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In terms of marketing and sales, SAP has been pointing its existing customers towards Hana or Hana-based systems like S/4 for some time. The Walldorf-based software giant stresses the gains to be made from these systems. How does Oracle see existing SAP customers reacting to this?
Kuppler: Which of the many Hana products are you talking about? SAP NetWeaver BW or SAP BW/4 Hana, Business Suite on Hana or S/4 Hana? SAP customers are being made to feel insecure!
At the moment, they don’t know where things are heading. They have spent decades investing in Oracle, Microsoft or IBM database technologies – and from now on there should only be one database?
Customer projects are being delayed and often – not least as a result of the huge amount of pressure being exerted by SAP’s sales team – the customer is “successfully” being sold Hana, but it is not being productively used nor is it featuring in customers’ plans for the near future.
SAP has always been an open technology that is now, you could say, being “closed in” by Hana and especially by S/4 – it’s a vendor lock-in scenario.
Mezger: We are seeing the typical market pattern: On the one hand, there are customers wanting to try something different, and there are large numbers of customers concentrating on their own business and expecting their IT partners to align accordingly.
Anyway, though ongoing Maintenance Payments, customers are entitled to innovations with their existing product. At least, this is what we do with DB2. Based on this mindset, we define our DB2 roadmap and our willingness to provide the DB2 world with relevant innovations on a regular basis.
One example of this is the extreme availability provided by DB2 pureScale systems for 24 by 7 uptime, which is even easier to use in the SAP environment with DB2 V11.1. And we make this available without explosive cost increase.
And what about innovations by users themselves?
Mezger: For me, this is just as important. The sales-driven approach used by SAP, as you mention, leads to the effect far too often, that they miss the point. How should I act to make my business fit for the future, as a mid-size customer or a decision-maker for a company listed on a public stock exchange?
This is then about an innovation agenda shaped foremost by cognitive systems, the Internet of Things, new “agile” DevOps-driven software projects, mobile end devices and so on.
In this respect, IBM is already supplying the industry with Watson based solutions, Watson IoT, IBM Bluemix – in the cloud, but not only there, even on premise. Or very recently, we made available new IBM products and projects supporting Machine Learning.
All these Themes provide to our customers a new degree of agility. See, perhaps in other markets a vendor may be able to survive by focusing on just one product for the core, but in the German-speaking and similar highly developed markets, this just doesn’t work…
SAP user associations, such as DSAG, have time and again called for S/4 to also be made available for other databases so that existing customers are able to protect their investments in Oracle and IBM technologies. What is the current situation?
Mezger: I believe that SAP has over pivoted into this with far too much haste. And so far, they haven’t taken the opportunity to bank on their database partners. However, healthy competition is still the best indicator for innovation.
As a database provider, IBM actively accepts this challenge and DB2’s performance can be verified using DB2 benchmarks. SAP in turn provides a wide selection of database products, as long as it’s called Hana.
No-one is going to like that.
It is ultimately SAP customers and the consumers who suffer from the lack of competition. So I think that customer associations and interest groups have an essential role to play in influencing product strategies.
User associations need to actively reflect their needs and use their weight as market constituents, otherwise they are not doing their job. This exertion of influence works quite well with DB2.
We have a vital DB2 community, let me just mention the German-language SAP user group (DSAG). We deeply appreciate our customer’s commitment and feedback in these groups.
Kuppler: Over time, the SAP user groups around the world have clearly become emancipated. There are more and more critical voices within the community and obviously the SAP board has heard them too.
I believe that the DSAG in Germany and in particular the ASUG in the USA will continue to sing the same tune and will call for S/4 AnyDB!
When Hana and S/4 were launched, existing customers were pretty much presented with a fait accompli. The market will decide the fate of the “new” SAP technologies.
If the speed of switching from AnyDB to Hana or S/4 continues at the same rate as it has so far, I assume that support for the SAP NetWeaver stack will come to an end after 2030.
Oracle’s Oracle 12c database provides an in-memory functionality just like Hana. How are existing SAP Oracle customers taking to this option?
Kuppler: Oracle Database In-Memory has proved to be very popular. In a benchmark – not certified by SAP – this option achieved figures better than Hana. And that’s not all, SAP customers using Oracle Database In-Memory spare themselves from expensive new hardware, complex migrations and a second database license.
In the non-SAP environment, a lot of customers have long been using Oracle’s In-Memory and are very happy with it – the customer presentations made at the DSAG technology meetings in Mannheim this year and in ASUG/ Sapphire Orlando in May 2016 show that SAP customers agree.
We know from experience that SAP customers have undertaken thousands of modifications in the SAP NetWeaver stack. They are now enjoying great performance with Oracle Database In-Memory – without having to migrate or change a single piece of code.
In Part 3, IBM will get a chance to talk about their DB2 Blu technology. We also talk about SAP’s 2025 deadline for NetWeaver-based Business Suite with AnyDB and the perils of SAP licensing. The final part of our Roundtable Interview can be found by clicking here or following the arrow at the right of your screen.