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IT pros heading to SAP TechEd 2011 packing questions for vendor

Users and analysts heading to the SAP TechEd conference in Las Vegas next week are looking to learn more about a range of issues, from in-memory technology to NetWeaver 7.3 and Gateway.

As next week’s SAP TechEd 2011 conference fast approaches, some say they are going to Las Vegas to learn more about new technology in areas like in-memory computing and mobility, and others are hoping to shed light on specific SAP projects at home. And for some, it’s both.

Dawnelle Davis, a business warehouse developer with Boston-based MassMutual, said her company is trying to decide whether to stick with SAP BEx tools or change to BusinessObjects.

“One of our biggest challenges right now is that we currently use BEx 3.5, and the reason why we haven’t transitioned to 7.0 is that a lot of our financial customers are using workbooks, which are very hard to convert to 7.0,” Davis said.    

They’re looking at BusinessObjects, she said, because it would give them some additional reporting tools but would still be able to handle customers’ workbooks with minimal modifications.

Like others, Davis said she was interested in learning more about HANA, SAP’s high-speed analytics appliance. Perhaps not in the immediate future, but possibly to one day handle the reams of financial data MassMutual has to manage.

HANA and SAP mobility
That users like Davis are interested in HANA is no surprise to R. "Ray" Wang, an analyst and CEO of Constellation Research, who said he too wants to know more about SAP’s high-speed analytics appliance.

“People want to know how far along HANA is, and is HANA ready for some of the work that customers want done,” Wang said, adding that people still have questions about HANA’s roadmap and how it affects SAP’s Business Warehouse Accelerator (BWA). Wang said he recently returned from an SAP user’s group conference in Australia, where customers were asking some of those same questions.

Wang said he’s interested in hearing more about SAP’s mobile efforts, especially from partners that are building off of SAP’s mobile platforms. One vendor in particular he’s keeping his eye on is SkyTechnologies, a company in Palo Alto, Calif., which mobilizes SAP applications on its own platform.

“It seems to be the fastest way to get something up in a mobile environment. It seems to be more cost-effective,” Wang said about SkyTechnologies’ mobile technology. “What we’re trying to find out is where the trade-offs are between [SkyTechnologies] and building on the [SAP] Sybase mobility [platform].”

SAP NetWeaver 7.3
Others, like Stephen Johannes, are going to learn more about SAP NetWeaver 7.3.

Johannes, a CRM specialist who works for Solutia, a global chemical manufacturer based in St. Louis, said his company is currently running NetWeaver 7.0 but is looking into integrating 7.3 into the landscape. That’s because 7.3 includes what SAP calls the NetWeaver Java Hub, which allows customers to roll up Java-based SAP applications into a single system.

“Instead of your ERP having a Java and your CRM having a Java and having BW or the portal and all other components having their own Java stack, there’s this concept of the hub system that houses what SAP calls multiple usage types of the JAVA applications,” Johannes said.

“[It] could simplify our overall landscape by not having all of those single Java components for every single application we’re building,” he said. “So that’s definitely something that I might be looking at in terms of system landscape standpoint.”

SAP NetWeaver Gateway
In addition to themes like in-memory and mobile technologies, Jon Reed, an independent SAP analyst and owner of said he was going to find out more about SAP NetWeaver Gateway, which SAP announced this past spring in Orlando, Fla., during the annual SapphireNow conference. 

Gateway is an open standards-based framework that developers can use to more easily connect non-SAP applications to SAP applications. It also makes it easier to access SAP applications from mobile devices.  

“Gateway’s kind of big deal for SAP, because it can help open up that back end to quick apps that can hit the ground running and solve simple problems, like extending workflow approvals, things that can be rolled out quickly,” Reed said.

Reed said the latest version of the Sybase Unwired Platform will have those Gateway capabilities integrated in, so it’s likely SAP will spend time talking about Gateway and how it fits in with companies’ mobile plans.

“Besides, it’s something that [SAP chief technology officer Vishal Sikka is] pretty passionate about,” Reed said. “I’d be surprised if we didn’t hear something about it.”

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