May 09, 2011, 8:00 AM — While SAP has spent the past year spinning a vision for on-premises, on-demand and on-device computing, its upcoming Sapphire conference is an opportunity for the vendor to lay out some important specifics on these plans for the thousands expected to attend.
SAP also needs to avoid giving short shrift to the concerns of customers still reeling from the effects of the economic downturn, who are more interested in getting greater value from their current SAP investment than shelling out cash they don't have for the latest and greatest.
Here's a look at some key topics to be broached and questions to be answered at Sapphire, which kicks off next week in Orlando.
The move to mobile apps
One of the biggest announcements expected at Sapphire concerns a converged mobile-application development platform composed of SAP technology and the tools and middleware it gained through the acquisition of Sybase last year.
There's no question SAP's customer base is clamoring for mobile applications, but the company needs to tell them the best way to plan their purchases and projects, said Kevin Benedict, CEO of Netcentric Strategies, a consulting firm focused on enterprise mobility.
"I believe they are attempting to do that," he said. "In the past it was challenging because they were a little bit unfamiliar with mobility."
There are a number of specific categories for enterprise mobile applications, each with their own technical demands, he said.
One includes more complex applications that can also run in offline scenarios, Benedict said.
The "container" approach sees applications written in HTML5 code that dynamically reorient themselves for various devices' screens.
And some companies might be satisfied with simply setting up a mobile website that users can access on any sort of smartphone.
"Each of those have [their] own product stack and methodology that goes along with it," Benedict said. "In the past [SAP] didn't even know what to say, so I hope they spent the last year learning that and developing these buying-decision learning trees, so people can decide what might be a prudent place to start."
SAP is not trying to do mobility on its own. The company is "very aggressively" recruiting partners to build applications for its mobile platform, according to Benedict. Sapphire showgoers should expect quite a few to be showcased, "because it shows things work, and shows platform acceptance and success," he said.
Making sense of SAP's SaaS (software-as-a-service) strategy
SAP is using a two-fold approach for on-demand ERP (enterprise resource planning) software, and has taken some time to figure out the strategy.