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5/20/2011
09:27 AM
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SAP Cloud Partnerships Expand On-Demand Options

Amazon, Dell, Verizon and China Telecom services deals highlight the app vendor's broad cloud-computing strategy.



Analytics Slideshow Calculating Cloud ROI
Analytics Slideshow Calculating Cloud ROI
(click image forlarger view and for full slideshow)
Analysts and the media tend to focus on Business ByDesign, the on-demand applications suite, as the centerpiece of SAP's cloud-computing strategy. But there's a growing list of on-demand activity beyond Business ByDesign, as witnessed by announcements at this week's SAP Sapphire Now conference concerning partnerships with several cloud-services providers.

In fresh deals with Amazon Web Services and Dell, SAP and these partners will offer applications on both public-cloud and private-cloud infrastructure, and the services promise the fast-scaling and pay-only-for-what-you-use flexibility associated with cloud computing. On the mobile front, telco giant Verizon has partnered with SAP to deliver the Sybase Unwired mobile application development platform and Afaria mobile device-management platform as services. Finally, SAP has partnered with China Telecom to become a Business ByDesign service provider, a move that will open up the suite to a big, high-growth market.

Any deal with Amazon, the largest infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider going, tends to get lots of attention, yet this deal wasn't even mentioned on stage at Sapphire. SAP issued a press release on Wednesday that it has certified its Rapid Deployment Solution (RDS) applications to run on Amazon's cloud.

RDS apps are slimmed-down, pre-configured versions of standard SAP applications, and there are now 14 in total, including RDS versions of CRM, sales and operations planning, warehouse management, supplier relationship management, and master data management applications. The latest RDS addition is a Hana/in-memory-based operational reporting application that was announced this week.

SAP said most of the RDS apps are now certified and deployable on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Also deployable on EC2 will be SAP BusinessObjects 4.0, the vendor's business intelligence suite.

The catch--and perhaps the reason the deal didn't get much attention this week--is that third-party service providers will be needed to migrate existing applications, deploy new applications, and provide ongoing application management services for apps running on EC2. What's more, SAP is still working on licensing and subscription plans, which it said will offer quickly scalable capacity and the ability to turn off (and stop paying for) unneeded capacity. SAP said all this will happen "in the coming months," and it has yet to name third-party services providers.

In contrast to how you would work with, say, Salesforce.com, SAP deployments on EC2 will require a relationship with SAP and another with a third-party services firm to handle the application and EC2 capacity management. That sounds a bit more complex than the usual on-demand subscription service, but Sanjay Poonen, SAP's President of Global Solutions, said Amazon's scale brings rock-bottom IaaS costs. For example, the combined cost of licensing, management services, and Amazon Web services for the RDS CRM app will be lower than the cost of subscribing to Salesforce.com, Poonen said.

Why put BusinessObjects in the cloud when SAP already offers Business Intelligence OnDemand? For one thing, the OnDemand service is not the same thing as a full-blown BI suite. With the Amazon option, organizations can migrate their conventional BI suites, and all the reports, dashboards, data models and other content they've created, over to EC2.

SAP is following rather than leading with its Amazon deal. Lawson Software, for one, already has customers running apps on EC2, and Lawson itself (a firm set to be acquired by Infor) handles all the migration and application management services.

Dell, which is a current hosting partner for SAP, announced Monday that it will add private-cloud and pubic-cloud options for running the vendor's applications. Dell said it can deploy private-cloud services on premises in a customer's data center, with flexible, automated provisioning of capacity through a portal. Or it can run the deployment in its own data center. Either way, Dell does the setup and ongoing application management.

The contrast between Dell's private-cloud option and conventional hosting (whether on-premises or in Dell's data center) is that customers can contract for their average compute capacity. In a conventional, on-premises deployment or hosted scenario, customers overbuy capacity, giving themselves 30% to 50% higher capacity than their average workload and at least 20% higher capacity than their expected peak workload, according to Dell. That assures adequate computing power for peak loads as well as headroom for growth.

Dell's public-cloud option, running from Dell data centers, is there to provide "burst" capacity that can come online quickly to handle peak workloads. Dell says this combination of private- and public-cloud services ensures lower cost for everyday needs with backup capacity to spare. The new cloud options for SAP apps are expected to be available by July.

Slideshow: Cloud Security Pros And Cons
Slideshow: Cloud Security Pros And Cons
(click image for larger view and for full slideshow)
The release of the 2.0 version of the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) and supporting software development kit was big news this week at Sapphire. If you're an SAP partner or a large enterprise with plans to deploy and customize multiple mobile applications, SUP is for you. But if you're only interested in deploying a few applications and you're not interested in deploying mobile infrastructure, SUP might seem like overkill.

And then there's Afaria, Sybase's cross-platform, mobile-device-management and security platform. It's aimed at firms that haven't standardized and that don't want to have to standardize on infrastructure for a single mobile platform such as iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, or Windows Mobile. Afaria offers management and security for all these platforms form a single console. That sounds great, but some firms might balk at deploying and maintaining even consolidated mobile infrastructure.

Enter Verizon and its Managed Mobility Suite. Verizon announced last week that it will deliver SUP and Afaria as on-demand services. The Afaria service will be $7 per device, per month, with discounts depending on the length of the contract and volume of users.

Pricing for the subscription-based Sybase Unwired services depends on the applications supported and SUP components used. To give you some idea, costs will be "a couple of dollars" per device, per month for simple applications up to $50 per month for complex applications with multiple back-end integrations to SAP applications, according to a Verizon spokesperson.

Business ByDesign is more than just an application suite for small and midsize companies. It's also a platform upon which other applications will be built. The company has already released SAP Carbon Impact OnDemand and SAP Sourcing OnDemand "extension" apps built on the platform, and at Sapphire SAP announced a Sales OnDemand (sales force automation) app set for subscription availability in June. Later this year the company will add a Travel OnDemand travel-expense reporting app and a Talent Management OnDemand app for HR.

These are called extension apps because they integrate with SAP on-premises applications to pull in crucial data. Carbon Impact, for example, draws data on supply chain, manufacturing, and distribution inputs, as well as other activities tracked in ERP, to measure a firm's total energy usage. Sourcing links with Supply Chain apps and Sales OnDemand with CRM.

Many pundits haven't been too impressed by SAP's recent milestone of reaching 500 customers on Business ByDesign, and ditto the company's goal of reaching 1,000 customers by year's end. That pales by comparison to the number of customers Salesforce.com adds in a single month. This week at Sapphire, SAP execs talked about a steep growth curve in future years, and they specifically pointed to the deal with China Telecom as a catalyst. SAP co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe said the deal with the telco giant will expose ByDesign to a base of more than 1 million small and midsize businesses in China.

As with all of the partnerships described above, the deal with China Telecom is about what's ahead, not achievements to date. One would hope that by next year's Sapphire event, SAP's count of customers using various on-demand services will have climbed into the five-figure range.

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