SAP hopes to bolster its cloud app offering to turn its in-memory database, HANA, into the "everything platform".
The ERP giant announced its cloud strategy earlier this month, and application development is at its heart as the firm angles for dominance in the enterprise cloud market.
The German company wants customers to see HANA as a single platform supporting all of its cloud apps, which can be bought piecemeal but that also work seamlessly together.
Timo Elliott, SAP’s Innovation Evangelist, told CBR: "HANA has grown up over the last few years. Over time we really turned it, and continue to turn it, into an everything platform.
"We have a lot of organisations that come up with new, innovative ways of using HANA as an adjunct in addition to what they’re already doing."
HANA started out as an in-memory relational database to speed up business processes by accessing data faster, but SAP has since turned it into a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), in which 1,200 startups build and deploy applications.
A total of 60 apps are now live, but cloud solutions VP Sven Denecken declined to put a number on how many more could be released this year.
"We are catering to more than 35 million users," he said. "We are not going into the number games because we’re looking for quality. For me the ultimate measure will always be usage or users."
Measuring by that yardstick, SAP’s social collaboration tool Jam appears to have hit the mark, boasting 12 million paying users – more than consumer-focused tools Yammer and Chatter combined, according to Denecken.
Customers can access such apps through the HANA Marketplace, and Denecken hopes to use third-party offerings to reach new verticals.
"We have smaller partners with very nimble expertise close to certain markets but they say ‘we like this platform, there’s a lot of innovation there’," Denecken told CBR.
He added that by increasing integration between diverse apps, SAP could provide CIOs with a more complete view of their customers.
"A company like T-Mobile, it has a growing number of solutions that were bought by sales leaders to optimise their sales force through the cloud. But by then they had numerous different data silos. How do you get a 360 degree view of a customer? The customer is now four different persons [to the company]."
Startups with the bright ideas, meanwhile, are attracted by SAP’s number of users: it presents a ready-made customer base for them.
Dan Somers, CEO of Warwick Analytics, a startup specialising in solving problems using incomplete data, said that was exactly the attraction when his firm signed up to the partner programme a couple of years ago.
But he conceded there are times when his firm’s solution clashes with those of SAP, such as the SAS solution it integrated with HANA last year, and predictive analytics service KXEN, acquired last October.
Somers admitted: "Like anything, there are times when we overlap. It’s no secret that all the big ERP players and all the big software players are synergistic and competitive at the same time.
"They’ll have relationship managers for certain things, for other things they’ll go head to head. Sometimes you just have to say let the best man win."
The CEO claimed such competition is a "very rare scenario", however.
SAP hopes to attract new customers with a base price for using its HANA cloud, where the cost rises on a consumption-based model similar to a ‘pay as you go’ service.
But when asked whether existing on-premise customers would be offered incentives to migrate to the cloud, as the UK & Ireland User Group called for in its November summit, Innovation Evangelist Elliott was vague.
"We are not big believers in rip and replace," he said. "We don’t think it’s part of the modern world: it’s more about finding new opportunities.
"One of the nice things about HANA is you can add it as a sidecar to your existing business processes."
Meanwhile Denecken claimed customers are ready to make the switch, saying: "That’s why we’re lowering the hurdle significantly for the adoption of the technology."
But he added that most customers will use a mix of on-premise and cloud solutions.
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