Before the SAPphire event even got going today, we had our suspicions that mobility and data analytics was going to be central to this year’s conference. Right out the gate, SAP confirmed our expectations, with a keynote speech driving the annual event’s focus around the future of mobility and SaaS. Of the many industry experts sitting in on the keynote speech was Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. A former analyst from Altimier (where Brian Solis now takes residence), Wang has unique insight to the industry, especially when you talk about social and mobile convergence. Wang joined us at theCUBE with John Furrier and Dave Vellante to discuss SAP’s event shortly after kick off, and sticks around to explore the theme of the conference so far.
“It’s a compelling vision. 2015. Where are we headed? What’s the future? They put a bunch of futurists out there, and what we saw is a bunch of light bulbs going off, thinking about, ‘what can I do?’” Wang recalls SAP’s mid-day keynote. “The next question is, what we’ll see on day 2 and day 3, the question being, ‘how can I pay for this innovation…and where’s the technology to take me there?’ I think if [SAP] follows that script and goes through that story, customers will be able to say, ‘I remember day 1, and I know where I want to go.’ That will help pave the way for customers trying to figure out what’s next.”
Bringing up last year’s SAPphire highlights, Vellante recollects on what seemed like a co-CEO coming out party. After SAP lost Leo Apotheker to HP, the company brought in Bill McDermontt and Jim Snabe to lead SAP into the future so fondly anticipated during this year’s event. “I think they did a good job defining roles,” Wang notes. “It’s a pretty big organization, and I think that’s part of the effect they’ve been able to achieve.”
One of those achievements involves the development of Sybase, an important initiative for SAP, which acquired the mobile platform last spring. Being such a pivotal aspect of SAPphire in 2010, Vellante brings Sybase up as a point of discussion during the Wang interview, asking if it’s a project that’s going to come together in 2011.
“The Sybase acquisition is interesting on a couple counts,” Wang starts, proceeding with a string of questions he has for SAP. “The first one is really iAnywhere. Where does iAnywhere really go? Can we do something different with a mobile product and actually use iAnywhere in it? Can we write once, deploy anywhere? What are we going to do with Near Field Communications?”
These are the hot areas Wang will be looking at in terms of SAP announcements throughout the week, though international growth is another area of importance for Sybase’s ongoing integration. “Sybase has a really good presence in China, and what you get out of Sybase is the opportunity to be in some of these large, state-owned organizations,” Wang explains. “Now John Chen’s done a great job building that organization, and what we’re seeing with that is, there’s in some very interesting deals with some of the largest banks and state-owned enterprises. I think we’re going to see a lot more of that moving forward.”
While Sybase seems like a promising service for SAP, Vellante wonders if it will eventually get lost in the company’s portfolio. Wang responds with his expectations for SAP’s likely points of integration, noting SDKs and other ways to build on top of apps. “Right now a lot of the focus has been, how do we get this SAP information onto a mobile device? When we talk to SAP customers, the number one thing is, ‘help me take this data out and do something with it. Is it mobile? Is it business intelligence? Can I send it to someone else?’”
“I think you’re right on target,” Furrier chimes in, noting mobile devices as the ultimate proof point for the SaaS industry. Furrier goes on to talk about the sex appeal the iPad has brought to the enterprise; tech jewelry, if you will, giving way to the social enterprise. It’s a low latency proof point that carves its own inroads to the social enterprise, an area Wang covers extensively.
For SAP, the strategy is definitely about converging. “We’re talking about social, mobile and cloud,” Wang picks up the conversation. “What we’re getting on the mobile side is a big asset–what we’re getting on the analytics side is the ability to eventually deliver in the cloud. When you think about HANA and applications like that, we’re talking about NoSQL databases, fast transaction times, very little issues in terms of latency…When we get into NFC and location-based services, we need that kind of power behind us. And then of course, the mobile piece is the icing on the cake.”
Furrier furthers the latency conversation with a side note on his and Vellante’s coined term, “fast data.” It’s a key component with latency, but how is SAP preparing for this shift?
“I’ve been asking myself that question,” Wang admits. Is there anything different about the architecture for new SAP apps to support this? Not only that, but the question of unstructured data and device communication, because that’s a lot of data to consume, and a lot of processing on the back end.”
Wang goes on to make some industry observations, noting the spurt around information management. “When you think about where software companies are going, they’re moving into information brokers. They’re basically selling benchmarking services, additional value-added correlations that are going to be sold and bought and traded like feeds. I see software turning into that in the next 2-3 years. I’m not sure how they’re going to get there,” Wang confesses with a slight turn of his head. “We have a lot of questions to ask.”
Furrier then brings the conversation back to mobility, specifically around the consumerization of IT. Noting the big players like Google and Microsoft, it’s clear that consumer apps are relying heavily on the cloud to build out this market. Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Skype is a nod towards this trend. But would SAP be a good target for the Skype deal, Furrier posits to Wang.
“These UC tools are very useful,” Wang retorts. “Skype, LinkedIn…these are areas where you’re going to see a lot of partnerships from over the next few days. But more importantly, you’re right,” he turns to Furrier. “This point about the consumerization of IT is coming into the enterprise has to meet 5 tests. The Constellation tests for enterprise classes are, scalable, simple, safe, sustainable, and… able to be used on multiple platforms.”
To this, Vellante asks Wang if the on-demand side is meaningful for SAP as well. Wang goes on to highlight the 5 pillars that come into play, including social, mobile, cloud, analytics, and UC. “We hit on all those right here,” Wang notes. “I would say on the cloud side, if you’re a subsidiary, you’re really looking at extensions. If you’re trying to figure out how to move to the next level, you’re definitely looking at the cloud. One of the ways is to potentially use Business ByDesign,” Wang says, pointing to another of SAP’s initiatives that’s filled with optimism around public/private clouds.
“Another interesting way is if you take Business ByDesign and use it as a shared service, you could actually get into your own private cloud version of Business ByDesign as a way to help all your subsidiaries,” Wang continues. “so I think it’s going to play a role, I think customers have to get used it. They’ve hit the 500 customer mark, and that’s important.”
Furrier then turns to a question that came in on Twitter, asking about SAP’s Cloud Foundry strategy, slyly adding “In parenthesis, in case they even have one.”
“There are a couple parts of the ecosystem you need,” Wang responds. “One is, how would I build new apps in the cloud? There are some SDKs on the BYOD side that are serving as kind of that Cloud Foundry. Compared to what you see with Salesforce and other kinds of cloud platforms, there’s still a lot of work to do there.”