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SAP after Sapphire: A look ahead

Chris Kanaracus | June 9, 2014
As software vendors tend to do during their big annual user conferences, SAP made a lot of promises to customers this week at Sapphire. The overarching theme was a desire to make SAP's software simpler and its customers' lives easier.

This week, SAP announced it has shipped an eighth service pack for Hana. In the view of John Appleby, global head of SAP Hana at consulting firm Bluefin Solutions, the release marks a turning point for the platform.

"There was a time during Hana's early years — 2011 through 2013 — where it was nearly a full time [job] just to keep up with what was going on," he wrote in a blog post this week. "By comparison, I just read all the release notes, changes and new features in the SPS08 release, and I know what's new within a few hours and how to apply it to our customers. What? SAP stopped innovating with Hana? It's not so much that, but rather that it was time for Hana to grow up."

"For the last 12 months I have watched Hana become more and more solid — no longer is she racing around the track on a sports bike — she has gone to college and got a job," Appleby added. "I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is, because I have a customer going live in a few weeks and I have chosen this release. So far, there are no surprises, and this is a large enterprise class system with a total of 18 nodes of Hana."

Hana's level of maturity could jump-start sales of the technology. One person who does not want that to happen is Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who will unveil his own in-memory computing option for the Oracle database during an event next week. If Ellison's track record is any guide, SAP may want to brace for some rhetorical fireworks.

Fiori for free? Not so fast

SAP made a splash by announcing that Fiori, a set of lightweight, cross-platform applications that tap many of the most common processes in the Business Suite, will now be included with software licenses customers buy, as well as made available to customers with active maintenance contracts for licenses they already own.

SAP relented to pressure from user groups, which had called for Fiori to be part of maintenance given the company's poor track record with user interfaces. While SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott termed the announcement as making Fiori free, SAP is planning to sell services for implementing it.

In addition, Fiori has significant dependencies on Hana, requiring customers to make that additional, and potentially substantial, investment.

While SAP is positioning Fiori as its primary user interface approach going forward, in doing so it's also positioning itself to make some serious money.

Mum on mobility, for now

Sapphire's top-line messages focused on the future of its applications and Hana, with relatively little focus placed on SAP's enterprise mobility assets.


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