP ecosystem. But it gives SAP a chance to attract those people to build SAP apps. I would encourage everyone interested in mobility to check these guys out – I am planning to do a hello world on that SDK when I get some free time.

Not a lot of clarity was given on the SAP’s mobile pricing models, sandboxes of SAP systems for mobile developers to make sure their apps work etc – but we should know more from SAPPHIRE.

Here is a parting thought for SAP – at the next teched, could you get Sanjay Poonen on stage to do a bit of keynoting for mobile ? From what I have seen and heard at other events – I am sure Sanjay will surely capture the attention of SAP techies, and he is one of the most articulate people at SAP.

All things said – it was one of the best run SAP events I have been to. Well done, SAP