SAP execs talk Sybase, NetWeaver, Business ByDesign

ORLANDO—At this year’s SapphireNOW conference, SAP AG’s dual CEOs kicked off day one with talk of the Sybase acquisition, Business ByDesign’s July launch, and the future of NetWeaver.

Held in real-time via satellite for the first time in Sapphire’s history from two locations, co-CEO Jim Hagemann-Snabe said from Frankfurt that the recent Sybase acquisition drives SAP’s strategy and pushes accelerated innovations to market.

“With Sybase, we move ourselves very strongly toward mobility, which is one of the three cornerstones of our strategy,” said Hagemann-Snabe during a news conference. Sybase also brings in-memory analytics to the Germany-based company. The third cornerstone of SAP’s strategy is on-demand.

Hagemann-Snabe said it’s important for Sybase and SAP customers to understand the acquisition is about growth, customer satisfaction and expansion of the ecosystem in which SAP toils. “We will share the crown jewels in a bilateral way between the two companies,” he said.

From Orlando, Co-CEO Bill McDermott said the acquisition will not change how SAP goes to market and will continue to preserve its existing partnerships so customers can have a choice when building out their IT infrastructure. “We will remain totally open to vendors,” he said.

“Not like other acquisitions we’ve seen done in the California area where 21,000 jobs have been cut and people have been demoralized,” said McDermott, taking a jab at rival Oracle Corp.

The retail sector will continue to be one of SAP’s strategic growth opportunities and Sybase will help bring about that “perfect retail solution,” said Hagemann-Snabe.

Henry Morris, senior vice-president for worldwide software and services research with Framingham, Mass.-based IDC Ltd., said that while Sybase offers customers a glimpse into how SAP sees the future of computing, executives have still to make a business case for the customer. “What can the CEOs say about the new kinds of applications that will make businesses more competitive?” Morris later said to ComputerWorld Canada.

Also at the news conference, on the topic of Business ByDesign, Hagemann-Snabe said the on-demand offering is on track for the delivery of version 2.5 in July. However, he added, on-demand is a “relatively new market” for the company and there is much learning to be had along the way. Business ByDesign will be demoed at the conference this week, with the launch set for the U.S., U.K. France, India and China.

There are already about a hundred customers running their business on Business ByDesign so the product is “not a fantasy,” said Hagemann-Snabe. In the meantime, the company has been taking the time to properly build out the infrastructure before expanding availability. Hagemann-Snabe said there is no set goal regarding user adoption because “we want to get experience first.”

Cindy Jutras, vice-president and group director with Boston, Mass.-based Aberdeen Group, later told ComputerWorld Canada that the caution exercised by SAP regarding Business ByDesign till now has centred on multi-tenancy to drive down the company’s total cost of ownership. But it’s not necessarily something the customer cares about, she added.

SAP has yet to let loose their marketing engine on Business ByDesign, said Jutras. “But I think once they do that, those numbers are going to escalate pretty significantly,” she said.

On the topic of middleware technology NetWeaver, the executives during the news conference assured the audience that it is alive and well, and continues to be the platform for connecting all applications, whether SAP or not. The company remains “very committed to the NetWeaver infrastructure” and the platform is rapidly evolving with on-demand and mobility capabilities, said Hagemann-Snabe. Earlier this year, Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. produced a report that questioned the continued success of NetWeaver.

Sanjay Chikarmane, senior vice-president for solution management for NetWeaver and SOA middleware, told ComputerWorld Canada, the company has a robust investment plan outlined in a three-year roadmap in which SAP will work to bring together previously disparate product categories across different vendors. Late this year or early next year, Chikarmane said SAP will introduce new capabilities to allow enterprises to do real-time event management internal and external to the firewall.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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