Sapphire: SAP’s road toward a plug-and-play ERP in a box

Orlando – Could we soon see the day where complicated ERP implementations are a thing of the past, replaced instead with an “ERP in a box” appliance that plugs directly into the data centre and just starts working? It sounds far-fetched, but a number of technology and channel developments at SAP AG‘s (NYSE: SAP) Sapphire user conference this week lead me to believe such a model may not be too far off.

We’ve already seen that SAP implementations needn’t take forever, at least when a quality channel partner is involved. In the small-and-medium-sized enterprise space, partners such as Toronto’s Contax Inc. have had strong success with SAP’s Fast Start program, which leverages pre-configured software and hardware to drive down prices and get companies up and running on Business All in One in less than 30 days. SAP Canada’s vice-president of SME, Conrad Mandala, told me he can get a customer up and running on SAP before he can even generate the invoicing.

At Sapphire, a number of technology and partnership announcements lend credence to an appliance future. A partnership with Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) and Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) was announced around SAP’s new in-memory technology. In-memory was touted frequently by SAP’s co-CEO, Bill McDermott, and company chair and co-founder Hasso Plattner, as the company’s next “crown-jewel,” allowing near real-time analytic queries. The companies are leveraging the technology, along with processor advances and newly affordable flash memory, to create the High-Performance Analytic Appliance (HANA). It plus into a data centre and, leveraging your existing SAP system and database, offers the real-time analytic reporting that will be necessary as SAP, following the Sybase acquisition, seeks to push ERP data out to mobile devices.

HANA wasn’t SAP’s only hardware move at Sapphire. The company also talked-up a partnership with Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO), EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and VMware (NYSE: VMW) to create Vblock infrastructure packages designed to ease the path toward private cloud computing.

The final piece came in my conversation with SAP’s worldwide channel chief, Pat Hume, where she hinted SAP may soon be signing with a major distributor, such as Tech Data (NASDAQ: TECD), to bring its ERP software to the channel and provide go to market support to partners, such as financing. While SAP already moves more commodity products such as Crystal Reports through distribution, expanding that to the rest of the portfolio would be a major move.

Add it all up and the possibility of an ERP in a box future looks promising. Implementations are already getting faster in the SME. In-memory technology is sharply reducing query times, and is transforming business intelligence architectures. Partnerships with major hardware vendors to integrate offerings are already in place. Add in a partnership with a distributor or distributors with the workbench capacity to handle the hardware/software integration before shipping to the channel, and all the pieces are in place.

Certainly there are still some technology wrinkles to iron out. But if SAP is going to meet its ambitious goal of 100 per cent channel centricity in the SME, its solutions need to become easier, cheaper and faster to implement. An appliance solution would allow partners to spend less time on integration, get more customers up and running, and spend more time focusing on higher-value services business.

It would seem to only be a matter of time.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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