SAP's Sikka: "I am not a donut." True. And he wowed the SAP TechEd crowd

At SAP TechEd Berlin, Vishal Sikka, CTO SAP takes subtle digs at Oracle while painting a vision that developers can understand

SAP TechEd 2010 kicked off in Berlin this morning with CTO Vishal Sikka poking fun at himself and Oracle while wowing the crowd. (I attended virtually via the live feed that included #sapteched Tweets.)

Sikka took to the stage quipping: "I will not say 'Ich bin ein Berliner' because Berliner means donut and I'm not a donut." Wags in the Twitterstream added "and he's not a nugget either." A fun start for an audience that in recent years had become unsettled by sales pitches that had little relevance to a technical audience.

Within two minutes, Sikka was taking subtle swipes at Oracle, branding the stack wars as "missing the point" about what customers want. More important, Sikka directly addressed what this audience wanted to hear: 'innovation without disruption' and delivery on much promised upgrades.

Key throwaways

'Stack wars are missing the point'

'We only use Intel processors'

'SAP foundation is NetWeaver'

'Business ByDesign architecture is the future'

In recent times there has been much debate about NetWeaver's future and in a swift one-two, Sikka put that argument to bed. First up was confirmation that NetWeaver is at the centre of SAP development and that NW7.3 will ship this fall. Next he said that Business ByDesign's architecture lies at the heart of future development, thus confirming what many have wondered about in past times. In doing so he sent a clear message to everyone: SAP is not afraid of disrupting itself if that means it is assuring the future of customers while fleshing out its cloud story. Thinking about this, I could not help being reminded of Hasso Plattner's chat with Irregulars and SAP Mentors at SAPPHIRE 2010 where he recognised the need to keep Wall Street happy while at the same time ensuring the company is developing for future customer needs.

Next Sikka talked about cloud computing, putting 'and' at the center of  that discussion. He reflected on the sometimes binary discussion between cloud and on-premise vendors where both sides position solutions as either/or. Instead he chose to talk either/and in a message that emphasises co-existence as a key theme that ties innovation to non-disruptive implementation. This simple message will add fire to the SaaS/cloud vendor community messaging going forward and it will be interesting to see how they respond.

The centerpiece of his presentation came when assistant Sam Yen showed how developers could assemble and deploy an iPad application in two minutes. The Mac fanbois in the crowd gave that a big cheer. But a much bigger cheer went up when Yen showed complex analytics being performed on a massive database in almost no time at all. This was Sikka's way of hammering home the message that SAP is not just about in-memory database but in memory computing. While doing so he took another dig at Oracle by pointing out that the demonstration system dubbed HANA, a joint development between SAP and HP to deliver high performance analytics only uses Intel chips.

In between these over arching themes, Sikka threw in images that showed advances in the NetWeaver portal, made reference to SAML 2.0 and REST, all of which pleased developers anxious to see SAP use technologies which they consider important in a modern business applications landscape.

How well did Sikka perform? As he spoke it was clear there was considerable warmth from the Tweeting audience. Gartner analyst Thomas Otter went as far as to say:

This is a better presentation than the last teched. much clearer.

As always with keynotes, the devil is in the detail and while I cannot be in Berlin, I will be at the Las Vegas show to dig into what this means and where it is going. But on first blush, I sense we are starting to see a re-emergence of the 'old SAP.'An SAP that solves big hairy problems for Global 2000 customers. On this occasion I also sense that for the first time in some years, SAP is giving developers some things to get excited about. That's a good start.

Image courtesy of Chip Rogers Plixi.