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SAP: We're serious about SAP on-demand

SAP outlined their product roadmap for 2010, with on-demand and in-memory computing leading the way.

BOSTON -- Development and delivery of on-demand software will be a big focus in 2010 for SAP, which yesterday touted the cloud as a major way it thinks its customers will innovate going forward.

Contrary to "perception in the marketplace," SAP is serious about on-demand, according to John Wookey, SAP's head of on-demand for enterprises. In 2010, SAP plans to release an on-demand supply chain management application, sales automation, travel and expense, services management and an application called  Project Kona that will allow users to quickly adopt BusinessObjects software.

In turn, the vendor plans to release Business ByDesign, its suite for small to medium-sized companies. Currently, Business ByDesign is being sold on a limited basis.

"If we're going to maintain leadership in this industry, we have to become the leader in on-demand services," Wookey said.

The plans were discussed today during the SAP Influencer Summit, at which industry analysts, bloggers and media gathered to hear SAP's product roadmap for the year.

Along with the cloud, in-memory technology and mobile will drive software development in 2010 as SAP continues its vision of delivering "timeless" software to customers. Customers want to consume best practices out of the box, want short implementations, and resources to be fast and nimble, said SAP executive Jim Hagemann Snabe.

SAP says these quick and easy deployments, integrations and better user interfaces will help lower the total cost of ownership for its customers.

"Speed matters more than anything else," Snabe said.

An agile development model -- in which new versions of software are developed every four weeks, according to customer feedback -- is aiding this process.

It's a development process that has impressed Business ByDesign customers such as Patti Charlton, who is the CFO of ResearchPoint, a clinical research organization. She's already seen several improvements with Business ByDesign, such as drop-down menus and the ability to post accounts payable and receivable directly to the balance sheet. She said she chats so regularly with SAP on changes that should be made that she keeps a "wish list" of changes she'd like to see.

"It really made us realize they were listening to the users, and made us even more confident going forward that our voices would be heard," Charlton said. "I think the whole on-demand is a top priority for them."

In turn, SAP is extending the subscription-based licensing model that has become popular with on-demand to its on-premise software, something known as "flexible licensing agreements."

In outlining SAP's go-to-market strategy for 2010, executives also touted the company's real-time data analytics capabilities made possible through the development of in-memory processing.

SAP's BusinessObjects Explorer, for example, taps in-memory technology run on multi-core processors to dramatically reduce query times, according to SAP CTO Vishal Sikka. SAP customers can, for example, use the tool and other analytics software to query millions of columns of data in a matter of seconds, rather than hours.

In turn, Business ByDesign analytics are fully built on in-memory technology, and allow real-time integration of OLTP.

Unlike traditional BI technology, with in-memory technology, data is loaded into  random access memory and queried in the application or database itself. This greatly increases query speed and lessens the amount of  data modeling needed, experts agree, meaning that in-memory BI apps can be up and running significantly faster than disk-based tools.

It also increases performance speeds against large data sets, which can be processed for analysis in near-real time.

Also in the works at SAP is a customizable collaboration portal that will allow workers to easily share and analyze data, as well as mobile versions of its BI applications, according to Marge Breya, executive vice president at SAP. Both are expected to be released sometime in 2010, she said.

John Schwartz, an SAP executive board member, said SAP also plans to create more prepackaged applications with its channel partners.

Prepackaged applications that combine SAP software with niche applications from partners like supply chain management specialist BristleCone, for example, make deployments quicker and allow customers to take advantage of industry best practices, Schwartz said. Channel partners also help SAP stay in touch with its 200,000 customers, a task SAP itself could never do, he said.

"The intent is to deliver as many prepackaged applications as possible in any industry," Schwartz said. "This is the Holy Grail [for success in heterogeneous IT environments]."

Of course, this all rests on customers moving to the latest version of the software -- Business Suite 7. So far, about half of the installed base is running ERP 6.0, the latest version of the flagship ERP software. As of November, SAP counted 18,721 productive systems, up from 11,804 since October 2008.

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