Exploring the Information Driven Economy
Several years ago I had the lucky fortune to eat an appetizer called “Clams Three Ways” at the recently closed Radius restaurant. For 15 years, Radius shone as one of the rare gustatory beacons in Boston’s financial district. The clam-focused app included a richly concocted demitasse of clam chowder, a few fresh and briny littlenecks on the half shell with a piquant mignonette, and some fried clams with a creative tartar that were crispier yet more succulent than any I had ever had, even surpassing the fried morsels from the legendary clams shacks up in Ipswich, MA.
Each clammy taste twist imparted by the three mini-dishes, served next to each other on an elongated rectangular plate, were inspiring on their own. But they were even better together, compelling me to appreciate the subtleties and variations a brilliant chef could render from a simple mollusk.
SAP made two announcements of consequence last week involving their HANA database and analytics platform. One announcement focused on HANA for analytics, and the second concentrated on HANA as the transactional database for the SAP Business Suite. If SAP concentrates on a third use of HANA, which it is in process of doing, specifically HANA for SaaS, we will have HANA three ways: like the Radius dish, customers and thus SAP might enjoy the beneficial diversity coming from the single HANA ingredient.
SAP’s Future is SaaS, HANA’s too?
HANA has catalyzed SAP in a number of ways: It has given SAP a fighting focal point for the past several years, and lifted SAP’s reputation as an innovative IT provider versus an IT rust belt vendor. It has spurred the SAP ecosystem to drive fresh value and solutions for customers. Also, HANA kick-started SAP into a position of relevancy as a player in the Big Data analytics space, as exemplified by the Accenture announcement. And HANA has given SAP a new point of conjecture against Oracle, as well as a hedge against the swarm of NoSQL database vendors that have hatched over the past decade.
While giving HANA its due as an undeniably significant catalyst for SAP, over the course of the next three years SAP’s ability to not just defend but ultimately to win at SaaS business apps will be SAP’s most critical competitive field. Therefore, HANA for SAP SaaS apps, with HANA the operational database versus an adjunct BI/analytics tool, should be SAP’s #1 priority for HANA right now. Let the systems integrators run with HANA on the analytics front, as is the case with Accenture. Don’t spend many cycles with HANA on SAP Business Suite either, for SAP’s new battleground is not SAP Business Suite.
In terms of SaaS, SAP has a glowing opportunity: Many of the first generation SaaS apps, like Salesforce.com and NetSuite, have what today look like tired and clunky Web user interfaces. By being a later mover in SaaS, SAP has smartly taken advantage by creating more palatable, social-style user experiences. Also, Salesforce.com’s in-process analytics looks like 1990s BI in terms of dynamics and visualization. Similarly, SAP has passed Salesforce.com on this front. Finally, as SaaS evolves towards ERP, it is a track that leads right to SAP’s wheelhouse, assuming SAP is ready to say “order up!”
By immersing HANA into its SaaS offerings SAP augments its SaaS value proposition, and there is no faster way for HANA to penetrate the market than for HANA to act as the core database for SAP SaaS. Easier said than done? Absolutely, since HANA is not natively multi-tenant. But neither was the Oracle database, yet now there is Oracle Database 12c. And more ERP customers will prefer that their SaaS database not be multi-tenant.
Think Mashed Potatoes
Of the three HANA dishes, the data warehouse/analytics upgrade seems like the most natural for the tasting panel to like – plenty of friendly, familiar flavors and demand. The SAP Business Suite migration to HANA might carry bitter overtones that make some panel members wince. The SaaS opportunity for HANA, however, is like mashed potatoes: Mashed potatoes are a side dish, but almost everyone will be glad if mashed potatoes are the side dish to the SaaS meat. And if well prepared, nobody leaves mashed potatoes on the plate.