The 800-lb gorilla company of business software (SAP) is hosting its annual ‘Sapphire’ conference this week, in Orlando Florida. Since I have never been to one – even though I have made a career out of working with SAP – I try to read about the conference proceedings on-line, and hear from my colleagues that attended, what was said.
Well, everything is moving to the cloud*, and that includes the sprawling suites of business enterprise software that SAP has been so successful in selling worldwide to large companies since the 1990’s. The challenge for SAP is that its marketing team has to assure its customers that they can move their SAP software to the cloud at their own pace, and that their concerns about security and system performance and availability will be addressed.
SAP CEO Bill McDermott noted that ‘The most intractable CEO issue of our time is complexity’ and that ‘At SAP, we see a dream for a simpler world, for a simpler SAP, and for a simpler customer experience’. Also check out this recent front-page article from Bloomberg Businessweek that it calls The Trouble with IBM as it relates to the ‘cloud’.
*What is the ‘cloud’? Let me borrow some words from an on-line post from PC magazine here : In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer’s hard drive. The cloud is just a metaphor for the Internet. It goes back to the days of flowcharts and presentations that would represent the gigantic server-farm infrastructure of the Internet as nothing but a puffy, white cumulonimbus cloud, accepting connections and doling out information as it floats.
There is an entirely different “cloud” when it comes to business. Some businesses choose to implement Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), where the business subscribes to an application it accesses over the Internet. (Think Salesforce.com.) There’s also Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), where a business can create its own custom applications for use by all in the company. And don’t forget the mighty Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), where players like Amazon, Google, and Rackspace provide a backbone that can be “rented out” by other companies. (Think Netflix providing services to you because it’s a customer of the cloud-services at Amazon.)