Sapphire Now 2013 - the discerning preview

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed May 9, 2013
Now that SAP has all the HANA talk out of the way and the HANA Enterprise Cloud has been unveiled, what can we expect from the Sapphire Now keynote stage? Well, more HANA of course. What else were you expecting? We offer some clues.

Bill McDermott - CEO SAP
Now that SAP has all the HANA talk out of the way and the HANA Enterprise Cloud has been unveiled, what can we expect from the Sapphire Now keynote stage? Well, more HANA of course. What else were you expecting?

Sapphire Now 2013 is a huge opportunity for SAP to convince the bloggerati – and far more importantly, its own customers – that its heavily-marketed reinvention has  taken hold on the ground. That means letting customers tell a good chunk of the story. Otherwise SAP will fall into the trap of its own making: talking about future releases while SaaS companies use their conferences to talk about what’s available right now. Will SAP succeed? We’ll find out next week.

How can SAP pull this off? Three big to-dos:

  1. Give customers a clear idea of what HANA can do for them today. Is HANA a rip-and-replace database, a next-gen application platform, and/or a way to move on-premise apps to the cloud and eliminate tedious batch processing? All of the above, and more – so how does it all tie together, and what is the so-called time to value?
  2. (Finally) relay a coherent cloud strategy. At least week’s HANA Enterprise Cloud announcement, Chairman and Co-Founder Hasso Plattner said "in the future, everything will be in the cloud.” Given SAP’s on-premise history, that’s a monster statement. Forget about the pundits and their penchant for multi-tenancy debates – is SAP’s approach to cloud sensible to its own customers?
  3. Offer more than “you have to pay/upgrade to get this innovation.” SAP’s customers bought products believing they were state-of-the-art. They pay maintenance costs that help to keep SAP’s HANA labs thriving. Some new products are well worth paying for, but not all innovation should come with a price tag. What will ASUG have to say about this? We’ll know during ASUG CEO Bridgette Chamber’s keynote at the end of the day Tuesday.

What to watch (on the ground and virtually)

SAP’s keynotes have improved from one big reason: SAP has smartly given its customers a bigger voice on stage. Hearing from customers who are not only excited about HANA, but live in production will go a long way. That should be doable given that as of September 2012, SAP was citing 600+ HANA customers and 100+ in full production scenarios. Expect an update of these numbers next week.

Will SAP be able to avoid falling back on speed to justify the HANA business case? At Sapphire Now Madrid 2012, SAP was proudly citing 18 customers in the 10K club who has improved select processes by 10,000 times with HANA. SAP cited an increase to 26 in the 10K club last week, but is it the best talking point? With Teradata announcing in-memory technology and also boasting 3,000 times speed improvements, database speed will be a commodity sooner than later. The HANA startups I've talked to usually put speed fourth on their list of HANA's appeal, after real-time, predictive/computational features, and ability to "mashup" diverse information sources. Whoever makes the best in-memory business case will win. Sapphire Now 2013 is the ideal time for SAP to do that.

But there’s more to watch:

Ariba and the cloud: Bob Calderoni, CEO of Ariba, will make his first appearance on the SAP keynote stage on Tuesday the 14th. Calderoni knows a thing or two about transitioning from an on-premise to a cloud company. What will his message be? By the time the week is over, will the talk about cloud from Calderoni, Snabe (Wednesday’s keynote), and Sikka/Plattner convince us SAP’s cloud push is not a case of too many chefs (and acquisitions)?

Mobility: For Plattner, mobile access weighs heavily into his views on the inevitability of cloud. How does SAP mobility fit into the picture, at a time when the push towards mobile usage conflicts with the struggles to build enterprise mobile storefonts?

Internet of Things: When SAP talks about the convergence of cloud/in-memory/analytics/mobile by showing off new applications (look for some compelling “Internet of Things” demos at Sapphire Now), SAP is on its strongest competitive footing. Here’s one such example Dennis and I shot of an SAP M2M project at the Mobile World Congress.

Virtual conference attendance has never offered more context, so if you’re not on the ground in Orlando, the live broadcast schedule is a page to bookmark  (you can catch this week’s HANA Enterprise Cloud press event replay as well).

Tracking Sapphire Now on Twitter - through trial and error

Combine a virtual 'live' viewing with some monitoring of Twitter, fight your way through some snark and hype – ok, lots of snark and hype - and you’ll get a feel for what’s happening on the ground. If you’re not a pro at setting up a Twitter dashboard, you may want to try, where you can monitor the event hashtags #sapphirenow or #asug2013. If you find those hashtag streams too busy, experiment with additional keywords that will hone your search. Examples: adding keywords of interest like “analytics” to either one of those hashtags will narrow your stream (example here), and should give you the commentary and views you want.

Or you can follow individuals who will be on site, though I don’t expect to tweet a heck of a lot given that I will be running the JD-OD video studio on my own (with welcome support from a handy technician). Divide and conquer: Dennis will be at SuiteWorld 2013 with two other diginomica core team members, Phil Wainewrignt and Stuart Lauchlan. SAP's stellar blogger relations team has loaded me up with customer video shoots, so I should get some good stories from the field - including some surprises I swore not to reveal yet.

Speaking of which, the one thing you can only get on the ground is talking the talk with customers, partners, and startups. My ASUG volunteer friends would (rightly) blow a gasket if I did not mention this is a co-located show and ASUG’s educational sessions are a crucial part of why thousands of customers show up.

Hit the show floor

It’s well worth the time to seek out those customers, kick tires on the show floor demos, and talk to startups. Sikka updated last week that the SAP Startup program now has more than 400 startups – a number of them will be in Orlando. Contact Aslan Noghre-kar  if you are looking to learn more in Orlando on this. Dennis and I have filmed more than 50 SAP startups to date. Those conversations have given me more optimism about SAP’s future than anything else.

Of course, when we throw about the dreaded “innovation” buzzword, we also have to toss in its companion buzzword “scale.” “Innovation to scale”, if you can accept that wonky phrase without coughing,  is what it’s all about, and that’s where SAP has the biggest challenge - in 2013 and beyond. We’ll find out more next week.

Disclosure: SAP is a diginomica partner at the time of writing. SAP is also a client of in which the author is a partner.

Photo by Martin Gillet, Sapphire Now 2012

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