Before I being I just want to emphasize that this blog post represents my own views and in no way should be taken as being the view of either the company I work for or SAP. There is no guarantee that I have got everything 100% right here but I think it is a useful story to share and hope it will spark some discussion.
The buzz around mobility is HUGE... everywhere I turn people are excited about how mobile computing can change the way they do business, save money, become more competitive and improve efficiencies. With everything moving at a million miles an hour it is easy to get confused about what is happening and how all the new products we hear about from SAP are combining into something that will enable all this change. We recently had the pleasure of having Tim Wilkes the SAP ANZ Solutions Manager come and brief us on the SAP Mobile strategy. Tim shared with us a very digestible description of just how SAP sees the mobilization of its core ERP systems and processes and I would like to share some of that vision with you here.
Figure 1 - Tim shared this great visual to help us understand - recreated and embellished here with the help of Adobe Ideas on my iPad :-)
It is encouraging to hear SAP refer to traditional ERP, CRM, SRM, and BW systems etc... as “Fortress SAP”. These systems that largely are the domain of the grey haired functional or technical experts are largely closed systems, complicated and difficult to integrate with. SAP has been addressing this over the last few years releasing numerous web enabled services as part of their Service Orientated Architecture (SOA) strategy (check the contents of your enhancement packages)... the problem though is that this SOA layer has to a large extent just replicated the complexity that exists below it; it is still complex, verbose and difficult to use.
Project Gateway unveiled at the most recent Tech Ed conferences in Berlin and Las Vegas is what SAP is hoping will solve the problem of “Fortress SAP”. The aim of the gateway is to provide a service layer that exposes a simplified version of the complex processes and business entities that live inside of SAP and to make those entities available for consumption by a variety of modern user centric computing devices (insert your favourite mobile platform here); lightweight and easy access. So no longer is Fortress SAP only the domain of the grey haired expert but also the domain of the spiky haired gen-y web 2.0 expert. This is a major piece in SAP CTO Vishal Sikka’s vision of liberating all those legacy screens that are currently locked inside of the traditional fortress SAP.
The first cab of the rank to use the Gateway will be the new DUET Enterprise; a product collaboration between Microsoft and SAP that aims to bring the worlds of collaboration and business data together via Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010. DUET Enterprise makes use of the first release of theGateway (known as embedded Gateway) and is currently entering Ramp Up mode. Please don’t be put off by the name (personally I would have thought that SAP would have dropped the DUET brand for this), this new DUET is a totally different animal from the previous releases which arguably flopped, instead of providing pre-packaged solutions DUET Enterprise provides a leaner platform that will allow organizations to concentrate on the right solution for their situation.
SAP’s recent acquisition of Sybase has been exciting and ties in nicely with this topic. Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) is a perfect candidate to make use of the new Gateway service. You can use SUP to design and build your mobile application and Afaria from Sybase to manage the wide variety of devices you currently support or plan to support down the track. Sybase has recently been recognized as clear upper quadrant leaders by Gartner in the 2010 Mobile Enterprise Application Platform Magic Quadrant.
Essentially in its first release River will be an Amazon hosted cloud application platform that will extend On Premise ERP solutions into The Cloud, allowing for the development of lightweight cloud based applications... expect to hear more about this early next year.
SAP want to open up their fortress to a much wider audience, to do this they will build out a mobile platform that allows customers and partners to develop the applications they need, but they won’t necessarily be delivering those applications themselves. They recognize the opportunities for an eco system to develop around development of applications much like what Apple has managed to do with their App Store for the iPhone and iPad.