Now that 2011 is here, we called some SAP analysts and asked them what they saw coming for SAP and its customers in the coming year. From acquisitions to the future of HANA and Business ByDesign, here’s what they had to say about SAP trends, in their words.
Continued competition from ‘data discovery tools’: This year, the BI [business intelligence] platform market sort of bifurcated into two groups: the traditional BI platform vendors like SAP that have traditional enterprise data platforms, and emerging BI vendors offering what we call data discovery tools: more self-contained platforms that allow the business user to explore data without having to go to IT to model data. All the vendors in this space, particularly the traditional BI vendors, have sort of suffered, to some extent, at the hands of these emerging vendors who appeal to business users in a way that the current platforms don’t. A number of organizations, even if they have a standard like Business Objects in place, are increasingly employing these tools as a complement and alongside their enterprise standard. SAP has definitely suffered from that. [Business Objects] XI 4.0 doesn’t fully address SAP’s challenge from emerging data discovery vendors. Until it does, those vendors will continue to encroach upon SAP’s installed base both with the BW [Business Warehouse] and Business Objects installed base.
The future of HANA: SAP, with its whole HANA initiative, in combination with Business Explorer, is trying to address the requirements for very fast and intuitive analysis of large data. But I don’t expect HANA to gain significant traction in the SAP installed base probably until version 1.5, when it can start to replace existing infrastructure, like BW, and BWA [Business Warehouse Accelerator], and only if it delivers on its promise of great performance, cost-effectively.
Sapphire: Sapphire is going to be one of the biggest SAP events of the last several years. That’s because SAP will be trying to trot out new customers on new products for things like HANA, as well as shed light on the SAP Sybase roadmap, and show an increase in Business ByDesign partners and customers on the upcoming development kit. This is going to be a really big Sapphire, and I think everyone inside of SAP knows that.
In-memory computing and data warehouses: In-memory changes the whole world of databases so the future of data warehouses like BW is going to get really interesting. BW’s not going away by the end of the year, and certainly there are customers who are heavily invested in BW Accelerator. HANA will eventually offer a lot of those same things, even though that’s not what SAP is focusing on now with HANA. It’s focusing on the transactional stack. But that’s going to be something to watch by the end of the year -- the future of BW Accelerator for starters, and the future of standalone data warehouses vs. in-memory access to data.
Customer support: I feel like the issue of Enterprise Support is going to come up again this year. I don’t think it’s totally a settled issue. Obviously, it was kind of front page news for SAP for a while there, and it’s kind of taken a backseat, and a lot of analysts who criticized SAP have moved on. But when you scratch under the surface of Enterprise Support, Standard Support and the options around them, what you find is a confusing picture. In my view, and from what I’ve heard from customers, the distinctions between the two really aren’t that clear, or the cost savings are really not that substantial. So, I don’t think that issue is totally done. Sophisticated users are also looking for more creative support options from SAP.
Josh Greenbaum, principal, Enterprise Applications Consulting
Few new initiatives: 2011 is going to be a year where SAP starts fulfilling a whole lot of promises; it’s not necessarily going to be a year where we see new strategies as much as we’ll see SAP make good on a whole set of strategies and initiatives they’ve been talking about for the better part of 2010.
Business ByDesign: I think Business ByDesign is going to be very significant. What’s going to be interesting is how successful SAP is at selling into the installed base of very large enterprise customers. There’s an enormous marketplace for subsidiaries and smaller operating entities of these large enterprise customers. If SAP can do that successfully, they’re going to gain an enormous amount of credibility for Business ByDesign.
Acquisitions: It is not inconceivable that SAP will make some acquisitions in the cloud space. For SAP to achieve the (revenue) numbers executives told Wall Street they’ll achieve in the cloud, they’ll have to make some acquisitions. SAP could do a roll-up of all the vendors that are around, or it could try to take out someone as large as Salesforce. Or it could take out a platform vendor like EMC for VMWare and do something with it.
SAP is going to buy someone in social. It’s already made the investment in mobile; it’s already made the investment in cloud, though it might make some more acquisitions. It has the investment in analytics. What SAP is missing right now is social software, like a Jive or a Lithium Technologies, something that has the social pieces that are very important.
Kevin Benedict, CEO and founder, Netcentric Strategies
Sybase: I believe [SAP’s promise of a unified mobility platform with a software development kit to all SAP ecosystem partners and customers by May 2011] is going to be a huge trigger point. It will mean many additional systems integrators and software companies will want to standardize on the Sybase Unwired Platform. SAP says it has over 90,000 customers and over 70% of the world’s gross national product goes through an SAP system. Because of that, you have all of these software development houses that can say, “You know what? We could look at other mobility platforms but if we support, and just embed, the Sybase Unwired Platform in our own software, that gives us access to those users.”
More sophisticated mobile apps: For the last couple of years, you’ve had just a huge upswing in the number of mobile application developers. Even at SAP Sapphire last year you had a huge number of little tiny companies nobody’s heard about creating what’s called instant value apps or mobile micro apps. Those are basically just GUIs [graphical user interfaces] that are able to query and receive data back and forth from an SAP Workflow. You’re going to see a lot of that go away. You’re going to see a convergence around real value and extending complex business processes out into the world of mobility. Even (SAP co-CEO) Jim Hagemann Snabe said this at the SAP Influencers Summit. He said the first wave of mobility, 1.0, allowed people access to existing SAP processes. Mobility 2.0 is going to be about creating new business processes made possible because of mobility.