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.


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?


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?


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 , 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. . 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 Mobility solutions – Should SI’s play or stay on sidelines?

As many of you know – all my professional life, I have worked for System Integrators – both big and small. And as a result, every time there is something new in enterprise software, I am curious to see if SIs have any role to play , or whether they should just sit it out.  Of everything SAP has come out with in recent past – HANA is the one that got the most air time from SAP and the analyst/blogger community , but I think mobility is the one that will drive the most revenue for the ecosystem in short to medium term. It does not need a lot of convincing to do to get a customer to agree that mobile solutions are the future.

From the consumer side of the world – most mobility apps have typically been built by independent developers, and not by big IT houses.  For Enterprise side – especially for SAP – we need to think through if that is the model that will work exactly that way.  I am a big fan of SAP opening up platforms to developers – as long as developers can do cost effective development, protect their IP and make some decent money out of it.  And along with a bunch of similar minded people – I have been trying to push this message for some time at the highest levels at SAP.

But is there something here for SIs ? I think there is plenty of the mobility pie to go around. Here, I will ignore  the obvious stuff that SIs will do – the mobility strategy, device management , security and so on.  Those are important, but  don’t need added color.

For building and reselling apps – it is hard for SIs to compete on cost with independent developers if the platform is inexpensive.  BUT – Platform access is not inexpensive now – so SIs have an upper hand temporarily till SAP gets its act together. But I can’t imagine SAP not changing this in 2012.

But for the cost to work in SIs favor – they will need to find a killer app that can be resold many times over.  This usually needs the SI to create a few with the idea that some will click, and some will not. This is not consistent with existing SI business models. SIs have a big opportunity cost to consider – every hour spent developing such an asset is an hour they are not doing billable work. So it remains to be seen how many will jump in with both feet.  The bigger SIs probably will do ok – since they have significant abilities to invest, and can wait for longer pay back periods. But in general – I don’t see large number of SIs playing seriously on building such apps.  In everyone’s best interest – this is best done by independent developers, in my opinion.

For SAP systems – a big problem for building generic horizontal applications is that most backend systems are heavily customized.  A consistent abstraction to the outside world for non-SAP developers to use is not always possible.  So, even if a developer creates a generic enough mobile app – in most cases,  there will be a need to do some back end plumbing to get it all working in a useful fashion. This is the model I see evolving in the market from maybe 2013 onwards. Independent developers building the front end apps, may be even contracted by SIs to do so – and existing SIs doing the integration to backend.

Where I see big and small SIs both having a great advantage is building end-to-end mobility solutions for a specific client, especially where the SI has long standing experience.  Ideally – these should be vertical for an industry, and can be leveraged across many projects. This needs a large set of skills to come together – deep industry and sub-industry knowledge,  business process design, UX design, development in multiple technologies, basis, security, industrial strength testing and so on.  This is totally a sweet spot for SIs – and I would expect them to be all over this. And the beauty of this is that there is a production support opportunity right after the implementation, which is again a sweet spot for many SIs. The trick here is that this can and should be done for specific only very high value usecases – something where customer realizes significant value.

Now – for all this goodness to happen, there are a few things SAP need to play well too.

1. Make it easy for regular developers to use SAP platforms to build apps – not just the development, but the whole lifecycle of IP protection,  testing, certification, monetizing, maintenance, support and all that good stuff

2. Keep SAP Education on the front, and not the back of innovation. Unless the ecosystem comes up to speed on the latest greatest technology – it does not matter how cool the innovation is in the labs. Maybe even throw in some inexpensive education for select ecosystem partners. Basically – do what it takes to get partners/developers to trust SUP is the way to go, and get them away from everything else they are using today. This includes ironing out any wrinkles from existing software, and educating developers on roadmap for future.

3. Actively partner with SIs – and I expect this to be totally opportunistic depending on lay of the land – to push mobility solutions at the thousands of clients world over.  For significant mobility sales – the attitude of “Business gets it, IT doesn’t ” should be left checked at the door. IT gets it alright – and usually have valid concerns on security, scalability etc. Work with IT to address their concerns and gain their confidence.

4. By SAPPHIRE Orlando in 2012, have several customers come up and talk about their mobility solutions to the world.

5. Make sure licensing for customer is scalable and not a total rip off.

6. Try not to drown the mobility message with HANA and others