SaaS To The Future

This week, research by the UK & Ireland SAP User Group has shown that, overall, SAP Users are still positive about using cloud computing and SaaS. While the majority think that there is still too much hype around the cloud, 80% are planning a mix of on-demand, on-premise and on-device services in the future.

Of course, the key word here is “mix”: given the importance of a lot of the tasks we use SAP for, entrusting that data to the cloud will still be a step too far for some. All organisations will need to pay attention to exactly what applications they are using and what they are using them for, then balance the utility of the cloud with the reassurance of having full control over that particular service. At the same time, by moving 100% to a cloud-based model an organisation could leave itself wide open to the risk of a network failure rendering the whole business inoperable so mixed environments will, I suspect, be the norm for some time.

The growing popularity of the cloud doesn’t mean that the journey there will be plain sailing. For example, 58% of users said they lacked clarity over SAP’s cloud road map while 59% didn’t understand how to integrate SAP On-Demand modules with their existing implementations. It is issues like this where membership of the User Group can really come into its own. By sharing expertise and knowledge on how best to use modules such as On-Demand and taking advantage of the extra insight members can get into SAP’s product road maps, users can make better informed decisions and move more confidently towards a mixed SAP environment.

For more information on SaaS and the cloud, next month’s UK & Ireland SAP User Group conference will provide an excellent opportunity to share experiences and find out the latest product information. For further details, please visit http://www.sapusers.org/conference2011/

 

Advertisements

SAP users slowly warming to the cloud

 New research released today by the UK & Ireland SAP User Group has revealed that SAP users are now starting to consider SaaS (software-as-a-service) or cloud computing to deliver business-critical applications to their organisation. 61% of the SAP users surveyed said that they saw their organisation using SAP’s SaaS offerings in the future. However, the research also revealed that nearly three quarters (73%) believe that SAP had been slow to bring its SaaS suite to market. In fact, 16% of respondents said that they ended up using another vendor’s technology in another area of their business because SAP did not have an appropriate SaaS offering for their needs.  

“It is clear that more users are now starting to consider SaaS as a way to deliver applications to their business” said Craig Dale, Chief Executive of the UK & Ireland SAP User Group. “Rightly or wrongly, SAP has been criticised for being slow to bring its SaaS offering to the market, but hopefully the result is a more robust and compelling offering. Users potentially stand to benefit from SAP’s hybrid approach whereby organisations have some processes in the cloud, whilst others are kept within the business. This means that users don’t have to put their business-critical processes in the cloud if they feel it is too risky, but can still reap the cost and flexibility benefits for other areas of their business.” 

Currently, only 17% of those surveyed said that they were using SaaS/cloud computing to deliver business-critical applications to their organisation. However, nearly half (49%) said that they planned to use such services in the next 12-18 months, indicating a growing acceptance of this new delivery mechanism for IT. Interestingly, the research revealed that over half of the respondents (55%) thought it was more difficult to establish and meet SLAs by keeping all their applications in house, indicating that they actually see the cloud as a better way of meeting their requirements. 

Unsurprisingly, reduced costs (35%) and quicker deployment times (32%) were cited as the biggest benefits for using SaaS/cloud computing by users. However, when it came to the biggest barriers, opinion was much more evenly split. Compliance/data protection fears (34%) were cited as the biggest barrier, followed by lack of control (26%), lack of customisation (20%) and the risk of network / server outages (20%). This highlights that there still needs to be a lot more education and reassurance when it comes to organisations deploying SaaS/cloud computing services in the future. 

“Following SAP’s recent announcement regarding its new Business ByDesign ERP suite, there will no doubt be a lot of renewed interest in software-as-a-service from SAP users. With any technology adoption, it is essential that you look before you leap. Therefore, in the coming months, and at this year’s annual user conference, we will be aiming to further educate our members on the pros and cons of SaaS as different organisations will have different business needs,” added Craig Dale. 

“The research findings reinforce the fact that SAP believes in a hybrid model that combines on-premise and on-demand offerings, a mode that allows customers to evolve their businesses and choose which offering fits which business need best. We have been listening closely to our customers’ needs directly and through our relationship with the SAP User Group, and as a result will continue to offer both of these options providing our customers with the choice and flexibility they require,” said Tim Noble, Managing Director, SAP UK & Ireland.

Noble continued, “We truly believe we came to the marketplace early enough with SAP Business ByDesign. Innovation is more than just having great ideas and developing nice software. Innovation is only innovation when it is also implemented at the customer and being used productively. This is why we have been working with pilot customers until now to ensure the solution is robust and ready for volume business.”

 The UK & Ireland SAP User Conference 2010 is taking place in Manchester, 21-23 November 2010. During the conference there will be a dedicated stream on SaaS where delegates can find out more about SAP’s SaaS offerings and how they could benefit their organisation. 

The survey questioned 100 SAP user organisations in the UK and Ireland providing a snapshot of members’ views on SaaS/cloud computing and the business challenges they were facing.

Software maintenance……choices

Today on CNN comes a story about Oracle. It reflects on the value of software maintenance and highlights companies making an exit to 3rd party suppliers. It has a great title:

 “Oracle’s Golden Goose, Maintenance Revenue, Contains Flight Risk”

The premise of the debate is that software vendors have never had it so good but the realities of life at the moment are that now organisations are reviewing value and coming to conclusions. This is leading to some moving to the likes of Rimini Street and to SaaS providers. Internally within organisations these savings can have the same effect as up to ten times the equivalent sales effect so are warmly received by CEO’s. 

There is a reality that better procurement prices are the only way out when sales are dropping so I would echo the sentiments of the article that competition is likely within the maintenance zone, especially when the margins are so high.

Overview of the ERP market

An interesting article has been posted on Investors.com. This gives a succinct overview of the pressures and constraints on the software industry as a result of the current economic woes. If you’re buying software or investing in this part of the stock exchange then well worth a read.

IE8 not yet suitable for SAP

Microsoft’s latest browser IE8 is undergoing tests by SAP – at this time SAP advises that SAP users should not be using this version. In fact a significant number of ERP solution vendors including those on cloud apps are stating don’t use this browser just yet. A blogger on Microsofts developer network has left this message:

 “NetSuite does not work with IE8 period. Please have someone get an account,log onto the website and try the JavaScript drop-down boxes anywhere on the site – they stay open and never close. Please fix this. NetSuite is used by a lot of people (including me).”

A research company also claims that some 15% of  web based applications will fail due to a security feature included in IE8 known as DEP/NX.

Oracle also maintains that because IE8 changes the way it renders pages its e-business suite will be effected.

So firstly make sure nobody except your testing teams are working with the beta version and secondly prepare to prevent the download of the official version when it is released. All this until you have received confirmation from your vendors that it works and you have tested all your web solutions.

Footnote:

I have downloaded IE8 and can report that whilst it has some interesting new features, there seem to be a large number of websites that exhibit issues whilst using it. It does have a compatibility feature to overcome some of the issues but it doesn’t always work, in addition I have had quite a few occasions where the version fails to respond.

IBM and SAP collaborate in the Cloud

Yesterday at CeBIT IBM and SAPdemonstrated some of the value of operating in the Cloud environment. Utilising IBM’s Power6 environment they demonstrated the ability to transfer processing power from machine to machine and commented that this could even be used on data centres, switching them of when not required.

The use of Power 6 is something I’m very familiar with. For years I was involved with the use of IBM mid-range servers AS400s which then became i-series and then became system-i. As they changed their names they also changed their processors and the capability increased dramatically. Today they are a far cry from the original system 36’s that they originated from. In fact they have the same processing capability of the IBM mainframes that were. Coupled to this came the ability to run logical partitions thus enabling machines within machines. In fact in my last involvement a single 595 running at half the 64 possible processors was running 6 instances of SAP ECC 5.o, with a combined 5000 users. In addition the machines are able to run multiple operating systems in different partitions so you could be running OS400 in one and AIX in another. Fully webserver capable they also run the Java stacks of either IBM or SAP.

Very reliable pieces of kit – I’ve commented before on them so I won’t revist that argument!

What is it about the fascination with SaaS?

Today there is yet another articlebased on the debate between “traditional computing”, “cloud computing” and Saas. Again the press is reviewing the performance of SAP, Oracle and Microsoft with the new band of brothers Salesforce.com, Netsuite and Workday. This time the target in their sites is well and truly SAP. 

At this point I should make it very clear that I’m independent of SAP, very independent (ask them!).

But all this shouting and screaming that SaaS is the future – well it’s starting to get a bit tedious.  Show me the big organisations in the mainstream sectors that are running all their business processes or at least the majority of them through SaaS!

I don’t know of many, if any (apart perhaps from the providers of Saas but then really, you could argue they are just the same as their non-cloud competitors, and just happen to be sharing some of their infrastructure with others!).

The article I refer to above marks out SAP as being complacent, what you should be wary about is mistaking cool, calculating,  planning and strategy for complacency  – actually, knowing SAP as I do, if I was in the SaaS providers shoes I would be getting a little bit nervous about SAP’s approach to this area.