Well I’m back home from a trip to SAP Insider’s conference and I promised to answer a series of questions based on my conversations from the show. If you will allow me, I am going to change how I deliver on my earlier commitments. I found my questions morphed drastically as I engaged the attendees. Why? well frankly I stink at being a reporter and in fairness, the show’s attendance changed this year enough that I found myself going in a different direction.
Go back four or five years ago and there were two shows called “Admin” and “BI”. They were primarily attended by BASIS teams who were dealing with infrastructure issues. With SAP’s M&A strategy and SAP’s messaging evolution, the event has changed to reflect the new SAP. Now the show had divested to create “Cloud & Virtualization”, “Mobile”, & “Business Objects Bootcamp”. Let’s admit it, since 2009 the economy and general show attendance has fluctuated. I am sure that has something to do with the shows coming together in a co-located venue allowing for those attending to stay in a single track or blend their experience across multiple domains. This is not intended to be an Oracle Open World or SAPPHIRE level event, it’s not that big. In my experience the 2nd-3rd level shows tend to be better attended on the east coast. So net-net, even with the bundling of multiple shows, the attendance was a little light this year. Additionally a show that used to be a haven for BASIS teams seems to have changed in personnel and now is a different show entirely. I think this is important because it is a reflection on the wider changes in the SAP industry. I have a couple of insights about this that I will explain through a discussion of those who attended amd those who didn’t.
There were 3 types of people present at the show and 2 types surprisingly absent:
1) PRESENT: Those who want to catch up on virtualization/Cloud.
If I generalize the group, the Cloud attendees were a more “matter of fact” group. They were either going to the cloud, had an upcoming RFP, or presented themselves in a way that they felt they needed to “catch up” with everyone and get virtualized or to the cloud. This is an interesting dynamic given that this same time last year Cloud was the fresh buzz and only those with iron guts were talking about venturing their mission critical to the cloud. This shows the pace of innovation in the current market and ultimately that the cloud benefits have “held” and the scary risks have subsided. This adoption is also in the face of all the HANA interest which today is not (practically) a cloud ready product. So in a careless and causal way I’ll make the broad generalization that many if not most are taking a “get to the [private, hybrid, public] cloud now and pilot HANA in the lab” approach with the assumption HANA will somehow fit into their overall architecture as they mature their programs.
2) PRESENT: Those who want to deploy HANA or are active BOBJ users:
I arrive at my statistical certainties by the scientific process of “# of questions asked” and how many people attend various session topics. Given my sample size, time of day differences, and the deviation in how much coffee I have consumed at a given time, make my prognostications suspect at best. However, let’s not let truth stand in the way of knowledge. I would have to give the hands down vote of “topic of highest interest” to HANA. HANA sessions were packed most attendees seemed to be staging HANA pilots or were BOBJ users who were investigating how HANA would impact BOBJ over the next few years. The Keynote given by Steve Lucas, Senior Vice President and General Manager Business Analytics at SAP was all Big Data. He talked about open source, unstructured data, Hadoop and brought it all back to SAP’s data analytics stack, which is based primarily off HANA and remnants of the Sybase. SAP is Big Data obsessed and so are its customers.
3) PRESENT: Those who are looking to deploy mobile apps that integrate with SAP
I must admit I am most impressed with SAP’s dive into the mobile market. Within just several months they have taken this global ERP company, added Big Data and integrated a mobile BYOD story as if it was always there. It’s very tight messaging, even if the technologies are still coming together in a few spots. I really enjoyed the well attended sessions on the details of the SUP. What’s “SUP”… “dunno, What’s up with you?” SUP is Sybase Unwired Platform. This is the API and code set that was added to SAP’s arsenal through the Sybase acquisition which allows users to write platform specific or platform agnostic applications. As they pulled back the covers at the show, it’s not perfect yet, but it does provide a solution that many of the install base can use to close down on the “last mile” (aka the mobile user).
4) ABSENT: Those who’ve already began executing the Cloud
The Surprising VOID of the show was the contingent of folks who are actively deployed or who are deploying a cloud solution. I personally/causally know many who just weren’t there. Of those I talked to before the show, I had a perspective. They said they are deep in deployment and weren’t sending anyone. What I didn’t realize was how pervasive a phenomenon this was. I’m not saying there was no one chasing the cloud, but it was notably down and my minor investigations into this, presented a plain fact. Customers “get it” and are “doing it”. Interestingly enough, this is exactly where EMC IT is in their multi-phased process to reach Cloud-enabled ITaaS. They too stayed home this year. Though I missed the constant discussion of Cloud, I realize a more important event has happened. In past blogs I have talked about Gladwell’s Tipping Point for the cloud. I think we’re there. Cloud for mission critical has moved into the mainstream.
5) ABSENT: Those who are making investments in Big Data other than HANA:
Another interesting attribute of this event was that the broad heterogeneous all encompassing world of Big Data is seamlessly shrunk to nothing but BOBJ and HANA (with a token Hadoop thrown in). Ok, you may say that SAP has aggressively driven the competition away from the venue. Maybe, but that isn’t the vibe I get. Even those that come up to you in conversation, do not seem to have a vocabulary or interest that extends much further than the SAP Landscape. I attribute this to a couple of factors. One is that SAP is a big animal. It’s like a youthful trip to the amusement park. You couldn’t see the boundaries, it felt endless. I think many who build their careers on SAP, live within a large ecosystem that can consume your focus without the need to test the boundaries.
Secondly I think it is a function of how “new” data analytics/Big Data is to SAP. BOBJ is Business information integration technology, and before Sybase there were few who considered SAP in the realm of database management. HANA is a fairly new concept, only appearing a few years ago. So the SAP user community is comprised of people who haven’t traditionally been players in the pre-cursors to Big Data and thus possibly not broadly trained on the overall market. This is not to imply an inability to execute, only that this is really new and the SAP ecosystem is evolving. It will look notably different in a couple of years.
So those were my major insights from SAP Insider sessions in Vegas. I hope you pulled at least one nugget from the pan. Until next time, stay informed. Adios.