SAP Development Executive Unexpectedly Steps Down

The SAP executive behind the company's development of its HANA in-memory database platform unexpectedly resigned over the weekend, SAP said Sunday. Vishal Sikka's sudden departure was for personal reasons, according to SAP.

Sikka, whose official title was executive board member for products and innovation, had been with SAP since 2002 and joined the company's executive board in 2010.

SAP named Bernd Leukert to the company's executive board with responsibility for the vendor's global development organization. Leukert has worked at SAP since 1994 and was appointed to the company's Global Managing Board last year. He was responsible for developing the SAP Business Suite, the company's flagship application suite, to run on HANA.

[Related: SAP Reports Strong Cloud, HANA Revenue Growth In Q1 ]

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HANA debuted in 2010 as an in-memory database designed to speed up data processing and business analytics applications. Since then, the company has expanded HANA's capabilities to make it an overall platform for other SAP products with built-in integration, development and analytic services.

HANA sales in 2013 reached 664 million Euros (approximately $920 million). The company said on Sunday there are currently more than 3,200 business customers using HANA, and it has become an especially critical element of SAP's efforts to become a major player in cloud computing. Just last week, the company said it is moving its Ariba procurement applications and network to run on HANA.

"Very surprised," said Werner Hopf, CEO at Dolphin Enterprise Solutions, when asked his reaction to the news about Sikka's departure. Malvern, Pa.-based Dolphin is an SAP partner that develops data management and business process solutions around SAP products, including HANA.

"It's too early to tell if this will have an impact on SAP's strategic direction," Hopf said, noting that he had spoken with SAP partners in Germany where SAP is based and no one could say what had happened. He noted that Sikka's departure comes just four weeks before the start of Sapphire Now, SAP's annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

Sikka's sudden departure also comes just a few weeks before Bill McDermott becomes SAP's sole CEO on May 21. He has shared CEO duties with co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe for several years, but Snabe announced in July last year that he would step down this month, leaving McDermott in charge.

A spokesman said McDermott has been in the process of setting up his leadership team prior to becoming the company's sole CEO. The spokesman declined to comment further on Sikka's departure.

SAP also said it had named Robert Enslin, who leads global customer operations, to the company's executive board. His duties will not change.

"No company in the industry can do what SAP can do in the cloud with the SAP HANA platform today," said Hasso Plattner, an SAP co-founder and chairman of SAP's supervisory board, in a statement.

"I would like to personally thank Vishal for his contribution to take SAP to this stage. We will remain friends as he pursues the next step in his journey. Robert Enslin and Bernd Leukert have dedicated their careers to SAP's customers and employees. They will play integral roles in scaling the broad adoption of the SAP HANA Cloud platform and accelerating the company's success into a new era."