SAP regaining its mojo?

Earlier today at SAP TechEd Vienna, Jim Hageman Snabe, SAP senior vice president in charge of products said: "Business ByDesign will be multi-tenant." It was almost a throw away line in a broad conversation discussing SAP's slow conversion to all things SaaS and cloud computing.

Earlier today at SAP TechEd Vienna, Jim Hageman Snabe, SAP senior vice president in charge of products said: "Business ByDesign will be multi-tenant." It was almost a throw away line in a broad conversation discussing SAP's slow conversion to all things SaaS and cloud computing. I thought I was hearing things until Jim confirmed this is the case. I asked whether this means the end of the much criticized mega-tenant model where tenants are not shared on server blades. Apparently not: "We can accommodate both. Right now we can get around 10 customers on each blade if that's acceptable." This translates to something like 250 users per blade.

When SAP first introduced ByDesign in the winter of 2007, it could get 50 concurrent users per blade. By the Spring of this year, the concurrent user number had reached 100 so this current number represents a significant engineering achievement albeit helped by the continuing operation of Moore's Law. Even so, Jim was keen to ensure that ByDesign delivery expectations are not overstated. "We got burnt by being overly ambitious and won't repeat that mistake. We're still working on getting the TCO right. I have an interim milestone for the end of the year which looks good right now but I can't commit to a specific date in 2010."

In other news, SAP confirmed it will be using in-memory database technology to deliver ByDesign's analytics. This is the first step in a broader move towards making in-mem databases the center of application development. Jim quoted the example of a complex business planning scenario that would normally take 20 minutes to execute being run in 7 seconds. That level of performance improvement is welcome but in-mem gives the potential to do much more.

"Once you insert the in-memory database into the application itself then you can start to do things that today are impossible for example you can ask almost unlimited 'what-if' questions about what's happening in the business," said Jim. This is in contrast to what happens today where large enterprise has to build large data cubes that give a limited view based on pre-defined queries.

For those of us interested in SAP TCO, the company believes there are significant potential savings in code development and maintenance: "We think [code cost] savings of 40% are possible," said Jim.

Later in the day, SAP surprised us by offering the stage to

While the demo, code named Gravity, is nowhere near ready for prime time, it shows how consumer style services can co-exist comfortably with the enterprise world. In talking with developers, it seems a number of SAP business process experts are finding collaborative uses for Wave that hold promise for bringing the development of process models much closer to end users. But whether corporate IT departments are ready to let loose cloud services that talk to buttoned down SAP systems is another matter. For its part, Google is aware that it needs to develop services inside Wave that reflect enterprise needs: "We are working on having the ability to restrict people's rights inside a Wave to say 'read only' or no 'delete,'" said Lars.

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