Microsoft, SAP Deal Creates Opportunities For Channel Partners


Microsoft’s two-decade alliance with German enterprise application developer SAP is finding a home in the cloud. The first- and fourth-largest software companies in the world revealed a new deal today that Microsoft’s channel partners describe as rife with opportunities.

The next phase of the long-standing partnership will see several SAP business applications certified to run on Microsoft’s public cloud platform, Azure, by the end of June.

“Windows Server is a great platform for SAP business applications, and now we’re taking that to the cloud,” said Takeshi Numoto, CVP of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Business, in a Microsoft blog titled: “Connecting Microsoft's mobile and cloud solutions to the universe of data in SAP software."

[Related: SAP Restructures Work Force As Shift To Cloud Apps Accelerates]

The Redmond, Wash./Walldorf, Germany partnership, according to Numoto, will focus on three main areas: Enterprise cloud computing, improved interoperability between SAP application data and Microsoft Office, and mobile productivity, intended to improve employee productivity and enhance work-force mobility, according to Microsoft. That benefits not only enterprise customers, but also the company’s channel partners

"Today’s announcement brings new opportunities to resellers and solution providers. Specifically, SIs can now purchase Azure and bundle it with value-added services, ultimately providing new revenue streams for our partners,” Mark Miller, Microsoft’s communications director, told CRN.

Ira Bell, COO of Nimbo, a New York-based Microsoft partner, said SAP certification for the Azure platform "is a very big deal for Microsoft and its customers. The deal will enable companies “to take advantage of the flexibility and elasticity of Azure, as well as the various regions available for deployment,” he said.

But Bell told CRN that what he finds most interesting is that Azure solution providers won’t have SAP knowledge, and most firms with SAP-based solutions won’t know Azure.

That creates opportunities for the channel, he said.

“I suspect that this will create many partner-to-partner plays in which Azure and SAP services firms will need to collaborate to implement solutions for their customers,” Bell told CRN.

Chris Hertz, CEO of New Signature in Washington D.C., a Microsoft partner, told CRN the deal is exciting because it provides another example of Microsoft’s commitment to building Azure to be interoperable and open.

“Many years ago, Microsoft got a reputation for building closed software that didn’t play nicely with other technologies,” Hertz said.

“Today, this couldn’t be further from the truth and I would argue that they are one of the most open software and cloud vendors in the market.”

The Azure platform’s ability to integrate and run SAP’s business software illustrates this commitment, according to Hertz.

“This is great as a partner because we are going to be able to leverage Azure more often and with more customers, and this creates big new opportunities for us,” Hertz told CRN.

Once SAP is up-and-running in Microsoft’s cloud; customers will be able to move existing enterprise applications, or deploy new ones, that manage business operations, inventory and customer relations with the SAP Cloud Appliance Library tool.

“SAP implementations can be extremely complex, and the fact that Microsoft is now comfortable to actively support SAP on Azure speaks of the tremendous growth in the capabilities of Azure over the last few years,” Nimbo's Bell said.

As part of the effort to improve interoperability, Microsoft and SAP made generally available their respective business intelligence solutions: Power BI and SAP BusinessObjects BI. The companies plan to deepen interoperability between applications and platforms with a new version of the SAP Gateway for Microsoft that supports Office 365 and Azure.

On the mobility front, the two companies plan to “help customers conduct business anywhere and anytime by developing and co-marketing new SAP mobile apps for Windows and Windows 8.1,” Microsoft said.

“We know people want to be productive on the devices they love, wherever they are, which is why many of our customers' favorite SAP applications already run on Windows and Windows Phone. Today, that gets even better,” Numoto wrote in the Microsoft blog.

PUBLISHED MAY 19, 2014