Last year at this time I attended my first Neptune customer event - then dubbed UX. At the time I said:
In positioning Planet 9 as an agnostic platform, Neptune is signaling to the market more generally that while it supports and will continue to support the SAP world as an add-on, customers are telling it that the world is a lot bigger than it once was.
This year, we saw that positioning fleshed out across a wide variety of use cases with everything from agriculture to military to CPG to telecom to waste management and not for profit. The direction Neptune is taking suggests its platform can fit anywhere there is a REST API enabled application which, in turn means plenty of development flexibility.
This year, Neptune chose to add a festival vibe, hosting the event at Salt, Oslo. Co-founder Njål Stabell said:
We think Planet 9 brings a sense of fun to development environments. We want to celebrate that by putting on a different type of event for customers.
Like last year, there was plenty of customer-led stories on show. Every customer talked about SAP landscapes in one shape or another using either Planet 8 for mobile or, more commonly, Planet 9 to produce device, cloud platform, database, and developer language agnostic applications. At any customer event, there is only so much time during which to showcase advanced technology use cases and so it is never entirely clear whether what one is seeing is representative of an entire ecosystem.
If this event is an indicator of the wider SAP market then it is clear to me that advanced customers with reasonably sized development teams or access to well-seasoned Tier-2 ISV/consultants are home growing applications rather than going for packaged applications. From what I could gather, customers are viewing their SAP landscapes as data repositories from which they can derive differentiated value now, rather than waiting for packaged functionality they will need to tweak. While that might sound counter-intuitive to the cost-conscious CIO, there were enough value specific metrics splashed onto the presentation screens to put the build v buy argument to bed. (Hint: they're building not buying)
Notably, there was very little discussion about S/4HANA except in peripheral terms and that is seen as a technical upgrade. The customers I spoke with are looking at their SAP landscapes as stable environments the data from which they view as a commodity for consumption in applications that are part of purposeful strategy execution.
In the tech world, the mantra goes: you can have it cheap, fast, good - pick two. In the Planet 9 world, you can have all three plus one other - easy. I lost count of the number of times that presenters emphasized the ease with which their developer teams became productive with Planet 9. More to the point, developers are getting to grips with UI/UX problems that users face in SAP landscapes and taking the pain out of developing in Fiori. The fact that two presentations focused on dramatically reducing the number of screens that users have to navigate speaks volumes about what Neptune is doing to ease end user pain.
Equally, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that customers are experimenting with everything from beacon sensors to AR and smart glass alongside taking steps towards machine learning predictive programming models. There was even an (admittedly) cheesy demojam showing of Alexa and the blockchain. That is something you don't often see in the real SAP-led world. (Cue Brian Sommer and his frequent rants about the lack of imagination by SAP bag carriers in pitch sessions.)
One of the most fascinating developments currently underway is the notion of predictive programming, enabled by machine learning. Planet 9's Pro Code App Editor 'predictively' selects code snippets the developer can accept or reject, depending on the use case.
It is early in the game but from what I saw, I imagine that developers will find this way of building both a significant timesaver (since code is syntactically correct and relevant) yet challenging in the sense that code suggestions could spark fresh ways of thinking about problem-solving. For those who like choice, Planet 9 supports all the developer favorite databases whether that's Cockroach, MariaDB, SQLServer, MySQL, Oracle, Postgres, SQLite or MongoDB. As developers might expect, there's support for a good selection of JS variants. Speaking of Pro Code, Neptune supports 'low code' but the introduction of Pro Code adds a fresh dimension to the Neptune arsenal.
More to come as we dissect and share the learnings from among customers who presented.