This is the third time I have attended the annual SAP and Americas SAP User Group extravaganza known as Sapphire. The size and scale of the event is such that it is only possible to experience a slice of everything going on and it is very easy to get lost.
During the last 4 years, SAP has undergone a tremendous transformation. It’s acquisition of BusinessObjects back in 2008 has made it the leading Business Intelligence software vendor globally with BI and Analytics accounting for more than 50% of its license revenues in the last couple of years. The subsequent acquisition of Sybase spearheaded SAP’s drive into the mobility space with the Sybase Unwired Platform and is now leading a new charge into the database space with Sybase ASE. Then the purchase of cloud applications vendor Success Factors at the beginning of the year and recent announcement to acquire Ariba indicates SAP is serious about being a major player in the Cloud space too.
Yet the keynote presentations at this year’s Sapphire talked very little about these solutions as for the third year in a row, the SAP executives spoke mainly about one topic – HANA – their in-memory database appliance. Most of the keynotes included inviting HANA customers on the stage to talk about how HANA is either helping them or expecting to help them.
SAP has built its fortune and reputation on its business software applications which remains its core business, yet HANA is a combination of hardware and in-memory database which have not traditionally been its strengths. SAP has always considered itself to be both database and hardware agnostic but that now appears to be changing. Despite 3 years of enormous promotion, HANA is still new and has a long way to go in its evolution. It was interesting that most of the SAP executives speaking mentioned the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) being bandied around by others about HANA, but I think that is just a reaction to how heavily SAP is promoting it – one attendee told me it can do everything including washing the dishes!
The customers invited to be interviewed in the keynotes were impressive, especially Ron Dennis, Chairman of McLaren who said they do not get involved in anything unless they can make a difference. He described McLaren as being very good at “sit down sports” and dealing with the art of the impossible. They are a perfect candidate to put HANA to the test and that is just what they are planning to do over the coming months. Ron promised to be back at Sapphire next year to tell whether their experience was good or bad. That could mean another HANA show at next year’s Sapphire – lucky us!