SAP database and mobility strategies: genius or madness?

Jon Reed, independent enterprise analyst focused on SAP technologies, was an important contributor to this report. Barely a month before SAPPHIRE Now in Orlando, SAP has provided an update on its mobility strategy and outlined a plan to becoming the number two database vendor by 2015. It will give CIOs plenty to think about before the schmoozing starts around May 13th. Do these strategies make sense? See also: SAP reveals database, mobile roadmaps through 2015 Mobile strategy SAP realises that to achieve a critical mass of applications will require a significant contribution from its large ecosystem of developers. The company says as many as 75% will need to come from this source. Despite SAP’s acquisition of Syclo – which for the record was purchased NOT for the platform as some have speculated, but for the apps – SAP is still thinking ecosystem for mobility app development. Right now it is wooing the large SIs on the assumption they can seed the big deals among SAP’s larger customers using the Sybase Unwired Platform and surrounding technologies. Device management figures large in SAP’s thoughts as the justification for tempting SIs and developers onto its platform. Until very recently, pricing for both applications and the platform have been the subject of much to and fro. SAP believes that it has figured out a way to monetize while retaining broad appeal. It is believed to be in the process of developing pro forma price points for different types of user. SAP has not yet made those price points public and will almost certainly refine the model. What might some of these applications look like? The next video shows SAP Mobile BI analytics in a retail setting: If SAP releases refactored apps from the desktop then customers will legitimately argue that this is only access via another device and therefore should be part of their existing maintenance arrangements. SAP is proposing ‘active per user’ pricing regardless of device access. That is to be welcomed. What is less clear is how this will work in large scale deployments for net new applications. Expecting a large company to pony up (say) $700 (plus maintenance) for each of its (say) 10,000 field sales or service reps is going to be a big ask unless it is self evident that the application will deliver breakthrough value. That theory has yet to be tested by so it will be interesting to see just how much customers are prepared to pay at the top end, which is where SAP will make its real money in the short term.

What I do know is that the new breed of SI like Appirio is able to deliver value based custom apps in the $100,000 range and is now working towards making that model repeatable as a service:

What Appirio has mastered is the automation of professional services using today’s global networked connections — part of a trend I call frictionless enterprise. It’s not just a matter of automating repeatable processes within the service model (though that’s a helpful starting point). It’s also breaking them down into more readily assembled components so that some can be productized or cloudsourced, as appropriate.

I don’t see evidence that SAP or its large SI partners have truly understood this model. Instead, I continue to see legal roadblocks that prevent developers from gaining easy and affordable platform access. Sanjay Poonen, President SAP Global Solutions Go-to-Market has assured developers that he will do everything he can to make access as painless as possible, noting that SAP has to embrace an attitude that is more closely aligned to the open source world. Only time will tell whether he can deliver on everything that is required. What we do know is that as of today, SAP is officially running mobility – not Sybase. During his keynote, Executive Board Member Vishal Sikka officially presented the Sybase Unwired Platform and Sybase 365 as the SAP


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