SAP updates Sybase platform to build, manage mobile apps

ORLANDO—At SAP’s user conference, SapphireNow 2011, the German company continues to support its belief in the mobile device being today’s desktop with the promise of a new version of its Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) and a new software developer kit (SDK) for IT managers and developers to connect SAP back-end data to mobile apps.

The software company acquired mobile technology vendor Sybase in 2010, and along with that came SUP, which is a development platform for building and managing business apps for mobile devices. Version 2.0 of SUP will become available to customers in September.

According to Stephen Drake, IDC Corp.’s program vice-president for mobility and telecom in Framingham, Mass., the union of SAP as an app vendor and Sybase as a mobile vendor offers a “unique” collaboration such that customers can use the mobile development and management platform to tackle small tasks as well as the more complex ones within their businesses.

“That’s the play,” said Drake, adding that SUP gives the confidence of a future-proof platform that is more overarching than limiting point solutions.

Among the new capabilities to SUP 2.0 are cross-platform support for iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Android. There’s single-sign on for back-end systems and encrypted HTML5 Web storage and data transport. The new SDK makes native app development easier with a user interface framework, connectivity and device integration.

At Sapphire, SAP also announced the coming in the next few months of ready-made mobile apps already built atop SUP in the areas of human resources, procurement, finance and sales.

Later at a press conference, co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe said there are ample opportunities for SAP to make money from the apps that developers will build, especially with an app store model with app distribution and service calls. “That is a huge monetization capability,” he said.

While Hagemann Snabe would not speak to the specific revenue share that will be reaped from these mobile apps, he does expect thousands of apps will be built in new categories such as complex service management tasks, and simple approvals such as travel management.

“We have not put exact numbers on it yet. We’ll see how it evolves,” said Hagemann Snabe.

In an interview with ComputerWorld Canada, Terry Stepien, president of Waterloo, Ont.-based Sybase, whose role now is to work on a mobility strategy for SAP, said giving customers the option to build mobile apps or buy them ready-made recognizes that individual companies will have unique business logic behind their app.

Stepien is not concerned for SUP’s scalability to SAP’s customer base of larger enterprises because he said Sybase also did have some large customers. But, effort has been put to ensure scalability of the knowledge base in order to support SAP’s customer base that is bigger in number.  

The goal, said Stepien, is to make SUP the development platform of choice for customers’ device management and development.

According to figures from Toronto-based IDC Canada Ltd., 86 per cent of medium and large organizations had mobilized their workforce by Q3 2010. The main technology challenges to mobilization are security, integration and connectivity. While the number one business challenge is lack of financial support, the research firm found.

While SAP continues to push mobile, in-memory and cloud, it’s not neglecting its core technologies. Hagemann Snabe said the company will continue to innovate its Business Suite with quarterly enhancements because its strategy “emanates from the core.” For instance, analytics will only reap bad results faster if the foundational data is bad.

Regarding cloud, SAP’s recent announcement of its Sales onDemand was a prominent topic at Sapphire, with Hagemann Snabe describing it as “the first in a series of people-centric apps designed around how people work.” Sales onDemand is the cloud version of SAP’s on-premise CRM that is built atop the same Business ByDesign foundation. “We feel very confident this will add on a significant, profitable revenue stream,” said Hagemann Snabe.

One early customer of Sales onDemand is undergoing a pilot for 60 users in its sales force of 500. The motivation behind deploying the technology for Premiere Global Services Inc., a virtual meeting software vendor with Canadian offices in Montreal and Toronto, was to get more intelligence across sales channels and to better allocate sales resources from time-consuming tasks such as account management, said Scott Schemmel, chief information officer with PGI.
Schemmel said the pilot will allow them to gauge whether the technology works with in-house processes, but, so far, user feedback has been positive.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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