What Happened in Vegas – SAP Insider Follow Up


ImageWell 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.

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VEGAS FORECAST CLOUDY , SAP INSIDER – Feb 28-March 2nd


ImageYou can tell I’m a jet setter, why? Because I am finishing up a winter cold this week that I either got from the team in LA, the folks in Boston, my trip to NYC or from my kids.  Anyway I am on the mends with excessive dosages of germ cleansers and bug killers because next week I am in Vegas for SAP Insider. As far as Vegas goes I can take it or leave it, but SAP Insider has been a staple event for me for several years. I wouldn’t want to miss it. This year they have combined 5 SAP-related, Insider sponsored events into one venue: BI, Cloud & Virtualization, Administration & Infrastructure, MOBILE, & Business Objects Boot camp.

First, let me tell you about how EMC has organized for the event (#EMCSAP). As a gold sponsor, you’re going to see a great deal of EMC around the show. We’ll be spending most of our time talking with customers around Cloud and Big Data solutions we’ve brought to market.

What you’ll find interesting this year is that much of the conversations will include “hindsight” (aka lessons learned). We’ve been busy the last couple of years taking customers into virtualization, and into the hybrid clouds. We now have the luxury of an install base that provides some direction for those who now begin the journey.

This year we’ll have 3 expert speaking sessions that should be full of content about what we’ve learned from working with our customers to reach the cloud.                                               

Date:  2/28

EMC Accelerates the Journey to Your Cloud by Replatforming to an Intel Architecture – 2:45 pm, RM 106   – Abstract:  SAP customers today are evaluating how to move to virtualization confidently and improve daily operational efficiency—while ensuring the highest levels of availability. Discover methodologies and how replatforming to x86 with can accelerate the journey to your cloud and help accelerate SAP deployments.  You will gain practical insight into what you can do today to build a virtualized, dynamic SAP infrastructure for tomorrow’s private cloud computing model.       

Date:  2/29

Reduce Costs and Improve TCO by Virtualizing SAP with EMC & VMware – 10:00 am RM 106 – Abstract:  The business benefit of cloud technologies are appealing; however, virtualizing mission critical applications carries significant risks associated with performance, security, availability and management complexity. In this session, learn how SAP and EMC are partnering to develop secure clouds that are highly scalable and available within the performance requirements of SAP applications. Key topics covered will include: Physical to Virtual computing solutions, backup consolidation with deduplication, and availability and disaster recovery in a virtual environment.  You will gain practical insight into what you can do today to build a virtualized, dynamic SAP infrastructure for tomorrow’s private cloud computing model.

Title:  Case study: EMC IT shares lessons and tips based on its enterprise virtualization initiative – 2:15pm RM 301 – Abstract: Explore EMC IT’s Journey to the Cloud and best practices on how enterprise mission critical applications like SAP are designed and deployed in virtualized datacenters. By referencing EMC’s own large scale SAP ERP global deployment, you will learn about the approach used to integrate 80+ applications into a “Common Integration Cloud”. 

I know this next line sounds like sleazy marketing, but it’s true…Last year our sessions were standing room only, so get there early for a seat. If you get there too early we promise to entertain you with brilliant conversation.  Worst case… if you miss the time slots, you can always tweet me @ASitison and I can hook you up with the presenter or just come by the booth for a handshake and some giveaways (CAN YOU SAY PLASTIC CASH!).

…OK NOW FOR MY MISSION I CHOSE TO ACCEPT…

What I like about the SAP Insider series is traditionally it is the “workers” who show up to learn and to think about new ways to address problems that they have experienced in the last year.  This is “reality” walking the halls by the thousands. This is not where people come to hear about how the next great thing that will change the world in 5 years, it’s where you hear from those who are changing their world today. And, it’s a great place for a guy like me to get a dose of what needs fixing in 2012.  

I’m going to approach the event a little differently this year.  Usually I get consumed by meetings with customers I am currently engaged with. I rarely make it pass the hotel restaurants and the tradeshow floor. This year I am going to carve off some time and take on a new mission. My iphone and I are going on a journey to capture some of the stories about the problems and solutions that everyone is solving and to document a few of the interesting ideas that are readily available in the conversations on the floor.

On my journey, I’m going to try to answer:

1)      How are companies doing and how are they leveraging SAP in their strategy?

2)      What are the major problems being solved today (i.e. cause & symptoms)?

3)      How are they solving them and how are they pacing their roadmaps (i.e. cure & dosage)

4)      What does big data look like to them and how central will SAP products like HANA and BOBJ be to their strategy?

5)      What is their cloud strategy and have they “ventured into the mist…” Do they have personal stories about chargebacks/metering, provisioning, multi-tenancy, etc?

6)      How has globalization changed their plans?

7)      What do they want from their product and integration partners?

8)      Are there trends to be identified in everyone’s collective activities?

I will leverage twitter while I am at SAP Insider (#SAPInsider). If you’re there, please reach out @ASitison and we’ll get one of those extremely weak coffees together. I’d love to hear your story. I will also monitor the social media activity for any valuable content. If you have questions you’d like me to answer while I am there send me something through Twitter and I’ll be your trained monkey. When I get back from the trip, I’ll post a summary of my findings back here on the blog site for your consumption.   Wish me luck, hunt me down (figuratively), and/or come back to see what I found out.

Monkey signing out.