So I am back from 4 weeks on the road and I wanted to do a follow up from SapphireNOW. Based on the economy and the general gossip in the industry around travel restrictions that many companies have in place, I was concerned both EMC World and Sapphire would be “lite” to say the least. However, I found that not to be true, both shows were busy, with little options to find a seat. Even the beanbag chairs were taken. I mean who sits in a beanbag chair in a suit…?
I have now been to around 6 Sapphire and SAP TechED events each and I can pretty much call what the buzz is going to be about. I said before the show. “Cloud, Cloud, HANA, HANA, HANA”, I also said you would see emerging innovations from smaller companies taking the new platforms and making purpose-built solution bundles. I was completely right. With that said, I did find a few insights during the show of which many I will work into this Blog. So how about some highlights you say? OK!
First, let’s talk up the keynotes. Unlike Oracle, this isn’t the Larry show, the stage is a bit egalitarian and its somewhat an art form in the way SAP integrates global social issues into their software roadmap. This year, Bill McDermott, has expanded on his traditional “sexy-customer” parade of UnderArmour and McClaren, by adding a few organizations from major league sports industry. The MC this year was James Brown from CBS Sports…good call. (An upgrade from the Morning Joe host last year) James and Bill introduced their all-star line up: Kevin Plank x-U of M special teams star and CEO of Under Armour, the deputy commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver; and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York all up on stage in a sports show theme format. They drove into how analytics are changing the game of sports across training, marketing and fan consumption. It was mentioned that China alone has over 450 million fans of the NBA. Wow, can you imagine how that will effect the price of a season ticket over time? This is a great example of how massive an opportunity exists to find consumers with technology and without technology, you can never supplyenough product to them. Imagine a stadium that could hold the global demand… By the way, they carried this theme on to the show floor. Is was like walking into a Dicks Sporting Goods in some areas. They even had Gary Payton from the Sonics doing demos and talking to customers (Last year I didn’t see Reggie Jackson do any iPad demos…)
Ok, I got to admit, the theme was so good,that when they were in the keynote, I kept waiting to talk about how the Baltimore Ravens let there Super Bowl winning team completely disband (Protect this House!). It made me want to go watch a little sportsbar TV. I also wonder if Bill has put too much pressure on HANA? Can HANA’s analytics prowess alone fix the 49er’s? Probably not. Bill, EMC is based in Boston and we have many sports partners. The Patriots and the Red Sox may be a better test bed for HANA. Ok my diplomacy seems to vacate when I talk sports, so let’s move on.
Jim Snabe took stage day 2 and in his normal flair, started with a big image of a indian tiger. He talked about how this female was an evolved specimen, close to perfection. He then moved into a discussion of evolution and anthropology. He took us from big bang, to dinosaurs to “in memory” and “persistence storage” requirements for HANA (only Snabe…) I loved it, he is a great speaker. Last year Jim said “The stone age didn’t end because they ran out of stones, and the disk age won’t end because we run out of disks”. Again, I loved how clever that comment was, BUT last year HANA was all in-memory in the diagrams. Customers by the droves walked up to us and asked “is disk dead”? I injected my reality that has unfolded. That reality is like electricity, there is a natural evolution of Information Technology that started in late 1800′s, and we are on that journey that will carry us forward for at least a couple more decades further as we ”utilitize” IT. I also believe large customers will deeply leverage HANA, but storage and data center ready solutions will continue to be critical functionality. A catchy quote and a sales quota isn’t going to change these trends. This year, Snabe’s diagram put storage back in a prime position. This to me means SAP’s HANA is maturing and they are listening to their customers, which is a good thing. For example, most customers want to see HANA in their landscape standards, not a rip and replace appliance model. This you could see in the tenets of the keynote narrative.
Hasso Plattner, took the stage on Day 3. Hasso literally took the audience through a 501 level data structures class discussing memory allocations, columnar databases, merge tables, indexes, etc. At first I was like this is odd to have the chairman of a large company taking me through a DBA level discussion, but then I was actually quite impressed with his intimacy with the details and the fact that most people who focus on this knowledge never become executives in top-level companies. He is a unique man. I thought it was an informative refresher. At the same time Hasso made a few comments that worked like a cross-cut saw against the grain of the industry trends. For example he brought up Virtualization and said (paraphrased) that virtualization is good for splitting up infrastructure between multiple small companies, and he said we never virtualize large companies. He was using this in a context of HANA, but WOW this is so not the direction of the customer base. First virtualization has been a huge driver for transformation across SAP customers building for the last 5 years. EMC, Cisco, VMW, and Intel built the Joint Venture VCE and their Vblock product a little over 3 years ago, creating the converged infrastructure market. “I often tell people casually virtualized converged infrastructure is half the price of traditional and twice as fast”. Of course I am lying, its actually much better than that, but no one would believe me without facts. In the last 4 weeks, I have met with say 150-175 SAP customers? (Many of them the biggest companies in the world) I will tell you 90% or more of them have virtualized a significant portion of their landscape or will do so in the next 12 months. Here’s an example of EMC “Riding our own Wave“. X86 has won, virtualization is a done deal, and HANA will need to support it. VMWare and SAP had a big announcement last week at Sapphire on Virtual HANA, they have dislodged it from the “single node” limitation that neutered its value and I now see virtual HANA demand increasing over the next 12 months.
What else…Mobile users, I saw some maturation in the mobile community. There were let’s say 15 or so booths dedicated to mobile solutions companies. SAP additionally has evolved some of their interfaces. Including cool stuff around analytics toolsets from Hasso Platner Institute in Pottsdam. I don’t believe I have ever seen so many tablet displays on a show floor , short of a Microsoft or Apple conference.
Who was busy? All booths looked busy, well… Oracle’s booth had to hire an exterminator to keep the cricket noise down, but hey that’s to be expected at an SAP conference. At OpenWorld, I imagine the SAP booth is pretty empty. Actually I would say the big names in platform were slightly less attended than the booths of consulting companies (Picture below is from Optimal’s Party at ICE BAR (they must be broke…because it was packed). I don’t have pictures but the same is true for events I attended with Deloitte, Secure24/Sparta, Wipro, and Accenture. It seems everyone is super busy in 2013.
Additionally the small start ups seemed busy for purpose-built solutions. This is a trend for Sapphire, because of the high number of Line of Business attendees who focus on company processes and I think its also fair to say SAP has transitioned the conversation from cost-cutting optimization to innovation over the last two shows which drives focus to the business process change agents.
There were many announcements about the Cloud. Examples include CSC announcing SAP support in Cloud IU, SAP announced HANA Enterprise Cloud, and VMW announced VMWare Cloud support for SAP HANA. I am pretty familiar with some of the details. As far as prep work, I am huge fan of the CSC Cloud IU offering, their investment in assets, processes and creating a top-notch cloud offering is second to none. There pipeline has been swelling drastically following Cloud IU’s introduction and I’m sure they had a busy Sapphire. We co-sponsored a customer reception and I got to hear first hand from their execs in charge, David Parsons and Lou DeCarlo, on the staging and solution streams they have injected into the process. Here’s a video at the show from Dave on the topic. Worth a deep review if you are serious about the cloud. The SAP offering is a Bring Your Own license model, which currently only offers 99.5.. uptime for the customers. I think it is a smart move for SAP to get the customers and partners engaged in HANA as a service. I also talked to some of the partners who are back-ending the offering and they seem to have some talent, but I am not sure if this is primary direction for SAP. Offering HR on a cloud is easy money, hosting HANA for ECC or say AFS in the cloud is another matter, (which they theoretically will consider on a customer by customer basis as of GA last week). Either way it moves the ball forward for HANA. Finally, VMWare’s cloud offering is a serious contender in its support and features. VMWCloud (my nickname for it) offers a virtualized subscription service which will have a sales channel through multiple paths including SAP. Both CSC and VMW’s offerings are not SAP specific, so customers can look at a broader landscape as they plan for the cloud. With that said I see most customers looking to put module by module in the cloud, not move entire landscapes, so we’ll see how these, and other offerings, will be consumed. I do believe there is a healthy market for HANA by the drip to address specific needs, you can see the options formulating now.
I will finish with one insight, I see the squeeze through the portal of today’s battle for dominance hinged on these factors: Cloud, Big Data, Mobile and In-memory computing. You could say that 6 of the top 10 HiTech players will be in head to head war to win this cocktail of the new economy. I say just like Client/Server I believe this will be an expanding function, a reverse funnel. From Micro-computer to Client/Server we expanded the eco-system, demand and opportunity, we didn’t shrink it. Though we’ll continue to see consolidation of the HiTech industry, we’ll also see more options for cloud, big data, mobile and in-memory computing options, we’ll see a new level of interope
rability, and a growing productivity as the result. The question is how much of this will be on-premise, and how much will be addressed behind closed data center doors of cloud providers? Honestly, I don’t know the mix yet.
I will predict that both SAP and EMC are great harbingers of change who have a great deal of synergies which will positively impact a very important joint customer base.