What's up with HANA and cloud computing? And is SAP focusing too much on those technology initiatives at the expense of its core ERP application products?
Those are the questions SAP channel partners have on their minds as they head off to Sapphire Now, the vendor's annual conference and partner summit in Orlando, Fla., next week.
HANA, SAP's in-memory database software, is perhaps the company's most visible technology initiative. Launched in mid-2011, SAP has been adapting all of its application products to run on HANA and is positioning it as a competitive alternative to mainstream database products from Oracle, Microsoft and other competitors.
On the cloud computing side, SAP has its Business ByDesign application suite for midsize customers and the cloud computing applications it acquired through its 2012 acquisitions of SuccessFactors ($3.4 billion) and Ariba ($4.3 billion).
Partners at Sapphire will be looking for clues about SAP's plans for HANA and cloud software and just how they fit into those plans.
"We want to know more about HANA as they set up their strategy," said Alex Rooney, vice president at Vision33, an Irvine, Calif.-based SAP Gold partner that works with Business One and Business ByDesign applications. The company won its first HANA customer last month, said Rooney, adding, "It'll be a significant [technology] for us going forward. I'm hearing that if you're an SAP partner, HANA better be part of your portfolio."
"I want to know what the strategy is going forward for the cloud and really get a feel for where SAP is going so we can talk intelligently about it with our customers." said Brad Windecker, president of Orchestra, a Portland, Ore.-based solution provider that works with SAP's Business One applications for small and midsize applications.
The bulk of SAP's business remains its ERP and financial management applications, including its Business Suite applications for large companies, Business All-in-One applications geared toward midsize companies and Business One. Channel partners play a major role in selling All-in-One and Business One -- the latter in particular is a key component of the vendor's channel efforts.
But the focus at SAP over the past year or two has been on HANA and cloud computing.
"With HANA they are clearly taking a shot at the database platform market," said Werner Hopf, CEO of Dolphin Enterprise Solutions, a West Chester, Pa.-based SAP partner that focuses on information life-cycle management and business process management solutions built around SAP applications and HANA. "A lot of customers are adopting HANA as a platform for their data warehouse," Hopf said.
But Hopf worries that SAP may be devoting too many resources to HANA at the expense of its bread-and-butter ERP applications. "The heart of SAP is still ERP. It's their traditional area of strength," he said. He hasn't seen a lot of momentum in application development from SAP in recent years, he continued, noting that ERP application competitors such as Oracle aren't standing still.
"I think partners would like to see more evidence of innovation on the application side," he said.
NEXT: What's The Future Of SAP's Business ByDesign?