SapphireNow Day Two – Pump It Up

Bill McDermott began the day for Orlando attendees of SapphireNow by demonstrating that there is no charisma deficit at SAP these days, and his co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe was right there behind him to make the case that commitment and strategy are not lacking either. They welcomed Sybase, hailed the new ByDesign release about to ship, and waved the sustainability flag high, leveraging their strong position there.

McDermott was crisp, funny, energetic and delivered a speech packed with ringing phrases: “I’m happy to be here with 50,000 friends…we acquired Sybase to put BI in any device, anyplace, anytime…We will jointly share the crown jewels [pause] and we will remain open.” His timing rivalled Al Gore from the day before. “Our customers deserve choice… the soft stuff is the real stuff…Mobility is the new desktop…When you mobilize information you empower people… Either you do it or someone else will do it for you.” It was one good piece of phrasemaking after another: effective, coherent and affirmative.

HP, a customer, cut its IT spend from 4% of revenue to 2%. And re-invested: that’s sustainable leadership, McDermott said. (HP’s quarterly numbers, announced today, didn’t hurt in underlining his points. HP raised its outlook, reported 2Q10 net revenue of $30.8B, up 13%.Its software revenue was down 1%, but industry standard servers were up 54%, and networking was up 58%.)

McDermott made the objective clear: SAP is committed to helping companies To Run Better. That means: real time (“real realtime”), unwired, sustainable. The challenges he cited were familiar: today’s data exceeds yesterday’s technology. He described SAP customer P&G and its billion dollar brands – more than one – as an example of how critical getting to real time is. And he closed on a strong note: “We’ve worked hard for the last 100 days to make this message clear: your trust means everything to us.”

His co-CEO, Jim Hagemann Snabe, had a hard act to follow, but brought his own humor to make the transition: “Even in-memory technology won’t keep the volcanos under control,” he said, prefiguring an announcement to come the next day, and proceeded to lay the technical case for SAP’s emerging strategy. The behavior of mobile, connected workers is different: “I assume people tweeting during my speech are showing modern behavior,” he joked reaffirming mobile use. And after laying out a familiar history of computing eras, he hammered it home: “This era is about the empowerment of people. Not just consumers, business people. And it’s not about abandoning scale – that’s a prerequisite.” IT’s response to these trends is simple: “if you believe business processes and people go beyond the four walls, then you will move to the cloud.” And that affects SAP’s portfolio of delivery channels: “We will continue to deliver on-premise. We will deliver on-demand. And we will deliver on device: unwired and wired.”

Then the big news of the day: ByDesign is finally ready to move beyond the 100 customers it has so far, carefully targeted to squeeze into the mid-market above the low-end Business All-In-One. No apologies: “I am proud of what ByDesign has done in past 12 months, and when we ship in July, it will be volume-ready.” We’ll be watching, of course; SAP has struggled with this.

Snabe is unbowed, and delighted in a brief demo on his iPad. “This is all in memory. Wish my suit had bigger pockets to carry this.” Not many CEOs do demos; this was great theater, and he pulled it off handily. Chris Kanaracus describes the details here: multi-tenant but single if you want it, a Microsoft Silverlight front end (sparking a strong reaction from RedMonk’s James Governor), in-memory analytics and a developer toolkit. Thomas Wailgum noted that accounting for SaaS revenues will be a bit disruptive to the financial reporting. Zoli Erdos of the Irregulars noted the substantial competition from NetSuite, suggesting that it is “the first time SAP finds themselves on the wrong side of the David vs. Goliath equation.” The battle is about to be joined.

And then the context. Snabe laid out the promise: “With the Sybase announcement, we become Number 1 in mobility.” And it’s an ecosystem play, “We’ll deliver not just our own apps, but also those from our mobile partners. Imagine what you can build with pattern based analytics, geolocation and access to business processes.” And then my favorite quote of the morning:

We do not believe middleware should hide inconsistencies between systems; we believe they should be designed to be consistent.”

SAP doesn’t believe in disruption, but that posture shifted slightly here: “We believe in a disruption that will re-innovate the infrastructure. Not doing it all ourselves, but integrating.” Finally, Snabe got personal – he spoke of his 20-plus years of innovating with customers, setting up  SAP’s Beliefs. It was a story about an open stack, and moving forward with partners and customers, transparently.NetWeaver was not mentioned once, although Forrester’s John Rymer tweeted about an upbeat meeting with the team responsible for it.

Finally, Snabe closed with a promise: “We live in a world of opportunities – and responsibilities. We will help the world run better – and we’ll deliver our own 50% CO2 reduction by 2020.”

Sounds like I drank the Koolaid, I suppose. Don’t get me wrong – speeches won’t matter at the end. Execution does.I hope to post later about the rest of the day – customer sessions, partners, and more. Hopeful, positive stuff, but of course it was – that’s how you plan an event like this. SAP has a big task ahead. And what they talked about is incomplete so far; as Altimeter’s Ray Wang said, “realtime is not fast enough.” Meaning, I think, that we didn’t hear about predictive analytics. No, not here. But of course, there’s more to come tomorrow, and the Business Objects team has a few things to say about that. In fact, when Hasso Plattner takes the stage for the Day 3 keynote, we’re likely to hear more about the future, and that will truly be interesting.

Disclosures: SAP is a client of IT Market Strategy

Published by Merv Adrian

Independent information technology market analyst and consultant, 40 years of industry experience, covering software in and around the data management space.

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