Tag Archives: sap

Disrupting the IT Services market: Consultancy 2.0

Some time ago I had dinner with SAP co-CEO Jim Snabe. Jim is a bright and talented individual and one of the topics we got into was the setting of unreasonable boundary conditions as a mechanism to get the best out of employees. The principle is that by asking for the unreasonable, you will cause people to come up with more creative, better solutions to problems. I was instantly fascinated.

However, it wasn’t until a late phone call with friend and mentor John Niland of VCO Global some weeks ago, that my thoughts started to finally mature on this. We discussed the topic of motivating contributors, and how you get the best out of those people who work for you.

I told Niland that my experience was that the best way to get more out of great employees is to ask more of them. As humans, we tend to be limited by what we believe is possible and this in turn restricts us. In an interesting twist, contributors are actually happiest, when pushed in this way. So I came up with an idea to test this theory:

The SI Smackdown

We took what would normally a 3-4 week SAP HANA technology project and I told a team of two that they had 2 days to complete it. Everyone thought it was crazy. To make it crazier, we orchestrated it to happen live, on a conference room floor, in front of 8000 people. And just to make it interesting, we used two Systems Integrators and turned it into a competition. Oh, and we used a real customer, Consumer Products giant ConAgra, with real data.

Because unreasonable boundary conditions – think back to the conversation with Snabe – were set, the SI Smackdown competitors found a way to make it happen. And then they blew my wildest expectations out the window by not just doing what was asked, but so much more. They demonstrated not just a better IT system running on SAP HANA, but radical ways to show ConAgra how they could change the was they run their business.

The thing that really interested me about this most was that the two participants from my team, once they had a few days off after the conference, were demanding when they could do it again. It turns out that they loved it.

Extreme Consultancy

And so it happened a few weeks ago that I was in a situation. We had committed to a UK conference to show a customer demo and we got the data 7 days before the conference to build the demo with. Worse, I had no resources that week spare to work on it and we had a good portion of our team out at another conference that week.

So, I wondered what would happen if we applied the two concepts above at the same time. Set unreasonable boundary conditions, and ask even more of our employees. So, I designed (OK… handwaved) a really cool solution based on the customer data, using technology that wasn’t available yet and would only be released the day before the conference. Note once again the importance of making the boundaries unreasonable.

Then, I emailed 5 very talented individuals, each of whom would bring an invaluable skill to the table, and asked them if they would be prepared to do the project in their spare time before the conference. Every one of them replied within an hour and agreed. They created the most amazing solution that showed how the customer, one of the largest Pharmaceutical companies in the world, how they could revolutionise their Integrated Business Planning process. Wow.

Managing Contributors

It’s worth jumping back to my conversation with Niland, because my second assertion is that if you want to get more out of your contributors then – I believe – you have to observe an interesting set of rules, which are even more important when setting unreasonable boundaries:

First, there has to be a purpose and you have to explain it. This becomes a shared vision for the contributors, who usually deeply care about actually making a difference. In both cases above, there was a customer scenario and a reason for creating the technology solution. Ensure there are unreasonable boundary conditions. If they think it’s possible, it won’t motivate them.

Second, you have to motivate them by providing them with what they want – and here’s a hint – it’s never about money. In both cases above, they got access to cool technology – a $400k appliance, plus access to software that wasn’t readily available and the request to do something that had never been done before. Be very mindful here because different things motivate different types of contributor.

Third, you have to give them other great contributors to work with, and clear the decks. Both by getting out the way yourself, but also by making sure they have access to get assistance when they need it – assistance from people they respect. Listen to what they need and provide for them.

Fourth, you have to look after their wellbeing because they will not. When you set unreasonable boundary conditions, I’ve often observed that contributors fail to manage their own wellbeing. Ensure they take a break when they need it, and they get days off after a high-pressure stint. But, don’t be confused into thinking that wellbeing is about a 37.5 hour week – that’s Eurobullshit. Happy people can work long hours. Stories of early Apple suggest 90 hour weeks were a regular occurrence and they were some of the most motivated workers I have ever read about.

Does the consultancy market need disrupting?

One of the things I lay in bed thinking about at night is the Consultancy business model. It was borne out of the large business process change and globalization models of the 70s and 80s and it made a lot of people at Accenture and IBM very rich, earning $2000 a day for poorly trained graduates. This got better after the markets crashed in 1999 and again after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and the sorts of customers I deal with are very sensitive to getting value out of consulting projects. Many customers will now opt for fixed-price contracts, which is the right way to do consulting engagements.

But I still agonise every time I get a call saying “we need your help, XXX consultancy quoted this price to do this work and it’s way more than the customer will pay” – and I get a few of those every week. Surely there is a better way? Surely we don’t need 18 month projects that cripple business change and the ability to be agile? We have worked on ways – templates, agile methodologies and amazing people – to be cheaper, better and faster than our competitors but I don’t believe it is enough.

So, I’ve been working with friend and SAP Board Member Vishal Sikka, to try and challenge all of our assumptions about how we deliver consulting engagements (paradoxically, he helped me, by setting some unreasonable boundary conditions). Could it be that the consulting market is ready to be disrupted?

It’s cloudy out there

Cloud advocate Dennis Howlett often waxes that the solution is in the cloud, with companies like Salesforce and Workday offering much faster implementation times. This works great – even for integrated business processes, in the mid-market, but the processes that sit behind the Global 500 customers are so complex – with many languages, end-markets and integration points that if Workday and Salesforce do start to be able to offer a solution, it will probably be just as hard to implement as any other software product. And the consultancy gravy train will start afresh.

To add to this, there is no lever for Accenture or IBM to change – they have a lucrative model and while there is no alternative, they will continue to milk their cash cow. In most cases, I think the customers, particularly at the board level, are in any case not unhappy with the large consultancies and their business model.

Consultancy 2.0

So this is a call to action. Do you think Consultancy 2.0 needs to happen? Let me know your thoughts, publicly or in private. And if you work for a large consultancy, or if you are a board member of the sort of organisations I’m talking about and want to discuss this off the record, then let me know.

And equally, if you would like to help with this by co-innovating on a project together then let me know.

Thanks go to everyone I worked with on this, and particularly to Vishal, Jim, and John Niland for being the contributors and inspiration to this process and to Lloyd, Tristan, Anooj, Gary, DJ, Ollie and Brenton for being the contributors, unwitting guinea pigs and for creating unbelievably amazing solutions.

The SAP HANA Career Guide – Part 5, SAP HANA BW Consultant

Hopefully you have enjoyed the SAP HANA Career Guide so far. This piece focusses in on the SAP HANA BW Consultant. These guys are responsible for upgrading, migrating and HANA-enabling existing information on the SAP BW Enterprise Data Warehouse, as well as the creation of new Data Warehouse solutions.

Where do SAP HANA BW Consultants come from?

Well this one is easy! Any existing SAP BW Consultants – especially those who are more business focussed and don’t have the heavy hitting SQL skills that would make them great SAP HANA Performance Consultants – can make excellent SAP HANA BW Consultants.
This is largely because running SAP BW on HANA is broadly similar to running SAP BW on any other database. The modelling principles, business object principles and key considerations for things like stock or currency conversions remain exactly the same. So if you’re an existing SAP BW consultant then look no further.

What does HANA Thinking mean with BW on HANA?

There are a few important changes worth thinking about. The first are architectural. BW on HANA requires fewer objects – you lose Indexes, Aggregates and some of InfoCubes as well as being able to lose certain types of DSO and Master Data objects.

This means simplification of both the number of objects and with that, data loads and query management. And that brings with it a simplification of project design, methodology, reduction in load times and testing times. It completely changes the way that BW projects are run – reducing project timelines and increasing time-to-value.

How do I cross-train to SAP BW on HANA?

The SAP Customer Solutions Adoption team have produced an excellent course for experienced BW people called “LSA++ – THE LAYERED SCALABLE ARCHITECTURE FOR BW ON HANA“. As is the CSA style, this is designed for those who already have great BW skills and need the HANA specific stuff.

Here, they explain the difference in thinking between HANA and any other RDBMS, and what that means to architecture, design and the practicalities of Enterprise Data Warehouses.

What Classroom Education is available for SAP BW on HANA?

The classroom training is really limited in this example. SAP Education have a course called TZBWHA: SAP BW on SAP HANA – but it is twice the price and contains half the content of the SAP course. I understand that a new course is being written as we speak – hopefully it will contain the right content. In the meantime, I don’t recommend this course.

Where can I go to ask questions?

As before, here are two great places for this. First there are the SCN SAP HANA and in-Memory forums, where you can ask technical questions about all things SAP HANA. Response times are excellent.

Second, you can go to the Experience SAP HANA Discussion area, where there is a similar focus on assistance.

The SAP HANA Career Guide – Part 4, SAP HANA Operations Consultant

Hopefully you have enjoyed the SAP HANA Career Guide so far. This piece focusses in on the SAP HANA Operations Consultant – which would have been called SAP Basis for regular SAP systems. I’ve always hated this term, and thought it was time for a new one, and Operations is all about getting things running and keeping them running – efficiently.

Where do SAP HANA Operations Consultants come from?

I think the reality is that may of them will come from SAP Basis but there are some important things to note. First, is that SAP HANA only runs on SuSe Linux, so knowledge of other platforms (Windows, UNIX) is only tangentially relevant.

What is relevant is design of technical architecture – although SAP HANA solutions are created from building-block principles and so there are a limited number of possible configurations. Knowledge of High Availability and Disaster Recovery principles are a must, as most SAP HANA implementations require this.

To add to this, a working knowledge of Linux administration, script writing (bash, awk, Python), X-Windows, ELILO as well as networks: all High Availability SAP HANA appliances must have 10 Gigabit Ethernet, for example. Plus, if you have IBM hardware, a knowledge of the GPFS clustered filesystem is a must.

What does day-to-day administration of SAP HANA look like?

Once SAP HANA is set up, it requires remarkably little attention. New nodes are installed with a single command. If you add or remove hardware, one thing you do need to do is redistribute tables between nodes, but this is also quite straightforward.

No optimisation, re-indexing, indexes, aggregates or other elements are required in regular operations so the DBA overhead is much lower than other databases.

How do I find out more about SAP HANA Operations?

To be honest, the SAP HANA Master Guide provides all you need to know and there is a Technical Operations Manual available. If you are already a DBA or SAP Basis consultant with the skills listed above, I recommend you dive right in.

One challenge is getting the SAP HANA software for testing purposes and I hope to have some good news on that this year! If you are a SAP Services Partner then you are able to get the software at a good price as a Test & Demo license.

What Classroom Education is available for SAP HANA Operations?

There is a specific SAP HANA Operations course called TZH200, which may be worth taking if you enjoy learning in a classroom environment. This leads to a certification qualification possible called SAP HANA Certified Technology Associate.

What about running SAP on HANA?

If you run SAP on HANA then you will also need to know SAP Basis – the fundamentals of which are well documented.

In this case, you are probably interested in migrating SAP systems from some other database like Oracle onto HANA, and in this case you do need some special experience. SAP mandate (and I also recommend wholeheartedly) becoming a SAP Migration Certified Consultant, which is a significant investment. If you do not have this certificate then the systems you migrate will not be fully supported by SAP.

If you are migration certified and you have learnt the above material and familiarised yourself with SAP HANA, table partitioning, row- and columnar-stores, the way that HANA manages deltas etc. then you are ready to do SAP HANA Migrations and could call yourself a SAP HANA Migration Consultant. I haven’t created a separate page for that because I believe it is the same core type of person.

Where can I go to ask questions?

As before, here are two great places for this. First there are the SCN SAP HANA and in-Memory forums, where you can ask technical questions about all things SAP HANA. Response times are excellent.

Second, you can go to the Experience SAP HANA Discussion area, where there is a similar focus on assistance.

The SAP HANA Career Guide – Part 3, SAP HANA Performance Consultant

Hopefully you have enjoyed the SAP HANA Career Guide so far. This piece focusses in on the SAP HANA Performance Consultant.

In the early implementations of SAP HANA, this was by far the most popular type of resource. SAP HANA Enterprise comes with a set of tools including SAP HANA Studio, which contains the SAP HANA Modeller and the SAPScript programming language (which is similar to PL-SQL).

The SAP HANA Performance Consultant takes requirements and builds data models, including the virtual Analytical views and Calculation Views that make SAP HANA special, and builds the SQLScript and CE Function programming code to meet the needs.

Where do SAP HANA Performance Consultants come from?

Whilst building simple SAP HANA models is something that almost anyone with knowledge of Microsoft Access can do, the SQLScript language and CE Functions are technical languages that require a sound programming understanding. Those familiar with programming stored procedures in RDBMS systems like DB2, Oracle PL/SQL and Microsoft Procedural SQL will find themselves at home quickly.

Similarly those familiar with the SAP BW Data Warehouse may find themselves out of there depth here. Those SAP BW consultants familiar with writing complex transformation and update rule code in the ABAP and OpenSQL programming languages may find SAP HANA Enterprise comes naturally – especially those with a technical background and degree. Those who are more business focussed and less technical would be best advised to focus on the SAP BW on HANA consultant.

How do you cross-train from PL-SQL to SQLScript?

The programming languages are fairly similar and any SQL developer will be able to familiarise themselves very quickly by referring to the SQLScript Guide. Note that this guide is updated every 6 months with major amendments, when new releases of SAP HANA are made.

How do I get hands-on with SAP HANA?

The best way to cross-train is to get hands on and build data models. Thankfully the lovely folks at SAP have made this really easy. There is a 30-day free developer version of HANA in the cloud available in the HANA developer center. After that, you pay by usage of the Amazon AWS HANA system – the SAP HANA software itself is free to use for test purposes.

In addition, the SAP HANA Distinguished Engineers are building out a collection of fantastic learning videos that take you through each of the SAP HANA concepts and get you up and running fast. This will be called the HANA Academy and is coming soon – I will post details as soon as they are available. In the meantime there is a YouTube video with the content.

What classroom training is available?

SAP offers a good basic training guide called HA300 as a 5-day course. If you learn best in a classroom environment and can afford the €2500 cost (plus expenses) and time out, then this might be a good option.

Be aware that this course is typically out of date: SAP HANA moves very quickly and classroom education struggles to keep up.

Where can I go to ask questions?

There are two great places for this. First there are the SCN SAP HANA and in-Memory forums, where you can ask technical questions about all things SAP HANA. Response times are excellent.

Second, you can go to the Experience SAP HANA Discussion area, where there is a similar focus on assistance.

The SAP HANA Career Guide – Part 2, SAP HANA Business Consultant

Hopefully you have enjoyed the SAP HANA Career Guide so far, which kicked off with Part 1, Overview. This piece focusses in on the first specialty: the business consultant.

The Business Consultant

Business consultants analyse the needs of the business and create a strategy to transform businesses, or line of businesses. The essence and principle of this doesn’t change with SAP HANA – indeed it is much of the same. They listen to the needs of the business and the ways in which it must change, and then apply technology concepts against that to create a technology strategy.

For instance I have a customer who has a problem with fraud prevention. The business consultants came up with a solution that enables the business to reduce customer fraud.

Why does SAP HANA change this?

That’s just it: SAP HANA doesn’t change the needs of the business consultant. Instead, it changes the envelope. Let me illustrate how the technology changes the envelope.

I have a customer where we used SAP HANA to accelerate sales order reports within ERP. The approach was to read a bunch of sales order headers, get detail from within, cross reference them against various attributes and exclude a bunch of orders, to produce a report. This requires between 10-20 thousand questions, that SAP asks and takes 30-60 minutes to produce a report.

Now, SAP HANA performs the same as any other database to answer 10-20k small questions. But, with some small changes, we changed 10-20k small questions into one huge question. What happens now? SAP HANA responds in a few short seconds.

Why does that matter?

The answer is, in itself, it doesn’t. However, now we can give these repots to sales execs on the road and they can access them on a mobile device in seconds, giving information about past spend, profitability and other key elements. But even that doesn’t pull the real power of SAP HANA.

The real power is when we move this thinking to whats happening in the moment – let’s take automotive as an example. We can collaborate with a customer to create a quotation with them – price that quotation against very complex pricing structures that exist in complex business models. Even calculating margin on the fly against a car with 10,000 parts. Looking at upstream supply chain visibility to see that removing an option for an automatic gearbox changes the delivery date from 4 months to 1 month. Discounting on the fly based on available stock and the desire to sell particular options.

In this case, the customer experience becomes collaborative and communicative and you can close the deal in the moment, rather than having to come back with a quote the next day and an estimate for delivery 3 weeks later. It’s real, and customers will buy it.

SAP HANA Use Cases

The first thing the business consultant needs to do is to read about SAP HANA use cases and consume them for their industry. They are available for public consumption at Experience SAP HANA and this will begin to cultivate a HANA State of Mind.

The HANA State of Mind

I have written about this before and I see this change in consultants who get immersed in SAP HANA. Once you see the capabilities, you will be able to apply “HANA Thinking” to everyday live. You will see the business possibilities where producing a particular report can reduce costs by millions of dollars a month. Only you thought it wasn’t possible.

Education and Training

Here’s the kicker with SAP HANA Business Consultants – I’m not sure that it can be taught. You have to combine existing Line of Business and Industry expertise with the knowledge of how SAP HANA can disrupt businesses. If you’re good at business consulting already, all you have to do is to understand how SAP HANA can help.

Perhaps I’m wrong here and I’d like to be challenged. Perhaps there is a “Power of SAP HANA” set of webinars, videos or instructional content. What do you think? Is it just a question of repeating a few business scenarios where SAP HANA makes a difference, and business consultants will just “get it”? Let me know.

The SAP HANA Career Guide – Part 1, Overview

SAP HANA is one of the fastest growing software technologies ever. It was released mid-2011 and sold $250m in the first year. In 2012, financial analysts expect $500m+ and it is expected to be a $1bn+ market in 2013. In software services terms, this is at least a $4bn market, next year.

It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that there is a huge interest in training, education and certification right now and there isn’t a good guide to what makes a good SAP HANA consultant. So, in a 8 part series special, I am going to lay out what types of consultant exist, where to get educational resources and how to get ahead in getting a job in the SAP HANA market.

SAP HANA creates a new category of consulting

It’s really important to note that there isn’t just one type of “SAP HANA Consultant”, whatever someone tries to tell you. SAP HANA, like any other technology, has a number of sub areas. My advice: first, understand the different categories and then decide – based on your experience and interest – which one of these you will be best at specialising in, and learn that subject matter.

This guide will help you understand which category you fit in, and where to find the resources to become an expert.

SAP HANA Distinguished Engineer Program

Whatever type of consultant you are looking to be, I recommend looking at the SAP HANA Distinguished Engineer Program. I’m on the council, so I would say that – but the program will support you in your learning, and then recognise you for your achievements, knowledge and community efforts. Read the FAQ for more details.

Let’s get on and discuss the different categories of SAP HANA consultant directly.

1. SAP HANA in-memory Business Consultant

Business consultants understand one or more industry verticals, and typically a number of lines of business, with a specialty – for example Retail Sales, or Utilities Supply Chain. The SAP HANA in-memory Business Consultant also understands how in-memory technology technologies can disrupt businesses and gets how to apply the technology concepts to business scenarios.

It’s fair to say that this consumes a good number of what used to be described “functional consultants”. In some instances, like the Finance Line of Business, their skills may be applied cross-industry.

Click Here to link to the main article

2. SAP HANA Performance Consultant

SAP HANA leader Steve Lucas and I coined this term earlier in the year because it is very emotive. The SAP HANA Performance Consultant takes the concepts developed by the Business Consultant and creates solutions, architectures and designs using SAP HANA Enterprise. Typically these include using the SAP HANA Modeller tool to create models.

Click Here to link to the main article

3. SAP HANA Operations Consultant

This is what in traditional terms used to be called SAP Basis, but I always hated that term and was glad that a new term could be coined! SAP HANA Operations Consultants understand technical architecture, Linux, how to install SAP HANA or migrate systems, and also have some understanding of SAP Basis.

Click Here to link to the main article

4. SAP HANA BW Consultant

The SAP HANA BW Consultant is fairly similar to a regular BW technical consultant but there are some specific skills about architecting, re-architecting and modelling BW solutions within SAP HANA that are essential to know.

5. SAP HANA Application Developer

SAP HANA requires a change in the way in which you develop applications, so whatever type of apps you are looking to build – be it ABAP applications using the HANA database, or mobile applications using the HANA XS Application Services layer, you will need to understand your existing development platform, and in-memory computing concepts. The SAP HANA Application Developer combines these skills to produce high-performance apps.

6. SAP HANA Security Consultant

This is a niche area but one we can’t do without. Security design, access control and security models are different because of the way that SAP HANA is designed and you need an appreciation of business security concerns, access, audit and compliance as well as SAP HANA to do this well.

7. SAP HANA Project Manager

I didn’t add this category into the original blog post but I’ve decided to add it: managing SAP HANA projects requires the usual PRINCE2-style project management experience, but combined with some elements of agile methodologies, but more importantly taking into account how SAP HANA changes project life-cycles.

Final Words

Hopefully you understand from this article which of the categories fits you best. I think it is safe to say that, provided you have the background, skills, and desire to be an awesome HANA Consultant, any of these could be a lucrative career choice.

In the following 7 articles, I will discuss each of these roles in detail, along with any relevant certification programs, training material and other self-help locations, so you can pursue your SAP HANA career of choice. Good Luck!

Credits

As usual this post wasn’t possible without the help of others. In particular, thanks have to go to the rest of my HANA Distinguished Engineer Council members: Michael Eacrett, David Hull, Harald Reiter, Jon Reed and Vijay Vijaysankar. But also to nearly everyone else I spent time with over the last 5 years.

Why the HP Superdome is as dead as a dodo

I had a slightly uncomfortable conversation with one of my sales people this week, who told me that one of their customers had just bought a brand new HP Superdome2 and wanted to know if our software would run SAP software. I had to explain to him that the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio no longer runs on that platform.

And in case you think they are being lazy, Oracle will not be developing for this platform any more. In case you think Larry Ellison is trying to screw HP, neither are Microsoft – neither for their Windows OS (the last version is Windows 2008 R2) or for their SQL Server RDBMS. Nor is Linux vendor Redhat.

In case you think there is a software vendor conspiracy, there are now only 5 vendors that sell Intel Itanium based systems: HP, Bull, NEC, Inspur and Huawei. And I hear that over 90% of the CPUs are bought for HP systems. So what’s wrong with it? Let’s see…

HP is paying Intel to keep it alive

When Oracle ceased development on the platform, HP went nuts and sued them for saying that Itanium was dead. It rather backfired when it turned out that HP was paying Intel $690m to keep it alive. Given HP’s precarious state right now, it would be remiss to suggest that this were a winning strategy.

Pace of innovation

The current chip was codenamed Tukwila and 2 years late to market. With 2 year old features and performance. It has under half the performance per core of equivalent Intel x64 and IBM Power7 CPUs as well as 50% more power consumption. The top-end CPU is 185W and 4 cores compared to the Intel Westmere-EX which is 130W and 10 cores. Yes – 1/4 the power per core and 5x the performance per socket.

The next generation CPU, Poulson, was scheduled for 2009 and still hasn’t been delivered in 2012. I think you know where Intel is investing its R&D: the successor to the x64 Westmere-EX platform, called Ivy Bridge.

Resilience, Availability & Serviceability

This used to be the reason to buy Itanium. But unfortunately in many ways, the Intel Westmere-EX has better RAS features than Itanium. Westmere-EX can predict and exclude memory failure, recover from memory failures and mirror memory. Plus Westmere-EX can predict and re-route chip interconnect (QPI) failures and recover. It is literally bulletproof.

Itanium has 2-year old technology in this respect and the pace of innovation in this area is really important because of in-memory computing.

Size and Power

This part is scary. A typical HP Superdome 128-core system is 6’6″ high. An equivalent IBM Westmere-EX 80-core system is 12″ high. The HP unit will use 6kW for the CPUs alone and the IBM will use 1kW. Obviously add some more for memory and other stuff, but you get the idea. Itanium is 1/6 the power performance. And will take up large swathes of datacenter space. And kill a lot of trees.

Angry Larry

Oracle have gone heavily after HP here with their “Cash for Clunkers” programme. Now this is typical Oracle bully behaviour but it is hard to argue with their logic.

HP Superdome customers are facing costly “forklift upgrades” when upgrading from dead-end PA-RISC and Itanium processors and HP-UX.

Now you can trade in your legacy HP Superdome servers and receive a 50% discount on Oracle’s Sun SPARC Enterprise M8000 and M9000 servers—secure and highly available servers for running mission-critical, enterprise database and business applications.

And this has had a dramatic effect on revenue – HP Itanium sales are falling quarter on quarter and are below $400m per quarter – falling from over $800m in Q4 2010. HP is suing Oracle over this but the damage has been done.

Note that a blogger went after Oracle for this with “who’s the clunker?“, but it is an awful article. Notably, the SPARC platform has a 5-year roadmap. The closest thing I can find to this from HP is Project Odyssey, which looks suspiciously like a roadmap to migrate customers from HP-UX/Itanium to Linux/x86, or this one that is from 2009.

Features & Function Comparison

Someone wrote a comparison of HP and Oracle on this which was clearly biased so I thought I would lay down some facts! Lets compare 3 roughly similarly powered systems (by SAP’s application benchmark). Please note that HP have not certified any systems so I had to estimate their SAPS rating based on data available for the SPEC benchmark.

HP Superdome2 IBM POWER7 Intel Westmere-EX
CPU 32-CPU (128-core) 8-CPU (64-core) 8-CPU (80-core)
SAP SD 2-tier benchmark 120k SAPS (940 SAPS/core) 200k SAPS (3125 SAPS/core) 120k SAPS (1500 SAPS/core)
Configuration & Cost 512 GB of memory with HP-UX and 3 years basic HW and SW support lists for $1,722,390 512GB of memory, AIX UNIX and 3 years basic HW and SW support lists for <$1,000,000 Intel Westmere-EX with 512GB of memory, SuSe Linux and 3 years basic HW and SW support lists for <$100,000
Size and Power Consumption 36U / 9kW 8U / 3.2KW  8U / 4kW
Roadmap 2 more generations of Itanium, the first of which is 3 years late to market. There is a commitment to 2 more generations of IBM POWER and they have a detailed roadmap available here. See the below image to see the focus on x64 roadmap!
Scalability (single-system) 128-cores, 4TB RAM, 240k SAPS 256-cores, 8TB RAM, 700k SAPS 80-cores, 3TB RAM, 120k SAPS

What will be the death knoll?

This is interesting because 95% of Itanium systems were shipped by HP in 2008, according to Gartner. 90% of those that run Itanium for SAP run the HP-UX OS. I’d love to see the stats but from my SAP statistics vs the overall systems sold, I estimate that at least 30% of those are used to run SAP – I suspect this is the biggest single software vendor that runs Itanium.

And SAP hasn’t said so, but they will stop development on the Itanium platform. They have to because the only database that runs on that platform is Oracle 11g (or MSSQL on Windows 2008).

Add to this SAP’s promotion program around its own Sybase ASE database and HP’s financial inability to prop up Itanium and perhaps you will agree that the Superdome will move from an endangered species to a dead duck.

Why does the tech community hate Enterprise IT?

I have a serious case of writers block, and a more serious case of insomnia. I wrote an blog on Tuesday entitled Why TechCrunch is boring, SAP is not, and the world has gone mad, and it went viral. I received more page views in a day, than my combined page views on my blog, ever. It was read by people from individual developers and the SAP management team alike. And now, like a musician writing a second album, I don’t know how to follow it up.

15 years ago I was studying Computer Science at Cambridge. These were heady days. We theorised on Richard Stallman and The Cathedral and the Bazaar. The open source community was starting to rear its head and we felt on the cusp of a revolution. We installed Linux by hand and RedHat was just starting to emerge. We hacked code until 5am, drinking Jolt Cola and listening to 80s rock, exposing vulnerabilities in Windows NT. I had a Digital Alpha running Linux under my bed. Microsoft was the devil. Times were good.

And I remember the process of leaving college and receiving interviews. CSC, Oracle and Microsoft would woo us with their graduate programs, offering booze, pens and the promise of the good life. We scorned them and took the junkets. Colleagues went off to banking, software development. The lucky ones went off to startups where they applied their Linux skills and programmed in ML. Some sold their soul to the devil and went to work for Microsoft, SAP or Oracle.

In the meantime, I went through a career where I have done many things. I spent some time in Analytics, I’ve programmed C++ and perl and 20 other languages. And now, I’m a parody of myself, running a consulting practice in SAP Enterprise IT. I’m sitting here wondering what my 19-year old self would think of me now.

So it came to pass that for some reason, my article hit Hacker News and it went viral; as a result I got a very different audience reading my content. When I write about enterprise, I get a small but engaged audience reading about SAP. They say nice things about what I write and I feel warm and fuzzy. On Tuesday, I found a new audience, and some of what was written is akin to hate mail:

“Get a life, stop wining about how a tech b2b company that you are more interested in isnt getting the same amount of press… it is a boring company. and seems like less profitable too.”

I know why this is and I’m pretty certain my 19-year old self would have chimed in with the accusatory language. But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that I believe – like in 1996 – we are on the cusp of another revolution; one where the Enterprise IT and tech communities can – if they want to – meet in the middle ground of the Consumerization of IT. Here’s why:

From what I can gather, the tech and open source communities hate SAP for a number of reasons; the worlds evil and antichrist came up a lot in my blog comments. My inner hacker knows exactly what they are:

1) Idealogical. SAP protects software patents, has an army of suited sales executives and lawyers. It’s not cool.

2) Community. SAP is implemented by armies of consultants charging high day rates. It’s a boys club and the community is hard to get into.

3) Integration. SAP is an information silo and it is hard to get stuff in and out of it.

In order for any of this stuff to change, there have to be socioeconomic factors which are a catalyst; I think in 2012 we will be in exactly a time where an inflection point is possible.

1) Economy. Let’s face it, the global economy is screwed. Budgets are tighter than ever and there is no end in sight. It will be business as usual to work to get Even More for Even Less.

2) Pervasiveness. SAP is here to stay; 65% of the world’s business transactions touch SAP. It is the most successful Enterprise IT software. Even if SAP becomes irrelevant like IBM AS/400, many SAP environments will be around for 20-40 years.

3) Consumerization of IT. We all expect Android and iPhone user experiences. We want it for our business interactions. I use my personal MacBook Air as my primary business machine. The dam has broken on this and we can’t fight it. This is a real pain as SAP’s user experience traditionally sucks.

4) Business Networks. Much of the world now operates as a living breathing business network. Invoices, sales, supply chains – many of these operate automatically and electronically. Integration is necessary.

5) Big Consulting. SAP want to break up the Big Consulting Systems Integrator model of the 1990s. For every $1 of SAP license spent, there is $7 spent on consulting and hardware. The big consulting houses have been ripping off customers for years. Customers clench when they hear the words “change request”. There is an irony that SAP and IBM created this business model, but the world has changed.

You may be able to see where I’m going here. If you are in the main tech industry let me tell you what is going on in the SAP world that makes it relevant:

1) Open Standards. SAP’s relatively recent CTO, Vishal Sikka, has been championing open standards. The new in-memory database, HANA, only runs on Linux and on commodity x86 hardware. The modelling tool is Eclipse-based. It supports ODBC, JDBC and MDX for integration. The new Gateway integration layer allows REST-based integration with any SAP function.

2) Developer Ecosystem. Work is afoot to cut red tape and open the ecosystem. This is very hard in a big organisation and I don’t envy them, but it is happening. I challenged the SAP management team to measure how long it takes to become a SAP developer from start to finish – and make it as good as Apple and Google. The new developer website – SCN – will be launched on Monday 12th December. It too supports open standards.

3) Technology. SAP have produced technology with big developer potential. The Unwired Platform allows secure integration for mobile devices and supports open standards like REST, Apple, Android etc. Plus, systems will be available in the cloud for developers to use without having to install gobbing great big SAP systems at home.

You may get the sense that I’m pro-SAP here; I am. And I think, with good reason. Because, SAP have – unlike any of the other Enterprise IT players like Oracle – listened to the advice that they have been receiving over the last few years. And I think this dramatically plays into the hand of the wider tech community.

Because, if you are willing to put aside your ideological problems with working along side The Antichrist, there are enormous and interesting opportunities out there. For instance, you could write a Ruby on Rails web app that exposes a web shop – continuing to use an existing SAP ERP system for sales order processing and pricing. Or mobile apps for time and expenses that run on iPhone and Android. Don’t let me constrain you – you can do anything your mind can imagine.

And the wider tech community already has the skills and will be able to get into the SAP Ecosystem easily. The issues around community and integration can evaporate. And we can do away with some of those awful legacy interfaces that people have to put up with. SAP has embraced design thinking and is making much better looking solutions lately, but imagine the power of a community which is 10 times the size that it is now?

The question is – are people willing to put aside the ideological problem? I’m not sure what the 19-year old John would have said. Bring on the hate mail.

Why TechCrunch is boring, SAP is not, and the world has gone mad

It’s cold by the way. Winter finally arrived, I realised as I pondered SAP’s acquisition of SuccessFactors on the run into work. I can still feel the cold imbued from the run into the metal palmrest of my laptop as I write this.

The highlight of the weekend was Alexis Tsotsis’ faux-gonzoistic impression on TechCrunch. I say faux, because it has the attitude of gonzo journalism but not the style. From what I get of her article, if it’s not Apple or a startup, she’s not interested – and therefore the SAP acquisition of SuccessFactors is not worth reading about:

…you can never be too sure with these incredibly dull companies. I am too bored to Google it. In fact, I am literally bored to tears writing this, like I am seriously crying here in my local coffee shop and everyone is looking at me weird…

Really, this says a lot more about what’s wrong about TechCrunch, and actually the world as a whole. And so last night, I was discussing this point with a bunch of Enterprise Irregulars on Twitter. I’m going to disagree with Dennis Howlett (who used to be an Irregular), which is always a good way to start the morning.

@dahowlett:[email protected] giving idiots ANY play is plain dumb

Sameer Patel chimes in with a reminder that the Facebook acquisition of Gowalla – a FourSquare-style location based service, got much more airtime.

@sameerpatel: @applebyj @dahowlett not shocking. Most of yesterday tech meme led w/ reruns of Gowalla FB acquisition for an undisclosed sum vs a $3B buy.

And Frank Scavo got the feel of the enterprise community spot on:

@fscavo: I stopped reading TechCrunch years ago. @alexias’s recent post reminds me why. cc: @dahowlett @applebyj

But actually I think that Timo Elliott nailed it. Yes Timo, this is the real world.

@timoelliott: Strangely, this techcrunch post about the “boring” SAP acquisition made me very proud: techcrunch.com/2011/12/03/zzz… #dudethisistherealworld

And let’s just be reminded about how real this world is:

Facebook SAP
Revenue $4bn (estimated) $12.46bn
Profit $1bn (estimated) $1.18bn
% of world’s transactions Ermm? 65%
Users 800m 500m
Market Capitalization $82bn $72bn

If you compare Facebook even by their own metrics, they are still insignificant compared to the behemoth that is SAP. Billions of people interact with SAP on a day to day basis – every transaction with giants like Barclays Bank. 90% of the world’s beer is produced by SAP. And since SAP’s Chief Marketing Officer Jonathan Becher took the time to point it out, I’ll quote him:

@jbecher: @applebyj Amused by bit.ly/tFOK7J Don’t forget 65% of world’s televisions, 86% of athletic footwear, or 70% of world’s chocolate

Who says that SAP isn’t cool, with such accolades! And yet Facebook has the greater market capitalization. Why is this? High growth and cool factor. But Facebook has not proven that it has a sustainable market model.

Why does this mean there is something wrong with TechCrunch?

Well it strikes me that TechCrunch gets Consumer IT and is all over the topics that generate a lot of traffic, like Apple, Facebook and Google, and there’s nothing wrong with this. I do however think there’s two major areas where TC has a problem:

First, Founder and former co-editor Michael Arrington sold out to AOL then whined about their involvement. What amazes me here is first, his naivety, and second his desire for self-importance.

Second, it’s fine if you don’t understand Enterprise IT. But don’t whine about it being boring – because if you read Alexia’s article you will see that there are (currently) 99 comments, all of which criticise her and her journalism. Don’t write a crap piece of journalism and then follow it up with “I was just being honest” on Twitter – and then delete the Twitter post.

06/12/11 Correction – Alexia’s “I was just being honest” was in the comments area, not a Tweet. She didn’t delete it. My bad.

And what’s wrong with the world?

Well for my money SAP is possibly the most interesting technology firm in the world right now. I make my money out of the SAP industry so perhaps I would say that, but it’s also born out by facts.

They have the leading enterprise mobility platform, integrated back into an incredibly complex suite of software that covers 65% of the world’s business transactions. They are leading the world with in-memory technology.

And to add to that they have just made a major cloud acquisition, which might be the third dimension to prevent the risk of their becoming irrelevant in 5-10 years time.

What’s wrong with the world is that they are so focussed on Apple, Google and Facebook – with their over inflated IPOs and everything that comes with that. The world was not built on technology bubbles – it was built on hard work and honest money.

For a small number of lucky individuals there is a bubble with an IPO and a retirement salary. For everyone else, the world is a very tough place to live. My advice: stop being bored by the stuff which makes the world turn.

SAP acquires SuccessFactors – is it all hot air in the cloud?

This time last year I was on a flight to Santa Clara, where SAP was hosting its Influencer Summit. It’s a shindig where SAP communicates and listens to a group of analysts and influencers and last year, there was a clear focus: cloud.

SAP had the excellent John Wookey, who at that time was heading SAP’s on-demand strategy and he was positioned front and centre. There was an entire day dedicated to cloud and SAP’s core cloud product, an ERP system called Business ByDesign was aggressively marketed to the audience.

Now for two of SAP’s strategic areas – Enterprise Mobility, and in-Memory software, 2011 has been a fantastic year. The key products – the Sybase Unwired Platform for mobility, and the HANA in-memory platform – have had fantastic success. At the time of the Influencer Summit, Marge Breya – EVP of SAP’s solution portfolio, was on her way out – eventually headed off to join her old boss Leo Apotheker at HP.

But for the cloud side of the business, 2011 has been very lacklustre for SAP. Wookey left SAP and in a cruel twist of fate, ended up at Salesforce after his gardening leave was complete. The noise around HANA and SUP meant that the cloud messaging was quiet in the market as a whole, and also at SAP’s flagship conference, SAPPHIRE NOW.

There has been quite some criticism of SAP’s cloud strategy in the interim, with some suggestions that they are haemorrhaging customers within Line of Business to organisations like Workday and Salesforce.

So when I was invited back to the Influencer Summit, this time on the 12th December in Boston, I was surprised to see that once again, there was a whole day dedicated to cloud. Given the relative lack of progress and visibility in the last year, this caused me some surprise.

And today we heard the news that SAP is in the process of acquiring SuccessFactors in cash for $3.4bn. That’s 170,000,000 used $20 bills in a giant black briefcase. I hope Bill McDermott has been lifting weights. Note that they are massively overpaying – some 49% above stock value. Which sounds totally nuts.

But for my money, SAP’s senior management team has made two excellent acquisitions with Business Objects and Sybase. And for that reason I’m minded to consider that they’re acquiring SuccessFactors for some very good reasons. Here’s what I think they are.

The first is talent. SAP has lost some talent, notably John Wookie, but also various others. Jeff Stiles is leaving SAP in January and cloud marketing was high on his agenda. I believe that SAP doesn’t know how to create, market and sell (profitably) a cloud platform and all of the solutions built so far have lost SAP a ton of money. So acquiring a leader in Line of Business cloud allows SAP – like it has done with Business Objects and Sybase – to acquire great leaders. SuccessFactors CEO Lars Dalgaard will become the EVP of cloud at SAP.

Second up is credibility. Under the leadership of Aneel Bhusri, Workday have started to do in the Human Resources Line of Business what Salesforce.com did to the Sales & Marketing Line of Business. Workday don’t have the global reach of say SAP or Northgate Arinso but SAP must be terrified that Workday could get there. This acquisition gives SAP better cloud credibility and the ability to compete with Workday and Northgate Arinso.

Third up is diversification. There’s very little overlap between SAP and SuccessFactors customers and this means they acquire 3500 new customers and 6m users, up front. SAP’s intention appears to be to keep SuccessFactors as a separate business unit and that sounds like it makes sense in the first instance.

What’s also interesting is that SAP America has acquired SuccessFactors, which presumably means that SAP is keeping it away from the SAP AG management structure. I’m pretty certain that this is not a coincidence and SAP is looking to push the balance of power away from the legally constrained German organisation with its arcane labor laws.

In the end, the proof will be in the pudding and acquisition strategy is one thing, and execution is something else entirely. SAP’s ability to execute and integrate SuccessFactors will define its ability to compete in the cloud. Because SAP has overpaid for SuccessFactors, it needs to ensure that the acquisition is a force multiplier to SAP’s ability to execute in cloud, and not just a means to add a few hundred million of revenue to the top line.

My prediction is this is a good move and the SAP senior management team have got what it takes to make it to work. But this is just an initial reaction and as we get into the Influencer’s Summit in Boston, we should get a better feeling for what SAP is really up to. It will certainly be an interesting 2012.